Florida State Seminoles: Tom Savage

The dust has settled after the NFL draft, and it was another solid showing by the ACC. Overall, the league had 42 players selected, the second most in ACC history and the second most by any conference this year (trailing only the SEC’s 48).

[+] EnlargeSammy Watkins
Elsa/Getty ImagesFormer Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins was the first ACC player selected (No. 4 overall) in the NFL draft.
Four of the first 14 players selected in this year’s draft came from the ACC, led by Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins (No. 4 overall to the Buffalo Bills) and UNC tight end Eric Ebron (No. 10 to the Detroit Lions). Five ACC players were taken in the first round and 10 more were selected in the second and third rounds.

For the second straight year, Florida State led all ACC schools in players drafted. Seven Seminoles were selected throughout the weekend, starting with wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin in round 1 by the Carolina Panthers and ending with linebacker Telvin Smith in round 5 by the Jacksonville Jaguars. In the past two years, Florida State has had 18 players drafted by NFL teams.

Of course, it wasn’t just strength at the top for the ACC. All 14 programs had at least one player selected this year, including five apiece from Clemson and North Carolina and four from Boston College.

New addition Louisville, which officially enters the ACC next month, had four players selected this year, including three (Calvin Pryor, Marcus Smith and Teddy Bridgewater) in the first round.

Three ACC quarterbacks were selected, led by Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas (No. 120). Pitt’s Tom Savage (No. 135) and Clemson’s Tajh Boyd (No. 213) were also taken.

Duke corner Ross Cockrell was taken with pick No. 109 by the Bills, becoming just the third Blue Devils player drafted since 2001. He was also the highest-selected Duke defensive player since Mike Junkin was taken fifth overall in 1987.

Miami had three players selected over the weekend (Brandon Linder, Pat O'Donnell and Seantrel Henderson), extending its streak of consecutive years with at least one player drafted to 41. Florida State and Virginia extended streaks of their own to 32 years.

Of the ACC underclassmen who declared for this year’s draft, four went undrafted. FSU running back James Wilder Jr. inked a free-agent deal with the Cincinnati Bengals, Syracuse running back Jerome Smith signed with the Atlanta Falcons and NC State defensive lineman Carlos Gray signed with the Green Bay Packers.

Among other notable undrafted free agents in the league, former Miami quarterback Stephen Morris signed with Jacksonville, UNC quarterback Bryn Renner inked a deal with Denver, FSU receiver Kenny Shaw signed with Cleveland, Tar Heels offensive lineman James Hurst signed with the Ravens and former BC quarterback Chase Rettig signed with Green Bay.
Let's take a quick look back at how the ACC did in the first round of the NFL draft.

As expected, former Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins was the first ACC player off the board, going to Buffalo with the No. 4 overall pick. Two of the best players in school history are now with the Bills, as Watkins joins C.J. Spiller in Buffalo. Watkins took over the NFL Instagram account for draft day, and posed for a selfie with commissioner Roger Goodell on the Radio City Music Hall stage.



North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron was a surprise choice at No. 10 to the Detroit Lions. Ebron is mostly a receiver dressed in tight end clothing, so his addition to an offense with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson could be very promising. The draft, however, was the second bit of life-changing news he got Thursday. The first? He proposed to his girlfriend, North Carolina women's basketball player Brittany Rountree, atop the Empire State Building.



Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald went to St. Louis at No. 13, ending the Panthers' two-year draft drought. He became the Panthers' highest-drafted defensive lineman since Sean Gilbert went third overall to the Los Angeles Rams in 1992.

Right behind him, Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller went to the Chicago Bears at No. 14, as the Hokies continued their #DBU tradition. They have had defensive backs selected in 15 of the last 16 drafts.

Florida State receiver Kelvin Benjamin became the first Seminole off the board, going to Carolina with the No. 28 pick. Benjamin became the 40th first-round selection in school history. You have to think Cam Newton is thrilled about this selection (after he overlooks what happened in the national championship game).

Though Louisville doesn't join the ACC until July, three Cardinals became first-round picks: Calvin Pryor, Marcus Smith and Teddy Bridgewater, who just made it in with the final selection of the round to the Vikings.

So who's left for the second and third rounds Friday?
  • Four Florida State players to keep an eye on: Timmy Jernigan, Lamarcus Joyner, Terrence Brooks and Bryan Stork. At one point, Jernigan was a projected first-round pick, and he is attending the draft in New York. Though his stock had been sliding after the combine, reports of a failed drug test earlier this week may have contributed to his drop out of the first round.
  • Virginia offensive tackle Morgan Moses, also in New York, was a projected first-round pick but will have to wait another day to hear his name called.
  • Georgia Tech defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu, Pitt quarterback Tom Savage, Clemson receiver Martavis Bryant, Clemson defensive back Bashaud Breeland, North Carolina center Russell Bodine and Virginia defensive end Brent Urban are all players to keep an eye on as well.
Just in case you’ve just woken up from a coma or finally had your power restored after living in the dark for the past week, the 2014 NFL Draft begins tonight, and Round 1 promises its share of ACC highlights.

In Todd McShay’s latest mock draft Insider, six of the first 32 picks are from current ACC schools, which would be one shy of the conference’s tally from a year ago. But while last year’s draft had just one ACC player go in the first 15 picks (UNC’s Jonathan Cooper), there’s ample reason to think quite a few -- from safe bets Sammy Watkins and Aaron Donald to bigger wild cards such as Teddy Bridgewater and Morgan Moses -- could be early selections this year.

With all that in mind, we figured we’d take a look at how the current ACC members have faired in the draft in recent years.

Looking strictly at which schools have produced elite NFL prospects, the names at the top of the list aren’t overly surprising.



In the last 10 years, no ACC school has churned out more first-round selections than Florida State and Miami. Of course, there are a few noteworthy numbers in that mix, too. Since 2009, Miami hasn’t produced a single first-round pick, and again this year, the Hurricanes don’t have a single name listed in Mel Kiper’s top 100 prospects. (The ACC has 22 players in Kiper’s top 100.)

That stands in stark contrast with the first half of the 2000s, when Miami was a factory for first-rounders, including a whopping 24 from 2001 through 2007.

Meanwhile, the team that ranks third on both of those lists is Boston College, which is unique in that such a large portion of its total draftees were first-rounders. In the last 10 years, 40 percent of all BC players drafted went in the first round. No other ACC school has a ratio half that large.

In fact, when we look beyond the first round, we see that it’s still Florida State and Miami that produce the most draft prospects, while the smaller schools tend to fall toward the bottom.



Florida State had a dip in production in the immediate aftermath of the Bobby Bowden era, but with 11 players taken last year alone, it’s clear Jimbo Fisher has the Seminoles churning out NFL talent at a rate similar to their heyday. In fact, FSU is poised to send as many as a dozen more into this year’s draft, which would put its two-year tally for 2013 and 2014 at 23. Only Miami (24) had more players selected in the previous five drafts combined among ACC teams.

UNC ranks third among ACC teams with 16 players drafted in the last three years, which is, in part, the Butch Davis recruiting effect lingering. Meanwhile, Dabo Swinney certainly deserves some credit at Clemson. From 2004-2008, the Tigers sent 15 players to the NFL. From 2009 through 2013, they sent 23 -- and figure to add at least another four to that total this weekend.

At the bottom of the list, we get more ammunition for critics of Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets have had just two players selected in the last three drafts, and one (Anthony Allen) was a transfer not recruited by Johnson. Of course, Jeremiah Attaouchu should add to Johnson’s list of NFL talent this year.

Pitt has had just five players taken in the last three drafts -- none in the last two -- but Donald and Tom Savage assure some early intrigue for the Panthers in 2014, while Virginia (just three players in the last three years) should add to its total with Moses and Brent Urban.

Then, of course, there’s the ACC’s newest addition in Louisville. The Cardinals virtually evaporated from NFL draft boards in the immediate aftermath of Bobby Petrino’s departure, with just four players who were either recruited by or spent the bulk of their careers under Charlie Strong selected. That will change this year with Bridgewater and Calvin Pryor both projected to be taken early. Still, it’s a good reassurance for Louisville fans to remember than Petrino’s heyday of producing NFL talent that he either recruited or coached was pretty bountiful. From 2005 through 2008, Louisville had 19 players drafted.

Of course, all these numbers will be reshuffled in just a few hours, which should make for a long weekend on the couch. Enjoy!

ACC draft day preview

May, 8, 2014
May 8
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The moment everyone has long been waiting for is finally here, as the first round of the NFL draft will take place tonight at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

The ACC has no shortage of potential picks tonight, especially with seven players from the conference in attendance.

Here's a look at those players, along with several others who might hear their names called in Round 1.

ATTENDEES

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson. Watkins is the No. 2 overall player on Mel Kiper Jr.'s final Big Board . He is No. 4 on Todd McShay's list of top prospects , with McShay calling Watkins "one of four elite prospects in this draft."

Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina. Ebron is No. 15 on Kiper's board and No. 11 on McShay's, with McShay touting Ebron's big-play and run-after-catch ability.

Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech. At No. 17 on Kiper's board and No. 15 on McShay's, the 6-foot, 190-pound Fuller "comes in with enough polish to help a team soon," Kiper says.

Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia. Kiper has Moses at No. 34, McShay at No. 16. Go figure. Kiper says Moses was only "intermittently" dominant, while McShay says "defenders need to take a cab ride to get around his length."

Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville. Pryor is No. 18 on Kiper's board and No. 21 on McShay's, with Kiper saying that Pryor could be the first safety drafted, depending on preference. Both analysts love his hitting.

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville. Kiper has Bridgewater at No. 29. McShay has him at No. 28. Both of their evaluations are similar, with Bridgewater dazzling on tape but lacking punch on his deep ball.

Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State. Another prospect whose destination is really up in the air, with Kiper slotting him 55th on his board and McShay putting him at No. 39. The potential is there for Jernigan, but neither analyst love his first step.

NON-ATTENDEES

Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt. Donald is No. 9 on Kiper's board and No. 6 on McShay's. Kiper says the 6-1, 285-pound defender is worthy of a top-10 pick.

Jeremiah Attaochu, DE, Georgia Tech. Kiper's and McShay's opinions differ here, with the former ranking Attaochu as the 46th-best player available and McShay slotting him 30th. Both love Attaochu's quickness in getting to the quarterback, but Kiper sees him as a second-round pick.

Lamarcus Joyner, CB, Florida State. Both Kiper and McShay have Joyner at No. 53, with both raving about his versatility and his ability to play bigger than his size.

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State. Kiper has Benjamin at No. 54, McShay at No. 69. Both love the potential matchup nightmares Benjamin could create but are sour on his speed.

Terrence Brooks, S, Florida State. Almost the inverse of Benjamin here, with Kiper slotting Brooks at No. 69 and McShay having him at No. 56. Both love his discipline and instincts.

Tom Savage, QB, Pitt. Seemingly one of the fastest risers of the draft, Savage is ranked No. 70 on Kiper's board and No. 68 on McShay's. Both love his size, arm strength and mechanics.

ACC's lunch links

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
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I write the ACC lunch links one week out of every month, and still I was somehow left off Time’s list of its 100 most influential people. Something is seriously wrong with their criteria.

ACC's lunch links

April, 21, 2014
Apr 21
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Between this low ranking for lumberjacks and this story about shaving, it was a bad week for beards.

Reviewing the ACC pro days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACC's lunchtime links

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
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Happy President's Day ...

ACC and the NFL combine

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

Here is the official list of the ACC attendees:

BOSTON COLLEGE (5)
CLEMSON (4)
DUKE (1)
FLORIDA STATE (8)
GEORGIA TECH (2)
MARYLAND (1)
MIAMI (5)
NORTH CAROLINA (7)
NC STATE (1)
PITTSBURGH (3)
SYRACUSE (2)
VIRGINIA (2)
VIRGINIA TECH (4)
WAKE FOREST (1)

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's lunchtime links

November, 20, 2013
11/20/13
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Happy Wednesday.

ACC weekend rewind: Week 12

November, 18, 2013
11/18/13
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Just two more weeks left in the regular season. But before looking ahead, let's take one last look back at the week that was in the ACC.

[+] EnlargeJames Wilder Jr.
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsTailback James Wilder Jr. rushed for two touchdowns on just three carries in Florida State's romp of Syracuse.
The good: There's not a whole lot not to like about another brilliant Florida State performance, as the Seminoles rolled to a 59-3 win over Syracuse to clinch a perfect ACC season. Jameis Winston (19-of-21 passing) was only needed for a half, and he got plenty of help from his supporting cast, with Karlos Williams making the most of his four carries (78 yards), Kenny Shaw adding 99 receiving yards on seven catches and the defense holding the Orange to 68 first-half yards on 30 plays. Those poor souls from Idaho entering Tallahassee this coming weekend for Senior Day ...

The bad: What happened to you, Miami? Just three weeks ago you entered a prime-time showdown at rival FSU riding high, undefeated, free of the NCAA cloud and ranked No. 7 in the BCS standings. You've lost three games since, the latest a 48-30 contest at Duke, which wrestled away control of the Coastal Division from you. You gave up 358 rushing yards to a team that entered averaging just 165.9 per contest. Fortunately, you have Virginia on deck this weekend for Senior Day.

The ugly: Speaking of Virginia, the Cavaliers have some company in the cellar of the ACC, as NC State lost again, this time a 38-21 contest at Boston College. The Wolfpack fell to 0-7 in ACC play for the first time in program history, and they are now guaranteed to miss a bowl game in Year 1 under Dave Doeren. Andre Williams did a lot of this to them, too.

The history: Williams keeps finding records to chase. This time the Eagles senior rushed for an ACC single-game record of 339 yards, giving him an ACC single-season record of 1,810 rushing yards on the season. The previous ACC single-game record was 329 by Wake Forest's John Leach in 1993 versus Maryland, according to ESPN Stats & Info. And the previous league single-season record was 1,798 by Virginia's Thomas Jones in 1999. Williams' 339 yards Saturday were the most by an FBS player in a game this season, though it was not the most across college football Saturday: That would belong to Cartel Brooks and his 465 yards for Div. III Heidelberg, a new NCAA record.

More history: Tajh Boyd broke Phillip Rivers' ACC record for career touchdown passes, as he now has 97. And the Clemson quarterback had 340 passing yards in Thursday's win over Georgia Tech, leaving him one 300-yard game shy of Rivers' ACC record of 18.

(We want) more history: OK, fine. Duke quarterback Brandon Connette rushed for four touchdowns, giving him 29 rushing touchdowns for his career, breaking the previous school record of 28, set by Tom Davis from 1941-44.

The fun and games: Hey, who doesn't like a game of Hangman? It's not like the end of the Florida State-Syracuse game featured anything more dramatic, anyway.

The consistently inconsistent: Pitt was thisclose to keeping Notre Dame out of the national title game last season. It then followed things up by laying an egg at UConn. The Panthers finally took down the Irish this year, so how did they respond? Naturally, by falling behind by 24 points in the second half in an eventual 34-27 home loss to red-hot North Carolina. Give credit to Pitt for mounting a furious comeback to tie the game, and to Tom Savage and Devin Street for playing hurt, but surrendering a pair of punt return touchdowns to Ryan Switzer did not help matters. The Panthers remain at five wins, with a game this weekend at the always-tricky Carrier Dome on deck before the season finale against Miami.

The celebration: Did you see how happy Randy Edsall was? Maryland finally got to bowl eligibility under the third-year coach, snapping a three-game losing streak by pulling off the overtime upset at Virginia Tech. This was a big deal for Edsall & Co., as evidenced by his oh-so-happy postgame demeanor.

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 predictions: Week 12

November, 14, 2013
11/14/13
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Last week saw a few upsets in the ACC, costing Heather a little more than Andrea. Heather went 4-3 on the week after picking Maryland, Notre Dame and Miami to win. Andrea went 5-2, correctly picking the Hokies to upset the Canes. Andrea now has a one-game lead in the overall standings with a 67-18 mark. Plenty of time for Heather to walk away with the highly coveted, extremely prestigious ACC predictions trophy.

Now on to the picks!

Thursday night

Georgia Tech (6-3, 5-2) at No. 8 Clemson (8-1, 6-1), 7:30 p.m., ESPN. #GTvsCLEM. Recent history suggests this game is going to be close, so expect the same this season. Both teams have plenty on the line in this one, which is the final ACC contest for each. The Yellow Jackets need a win to stay in contention for the Coastal Division crown. Clemson needs a win to stay in contention for an at-large BCS berth. Georgia Tech's defense is much better than the group that allowed Clemson to rack up 601 yards of total offense a year ago, but the Tigers’ defense is better than it was a year ago, too. Tajh Boyd will find a way to make enough plays on this D. He needs three touchdown passes to break the ACC career mark of 95 set by former NC State All-American Philip Rivers (2000-03).

AA picks: Clemson 38, Georgia Tech 33

HD’s pick: Clemson 35, Georgia Tech 28

Saturday

NC State (3-6, 0-6) at Boston College (5-4, 2-3), 12:30 p.m., ESPN3. #NCSTvsBC. The Wolfpack have not been able to find a way to win games in the fourth quarter this season. They continue to struggle with quarterback issues, the biggest reasons why they remain winless in ACC play. Meanwhile, BC has found ways to win the last two weeks in the fourth quarter and now stands one victory away from bowl eligibility. The Wolfpack are getting several key players back on their defensive front, but Andre Williams seems like an unstoppable force right now. Williams needs 256 yards to break Mike Cloud's single-season school record for rushing yards.

AA picks: Boston College 24, NC State 21

HD’s pick: Boston College 28, NC State 21

North Carolina (4-5, 3-3) at Pitt (5-4, 2-3), 12:30 p.m., ESPN3. #UNCvsPITT. Both teams have experienced a youth movement of sorts this season. Twelve true freshmen have played for Pitt, and the Panthers are led in seven statistical categories by freshmen. Meanwhile, 24 of North Carolina's 32 touchdowns this season have been scored by freshmen or sophomores. Young players like Ryan Switzer, Bug Howard, T.J. Logan and Khris Francis have been critical to North Carolina's recent turnaround. With an improving defense, North Carolina has not given up nearly as many big plays over its three-game winning streak: only 12 of 46 "big plays" given up have come during this streak. The Tar Heels are on a hot streak, and that continues against a Pitt team that might have a letdown following an upset of rival Notre Dame.

AA picks: North Carolina 28, Pitt 24

HD's pick: Pitt 24, North Carolina 21: The Panthers are confident from their win against the Irish, and this is the win they need to become bowl eligible in front of a home crowd. More importantly, quarterback Tom Savage was sacked only one time by Notre Dame -- a huge improvement in the pass protection. Pitt’s offense is taking care of the ball well and will continue to open up the play-action against UNC with a strong running game. Another big reason the Panthers get it done? Defensive tackle Aaron Donald. He’ll make himself comfortable in the Tar Heels’ backfield.

Maryland (5-4, 1-4) at Virginia Tech (7-3, 4-2), 12:30 p.m., ESPN3. #MDvsVT. Well look who has played its way back into the Coastal Division race? None other than the familiar Hokies, who are riding high off an impressive win at Miami. Logan Thomas had one of the best performances of his career, and the run game was outstanding. Virginia Tech hopes to carry that momentum against the Terps, who are on a three-game losing streak. A sputtering Maryland offense is not going to be able to do much against the No. 3-ranked defense in the country.

AA picks: Virginia Tech 30, Maryland 10

HD’s pick: Virginia Tech 31, Maryland 13

Syracuse (5-4, 3-2) at No. 2 Florida State (9-0, 7-0), 3:30 p.m., ABC. #CUSEvsFSU. Everybody already has penciled in wins for Florida State the rest of the way out, but the Seminoles are going to have to guard against complacency if they want a spot in the national championship game. Syracuse has shown improvement with its run game and on defense over the last two weeks. In five wins this year, the Orange are averaging 244.4 yards rushing. To have any shot at the upset, Syracuse is going to have to maintain that average. That is a tall task.

AA picks: Florida State 49, Syracuse 13

HD’s pick: Florida State 42, Syracuse 10

No. 23 Miami (7-2, 3-2) at Duke (7-2, 3-2), 3:30 p.m., ESPNU. #MIAvsDUKE. Miami is not going to lose three straight games. It doesn't matter how bad its defense has looked over the last two weeks or how badly it missed Duke Johnson against Virginia Tech. That game got out of control because of special teams miscues that put Miami in a hole from the outset. Duke has its own issues to deal with on offense, with nine turnovers over its last three games, all wins. A big reason has been the play of the defense, which has forced nine turnovers over the same stretch. Miami simply has way more talent on offense than anybody the Blue Devils have faced this season, and Stephen Morris will find a way to get Miami back in the win column.

AA picks: Miami 30, Duke 21

HD’s pick: Duke 28, Miami 24: Going out on a limb here, but it’s not a typical week in the ACC if there isn’t at least one shocker. The main reason for this pick, though? Duke has an honest-to-goodness belief it can win. The Blue Devils went on the road and beat Virginia Tech. There’s no reason they can’t beat an average Miami team at home if they play smart, disciplined, mistake-free football. Sure, Miami has more “athletes,” but right now, Duke has the better defense and all of the momentum it needs for its second upset of the season.

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College Football Minute: Nov. 24
Florida State holds onto the top spot in the new AP poll. Jerry Kill and Minnesota have positioned themselves to potentially play for a Big Ten title, and the City of Angels belongs to UCLA. It's all ahead in your College Football Minute.
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