Florida State Seminoles: Duke Johnson

ACC mailblog

April, 11, 2014
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Lots of mail this week. Thanks to everybody who wrote in. Now to some questions ...

theschnauzers writes: Re: the Miami offense with (Kevin) Olsen and Duke (Johnson). I wouldn't underestimate Kevin Olsen in this situation, which I think both you and Heather are doing in your recent articles and blog entries. There are those of us who felt that if all other things were equal it was likely Kevin might have been the starter before season's end; what is clear is that unlike Morris and Harris, Kevin does read the defense and the plays, and based on all reports about the two closed scrimmages, he has done as well as Ryan Williams did before the injury in the second scrimmage, and Golden has used the words "exceptional" and "excellent" to Kevin's performance in the second half of that scrimmage. Guess we'll know more after the "spring game" Saturday, but I am among those U alumni who have confidence Kevin will step up and get the job done.

Andrea Adelson: Here is my point of view on Olsen. He is a terrific talent, and we could very well be underestimating him. But during my visit down to Coral Gables three weeks ago, I was not given any indication that the competition between Olsen and Williams was particularly close. Williams was clearly going to start, and Olsen still had a lot of learning to do to even really push Williams. The fact there was no "real" competition before Williams got hurt speaks more to where Olsen stands, in my opinion. Yes, Miami started giving Olsen more reps with the first team and he handled them nicely. But there is no denying that Williams had an edge both in terms of maturity and game experience. That could be a factor for Miami this year.

 




Ted in Lexington, Ky., writes: I think Wake Forest pulled off a steal in getting Dave Clawson. He turned around three programs, but this year I am scared because (1) Wake is so young; (2) our nonconference schedule is rough, especially Sept. 13 at Utah State. They knocked off Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl. If Wake Forest wins six, Dave Clawson should be the ACC Coach of the Year.

Adelson writes: I also like this hire. I think most impressive is the fact he won at smaller schools that have a similar type of profile as Wake Forest, the smallest school in the ACC. That should absolutely give Deacs fans hope for the future. But I agree 2014 might not be the year Wake goes back to a bowl game. Not only are the players young, they are learning entirely new schemes and have depth issues at several positions. Utah State will be a very tough game, but so will going on the road to play ULM, which beat the Deacs a year ago. If Clawson can scratch out six wins, he should be mentioned for national coach of the year given what he has to work with this year.

 




Kevin Portale in Louisville writes: I just read your article on the Cards. I really enjoyed it. It was short and to the point. Since Louisville is new to the ACC, how well do you think their chances are to be in the top three of the conference?

Adelson writes: Thanks, Kevin. At this point, I think there is a gap between Louisville and Florida State/Clemson but no real gap between the Cards and everybody else in the league. Despite the changes, this is a team that should still have an opportunity to win every game it plays. After talking to players, watching practice and spending time with the staff, I still think Louisville finishes third in the Atlantic. But given the difficulty of the schedule and some of the personnel losses the Cardinals have to overcome, I am not sure this team ends the season ranked in the Top 25.

 




Alex in Syracuse writes: Why do you think Pitt will be so good and expect nothing from Syracuse? If Aaron Donald doesn't block an extra point, if (Paul) Chryst doesn't barely get a timeout in, Syracuse would have had eight wins last year and Pitt does not even make a bowl game. Syracuse was a pretty good program only a little over a decade ago and then went through a down period. They're coming back up now, why doesn't anyone care or see this happening?

Adelson writes: I think you are making an assumption here that because I think Pitt has a chance to win the Coastal, I expect nothing out of Syracuse. One does not really correlate with the other. Pitt is in a much more winnable division and has an easier nonconference schedule than the Orange, which is why my expectations might be slightly higher. I thought Syracuse did a nice job toward the end of last season but it's hard to overlook how the Orange got blown out by the top two teams in the division. I do think they should be a bowl team this year given what they return on offense, but they are not quite ready to compete for a division title.

 




Tim in Christiansburg, Va., writes: re: ACC dream games. I understand all the love for FSU. I can see UT/Duke and the Petrino bowls. Clemson/Oregon would be exhausting to watch. But think outside the box a little. What sets college football apart is what happens off the field as much as on the field sometimes. The pageantry and hoopla that surrounds college football is what makes it so unique. That being said, what about VT/Texas A&M? These are the only two public schools with regular students that maintain on campus cadet corps that feed directly into the military. VT always marches out the cadets prior to the game for the national anthem. They are an important part of every home game, as they should be. Some military alum flies a billion dollar plane overhead. Skipper roars. Now multiply that by two. Plus the game would be pretty good, too. The first two were.

Adelson writes: Add it on the list!

ACC mailblog for Friday

March, 14, 2014
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The mailbag has returned. Make sure to keep those questions coming so we have enough to fill up this space each week!

Paul in Roanoke, Va., writes: As a lifelong UVA fan, of course I would love to see Mike London turn things around this fall and get the program back to respectability. However, many fellow Wahoo fans seem to think he will not make it past 2014 and have already begun to speculate on who AD Craig Littlepage will target for the next head coach. With Al Golden turning down the Penn State job, his potential return to Charlottesville has become a dream scenario for many fans, and I honestly don't think it seems that far-fetched. His suit-and-tie personality fits in well with UVA, and he had a great deal of success coaching Ahmad Brooks, Chris Canty, and others under Al Groh before taking the Temple job. Given UVA's top-notch facilities, great academics, solid fan base and location near the Hampton Roads recruiting hotbed, it seems to be a desirable location for someone who already has a history of winning there. And an intra-conference coaching move isn't unprecedented given that Tom O'Brien did it when he moved from BC to NC State. Do you think there is any chance at all that Golden could be lured away by the Wahoos, or do you think he will call Coral Gables home for the foreseeable future?

Andrea Adelson writes: Paul, I appreciate the question, but I cannot speculate about two men still employed as head coaches. I completely understand your concerns about Mike London, given what has happened the past few seasons. And I completely understand the coaching connection between the school and Golden, who has done a solid job at both Temple and Miami. I have no idea what the future holds for either coach. Golden has drawn interest from Wisconsin and Penn State (his alma mater) the last two seasons and stayed with the Canes. Does that mean he is in Coral Gables for the long term? Only time will tell. As for London, he absolutely has to get the ship righted as quickly as possible. He signed a terrific class in February, so I want to see what he does with these incoming players and a second year with his coordinators in place.


Tony Milano in Marco Island, Fla., writes: Andrea, I have not read anything about the defense at Boston College. Can you tell me how it is doing?

Adelson writes: BC has only had three practices so far, Tony, so you have not missed out on many big updates. In talking to coach Steve Addazio before practice began, I know he was really pumped about Josh Keyes at linebacker, and the return of just about everybody in the secondary. That remains a huge area that has to improve headed into next season. BC ranked last in pass defense and wore down as the season went on. This will be a much more veteran group in 2014, and Addazio believes that will translate to better results on the field.


Ethan in N.Y., writes: While the Hokies haven't exactly been spectacular these past two seasons, they have still been major contenders in the Coastal Division. In 2012, they were 55 seconds away from beating No. 10 FSU and were still a contender in November. In 2013, they were one North Carolina victory away from playing in Charlotte. Whether this pays tribute to the Hokies or shows how bad the Coastal has been the past two seasons, I don't know. This just tells you to never count out the Hokies. I pick them behind UNC to finish second in the Coastal in 2014, but they could easily win it, or be fifth. Where do you see them finishing in the murky pool of chaos that is the ACC Coastal Division?

Adelson writes: Great question, Ethan. The Coastal has been muddled the past two seasons, and I do not think 2014 is going to be much of an exception. I could legitimately make the case for six teams to win the division this fall. While I believe North Carolina and Duke are the top two at this point, if Virginia Tech can solve its offensive issues, the Hokies absolutely will be in the mix. I also think Pitt could have a great shot as a darkhorse, given some of the players it returns to the team. The Panthers have more talent at the skill positions than the Hokies do headed into the spring. Miami, with a healthy Duke Johnson, cannot be counted out. And Georgia Tech always hangs around the Coastal race. I am happy I don't have to slot my teams in 1-7 until July!


Gil Torres in Mobile, Ala., writes: With Bobby Petrino going to Louisville, how long do you think it will take him to compete for the ACC championship and possibly competing with SEC? Thanks in advance for your answer.

Adelson writes: Gil, given how much of a head start Clemson and Florida State have on him, it is going to take at least a few years for the Cards to compete for an ACC championship. I think they will win their fair share of games, but they need some excellent cycles on the recruiting side to begin building the consistent talent and depth we have seen from their two biggest Atlantic foes.


John in Arlington, Va., writes: Hi Andrea, Big fan of the blog and read it just about every day. I was just wondering why we keep getting updates about Jameis Winston's baseball career? I understand he's the most well-known player in the ACC, and it's the slow time of the year for a college football blog, but this is just that, a college football blog. If I wanted information on how well he's doing in baseball, I would follow college baseball. Just saw a link to "Winston's easy ninth inning", which fueled this rant. Other than that, keep up the good work and thanks for all you do.

Adelson writes: Thanks for reading, John. I think what Winston is doing with baseball is completely relevant and totally fascinating. Players as skilled as Winston have been told for years they had to pick one sport over another. This is the rare exception when he is not only allowed to do both, but excels at both. I understand how all the Winston mania may be getting a little bit old for some people. But his status as the Heisman Trophy winner on the No. 1 team in America makes his baseball career worth following. Especially if it ends up impacting what happens on the football field.
Time to move on in our look at recent streaks in some of the biggest ACC rivalries.

Up today: Florida State vs. Miami

The series: Miami leads, 31-27

Last meeting: Nov. 2, 2013 in Tallahassee. Florida State and Miami met as Top-10 teams for the first time since 2004, reigniting buzz that both programs were headed back to national prominence. But the Seminoles are the only ones who proved they indeed are back as national players. Florida State took control in the second half, routing its rivals 41-14. Miami played it close in the first half, trailing 21-14 at halftime. But after the Hurricanes lost star running back Duke Johnson to a broken ankle in the third quarter, they fell apart. Florida State ended the game on a 28-0 run, showing everyone just how big a gap there appears to be between the two programs. Miami ended up dropping three straight to fall out of the Top 25.

The streak: Florida State has won four straight and seven of the last nine. But before this recent run of success, the Hurricanes won six straight between 2000-2004. Florida State owns the longest streak in the series, winning seven straight between 1963-72. Twelve times between 1987 and 2004, Miami and Florida State met as Top-10 teams -- including seven straight from 1987-93. Miami went 5-2 in those Top-10 matchups.

The skinny: This game used to get top billing nationally, when both programs were fighting for national championships every season. But since its heyday ended 10 years ago, the teams have been unable to recreate the brilliance that made their annual matchups so compelling. The fact that both programs fell out of the Top 10 for an extended period has much to do with that. While Florida State stormed back to the national championship last season, Miami continues to play catch up.

SportsNation

Will Miami beat Florida State in 2014?

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The Canes lag behind the Seminoles for a host of reasons. They have not recruited at the same consistent level as Florida State, nor have they produced as much NFL talent as Florida State. Depth remains an issue, and there also is a big difference between the way the teams play in the trenches. Florida State imposes its will, both on the offensive and defensive lines. The same cannot be said for the Hurricanes.

Miami has played Florida State close during stretches in its most recent matchups. But as was the case in the last two meetings, Miami simply got physically worn down as the game progressed. Losing Johnson last season was a huge, debilitating blow. Still, in this recent four-game winning streak, Florida State has won by double digits three times.

The prediction: Florida State. The teams meet in Miami this season on Nov. 15, the third time in the last four years they are scheduled to play in November. The Seminoles are expected to go into the season ranked No. 1, with an eye on another championship. Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston returns, giving Florida State an edge in just about every game it will play. Miami, meanwhile, will most likely start the season unranked for the fourth-straight season and has questions at quarterback and across the defense. Given what we have seen out of both programs, it is hard to envision Miami putting an end to the losing streak in 2014.
Florida State is the overwhelming favorite to repeat as ACC champions in 2014. But that doesn't mean the rest of the league is going to step aside for the Seminoles.

So which team has the best chance to unseat them from their throne? Let's look at some of the top contenders:

SportsNation

Who has the best chance to unseat Florida State as ACC champion in 2014?

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Clemson: Skeptical fans will ask how the Tigers will take down Florida State considering: 1. They have lost to the Noles the last two years; 2. They play in Tallahassee in 2014; 3. They do not have Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant and Roderick McDowell, just to name four. Well, the truth is Clemson is not going anywhere anytime soon. Florida State had a lot of questions last season about replacing 11 NFL draft picks -- including its starting quarterback. But thanks to recruiting, the Seminoles were even better. Now, this is not to say Clemson will be even better in 2014 than it was a year ago, but it is to say the Tigers are not going to go back to winning seven games. They have kept pace with Florida State on the recruiting trail, have outstanding candidates to step in at quarterback, should be better at running back and will have one of the strongest defensive lines in the ACC. Boyd and Watkins might be gone, but Clemson is here to stay.

Duke: The Blue Devils, you say? Well, yes, they are a big-time dark horse, especially because the gap between the two programs was exposed for the world to see in the ACC championship game last December. Still, Duke will be one of the favorites to repeat as Coastal champions for several reasons. First, the Blue Devils return eight starters on offense, including All-ACC receiver Jamison Crowder, starting quarterback Anthony Boone and backup Brandon Connette. Second, they have some excellent players back on defense, including linebacker Kelby Brown and safeties Jeremy Cash and DeVon Edwards. Third, their schedule should make them favorites as they avoid playing Florida State, Clemson, Louisville and Notre Dame. Given the progress that has been made, this team could easily win 10 games again.

Louisville: The Cards are a bit of a wild card for a host of reasons. Not only do they have to replace potential No. 1 draft pick Teddy Bridgewater, their front seven has to be rebuilt and they have a new coach and new schemes to get used to in a short period of time. The schedule is much more challenging in 2014, too, with games against Florida State, Clemson, Notre Dame and Miami. The program is a step behind Florida State and Clemson, but Bobby Petrino sure knows how to coach. He won 10 or more games in the SEC West. Twice. Their chances are remote, but they should still be one of the top-tier ACC teams this year.

Miami: While it is true the in-state rivals are lagging behind the Seminoles, the Hurricanes have made some major strides on the recruiting trail and have talent all over the roster. If Duke Johnson had not gotten hurt last season, perhaps Miami would have stayed in the game. The Canes have a receiving group that can challenge the Florida State secondary. A healthy Johnson is a game-changer. And they meet in Miami this year in mid-November. Still, there are questions at quarterback and on defense that make Miami a long shot to unseat the Seminoles.

Other: Is it North Carolina? Virginia Tech? Anybody else? Now it's time for you to weigh in with our handy dandy poll.
The ACC enters 2014 with the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, and Jameis Winston certainly figures to be the favorite to repeat. But as the past two years have shown, the next winner isn’t usually on everyone’s radar in January, and the ACC won’t have any shortage of candidates for the award in 2014. These are the top contenders.

1. Jameis Winston, QB, FSU
[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty ImagesFSU QB Jameis Winston is the defending winner and is set up well to make a run at a second Heisman.
Winston won the award as a redshirt freshman in 2013, and while he’ll have to deal with a long offseason of scrutiny and far higher expectations for 2014, he’ll also have the luxury of an exceptional offense around him. Four-fifths of Winston’s offensive line will be back, as will his top receiving target (Rashad Greene) and his favorite short-yardage target (Nick O’Leary). Winning the award twice is a tough task (as Johnny Manziel proved last year) but Winston figures to have ample weapons around him to make another run at it.

2. Duke Johnson, RB, Miami
Johnson’s 2013 season was cut short by a broken ankle in early November, but he figures to be recovered in time to start the 2014 season, and he’ll be looking to make up for lost time. Johnson averaged 6.3 yards per carry before the injury. Among AQ-conference running backs returning for 2014, only Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon had as many carries as Johnson and rushed for a higher average. Johnson’s skills aren’t limited to the ground game either. He caught 27 passes as a freshman and has nearly 1,300 kickoff return yards for his career.

3. Karlos Williams, RB, FSU
When the 2013 season opened, Williams was a backup safety at Florida State. When it ended, he’d racked up nearly 800 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns as a running back. The transition came after FSU’s opener, and Williams proved himself a natural. The only drawback was the competition in the backfield, where he was forced to split carries with Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. In 2014, however, Williams will be alone atop the depth chart, and his numbers suggest a big year is in store. No AQ-conference back with at least 90 carries averaged more per rush than Williams (8.0) or scored as often (touchdown every 8.3 carries).

4. Jamison Crowder, WR, Duke
Pop quiz: Who is the only receiver from an AQ conference with 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons who will return for 2014? It was Crowder, of course. For the past two years, he’s been one of the nation’s top pass catchers, but he’s rarely gotten much acclaim. He’s one of just four players returning for 2014 who tallied 1,800 all-purpose yards in 2013, and with QB Anthony Boone returning to lead Duke’s potent offense, Crowder could finish off his career with a bang.

5. Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
The road to the Heisman is an uphill climb, even for the best defensive players. Just ask Beasley’s cross-state neighbor Jadeveon Clowney. But Beasley’s decision to return for his senior campaign means he’ll be among the most likely defensive players to earn consideration, and his numbers from 2013 -- 13 sacks (third nationally) and 23 tackles for losses (fourth nationally) -- certainly make a case that he’s a worthy contender.
Florida State put an exclamation point on the 2013 season with its thrilling win over Auburn in the final BCS national championship game. Now, it is time to look ahead, all the way down the road to 2014 with three burning topics:

1. Can Florida State repeat?

This is one of the biggest story lines to watch in 2014, along with the first College Football Playoff. Colleague Ted Miller takes a deeper dive into the Noles, whom we can finally declare as "back" on the college football landscape:
The Seminoles suffered through an uncomfortable separation from (Bobby) Bowden, who built the program from the ground up, and there were some fits and starts in Jimbo Fisher's first three seasons, but this team seems well-equipped for another long run of national contention, starting with outstanding recruiting in Florida, a hotbed of prep talent.

In short, the Seminoles probably won't wait 14 years to win another title. And it was great to see Bowden serving as the Seminoles' honorary captain Monday night. Winning heals wounds.
2. Who will be the stars of the college football season?

[+] EnlargeDuke Johnson
Robert Mayer/USA TODAY SportsThink Miami is anxious to get Duke Johnson back? The Canes went 2-4 without their star running back.
No surprise the choices from ACC country in our national overview include Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and Miami running back Duke Johnson. How will Winston top a season in which he won the Heisman and a national championship? Will he become the first two-time Heisman winner since Archie Griffin in 1974-75? (More on that in a bit). As for Johnson, there is no doubt the Hurricanes will welcome him back to the fold with open arms after they imploded down the stretch without him. It is no coincidence Miami lost four of its final six games with Johnson on the sideline. His role will be even more important in 2014 with a first-year starter at quarterback.

The ACC has a few sleepers on this list, too: Virginia Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller and North Carolina returner Ryan Switzer.

3. Time for 10 bold predictions.

Colleague Mark Schlabach takes a crack at being Nostradamus, and predicts Winston will win another Heisman:
Winston was so good this past season, completing 66.9 percent of his passes for more than 4,000 yards with 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, that it's easy to forget it was his first season as a starter. He'll be even better as a sophomore, even if juniors like Kelvin Benjamin and Nick O'Leary enter the NFL draft.

He also gives a nod to the ongoing war of words between Steve Spurrier and Dabo Swinney. Could their annual game be moved to a parking lot? Intrigue!

ACC's early 2014 Heisman hopefuls

December, 17, 2013
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If there is another Jameis Winston looming in the 2014 quarterbacks class, we haven’t heard about him. The position will be getting an overhaul next season, as Clemson, Boston College, Maryland, Wake Forest, NC State, Miami, Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh will all be looking for new starters. There could also be some competitions at Virginia and Syracuse, so it’s definitely a question mark heading into next season. So far, there doesn’t appear to be any quarterback who can challenge Winston for the Heisman Trophy in 2014.

That doesn’t mean, though, that another surprise candidate like Andre Williams won’t emerge.

Until then, here’s an early look at your top three ACC Heisman hopefuls for 2014:

1. FSU QB Jameis Winston: We saw what happened with Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel -- the magic of his first season wore off, even if his play remained outstanding. It’s not going to be easy for Winston to repeat, but he has made a habit of exceeding expectations. There’s also the question of who leaves early for the NFL, and how that affects Winston’s supporting cast. With Winston returning, though, Florida State should again be considered a frontrunner for the national title, and Winston remains the candidate to beat for the Heisman Trophy.

2. Miami running back Duke Johnson: He broke his ankle in the loss to Florida State and missed the rest of the season, but when he’s 100 percent healthy, there’s no question Johnson is a game-changer and one of the top running backs and kick returners in the country. Miami was 2-2 without him, losing to Duke and Virginia Tech, and he was the ACC’s No. 2-leading rusher before he was injured. Even with the injury, Johnson still finished the regular season as Miami’s leading rusher with 920 yards and 115 yards per game. He was second on the team in total offense and led the team with 1,393 all-purpose yards.

3. Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater (if he returns): Bridgewater has said he is “undecided” about his future, but will make the decision after playing Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Should he return, Bridgewater would instantly be one of the top quarterbacks in the ACC for 2014, and again one of the top in the country. As of right now, though, Bridgewater is is the No. 1-rated quarterback prospect by ESPN's Todd McShay, and the No. 8 player overall.

ACC mailblog

November, 22, 2013
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Back in the home office in Orlando this week. Seems a few of you had different views on the ACC perception story I wrote. Let's hear.

Steve K in Arlington, Va., writes: So your story about how "the ACC is ranked where it has been" shows that perception is the only thing that matters in college football, NOT performance. ESPN's own power index shows the ACC as No. 3 among conferences. Yet poll voters perpetuate their biases. Is the Big 12's best nonconference win Oklahoma's win over 7-3 Notre Dame? Pitt did that and they are the 11th or 12th best team in the ACC. Oklahoma State's win over 4-6 Mississippi State? Please. Baylor and Texas Tech played no one. Texas got hammered by a BYU team that lost to UVa before injuries crushed the Hoos. K-State lost to a I-AA. West Virginia got hammered by Maryland. Iowa State lost to a I-AA. What a JOKE to have the Big 12 ranked ahead of the ACC at this point. It's not close this season. But it's all based on self-fulfilled perceptions.

Andrea Adelson: I agree that perceptions, or misperceptions in a lot of cases, skew the way people see teams and conferences. However, I also think the ACC missed an opportunity to change these perceptions when Miami and Virginia Tech started tanking. Florida State is in great position to play for a national championship. That is huge. But the rest of the league? Nobody else has truly risen up to join Florida State and Clemson in the upper echelon. Based on the criteria listed, what is the ACC's best nonconference win? Pitt vs. Notre Dame? Does Miami over Florida or Clemson over Georgia still hold that much weight? I agree the Big 12 historically plays nobody out of conference. A lot of that has to do with the nine-game league schedule. But tell me how the on-field performance of the ACC as a whole, outside Florida State and Clemson, is any different than it was a year ago?

Brandon Shreve in Charleston, S.C., writes: Good job on the ACC article. Perception has to change. Don't you feel that nothing will change until we show up in the bowl games and beat someone other then our ACC brothers?

Adelson: Well, the ACC did have a great bowl performance last year with wins over LSU and USC among the headliners. I think the ACC needs Miami to be good, and a permanent group of four to five teams that are consistently in the top 25. That's what the SEC has on a yearly basis.

Eddie Riffone in Viera, Fla., writes: Andrea, I know you're better than this! In regards to the strength of the ACC … let's look at a few factors. First, the ACC has two teams in the top 7, and as far as the top 10, the SEC has three teams, everyone else has two or one team. Second, Miami. Let's be real here … granted they looked weak in some games, but they still managed to win (just like Alabama did with Miss Stare this past weekend). If Duke Johnson was not out for the year … Miami would be in an entirely different position. They lost their running game, and while you might say one player shouldn't make a team … I'll refer you to Texas A&M. We know where they would be without JM. Your thoughts?

Adelson: The problem is the ACC has nobody beyond the top 7. That is why perception has not changed. As for Johnson, there is no question that Miami misses him dearly. But I don't see how we can sit here and say playing without Duke is the reason Miami's defense has all of a sudden forgotten how to tackle or stop the run.

Patrick J. Daley in Reading, Mass., writes: Andrea - Great article on Andre Williams and well deserved. I am a longtime BC season's ticket holder, and I can tell you that Andre and his transformed O-line have done a remarkable job. Andre is a Dean's List student and a good representative of the school. Hopefully he will win the Doak Walker Award and if the powers to be want a fifth person on stage in NYC to go along with the four QBs: Jameis, Johnny Football, Mariota, and Petty, then Andre might fit the bill. Good research also in your article.

Adelson writes: Thanks, Patrick! This young man deserves some pub for what he has done this season!

Lee in Meeks, Ga., writes: Bowl projections have Georgia and Georgia Tech playing in the Music City Bowl. I do not think this will happen do you?

Adelson write: Highly doubtful to say the least.

Pawpower58 in Columbia, S.C., writes: Clemson had some not so amusing games after the UGA game I'll admit. But in the last 3/4 games, Clemson seems to have gotten some things fixed on offense, and has looked pretty good here of late. And Clemson absolutely stepped all over PJ and his GT honey bee's. Take away the yards and two scores that the second and third teem defensive depth gave up to GT. It looked like one of the best defensive games that (Brent) Venables' defense has played all year. Question -- What is your opinion on how you see Clemson matching up against Steve Spurrier and his chicken coop on Nov. 30?

Adelson: Great question. I keep going back and forth on how this game is going to go. South Carolina has had moments where it's looked great, and moments where it's looked not so great (ahem, last week). The Gamecocks are certainly not an indestructible force this year, and I think Tajh Boyd can make some plays on the secondary, which has been up and down this year. This one all comes down to Boyd and the offensive line. Boyd is going to be looking for redemption after his game against them last year, and against Florida State earlier this season. If they can keep Jadeveon Clowney at bay and out of their heads, Clemson has a great chance to win.

David Goldstein in Hollywood, Fla., writes: I am a huge Cane fan and was going through remaining schedules. I believe it is possible that Duke, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, UNC, and Miami end up 5-3 in the ACC. Who goes to the ACC championship in this scenario?

Adelson: Virginia Tech, based on its 3-1 record in the five-game "mini-group." (This assumes a Duke win over Wake Forest and a Duke loss to North Carolina).

Bryan in Mad Beach, Fla., writes: If Jameis Winston is charged and thereby ineligible, do you see the voters making it so college football fans don't have to witness the possibility of a third-string QB starting in a national title game (assuming FSU wins its remaining games) by moving Ohio State or Baylor ahead enough in the polls? Also, I just want to argue against conspiracy theories. … Winston was not famous in December, and there was only potential at that point. FSU has removed players with potential in the past (Adrian McPherson and Randy Moss) for much less serious offenses (and in Winston's case alleged) and when an alternative starter at QB was not as good as Jacob Coker. I don't see FSU protecting someone that hadn't played a down and was only filling in for a few innings in relief on the baseball team. Thanks for the coverage.

Adelson: If everybody wins out, I have no idea what the voters will do. Nor do I have any idea when there is going to be a resolution in this case. The hope is that the voters will go with the team most deserving based on its play throughout the season. Florida State has talent in spades beyond Winston. So who's to say Alabama or any other potential opponent in the national title game would automatically beat the Noles if Winston is out? That may sound ridiculous but no team has ever won a game on paper. If I had a vote, I would still have Florida State in the title game based on its overall performance.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 13

November, 21, 2013
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It’s the penultimate week of the regular season, and there’s still plenty left to be decided. Three teams are pushing for bowl eligibility, five teams remain in the mix for the Coastal and three teams are tuning up for rivalry showdowns against the SEC. Here’s what to watch for as the ACC gets set for Week 13.

1. Who gets No. 6?: The showdown between the two ACC newcomers isn’t exactly a headlining act nationally, but for both Syracuse and Pitt, it’s a potentially huge game. Both teams sit at 5-5, and the winner safely secures bowl eligibility. Both teams enjoyed big wins two weeks ago (Syracuse over Maryland, Pitt over Notre Dame) before losing tough games last week.

[+] EnlargeRyan Switzer
Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY SportsReceiver Ryan Switzer and the Tar Heels have turned their season around after a 1-5 start.
2. North Carolina rolling: After opening the season 1-5 (0-3 in the ACC), the Tar Heels have found their rhythm behind new starting quarterback Marquise Williams. They’ve won four straight and could secure bowl eligibility this week with a win over Old Dominion. The game also serves as a warm-up for the regular-season finale, in which UNC, miraculously, could stake its claim to a share of the Coastal Division lead with a win over Duke.

3. Duke at the top: Speaking of the Blue Devils, they’re riding high after last week’s win over Miami. Duke is firmly in command of the division and well on its way to a 10-win season and a trip to the ACC title game if it can win out. And while most outsiders look to the showdown with UNC next week, Duke’s first step is toppling reeling Wake Forest this week. The Demon Deacons have had an extra week to prepare, making this potential trap game a big test of just how far the Blue Devils have come.

4. Williams' quest for 2,000: What can Andre Williams do for an encore? It’s almost silly to wonder what comes next since the Boston College running back continues to top himself so consistently. After rushing for an ACC-record 339 yards a week ago, Williams is now just 190 yards shy of 2,000. No running back in the nation has reached that plateau since Connecticut’s Donald Brown in 2008.

5. Eagles soaring and Terps improving: The BC-Maryland game might be a good bit more interesting than most fans should’ve expected a few weeks ago. The Eagles have won three straight and have already tripled their win total from a year ago. After starting 4-0, Maryland lost four out of five but appeared to salvage its season with a win over Virginia Tech last week. Now both teams are bowl eligible and looking to establish themselves as the clear No. 3 in the Atlantic Division.

6. Miami on the ropes: Remember when the Hurricanes were the No. 7 team in the country? That seems like a long time ago. Miami fell to Florida State, lost its top offensive weapon in Duke Johnson, then lost two more games, coughing up control of the Coastal in the process. But if there’s a cure for what ails the Canes, it’s probably Virginia, which hasn’t won an ACC game in more than a year. Of course, that last conference win for the Hoos? It came against Miami.

7. Early exits in Tallahassee: If you’re a fan of Florida State’s stars on offense and defense, you better tune in early Saturday. They aren’t likely to be in the game for long. Jameis Winston didn’t play in the second half of last week’s game, and he has had no more than one series in the third quarter of three of his past four. FSU is a 56-point favorite this week against lowly Idaho, so Winston & Co. figure to be on the sidelines early once again.

8. Final tune-up for Clemson: If the Tigers are to make it to a BCS bowl game, it will all come down to next week’s rivalry game with South Carolina. This week’s foe, the Citadel, is simply that pesky speed bump beforehand. Still, it’ll be one last chance for Tajh Boyd and the Tigers to get ready for the Gamecocks, even if it doesn’t figure to be a particularly close game.

9. Tech tunes up, too: Like Clemson, Georgia Tech has a rivalry game with an SEC foe on the horizon, and the Yellow Jackets are also tuning up for Georgia with some lighter fare. But after Tech fell to Clemson last week, Paul Johnson’s crew has a lot more work to do to get things right in advance of its SEC showdown.

10. State’s hopes for bragging rights: It’s been a rough debut season for coach Dave Doeren and the Wolfpack, but there’s at least one final shred of Carolina dignity to be salvaged. After NC State lost its first three in-state showdowns this year -- to Wake Forest, UNC and Duke -- East Carolina looks to make it a clean sweep. It’s a step out of conference for NC State (which is 3-0 nonconference but 0-7 in the ACC) but it’s no easy win. The Pirates are 8-2 overall and pushed Virginia Tech to the brink earlier this season.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 12

November, 14, 2013
11/14/13
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We've already reached Week 12 of the season, with just two regular-season weekends left. Thankfully we have a Thursday night game to help kick things off. Here's what to watch in that contest and more in this weekend's ACC lineup.

1. Georgia Tech D looks to keep it going. The Yellow Jackets had an extra week to prepare for Clemson, though they have regained their edge defensively in a three-game winning streak. They held a Pitt team that ended up beating Notre Dame to just 10 points, and they shut out Syracuse back on Oct. 19 to kick-start this little run. A win would put Georgia Tech right in the middle of things in this wild Coastal Division race.

[+] EnlargeRoderick McDowell
MCT via Getty ImagesClemson RB Roderick McDowell is a little under the radar, but he's averaging nearly 100 yards a game over the Tigers' last four contests.
2. Clemson run game. Remember the Tigers? Everyone seemingly forgot about these guys after the Florida State game, but they, too, are back after a bye for a Thursday night home game against Georgia Tech. Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins have been their normal selves, but Roderick McDowell's play in recent weeks could prove helpful against an option offense. McDowell has three touchdowns over his last two games, and he is averaging 95.75 yards per contest in his last four outings.

3. BC goes for bowl-eligibility. Boston College's turnaround in Year 1 under Steve Addazio has been among the nation's biggest surprises. Andre Williams carried the Eagles to their first road win of the season last week, and he will likely be relied upon again as BC goes for win No. 6 and tries to keep NC State winless in ACC play.

4. Marquise Williams. The North Carolina offense is his, and he did not disappoint last week in throwing, rushing and catching touchdowns for a win over Virginia. The Tar Heels are riding a three-game winning streak into Pittsburgh, where the Panthers ended Notre Dame's BCS bowl hopes last week.

5. Pitt's D looks for another strong outing. The Panthers played respectable defense against option offense in consecutive weeks -- good enough to win -- before finally breaking through in the win last week over the Irish. They forced three turnovers and now find themselves also a win away from a second-straight bowl berth under Paul Chryst if they can fend off UNC at Heinz Field.

6. Logan Thomas tries to finish out strong. Thomas answered his critics emphatically last week in a big win at Miami, as he connected on 25 of 31 passes for 366 yards with two touchdowns and no picks. He will look for another strong outing against Maryland on Senior Day, as he can help change the narrative around his career with the Hokies, who are also right in the middle of the cluttered Coastal Division race.

7. Syracuse D tries to slow down FSU. The Orange shut out Wake Forest and held Maryland to a field goal in last week's 20-3 road win. Now they, too, are -- tell me if you've heard this before -- a win away from bowl-eligibility, though the challenge will be just a bit more difficult Saturday against the No. 2 Seminoles.

8. Winston bouncing back. The first real test Jameis Winston faced all season? A negative off-field headline, which came Wednesday. There is no use speculating at this point, and Syracuse isn't Clemson or Miami. But how Winston responds to his first real dose of controversy will be a storyline that follows him for as long as the ongoing investigation lasts.

9. Can Miami ground game recover? One game without Duke Johnson yielded unfavorable results for the Hurricanes, who gained just 28 rushing yards as a team in the 42-24 home loss to Virginia Tech. Dallas Crawford led Miami with 37 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, but he and the rest of the backfield will need to do more if the Canes hope to escape Durham with a win.

10. Duke's D looks to continue hot streak. The Blue Devils cannot stop turning the ball over on offense. Fortunately for them, their defense has turned a corner during this five-game winning streak, forcing eight turnovers themselves in their last two outings and giving up just 14.75 points per contest over their last four. Duke is 7-2 but wants more in a matchup with Miami that has major division implications, something that probably would have sounded laughable as far as a month back when looking ahead on the schedule.

ACC Saturday setup: Week 11

November, 9, 2013
11/09/13
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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.

ACC Week 11: Did you know?

November, 8, 2013
11/08/13
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Florida State can lock up a trip to the ACC championship game with a win this week. Virginia Tech or Miami can take a big step toward doing the same when they face off. Maryland can become bowl eligible with a win, too. Here are a handful of other tidbits as we get set for Week 11 in the ACC.

Thanks, as always, to the ACC and each school’s sports information departments for providing many of the stats.

Boston College: After making eight tackles in a win over Virginia Tech last week, Kevin Pierre-Louis now has 73 for the season -- an average of 9.13 per game. That total ranks second, just behind Duke’s David Helton (9.75). A member of the Boston College defense has led the ACC in tackles per game every year since 2009. Pierre-Louis finished third in the ACC last season (9.44).

Duke: With a win over Virginia Tech in its last game, Duke has now won four straight. It’s the second consecutive season in which the Blue Devils have enjoyed a four-game winning streak. Prior to that, Duke hadn’t won four straight in any season since 1994, and it had only won four games total in a year four times in the interim. The last time Duke had winning streaks that long in consecutive seasons was 1988 and 1989.

Maryland: Linebacker Cole Farrand racked up a whopping 23 tackles in Maryland’s last game, a loss to Clemson. That’s not only a career high for Farrand, but it was the most by a player in a single game in the ACC this season and the second-best tally nationally. The last Maryland player to eclipse that total was Scott Rosen, who recorded 30 tackles against North Carolina in 1990.

Miami: The Hurricanes lost star tailback Duke Johnson for the season with a broken ankle in last week’s game against Florida State, but they have a capable alternative in Dallas Crawford. On just 67 carries this season, Crawford has scored nine times. Crawford’s rate of a touchdown every 7.4 rushes is the second best in the ACC behind FSU’s Karlos Williams (one every 7.0 rushes).

Florida State: The Seminoles rank third nationally in third-down conversions in spite of the fact that just 24 percent of their third-down tries need 3 yards or fewer for a conversion (94th nationally). Florida State more than makes up for it by covering a whopping 46 percent of its third-and-longs (7 yards or more), the best ratio in the country and nearly double the national average.

NC State: The Wolfpack have won 11 of the last 12 meetings against Duke, but NC State hasn’t exactly dominated the rivalry between the schools, which are separated by only about 20 miles. Seven of those wins came by a touchdown or less, and in 12 of the last 19 games between the two schools, the margin of victory has been eight points or less, including seven decided by a field goal or less.

North Carolina: Eric Ebron caught nine passes for 70 yards in a win over NC State last week, bringing his season total to 44 receptions and 669 receiving yards. Ebron is just 202 yards shy of breaking the ACC record for receiving yards in a season for a tight end, set by Maryland’s Vernon Davis in 2005. He’s 26 catches shy of the conference record held by Virginia’s Heath Miller, set in 2003. Ebron has had at least four catches and 60 yards in each of his last seven games.

Pittsburgh: Pitt’s recent offensive struggles start with the ground game. Against Old Dominion, New Mexico and Navy, the Panthers racked up 684 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. But against ACC competition, Pitt is averaging just 1.91 yards per carry this year. In games against teams from automatic-qualifier conferences, only Purdue averages less among AQ schools. Pitt finished with minus-5 yards rushing on 21 carries against Georgia Tech last week.

Syracuse: Orange quarterbacks have thrown just two touchdowns against teams from other BCS automatic-qualifier conferences this year to go with 14 interceptions. That’s the worst TD-to-INT rate of any AQ team in the nation in those games. At 4-4, however, the Orange are one of just two teams ranked in the bottom 10 in TD-to-INT ratio with a record of .500 or better (Utah is the other).

Virginia: The Cavaliers lost cornerback Demetrious Nicholson for the season, which is bad news for a secondary that has given up the most passing yards of any ACC team. But while Virginia’s DBs have been picked on, it’s also worth noting that the unit allows just 50.7 percent completions to opposing quarterbacks this year -- the ninth-best mark in the country.

Virginia Tech: Since the start of the 2012 season, Virginia Tech’s defense has intercepted 30 passes, 11th most in the country and tops in the ACC. On the flip side, however, Hokies quarterbacks have thrown 29 interceptions in that span, the ninth most in the nation and tied with North Carolina for the most in the ACC. Virginia Tech has eight turnovers in its last two games (both losses) after going three straight without a turnover (all wins).

Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons host No. 2 Florida State on Saturday, marking their third matchup against a top-10 team this season (Sept. 28 vs. No. 3 Clemson, Oct. 25 vs. No. 7 Miami). That’s the first time in program history Wake Forest has faced three top-10 teams in the same year. Only twice has under head coach Jim Grobe have the Deacons played even two games against top-10 foes — 2005 and 2012.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 11

November, 7, 2013
11/07/13
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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
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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, 5, 2013
11/05/13
12:00
PM ET
Sad to see Carlos Ruiz and Roy Halladay likely won't be back in Philly. They teamed up for the best sports event I’ve ever covered.
 

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Scene and Heard: Top 10 Predictions
In a conversation with ESPN's Antonietta Collins, national recruiting reporter Gerry Hamilton breaks down the recruiting momentum building at Auburn and offers predictions for where the top 10 recruits will commit.Tags: Trenton Thompson, Kerryon Johnson, Jeffery Holland, Martez Ivey, Torrance Gibson, Cece Jefferson, ESPN 300, RecruitingNation, high school football recruiting, Gerry Hamilton
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