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  1. Week 2 Recap Winners: 52-13 Hou, 41-0 NMSU, 42-16 Char, 23-20 Wyo, 30-10 Cincy, 34-17 Tul, 30-27 MiaO Losers: , 13-28 at Zips, 24-26 at Purdue On Bye: , , , , Players of the Week Offense: QB Akiem Williams III - 17/26 for 235 yards, 2 TD; 10 carries for 126 yards, 2 TD Defense: DE Anthony Walton - 3 tackles, 2 TFL, 2.0 sacks Special Teams: K Jeremy Bouchard - 3/3 FG, 2/2 XP, two 40+-yard FG, GW 26-yard FG Week 3 Previews: Saturday Saturday Morning Football Storrs, CT - Boston College Eagles (1-0) at Connecticut Huskies (0-1) Headliner: Northeastern Control. As has been the case for the past five or so seasons, Boston College has been the team to beat in the Northeast. After having decimated UMass two weeks ago in Chestnut Hill, the Eagles travel a short distance to Storrs to take on UConn, another team that's struggled to find its way in recent seasons. The Huskies' defense found life hard against the ramblin' Bulls of Buffalo, giving up 226 yards on the ground in their 11-point defeat at home to the MAC side. With Jordan Godson coming to town after a stunning showing against the Minutemen, one can assume a similar showing against the Huskies' rush defense, or even worse. Injuries: None. Player to Watch: DE Michael Britt. With the Eagles' offensive thrashing of UMass, did anyone notice the outstanding performance from Britt a fortnight ago? Britt was an absolute unit going up against a paper-thin offensive line, and the difference in skill showed throughout the evening as Britt picked up 3.5 sacks and forced a fumble from Pita Ponifasio. Britt's the captain of this defensive line, and with another fairly weak offensive line unit standing in his way this weekend, Britt is likely going to put up similar numbers in making Rob Andersen and the UConn backfield very uncomfortable throughout the day, and in particular making getting the ball to Gavin Faulk very difficult. Prediction: The difference in talent between Boston College and the rest of the Northeast is massive, and if it didn't show against feeble UMass, it'll show against a UConn side with more longevity against the Minutemen. The Buffalo game acts as a preview to the damage Godson will do to the Huskies, though look to J.M. Gill to put together another respectable passing performance against a more top-heavy secondary. If there are questions about this BC side, we won't see them arise in this game. BC 48-13 UConn Atlanta, GA - Western Michigan Broncos (0-1) at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-0) Headliner: A Change in Pace. The Jackets looked out of sorts against Ball State. The passing game looked as if the hole left by Jahmir Rolle was a lot bigger than anticipated, and Gabriel Sewell was far from ready for the FBS stage in his debut. The defense stepped up to cover for the offense's misfirings, but that was against a Ball State team known for offensive inconsistency. In steps DeSean Madison and the WMU Broncos, who remain a scary proposition for this Georgia Tech side despite their horrific shortcomings against Michigan State. Will the Jackets get back on track, or will they fall hard against the class of the MAC? Injuries: None. Player to Watch: DE Junior Mondragon. What better way to follow up your three-sack debut with another strong showing against a team built on the run? Mondragon was a force against Ball State's inferior offensive line, headlining Georgia Tech's five-sack assault on the Cardinals that also featured a force fumble and a tackle for loss from the freshman defensive end. Chase Sims didn't face too much adversity from Michigan State's front seven yet still was rather inconsistent throwing the ball; just imagine how he'll fare when actually put under pressure? It's up to Mondragon to lead the Jackets' defensive line once more, hopefully to the same effect that saw them slow Damani Laws and the Cardinals. Prediction: I badly want to believe that the offensive failures from two weeks ago were a fluke, but the lack of a running game isn't ever going to be a fluke. The Yellow Jackets might live and die on the consistency of their non-Swanson receivers, and if this ends up being the case week-in and week-out, then it's hard to trust the Jackets' offense in most games. This is certainly one of those games as a failure to continually produce on that side of the ball will allow for the Broncos, a team with a defense much better than their opening game indicated, to wear down Georgia Tech's defense until it eventually breaks. WMU 31-21 GT Miami Gardens, FL - Virginia Tech Hokies (1-0, 0-0) at Miami (FL) Hurricanes (0-1, 0-0) Headliner: Opening In Two Directions. It really was a tale of two teams a week ago, as the Hokies took apart Tulane while Miami inexplicably stumbled on the road in Akron. Conference play might've come at the worst possible time for the Hurricanes; will they really run the Wildcat again, or will they quickly try to snap back to a run-based scheme to accommodate for their rush-first offense? As for the Hokies, they'll look to take quick advantage over a Miami team in disarray, but they shouldn't be so quick to discount what the 'Canes have shown to do in years past. Ronnie Peterson is still a threat, and there's no telling when the young guns on this team will show their potential. In any case, both teams are currently heading in opposite directions, but one needs to correct their course before it becomes too late. Injuries: None. Player to Watch, VT: DT Kevin Best. This is strictly about Ronnie Peterson. After an iffy but untested performance against Tulane's Thomas Moses, Best and the Hokies' front seven will face their routine Peterson check-up. They failed this check-up last year in Blacksburg, letting the heart of this Miami offense rush for 136 yards and 2 touchdowns as the Hokies barely clutched out a 38-35 win. Simply put, the front seven has to perform better, and who better to look for than the man in the middle that'll more often than not meet Peterson at the line? You won't see him show up in the statbook, but a silent or even slowed performance from Miami's main source of offense will be considered a success for the defensive tackle. Player to Watch, UM: WR Joaquin Bond. Nonexistent in the showdown between these teams a year ago. Deftly silent against the Zips last week. Bond has an unfortunate tendency to disappear when needed, and he'll have to be called upon if the 'Canes are to stand any real chance against their rival visitors. Going up against Trevor McKinney is never easy, but Bond is going to have to step up at some point, so what better time then against a corner of McKinney's quality in a game that means a lot more for Miami than it does for Virginia Tech right now? Peterson is good, but Bond will have to provide the spark for this offense. Prediction: Can anyone trust Miami? Coaching has come under fire after the Akron disaster, and a similar performance simply won't cut it in a very important conference game between what appeared to be two contenders for the division. Miami's offense won't find its rhythm, and a hearty game from Peterson simply won't be enough. Expect a par for the course game from the Hokies' offense, but that's all that's required for them to jump to the top of the Coastal division. VT 26-14 UM State College, PA - North Carolina Tar Heels (1-1) at Penn State Nittany Lions (1-0) Headliner: A Not-So Happy Visit. The Tar Heels will be coming off a strong high after their nailbiting win over Wyoming, but what awaits them is nothing short of a massive jump in competition. Penn State's win comes over fellow ACC Coastal side Pittsburgh - a game that saw Sione Sagaloa run through the Panthers while Dillon Sneed had an efficient showing in his first start. If the Tar Heels look overmatched, that's because they are. That said though, momentum is on UNC's side for once, and it's up to them to use this if they're to stand any chance of knocking off the Nittany Lions. Injuries: None. Player to Watch: RB Kristian Noel. The Heels have had a weak running game for the past few seasons, with last season being particularly poor for Noel in particular. His 58-yard showing against Wyoming, however, was his best performance in the argyle-patterned uniform, and he'll need to replicate that, or surpass it even, for this offense to move the ball against a not-so-stout Penn State defense. The Tar Heels can't afford to be one-dimensional - the arm of Mtchell Denton is nowhere near good enough to win them many games, but a good showing from Noel might give this offense a sliver of keeping up with Penn State. Prediction: It's not going to be pretty. UNC isn't equipped to stop the run effectively, and the same problems that saw them give up 250 yards to Georgia three weeks ago will see them falter hard against Sagaloa. The Heels will be lucky to put up double-digits against a defense that kept Brayden Pepper quiet in his debut, and North Carolina will inevitably drop down to reality faster than they can turn the ball over. UNC 6-49 PSU Saturday Afternoon Football Louisville, KY - Kent State Golden Flashes (0-1) at Louisville Cardinals (1-0) Headliner: Gray is the New Black. Erik Gray made a superb debut against Cincinnati in hostile environment, rushing for 134 yards and finding the end zone twice while only being plagued by one fumble that he himself recovered. Kent State has had two weeks to recover from the drubbing that Lloyd Samuels gave them in a 31-20 loss to Oregon State, but this shallow front seven might have to put up with another back running rough-shed. Louisville answered a lot of questions going into the Cincy game, but the Cardinals won't be shy to firmly restate their answers with the Golden Flashes coming to town. Injuries: None. Player to Watch: OLB Miles Rinehart. The general college football audience doesn't get to see a lot of dominant pass-rushing linebackers, but Louisville provides arguably the best in the young Rinehart. Against Cincy, Rinehart picked up a pair of sacks and a pair of TFLs, stuffing out any approaches to the edge of the box. Kent State will have a more linear approach to their rushing game, but this is an opportunity for Rinehart and the pass rush to take advantage of a young offense line and two freshman making their first starts at quarterback and running back. What better way to welcome them to the game than by chasing them around the backfield all game? Prediction: If these two teams' respective opening games are any indication, Louisville is going to literally run over the Golden Flashes, and Kent won't have much of a reply from their offense. Nick Carr and Erik Gray will look comfortable in their home opener, whereas Cameron Hare and C.J. Williams won't be able to catch a break all afternoon. Over/under on Louisville sacks on the day? I'll put it at 3.5 for good measure. KENT 10-38 LVL Saturday Evening Football Clemson, SC - SMU Mustangs (0-1) at Clemson Tigers (1-0) Headliner: AW3 Not to You. The storyline around this game might be more interesting than the game itself. The heated battle between the Mustangs and Tigers for Akiem Williams III quickly became the biggest JuCo battle in recent memory, with Clemson eventually edging out SMU for the coveted scrambler. The results so far? AW3 thrashed Houston for 361 total yards, including 126 yards on the ground. As for SMU? Redshirt freshman Marcus Burden had a rough outing that saw him throw his first career pick in a home loss to a talented Hawaii side. SMU will want to take it to Clemson for stealing their prize, but will Clemson give them the chance? Injuries: None. Player to Watch: RB Josiah Brock. Whereas defensive attention will be on Williams III, let's not forget about the other big body in that backfield. Brock rushed for 139 yards against the Cougars and has quickly developed into a reliable weapon in the backfield, making this offense all the more scarier for opponents to defend. SMU's defense had their own troubles against Hawaii, notably on the ground as Chris Fraser put up 124 yards on the Mustangs. Look for Brock to run wild once more, and combined with AW3's insane rushing ability, the Tigers might not find much stopping them from pouncing early and often. Prediction: All the signs point to Clemson, but something's keeping me from calling an easy victory. SMU has a loaded defense, a developing but talented offensive line, and quite a few playmakers on offense that just haven't quite come to fruition yet. The Mustangs are far stronger than Houston, and that'll show as Williams III struggles to find the same rhythm that saw him explode over the Houston defense. That said, Clemson's secondary in particular will keep quiet SMU's dangerous wideouts, and Clemson will come away with a respectable out-of-conference win. SMU 20-28 CLEM Champaign, IL - Virginia Cavaliers (1-0) at Illinois Fighting Illini (2-0) Headliner: The Soldier Enters the Castle. The stories of Illinois' defense are far from exaggerations, or at least that used to be the case. Gone are the days of an Illini defense that would completely smother any and all teams that entered their fortress, but this defense still has a few key playmakers that can make life hard for any team going against them. But the best defensive player on the field won't be wearing orange, rather white. The stories of Soldier Brooks are far from exaggerations, nor will they ever be exaggerations as the inside linebacker continues to captain this Cavalier defense. Is it time for a change of guard? Injuries: None. Player to Watch: CB Ashton Evans. The Illini offense has rarely been talked about over the years, but it appears that it'll come to the forefront of this team with Jordan Harrison under center. A big performance against FIU was enough to stave off an upset in Miami, and he'll be bound to put up some numbers against the Cavaliers. Ashton Evans recovered a pair of picks against the last quarterback that tried to do this though, though his direct opponent in Rory Cooley appears to be a much tougher challenge, even if he is a freshman receiver. A similar dominant performance from the best player in this Virginia secondary will go a long way to putting a damper on the Illini passing game. Prediction: Illinois have recorded wins on two rather simple opponents, although they nearly fell on the road to FIU. Virginia's win on ULL was controlling if not expected. Both teams haven't really been tested, but that changes in Champaign. Virginia won't be able to pressure Harrison the same way they terrorized Emory West, but the secondary will hold firm against a brutal aerial assault. Isaiah Clinton's name hasn't come up much yet, but he'll have to put in a similar showing against the Illini seeing as FIU was able to effectively run the ball, albeit between two players. This'll be a nailbiter in the evening, but expect the better defense to come out on top. UVA 24-21 ILL
  2. Week 2 Recap Winners: 52-13 Hou, 41-0 NMSU, 42-16 Char, 23-20 Wyo, 30-10 Cincy, 34-17 Tul, 30-27 MiaO Losers: , 13-28 at Zips, 24-26 at Purdue On Bye: , , , , Players of the Week Offense: QB Akiem Williams III - 17/26 for 235 yards, 2 TD; 10 carries for 126 yards, 2 TD Defense: DE Anthony Walton - 3 tackles, 2 TFL, 2.0 sacks Special Teams: K Jeremy Bouchard - 3/3 FG, 2/2 XP, two 40+-yard FG, GW 26-yard FG Week 3 Previews: TNF Thursday Night Football Raleigh, NC - East Carolina Pirates (0-1) at North Carolina State Wolfpack (1-0) Headliner: Defenses Under Siege. East Carolina and NC State enter this game on different sides of the W/L column but with very interesting similarities. Both teams put up 31 points in their respective openers. Both quarterbacks threw roughly 40 times for just under 300 yards and 3 touchdowns. Both running backs ran the ball under 20 times and found the end zone once apiece while being held under 100 yards. These numbers aren't quite interesting in the grand scheme of college football, but relatively speaking, those are higher numbers for these two offensively-challenged schools against up-and-coming Power 5 schools. The defenses each struggled in their own separate ways however, making for what appears to be a tense and flashy rivalry game under the lights Injuries: None. Player to Watch: DE Jamari Lloyd. Let's make no mistake: Kyler Wilson has an arm. The freshman quarterback looked dangerous with every dropback against Northwestern, being quite unfortunate not to exceed the 300-yard mark by a mile. But let's also make no mistake here: this offensive line protecting him looks poor. The Wildcats picked up four sacks in their 2-TD win over the Pirates; this also means that Wilson looked rather effective even under pressure. Lloyd and the defensive front, a group that got a pair of sacks against Iowa State, are going to have to replicate the performance of Northwestern and make the freshman quarterback as uncomfortable as possible, if only to limit the damage he's able to cause. Prediction: It's hard to imagine either team being held under 30. ECU has torn apart by E.J. McGuire, which bodes well for Jacob Eubanks after a strong opening performance against Iowa State. NC State was gashed by Kofi McCullough in that same game though, which could be a sign of things to come against the underrated Amir Turner Jr., who sneaked in a respectable performance against the 'Cats. A stronger secondary, despite weaker corners, and a more proven pass rush could make the difference, so expect the Wolfpack defense to make the necessary plays to slow Wilson and the swashbuckling Pirates. ECU 31-38 NCSU Atlanta, GA - Florida State Seminoles (2-0) at Georgia State Panthers (0-1) Headliner: The Final Tune-Up. The Seminoles have secured a 2-0 start and look to make it three in a row as they travel to Sun Belt competitors Georgia State. With wins over lowly Arkansas and Charlotte, not much has been surprising out of Tallahassee so far, even up to the familiar inconsistencies of the Seminole offense. This matters not against what should be another free win for the Seminoles; take note that this Georgia State team got smacked by Wake Forest in their opener. Look for the 'Noles to iron out the final details in the passing game while the defense manhandles a Panthers' offense in disarray. Injuries: None. Player to Watch: TE Wyatt Cornett. Anyone else notice that the standout tight end from a year ago has been awfully quiet so far? Six catches for 63 yards and a drop is all to Cornett's name so far, showing both a focus on the wideout duo of A.K. Schwab and Mateo Gates and a bit of a slump from the young receiver. With Clemson looming large a week from now, Cornett needs to put together a solid or even just a slightly better than average performance to show that he's still reliable and isn't on pace for a rough season after he came alive in a rough season a year ago. Prediction: The only real question is whether or not the Florida State offense can look as effective as they did against the 49ers, or if they can even surpass that. Brett England was efficient but not explosive against a poor Charlotte defense, though he and Noah Wooten ran amok. The running game will look as composed as ever, though don't expect England's arm to do the 'Noles any favors. As for the defense? You shouldn't worry about that if that's the reason you came here. FSU 35-3 GSU West Point, NY - Syracuse Orange (0-1) at Army Black Knights (1-0) Headliner: An Army of Questions. What happened in West Lafayette? Syracuse was supposed to go up to Purdue, take the quick loss, give handshakes, then come back to New York to prepare for Army. What happened instead was that 'Cuse took care of Purdue's running game and made enough plays on offense to take a touchdown lead into the fourth before losing to a trio of field goals. Army's coming off of their own shock performance after upending the Bears of Baylor in Waco behind a consistent rushing attack and a stingy defense. There's a ton of questions surrounding this game due to the nature of last week's performances, and we're bound to find out whether or not Syracuse's near-upset of the Top 10 Boilermakers was a fluke or if they're for real. Injuries: None. Player to Watch: RB Gabe Ramsey. The Orange running back didn't put up flashy numbers against the Boilermakers, running for 62 yards on 17 carries. The number of interest here though is 2, being the number of touchdowns Ramsey had in the last-minute loss last weekend. Similar rushing numbers won't cut it against a defense that gave up 34 yards on the ground against Baylor, but Ramsey being able to find the endzone is absolutely critical. The Orange were merely average in the air, so Ramsey has to be more efficient on the ground to give Connor McLean to learn on the fly. At the very least, Ramsey needs to keep finding the end zone. Prediction: I'm not a believer in Syracuse. Purdue was bound to take a step back from their title-winning season, but Syracuse accelerated the confirmation of that idea happening. I'm not sold on Army either, however, and 'Cuse seems more fit to handle the Black Knights than the Bears appeared to be when they met in Waco. A trip within the state will see Ramsey and the offense do just enough to topple the resilient Black Knights, and the defense replicates their Purdue performance and then some, giving the Orange their first win of the season. SYR 24-20 ARMY Charlotte, NC - Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-0) at Charlotte 49ers (0-2) Headliner: Pudding Fest. Wake comes in off the back of a thrilling 30-27 win over Miami of Ohio, doing just enough to stymie the Redhawks' offense while putting in a hearty showing on the ground. The biggest takeaway going into their trip to Charlotte, however, is no longer on the field. Storied coach and former national title-winner ChicagoTed1 makes a historic return to the gridiron, taking on the historically difficult Wake Forest job. That being said, the Demon Deacons are 2-0 and are almost assured of a third successive victory with a trip to the hapless 49ers. Injuries: None. Player to Watch: RB Zion Hayward. After a timid opening performance against Georgia State, Hayward burst onto the scene with 132 yards and a score against the Redhawks, being the driving force behind the Wake offense and being a consistent threat to break off large chunks of yardage throughout the game. Charlotte have been quite dismal against the run, giving up 207 yards to Wooten and England of FSU and 119 yards to Victor Colbert of Tulsa. Now I'm no rocket scientist, but I'm fairly certain that a bad rush defense plus a capable running back equals a really good day for fans of old school football everywhere. It'll certainly be a good day for Mr. Hayward. Prediction: Wake's defense hasn't looked particularly good so far, and while Chris Billings can do some damage to the core of this defense, he'll have to work a miracle to keep Charlotte in this game. Says here that James Betts and the Demon Deacon offense are going to roll to another 30-point performance, picking up Ted's first win back in the game and rocketing Wake Forest to a very rare 3-0 start. WAKE 42-20 CU
  3. 1. Duke Blue Devils (2-0, 0-0 ACC, +/-0) Last Result: W 41-0 vs. New Mexico State Cause for Celebration: Just about everything went right for the Blue Devils in a routine victory over bottom-feeder New Mexico State. The ground game was explosive, receivers asserted their dominance, the defense harassed Matthew Erwin all day, and the Aggies were kept off the scoreboard. None of this should come as a surprise for even the most casual of ACC football fans, but the Blue Devils doing what was expected of them is always a good sign. It means they're not fraudulent, in case anyone thought that. Cause for Concern: Try pulling negatives out of this game. The only two areas of minor concern that I can pull from this game are Duke's kick coverage team and Duke's offense on third down. 83 kick return yards isn't a hefty number but better teams could use that field position to damage the Blue Devils. Duke only gave up 44 yards on kickoffs against Old Dominion, so this might be a blip in the radar, or it could just be a one-off. 40% on third down isn't too great either, especially against this Aggies' defense. They'll likely need to improve in both of these fields, especially with a raw but inconsistent Miami team coming to Durham in two weeks. Up Next: BYE 2. Clemson Tigers (1-0, 0-0 ACC, +/-0) Last Result: W 52-13 vs. Houston Cause for Celebration: Well that's one way to show the world you're reaI. A thorough spanking of Houston saw senior JuCo quarterback Akiem Williams III rush for 136 yards and 2 touchdowns to go along with his 235 passing yards. The Clemson offense looked absolutely dominant against the Cougars, racking up 500 yards and 52 points, mostly on the ground between AW3 and Josiah Brock (139 yards). A team that in previous years has hung on the coattails of a dominant defense now has an offense that might be unmatched in the conference. Speaking of defense, three sacks and a pair of picks just continue to show that Clemson's defense remains a near-immovable object over the years, with last season's debacle looking far behind them. Cause for Concern: Similar to Duke, the Clemson kick coverage team didn't look too assured against the Cougars. 75 kick return yards might not seem like much, but Houston's offense did manage to use that field position to get points, even if that offense was stifled for most of the day. Clemson's offensive line also looks a little shaky, though Brock and AW3 were more than capable of dealing damage despite their flaws. A tough SMU team, the fellow suitor of AW3, should be able to expose these weaknesses more than their AAC rivals did on Saturday. Up Next: vs. SMU 3. Virginia Cavaliers (1-0, 0-0 ACC, +/-0) Last Result: BYE Cause for Celebration: The Cavaliers travel to Champaign to play a tough Illinois team, but this same Illinois team looked less than stellar against measly FIU a week ago. The Illini rush defense wasn't assuring in the slightest, and this bodes well for Isaiah Clinton after his massive debut against UL-Lafayette. Illinois isn't as strong defensively anymore, and their offense is a lot more pass-reliant than a year ago. I'm sure the Cavalier secondary wouldn't mind a few passes their way. Cause for Concern: Illinois still provides the first real test for Virginia this season. They look absolutely dominant against UL-Lafayette, but how will they fare against a well-built Illinois team that's known for being a defensive powerhouse? Mike Lucas needs to put in a confident performance to erase any doubts over the sophomore's consistency, which was a big point of concern for him last season. If the offense falters here, who knows where else it might falter in conference. Up Next: at Illinois 4. Boston College Eagles (1-0, 0-0 ACC, +/-0) Last Result: BYE Cause for Celebration: UConn just got smacked by Buffalo two weeks ago. The Huskie run defense was shambolic against Denzel Porter, whereas Eagles' running back Jordan Godwin tore through UMass like a hot knife through butter. If that isn't reason enough to start licking your chops, then I don't know what is anymore. This should be a routine beatdown by the newly-ranked Eagles, even if the game is in Storrs. Cause for Concern: Rob Anderson to Gavin Faulk looked to be an insane connection against the Bulls, with Faulk putting up 195 yards on 14 receptions two weeks ago. William Gary is a far bigger challenge and should be able to keep Faulk under wraps, but it's definitely a matchup to keep eyes on throughout the game. Also look for the the Eagles' offensive line to improve from an average performance against UMass, though a lack of such improvement will only foreshadow to a few rough performances they might have against a certain orange-colored team in their division. Up Next: at Connecticut 5. Louisville Cardinals (1-0, 0-0 ACC, +1) Last Result: BYE Cause for Celebration: The Cardinals look primed to start 2-0 once again with a meeting with Kent State on the horizon. Two weeks after Erik Gray bowled over Cincy and Lloyd Samuels ran through the Golden Flashes, look for Gray to replicate his performance and then some against a flimsy Kent State defense. Louisville's sack-happy defense gets a shot at an offensive line that gave up three sacks against Oregon State. Everything points to a Louisville win; it's just a matter of how convincing of a win. Cause for Concern: The offensive line, like many others in the conference, needs to perform better. It'll look better against Kent State presumably, but the Cardinals need better performances out of their offensive line. It's far from the best unit in the conference, but it needs to be among the most consistent given some of the heavy hitters that await later on in the season. Up Next: vs. Kent State 6. Virginia Tech Hokies (1-0, 0-0 ACC, +1) Last Result: W 34-17 vs. Tulane Cause for Celebration: Beckett Morrison and Julius Whitaker haven't missed a beat. Outside of a slip of the ball from Whitaker, the two looked comfortable both in the air and on the ground, with the former helping his receivers adapt rather nicely. Trevor McKinney shut down Mordechai Caron after his stellar game against Troy, and the defense was able to harass Oscar Waters for the better part of the evening. A strong fourth quarter helped put the result to bed, showing that the Hokies have the mettle to close out tight affairs. Cause for Concern: The fact that the Hokies needed a strong fourth quarter to close this out should be concerning, especially after the game was tied at the half and only a 4-point game at the end of the third. Tulane's offense was anything but special, and they weren't the benefit of any turnovers, although they were inches from recovering the Whitaker fumble. Tech struggled to assert their dominance until the end, and their receivers missed an opportunity to really make a statement, even if they didn't have poor performances necessarily. They'll be put to the test in Coral Gables this weekend, and a performance like this against a Miami team on their game could put a quick and painful end to the Hokies' title chances. Up Next: at Miami (FL) 7. Florida State Seminoles (2-0, 0-0 ACC, +1) Last Result: W 41-16 vs. Charlotte Cause for Celebration: That was a lot better from the Seminole offense. Noah Wooten got back to his hard-hitting best with a 126-yard performance, being joined by Brett England and his pair of scores on the ground. The ground game thrived against the 49ers as expected, but the passing game was better than it has been in recent games as well. The defense took to the Niners with three sacks and a pair of turnovers, and Chris Billings was, for the most part, contained. A very dominant win for Florida State. Cause for Concern: The Seminoles gave up three sacks against Arkansas and another sack against Charlotte. This offensive line has the potential to be really good, but they're going to have to play a ton better against Georgia State than they have so far. The Panthers don't quite have the hitters that Arkansas or even Charlotte had though, but keeping England protected in what should be a free win is very important. Up Next: at Georgia State 8. Pittsburgh Panthers (1-1, 0-0 ACC, +2) Last Result: W 30-10 vs. Cincinnati Cause for Celebration: A much better performance from Brayden Pepper was needed, and he delivered fantastically with a 111-yard performance. Pepper will grow into his role sure enough, but performances like this must be reassuring. Defensively, the Panthers shut down Noel Ransom and Cincy's offense, holding the Bearcats to under 200 yards and not giving them any breathing room whatsoever. This defensive performance was worlds better than the one that saw them drop to Penn State, and they'll need a similar performance to stifle Virginia Tech in two weeks. Cause for Concern: Messiah Winston looked horribly off his game today, completing just over 50% of his passes for 190 yards. He was better at taking care of the ball, but he had many a stray passes throughout the day. The offensive line didn't do Winston any favors, although the quarterback was lucky not to be sacked. Kareem Jackson had a down game, but that's to be expected from a freshman receiver at any level. There's a lot of positives to take from this, but there's still quite a few negatives that could plague Pittsburgh going into conference play. Up Next: BYE 9. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-0, 0-0 ACC, +/-0) Last Result: BYE Cause for Celebration: The Yellow Jackets play Western Michigan next, and the Broncos just had the hammer dropped on them by Michigan State. The most notable thing to pull from that game is that the Broncos were abysmal against the pass, giving up 397 yards and 4 touchdowns to Isaac Tyson and, more specifically, 185 yards and a pair of scores to receiver Ajani Jennings. Enter Josh Beckett, among the purest pocket passes in the country, infamous for his 400-yard+ performances. A front seven that put up five sacks against Ball State should have their way with the Broncos' offensive line. Cause for Concern: What happened against Ball State? Damani Laws was effective against the Yellow Jackets, and the Jackets looked very vulnerable on the offensive line yet again. The passing game looked out of sorts, with Beckett looking more inaccurate as the game went on. Anthony Swanson appeared to be the only target worth a glance from Swanson as Alexander Bundy and Jonah Driver had a case of the dropsies and Gabriel Sewell was seldom visible to the naked eye. A lot went wrong against the Cardinals, and if those same mistakes come back again, a better team in WMU could punish the Yellow Jackets dearly. Up Next: vs. Western Michigan 10. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (0-1, 0-0 ACC, -5) Last Result: L 13-28 at Akron Cause for Celebration: How do you pull positives from this? Ronnie Peterson looked alright, putting up 86 yards on 18 carries while also scoring from the backfield as a receiver, showing that he's likely to be the reliable workhorse of the offense yet again. The two outside linebackers of Matthew Winn and Patrick Malone troubled the Akron backfield, even taking down Donahue for a combined sack. This is where the positives end though. Cause for Concern: Why are you running the wildcat? Ronnie Peterson took three passes as a quarterback, and two of them were intercepted. The offensive line showed its youth in giving up a pair of sacks, one of which led to a turnover via a Jason Ledford fumble. Joaquin Bond is not meant to run the ball, and that showed as he lost five yards rushing on three carries. The usual playmakers on defense went missing. The pass defense looked nonexistent at times as Donahue had a relatively comfortable performance. So much went wrong for the Hurricanes, and while we expected inconsistency from this very youthful team, the leaders went invisible when they were needed, and Miami never even had a chance against a team that just got blown out by Middle Tennessee. They're going to have to be a completely different team if they're going to make a run at the division title, and that starts next week against the Hokies. Up Next: vs. Virginia Tech 11. North Carolina State Wolfpack (1-0, 0-0 ACC, +/-0) Last Result: BYE Cause for Celebration: The Wolfpack took care of East Carolina last season in Greenville, and this time they'll be welcoming the Pirates to Raleigh for the next round of a renewed rivalry. The Pirates' defense was torn apart by E.J. McGuire and Northwestern, looking particularly week against the pass. The Wolfpack are a lot more comfortable throwing the ball now than in recent seasons as Jacob Eubanks has shown to be a confident passer. If the game ends up being a shootout as expected, then Eubanks is going to have to be at the top of his game, as is Felix Browning and the receiving corp. Cause for Concern: Kyler Wilson looked like a beast against Northwestern. The Wolfpack have never been dominant against the pass, an Kyler Wilson looks to have a very very good arm, even if his receiving corp isn't anything special. Amir Turner Jr. appears to be a steady force on the ground, meaning the Wolfpack are likely going to have to make ECU a one-dimensional offense. The offensive line has to be wary of East Carolina's pass rush, one that got to McGuire three times a week ago. Up Next: vs. East Carolina 12. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-0, 0-0 ACC, +/-0) Last Result: W 30-27 vs. Miami (OH) Cause for Celebration: This was a much-needed win for the Demon Deacons, who showed that they can pull out the tough victories against teams that should be better than them. Zion Hayward looked so much better against the Redhawks with a 132-yard showing. The defense reaped the benefits of an injury to Miami's starting running back in Ajani Garrett, so the ground game quickly became no cause for concern, though it wasn't much of a concern early on anyways. James Betts didn't have his best showing, but a rather accurate performance was just enough to pull Wake through. Cause for Concern: Zack Cera had his way with the secondary bar one awry pass that was picked off by Devon Newton. Wake's secondary wasn't strong as expected, but it put up little fight against Miami's deadly passing game. Deshaun Pickens was nowhere to be seen throughout the evening; performances like this will come back to bite the Demon Deacons for sure down the road. The punting game was oddly poor today, and Wake looked dreadful on third down. But at the end, of the day, a win is a win for a team that isn't expected to grab many more after the Charlotte game. Up Next: at Charlotte 13. Syracuse Orange (0-1, 0-0 ACC, +/-0) Last Result: L 24-26 at Purdue Cause for Celebration: I would imagine that a two-point loss to the defending national champs on the road is cause for celebration on its own, as Syracuse was expected to lay down and take a beating to the Boilermakers. The Orange actually had a lead going into the fourth quarter but were duped by a trio of field goals. They sacked Kyle Jefferson twice and held the running game to just 75 yards. Gabe Ramsey found the endzone twice, even if he only managed 3.64 yards per carry. Nobody expected this to be close but Syracuse hung in with the best of them. Cause for Concern: Was this Syracuse being really good or Purdue being really poor? A pair of drops plagued Purdue's passing game, and the Boilermaker offensive line looked a bit overmatched, not typical of a title-winning team. Syracuse's offensive line was pitiful on its own, giving up three sacks and not creating any holes for Ramsey, reflected by Ramsey's longest run being just nine yards. The passing game doesn't seem like it'll be too much of a factor this year, though that could just be a result of Purdue's secondary still being chock full of talent. We'll see the real 'Cuse against the Black Knights of Army, and we'll learn more about both the Orange and Purdue next week. Up Next: at Army 14. North Carolina Tar Heels (1-1, 0-0 ACC, +/-0) Last Result: W 23-20 vs. Wyoming Cause for Celebration: A win is a win! The Tar Heels faced their best chance at getting a non-zero number in the win column against Wyoming, and though it was never pretty, the Tar Heels were able to get the job done. Every member of the three-man defensive line got a sack, with the Heels getting four in total against the Cowboys. Luka Beckman and Finn Harwood showed up in the passing game, putting together 164 yards and 2 scores between the two, giving Mitchell Denton two very reliable targets on the evening. Cause for Concern: This isn't a very good Wyoming team, and the Heels had to go to the wire at home to clutch this one out. The offensive line gave up a pair of sacks and didn't give Kristian Noel any room to run. The run defense still looks flimsy, although Wyoming never really put that to the test on this particular occasion. Punter Ronald Perales continues to look without confidence, meaning the Heels' defense has to deal with a shorter field to defend. The Heels can celebrate now, but they'll quickly be brought down to Earth this week as they travel to Happy Valley to take on Penn State. Up Next: at Penn State
  4. Week 1 Recap Winners: 59-0 UMass, 48-17 at Cincy, 31-24 ISU, 38-7 GSU, 49-10 ODU, 22-17 Ball, 55-3 ULL Losers: 35-38 at PSU On Bye: , , , Players of the Week (WEEK 0/1) Offense: RB Jordan Godson - 23 carries for 258 yards, 4 TD Defense: DE Junior Mondragon - 4 tackles, 1 TFL, 3.0 sacks Special Teams: WR Malachi Brown - 148 punt return yards, 1 TD; 178 kick return yards, 1 TD Week 2 Previews: Saturday Saturday Morning Football Pittsburgh, PA - Cincinnati Bearcats (0-1) at Pittsburgh Panthers (1-0) Headliner: A Peppered Showing. The Panthers put together a solid offensive performance against a ranked Penn State team, coming within three points of knocking off their hated in-state rivals. The defense really struggled against the run and was unable to pressure the backfield for most of the evening. Brayden Pepper looked robust in his first start for the Panthers, only managing 54 yards on 19 carries in a rather limited performance. Cincy enters the game coming off a thrashing by fellow ACC team Louisville, who arguably has a tougher defense but a much tamer offense than the Panthers. Erik Gray put up 134 yards on the Bearcats a week ago; can Pepper get a chance to do the same, or will Pitt continue to rely on the arm of Messiah Winston? Injuries: None. Player to Watch: DE Grant Applegate. Last season's sack leader in the ACC was very quiet against the Nittany Lions. It wasn't often that we heard Applegate's name brought up, and rightfully so as he struggled getting past Penn State's apt bodies on the line. Cincy's line is younger and not nearly as talented, so Applegate has to be able to find his form and get to the quarterback this time around. A pressure-less Pittsburgh got handled by Penn State, whereas Cincy looked gassed against Louisville's pressure. If Applegate and Co. can replicate what the Cardinals did a week ago, then the defense shouldn't suffer nearly as much as it did last week. Prediction: Cincy isn't particular strong in the front seven. A week after Erik Gray carved through the Bearcats, it'll be hard imagining Pepper not doing the same, assuming he gets the carries to do so. The Panthers are going to score and score often, and if they can contain Noel Ransom on the ground, then this should be a breeze and a first win on the season. CIN 20-48 PITT Clemson, SC - Houston Cougars (0-0) at Clemson Tigers (0-0) Headliner: AW3 to Me. The time has finally arrived for the world to be introduced to Akiem Williams III, arguably the most sought-after JuCo player in recent memory. After a long-standing battle between the Tigers and SMU, Williams III elected to come to Clemson for his final year of eligibility, making this Clemson team a heavy favorite in the Atlantic Division and potentially the conference. All eyes will be on Clemson today as he makes his debut, and boy does he open with a juicy opponent. This is far from the Houston of old, and the defense is a far cry from the one that dominated the AAC years ago. Will Williams III and the offense live up to the hype? Injuries: None. Player to Watch: DE Glenn Thorpe. This is less about the game and more about the player, with Thorpe taking a backseat to Anthony Tolbert last season and enduring a bit of a sophomore "slump", if you can even call 8.0 sacks a slump. Houston's line doesn't figure to be too much of a problem for Thorpe and Tolbert, so look for these two killer ends to burst through the line and make the day a living hell for Rickie Shaffer. Look for Thorpe to dominate once more and take charge of the defensive line, as a strong performance from the front seven would snuff out any shot of a Cougars upset. Prediction: A lot of this score relies on just how well Williams III plays today. If he clicks with the offense and Emperor knows how to treat a scrambler, we could see well over 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing from the senior quarterback. Anything less wouldn't doom the Tigers by any means as this should be a fairly straight-forward victory, but a solid performance by Williams III, whose potential so far is currently unknown, could put more stock in Clemson as a playoff contender. HOU 6-42 CLEM Durham, NC - New Mexico State Aggies (0-1) at Duke Blue Devils (1-0) Headliner: A Run of the Mill. Duke stormed through Old Dominion last week, absolutely decimating the Monarchs on the ground (277 yards and 5 touchdowns between Christian Collins and Bryce Thompson). Likewise, New Mexico State got thoroughly spanked by Rutgers, who had their fair share of opportunities on the ground. Simply put, this is expected to be a routine beatdown by Duke, and anything less than a 5 touchdown rout might be considered a disappointment for Duke fans. The lone question remains how long it'll take for Duke to get into gear; was last week's slow start against ODU a sign of things to come, or was it simply a derusting? Injuries: None. Player to Watch: RB Christian Collins. After a fairly strong showing last season and a thoroughly dominant performance against the Monarchs, expect Collins to continue his stat-padding run against an Aggies side that gave up 133 yards and 2 scores to Marcel Clinton last week. The sophomore running back generally takes a backseat to Bryce Thompson, as was the case last week despite Collins' 172-yard performance. These kinds of performances give off more of a warning shot though; the offense isn't just Bryce Thompson, and Collins is going to punish any team that treats it as such. Prediction: It's not a question of how close but how many. Duke is going to win, and they're going to win handily. Look for the offense to cut through the Aggies like a hot knife through butter, and don't expect the Aggies to put up too much of a fight with their own dysfunctional offense. As stated earlier: anything less than a 5 touchdown rout might be considered a disappointment for the ACC's defending champs. NMSU 3-51 DUKE Saturday Evening Football West Lafayette, IN - Syracuse Orange (0-0) at Purdue Boilermakers (0-0) Headliner: Taking Down Goliath. By god do the Orange have a mountain of a task to open the season. Led by former Duke quarterback Kyle Jefferson, the defending national champs in Purdue play host to measly Syracuse, a team that lost their own starting quarterback. The Orange are going to have to learn on the fly with an almost brand new offense while constantly defending for their lives against what should be a high-powered passing attack from the Boilermakers. Are the Orange up to the challenge, or will the pressure of the moment come crashing down on them? Injuries: None. Player to Watch: FS Logan Harley. The ball-hawking safety is going to have his hands full today. In a season that doesn't appear to give off much promise, one constant in this defense is going to be the high level of play by the deep secondary. Harley recorded six interceptions and another six pass deflections last season, so every play he can make today is going to be crucial to this Syracuse defense. With Boyd Pickett being a dominant force in the trenches and Harley ready to pounce on any mistake from Jefferson and his receivers, the Orange defense could very well keep them in this game... Prediction: That said, the offense might not even get a chance to move the ball. The Boilermakers are gifted with one of the strongest secondaries in the country, and the front seven isn't all that bad either. Syracuse struggled to find an offensive identity last year, and that's expected to be the case once again with new bodies all over the field, particular in skill positions. The defense is gonna be on the field longer than they can handle, and Purdue's going to wear down the Orange to a comfortable victory. CUSE 13-48 PUR
  5. Week 1 Recap Winners: 59-0 UMass, 48-17 at Cincy, 31-24 ISU, 38-7 GSU, 49-10 ODU, 22-17 Ball, 55-3 ULL Losers: 35-38 at PSU On Bye: , , , Players of the Week (WEEK 0/1) Offense: RB Jordan Godson - 23 carries for 258 yards, 4 TD Defense: DE Junior Mondragon - 4 tackles, 1 TFL, 3.0 sacks Special Teams: WR Malachi Brown - 148 punt return yards, 1 TD; 178 kick return yards, 1 TD Week 2 Previews: TNF/FNF: Thursday Night Football Blacksburg, VA - Tulane Green Wave (1-0) at Virginia Tech Hokies (0-0) Headliner: Easing the Tide. The Hokies welcome Tulane to Lane Stadium to kick off the season for Virginia Tech, and while many would project this to be a clean-cut win for a Hokie team looking to build off a rather exciting 2021 season, Tulane poses a threat of their own after a demolishing of Troy in Week 0. The Hokies in particular have received an alert on Green Wave quarterback Oscar Waters, who torched the Trojan secondary for 355 yards and 4 touchdowns in the opener. Can the Hokies establish their dominance and stymie Tulane's high-flying attack, or will Tulane take Virginia Tech under the water by surprise? Injuries: WR John Mosely - Mild Concussion. Player to Watch: CB Trevor McKinney. The undisputed captain of this defense takes on a special task of locking down the secondary and keeping Oscar Waters and his top target, Mordechai Caron, quiet. Caron exploded on the Trojan defense for 125 yards and 2 touchdowns, being one of two receivers to hit triple digits in receiving yards on the evening. McKinney, without question, is a far better corner than anyone Troy had to offer, but Caron's 6-foot-5 frame could give the junior corner issues on the high ball. Shut down Caron though, and the strength of this wave goes down dramatically. Prediction: Simply put, Virginia Tech is far from being at the same level as Troy. Tulane looked very solid in the opener, but Virginia Tech is too seasoned and has a roster with more pro talent than Troy could put together in the next four years. The Hokie offense might not look the cleanest in the opening week, but the defense should be expected to absolutely shut down Tulane, and that's what will happen. TUL 10-31 VT Tallahassee, FL - Charlotte 49ers (0-1) at Florida State Seminoles (1-0) Headliner: Fitting the Bill. The 'Noles still looked out of sorts against Arkansas, though the Hogs were really no contest in a 28-10 win in Tallahassee. The next two games should see Florida State work to whip their offense in shape, and what better team to start that off than Chris Billings and hapless Charlotte, a team coming off a 31-20 loss to Tulsa. This game should be focused more on the spread, so our attention will turn not towards the result, but towards the offense and their rebuild. Will the 'Noles have an offense that could pose a threat to their conference, or does Charlotte keep the struggle going for Brett England and the Seminoles? Injuries: None. Player to Watch: WR A.K. Schwab. The first-time starter looked decent in his debut against Arkansas, putting up 70 yards and a touchdown on 6 receptions. It wasn't a flashy performance by any means, but it's a lot more reassuring knowing that Mateo Gates and Wyatt Cornett aren't the only two bodies to rely on in the passing game. Benjamin Bush will line up against Schwab, so expect England to look more towards his newest target once again. Charlotte's secondary is paper-thin outside of Kaden Jennings, so a reassuring performance from both Schwab and Gates would be a big confidence-booster for the 'Noles as a whole. Prediction: Charlotte fought for three quarters against a lackluster Tulsa side before going by the wayside, and there's no reason to believe that Florida State can't put this game away sooner than that. With no running game to occupy the minds of the defense, the 'Noles can single in on Billings and his decent receiving corp. Noah Wooten should find more than enough holes to make his mark on the game, and the Seminoles should be off to a somewhat strong 2-0 start, but hey, every win counts. CU 13-45 FSU Akron, OH - Miami (FL) Hurricanes (0-0) at Akron Zips (0-1) Headliner: Storm Warning. The Hurricanes are a very polarizing group entering the season. They made their first steps towards restoring their reputation as an ACC Champ by getting back to the postseason, but this very young team is going to have to perform at a consistent level if they're going to get a step or two closer to a spot in the ACC Championship game. The running game is there, and receivers are starting to filter in from recruiting. Is the offense finally ready to hit at it again? Is the talented yet raw youth on defense going to be a blessing or a curse? Injuries: None. Player to Watch: QB Jason Ledford. A big factor for this Miami offense will be the consistency of Ledford in the passing game. Ronnie Peterson has proven to be a very reliable workhorse on the ground, but the passing game has been lackluster in the years following the Brett Fisher era. Akron look very strong in the middle of the front seven, meaning Ledford is going to have to make plays with his arm against a fairly weak secondary. Tim Pritchard and the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee torched this same secondary for 301 yards and 3 scores in an upset win last week, so it's hard to imagine Ledford struggling to get the ball out to Joaquin Bond, Juan Castro, and Mario Roberson. Prediction: Miami's offense might not be the hardest to stop, but it's really hard seeing a team like Akron completely doing that. The Zips look overmatched at corner, and Miami's new-look receiving game should be able to expose this group comfortably. Miami's strong interior defense and talented secondary should be enough to contain the Akron offense, and Miami should come away with a strong showing in their opener. Miami 35-13 Zips Friday Night Football Winston-Salem, NC - Miami (OH) Redhawks (1-0) at Wake Forest Demon Deacons (1-0) Headliner: Stopping the Cera-nade. The Deacons dispatched Georgia State last Friday, although the game was never truly out of reach until the Deacons put together three touchdown drives in the final quarter. Now they welcome a much more challenging opponent in the form of MAC title challenger Miami of Ohio. The Redhawks demolished New Mexico in the desert last week behind the arm of senior quarterback Zack Cera, who threw for 350 yards yards on the evening. Wake is going to have to put a stop to the Redhawks' aerial assault if they're going to pull out the win and get out to a 2-0 start. That, or the Deacons are gonna need to score and score often. Injuries: None. Player to Watch: DT Adrian Gamble. The objective is clear: disrupt the backfield and don't let Ajani Garrett add a second dimension to this offense. Gamble played second fiddle to Lucas Barry as the Wake front seven tore apart Georgia State's backfield, recording three tackles for loss, four sacks, and forcing a fumble that was returned for a score. Miami's offensive line is playing at a much higher level than the Panthers showed last week, and with Ajani Garrett providing the Deacons with someone that has to be stopped at running back, Gamble in particular is going to have to step up and disrupt the Redhawks' backfield. Pressure on Cera and closing down Garrett before he can break into the second level of the defense will be crucial for Wake to keep this offense at bay. Prediction: The Redhawks will easily provide more of a challenge than hapless Georgia State, and I'm not entirely sold on Wake being able to rise up to the challenge. Miami looked weaker against the run against the Lobos, so maybe Zion Hayward can make the same impact that he made against the Panthers, but the Wake corners are going to have their hands full and Cera should light up the Deacons, notably in the middle of the field after Casey Swann had his way last week. Expect more of a higher-scoring affair, but I need to see Wake be competitive to put more stock against these tougher opponents in order to put more stock in them. MiaO 38-31 Wake Chapel Hill, NC - Wyoming Cowboys (0-1) at North Carolina Tar Heels (0-1) Headliner: To Tame A Horse. Simply put, the Tar Heels got smacked by Georgia two weeks ago. It's hard coming back from a game in which you give up over 600 yards of offense, 55 points, run for only 24 yards, and get sacked 5 times. The only brightside is that there's no possible the same can happen against a Wyoming team coming off a disappointing result against UTEP a week ago, with the Cowboys mustering just 262 yards against the Miners. Neither offense put up much of a fight in their respective openers, but can the Heels make do against much weaker opposition? Injuries: None. Player to Watch: TE Stephen Barbour. The true freshman tight end seemed to slot into the offense perfectly against Georgia, amassing 71 yards and a score on 7 receptions. Mitchell Denton seems to put his trust in Barbour over his receivers so far, as Barbour seemed to feel less smothered against the Georgia defense. A similar performance against a weaker Cowboy offense with a stud in the middle of the field via Ajani Terry could see this Tar Heel offense spring to life in a game where every point is going to matter. The Heels need a game-changer on offense, and Barbour currently seems to be the closest player to one at the moment. Prediction: Do not expect a lot of points. Wyoming are yet to figure out how to best implement tight end David Grier into their offense, but Grier has the potential to make this Tar Heel defense hurt. Same could be said if the corners get exposed as they did against the Bulldogs, but it's hard seeing Wyoming's group of receivers doing the same after their showing against UTEP. I put more faith in the Heels' offense over Wyoming's offense however, though Denton is going to have to be safe with the ball this time around. Expect a rather dull game, but I see the Heels pulling this one out. WYO 13-17 UNC
  6. 1. Duke Blue Devils (1-0, 0-0 ACC) Last Result: W 49-10 vs. Old Dominion Cause for Celebration: Bryce Thompson and Christian Collins are as scary a backfield as any in the nation, and having receivers Dean Stinson and Jeremy Foley making waves early bodes well for an offense that will likely need reliable wideouts down the line. The defense took it to quarterback Dylan Hamin, picking up three sacks and securing a pair of interceptions. Hard to be disappointed with this sort of thrashing. Cause for Concern: It wasn't a flawless performance, as expected from most teams nationally, but giving up 17.8 yards per catch to receiver Gregory Joseph could be a cause of concern for the secondary, more specifically second corner Aboubacar Garrett. Garrett made that up with an interception, but better receivers could leave him badly exposed in the future. Pass defense should expect a better game from Garrett. The Blue Devils' offense started a bit slowly in this game, only leading 7-3 at the end of the first quarter and a slightly-more-comfortable 21-3 at the half before pulling away. Says here this won't become a trend, but it's something to look out for in the foreseeable future. Up Next: vs. New Mexico State 2. Clemson Tigers (0-0, 0-0 ACC) Last Result: BYE x2 Cause of Celebration: The heavy favorites to take the Atlantic Division had two bye weeks to kick off the season, so on the bright side, no injuries in Death Valley! Refer to the Season Preview if you want to read more about what the Tigers might have in store for us this season. Cause for Concern: Houston, the Tigers' upcoming opponents, also had a pair of bye weeks, so there's no recent film to go off heading into their opener this week in Clemson. What should we expect this weekend? Up Next: vs. Houston 3. Virginia Cavaliers (1-0, 0-0 ACC) Last Result: W 55-3 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette Cause of Celebration: If Virginia was tabbed to be the closest competitor to the Blue Devils in the Coastal Division, they made one hell of a statement to back that up. Heavily favored against the Ragin' Cajuns, the Cavalier offense was firing on all cylinders last weekend, with debuting running back Isaiah Clinton looking like a very capable successor to Reginald Saunders, accumulating 194 yards and 3 touchdowns on just 18 carries! Throw in a smothering defense, a lethal receiving corp, and an absolutely insane return game (322 return yards and 2 touchdowns for Malachi Brown!) and Virginia looked unstoppable from start to finish. Cause for Concern: There's hardly anything to peg against the Cavaliers, so much that ULL getting on the scoreboard is probably the worst thing to happen to them all day. The 84 return yards given up might look a little suspicious though, as would be the one sack given up on the night. Honestly though, this is like trying to find a needle in a very pretty haystack....if haystacks could be pretty. Up Next: BYE 4. Boston College Eagles (1-0, 0-0 ACC) Last Result: W 59-0 vs. Massachusetts Cause for Celebration: Welcome to the big time, Jordan Godwin. An electrifying 258-yard, 4 touchdown performance from the JuCo running back filled Chestnut Hill with a fresh air that went missing last season, despite the division title. Jorge Tovar wasn't quite the filling replacement that Eagles' fans wanted, but Godwin's first impression, albeit against a weak UMass team, is very fulfilling. Elsewhere, Michael Britt bullied the Minutemen's offensive line and quarterback, getting 3.5 sacks all to himself. On another note, holding the Minutemen to just 27 offensive plays all game is astounding, even if UMass is now 1-24 over the past two seasons now. Cause for Concern: The main concern from this game comes from the offensive line, which while it didn't let J.M. Gill take a sack, was occasionally under fire from the UMass front seven. It won't bite them against opponents like UMass, but against teams like Clemson and Florida State, the Eagles should be wary. Up Next: BYE 5. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (0-0, 0-0 ACC) Last Result: BYE x2 Cause for Celebration: Same for Clemson and the other teams that were on bye: no injuries. Only difference between the 'Canes and Tigers is that Miami gets some film to catch after Akron got smacked by Middle Tennessee State. Not much to worry about this weekend. Cause for Concern: The real concern here lies within the division after fellow challengers Duke and Virginia were stunning in their openers, with the Cavaliers in particular quickly looking to separate themselves from the 'Canes as the prime challenger to Duke. Can Miami dazzle like the Cavs? Up Next: vs. Akron 6. Louisville Cardinals (1-0, 0-0 ACC) Last Result: W 48-17 at Cincinnati Cause for Celebration: What a debut for the newcomers on offense. Nick Carr was a quick refresher after the disaster that was Harrison Pratt last season. Erik Gray was no DeSean Dockery, but a 134-yard performance will let the Cardinals' staff put faith in the ground game. Logan Swain is back to his ball-hawking best, and Miles Rinehart quickly established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the pass rush. A very reassuring performance for a team coming into the seasons with a lot of questions. Cause for Concern: It's hard to pinpoint where the defense went wrong as the numbers don't suggest that the Bearcats were worthy of 17 points. The run defense could clean up just a bit after giving up 4.18 yards per carry to the duel-threat backfield of Cincy, The linebackers should be more wary of tight ends going forward, as Jean Guzman looked to have maybe been the beneficiary of a few more passes his way after averaging a first down plus change per catch. Up Next: BYE 7. Virginia Tech Hokies (0-0, 0-0 ACC) Last Result: BYE x2 Cause for Celebration: Yadda-Yadda no playing, yadda-yadda no injuries, you've heard this before. Season starts with Tulane, which should be a breeze for the Hokies, except... Cause for Concern: The Green Wave offense looked very deadly in their Week 0 opener against Troy. Yes, it's Troy, but this came out of the blue to most people outside New Orleans. The Hokies shouldn't be caught off guard, but the Green Wave have momentum... Up Next: vs. Tulane 8. Florida State Seminoles (1-0, 0-0 ACC) Last Result: W 28-10 vs. Arkansas (WEEK 0) Cause for Celebration: It's a winning start for the Seminoles after the disaster that kicked off the previous season. Khalil Harrel looked dominant in coverage with an interception and two deflections, and Noa Sapolu stepped up huge with a forced fumble and solo recovery to go along with a sack. A.K. Schwab had a fine debut on offense, racking up 70 yards receiving and a touchdown on six receptions. Cause for Concern: Something isn't clicking with this team, it appears. The offensive line got punished hard by Arkansas' front seven, giving up three sacks on that Friday evening. That does not bode well at all given some of the killer front sevens in this division. Brett England hasn't yet found his stride as the starting quarterback for the Seminoles, with his performances showing more of a "good enough" look last season, as was the case to open this season. There's a fair bit to work out on this team, though they'll be able to fine-tune a few things over the next month before dipping into conference play. Up Next: BYE 9. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-0, 0-0 ACC) Last Result: W 22-17 vs. Ball State Cause for Celebration: Junior Mondragon! The true freshman came to life in his debut, getting to Leonard McIntosh in the pocket on three separate occasions and dragging him down once more behind the line. The front seven in general was disruptive all evening, and the secondary looked fairly solid in admittedly limited action on the evening. The defense looked the better of the two side the Yellow Jackets fielded, which should be reassuring, only... Cause for Concern: The offense threw up a bunch of red flags on the evening. Josh Beckett was all over the places with his passing, and though he didn't get picked off, he wasn't anywhere close to as accurate as last season. The run game isn't really a threat, but that's been a known fact for several years now. A couple of sacks given up doesn't help the case of the offensive line either. This was a performance that gives a lot more questions than answers, and the Yellow Jackets might find themselves quite fortunate that the result still swung their way. Up Next: BYE 10. Pittsburgh Panthers (0-1, 0-0 ACC) Last Result: L 35-38 at Penn State Cause for Celebration: It's not the Penn State teams of old, but Pitt came into the game as an underdog and gave their in-state rivals a run for their money. Kareem Jackson was monstrous on his debut as he and Franklin Pineda split the receptions and caused nearly equal amounts of damage. The defensive line held very strong against a good Nittany Lion defensive line, only giving up one sack and giving Messiah Winston the room to hit his receivers. Cause for Concern: Brayden Pepper did not have a good debut. Pepper averaged under 3 yards per carry and was unable to break off any big runs. The running games in general was stifled by the Nittany Lions, and that ended up hurting Winston's performance in the air more than anything. Speaking of running games, the rush defense has a lot of work today after getting shredded by Penn State's duo of Sione Salanoa and Aden McDonough. The secondary sort of let Dillon Snead pass at will bar one interception, and the pass rush was next to nonexistant on the evening. There's a lot of improvement needed from this defense. Up Next: vs. Cincinnati 11. North Carolina State Wolfpack (1-0, 0-0 ACC) Last Result: W 31-24 vs. Iowa State Cause for Celebration: This was the kind of gritty performance that the Wolfpack weren't able to pull off last season. After a very poor start that saw the Pack fall behind by 14 at the half, the offense exploded for 24 points in the third quarter en route to a 7-point win. Keith Harley has never been flashy, but a solid performance on the ground and, for the first time, in the receiving game proved that he could be a generally reliable performance on the offense. The passing game was never a threat for the Wolfpack defense, and the defense as a whole came out for blood, picking up an interception and taking the ball from Kofi McCullough (and almost from Vaughn Shepard as well). Cause for Concern: McCullough still got a say in the matter, rushing for 140 yards and finding the endzone twice against the Pack's run defense. McCullough might be one of the better backs the Pack face this year, but the fact that they were essentially lifeless in stopping him should raise a few angry eyebrows. The slow start is also very alarming, and though they were able to make up for it in the third quarter, better teams would make the Pack pay with a deficit much larger than 14. Up Next: BYE 12. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (1-0, 0-0 ACC) Last Result: W 38-7 vs. Georgia State Cause for Celebration: Georgia State is a mess on offense. That didn't stop Wake from having a superb performance defensively, holding the Panthers to just 212 yards on 44 plays. The running games was contained, and the pass rush murdered Zachary Mattson, either forcing him into several bad throws or taking him down on four separate occasions. The offense had their fun as well, with James Betts being exception in passing and in running. It was a win the Deacons needed to pick up, and they never put the result in doubt. Cause for Concern: Offensive line play is really the only thing that can be seen as a knock against this performance, despite not giving up any sack to the Panthers. Zion Hayward struggle to find many big openings, but he still made do in racking up 94 yards and two scores on the evening. Will he get the same opportunities against the far tougher defenses in the division? Likely not. Up Next: vs. Miami (OH) 13. Syracuse Orange (0-0, 0-0 ACC) Last Result: BYE x2 Cause for Celebration: You know the drill. I just want to go to bed. Cause for Concern: Purdue exists and they look good. The Orange have little to no shot of knocking off the defending national champs in West Lafayette, though this Purdue team isn't nearly as strong as the one that brought home glory a year ago. Up Next: at Purdue 14. North Carolina Tar Heels (0-1, 0-0 ACC) Last Result: L 24-55 at Georgia Cause for Celebration: Despite the two interceptions, JuCo quarterback Mitchell Denton didn't look too shabby in his first Division 1 start, throwing for 209 yards and 3 touchdowns on 67% completion. Putting up 24 points should also be considered a plus given how dismal the Tar Heels were in scoring last season. That's.....really where the positives end. Cause for Concern: Where to begin? The Bulldogs put up 250 yards on the ground and an additional 367 yards in the air. The offensive line gave up five sacks to the Bulldogs' front seven. Kristian Noel was once again ineffective on the ground, much to the same result provided in his few starts last season. The secondary looked hapless again Leonard Elam and Ryan Haines. The Bulldogs put up 55 points. This team isn't good, which isn't really a surprise, but this performance was absolutely dismal, even for the Tar Heels. They'll have an easier time with Wyoming, but there is a ton on which the Heels need to work. Up Next: vs. Wyoming
  7. -- Greensboro, NC The ACC coaches have voted Wake Forest Coach, Kendrick Lamar, as the conferences coach of the year. Coach Lamar lead his Wake Forest team to a 6-6 record in the regular season (3-5 in conference) and a fourth place finish in the conference. This record earned them a bowl opportunity, and was a large improvement over a 2-10 season the year before for the Demon Deacons. Coaches Darman, brightfalls, and smokingcricket also received votes.
  8. Greensboro, NC The esteemed, fair and balanced ACC Network has chosen the 2021 Preseason All ACC Team. The ACC features some of the most unique talent in the conference, and many of these players will be regarded as football stars throughout this season and beyond! Offense QB: Bryce Thompson (SO) RB: DeSean Dockery, (SR) * RB2: Christian Collins, (SO) WR1: Anthony Swanson, (JR) WR2: Ricky Cameron, (SO) TE: Jamir Rolle, (SR) OT: Mahamadou Hooker, (JR) * OT: Izzy Garvey, JR, OG: Josh Pennington (FR), OG: Cole Fay (JR), C: Kyle Curtis, (JR) K: Declan Havens, (JR) RET: Art Vogt, (JR) Defense DE: Glenn Thorpe, * DE: Steven Proctor, JR DT: Matthew Waldron,(JR) DT: Emmanuel McDermott, (SO) OLB: Prince Matos, SR * OLB: Stuart Patterson, SR ILB: Abe Rock, (SR) ILB: Soldier Brooks,SO * CB: Khalil Harrell, (JR) CB: Logan Swain, (SO) FS: Marquise Holliday, * SS: Jake Leyva, JR P: Matteo Doran, Selections by Team: Louisville- 4 Virginia- 3 Pittsburgh- 3 Clemson- 3 NC State- 3 Duke- 2 Boston College- 2 Georgia Tech- 2 Virginia Tech- 2 Miami- 1 FSU- 1 *2020 Post Season All ACC
  9. ACC RB Rankings: Preseason Content provided by Coach Beeznik, UVA Greensboro, NC -- This list will follow some of the more traditional rules of having 1 player per team, and every team being represented. The ACC returns the undisputed best running back in the country, DeSean Dockery. Behind him are some other talented running backs, who hope to be big factors for their team during the 2021 season. 14 . Aaden Trammel - - Syracuse lost an underrated player in Giovanni Coley and it looks like they're gonna go with Junior Aaden Trammel. Trammel's ceiling is low and I wouldn't be surprised if he loses the job to the more powerful Gabe Ramsey at some point this season. Last Year: No Stats 13. Kristian Noel - - Another case where a team will have a new player taking a majority of the carries. It is uncertain who will get the nod here between Noel and Xavier Lancaster, but Noel has been getting a majority of the work with the first team on the practice field so far. Neither option really excites here and there likely won't be a lot of room to run as the Tar Heels' OL is in rough shape. Last Year: No stats 12. Jonah Crawley - - Bob Squires started for the Yellow Jackets last year but has seemingly lost his job to Crawley. That'll happen when you only average 3.10 YPC and gain a total of 534 yards as the lead back. Crawley should be more successful but it's still going to be difficult and I would expect Georgia Tech to rely on their passing game more than the redshirt freshman to get it done. Last Year: No stats 11. Noah Wooten - - The Seminoles are going with true freshman Noah Wooten this season and it's not tough to see why, he's much more talented than the other running backs on the roster and will likely make that offense much more dynamic this year. He's a big upgrade over last year's starter Richard Sherman who falls all the way back to fourth on the depth chart. Last Year: No stats 10. Raymond Smiley - - Raymond Smiley was all smiles when he won the starting job over senior Malachi Simms. He'll try his best to replace Jaeden Daniel's 933 yards and more importantly his 14 TDs. Easier said than done. Last Year: No stats 9. Julius Whitaker - - Yet another team will be going with a new starter. Virginia Tech loses 1118 yards and 15 TDs with the graduation of converted Full Back Ervin Maurice and Whitaker gets the task of trying to replace him. Virginia Tech will desperately need him to as they are thin at WR and they bring a new starting QB into the fold as well. Last Year: No stats 8. Keith Harley - - Finally a returning starter. Harley ran for 967 yards and 6 TDs as a Sophomore last year. They'll look for him to improve there but with two Freshman starting on that OL that might be tough. Harley should look to improve the most in the passing game, where he only recorded one reception last year. Last Year: Rushing, 246 Attempts, 967 yards, 6 TDs, 3.91 YPC. Receiving, 1 catch, 5 yards, 1 TD. 7. Josiah Brock - - Brock replaces graduated Senior Mark Timmy as we see yet more turnover at skill positions in the ACC. Brock bring a lot more speed than Timmy and they may lean on the Red Shirt Freshman quite heavily as there is not an abundance of weapons on this offense. Last Year: No stats 6. Jorge Tovar - - Mr. Tovar you have big shoes to fill as Zahir Watts starts his NFL career with the New Orleans Saints. It will be tough for Tovar to match Watts' production but he's a good back in his own right and Boston College has some nice weapons elsewhere to take the pressure off of him. Defense should be focusing on Miles Carmichael and his passing weapons which should open up some big plays for Tovar. Last Year: No stats 5. Kyle Palmer - - Wake Forest made the odd decision to redshirt Palmer in his Senior year, but that'll pay off this year. Wake Forest's OL is in not very good, but Palmer should still have a good year. Wake Forest will likely look to keep defenses off balance by running with QB James Bett often. Last Year: No stats 4. Reginald Saunders - - Saunders barely missed the thousand yard mark last year but did record 16 touchdowns rushing. Things are uncertain in Virginia with npklemm's stunning departure for Ball State. There are signs from what beeznik liked to do in Ohio that Saunders could be in for a big year, just ask Owen Walton. With a true Freshman at QB look for Virginia to lean on Saunders early and often. Last Year: Rushing, 220 attempts, 970 yards, 16 TDs, 4.41 YPC. Receiving, 8 catches, 84 yards, 0 TDs. 3. Christian Collins - - There is every reason to believe Christian "Laettner" Collins could have huge year this year. Duke has a talented offense and teams will not be able to just stack the box and hope to contain Collins, you do that and you'll get picked apart by a very talented group of WRs and a QB who can sling the ball around with the best of them. While that may help his YPC, it may limit the amount of yards he's able to accrue this year as Duke will likely spread the ball around. Last Year: Rushing, 242 attempts, 992 yards, 12 TDs, 4.10 YPC. Receiving, 4 catches, 44 yards, 0 TDs. 2. Ronnie Peterson - - We know Peterson is a great talent, the situation in Miami has made it difficult for him to reach his full potential. Nonetheless he was 3rd in rushing yards in the ACC last year as Miami's offense had no choice but to lean heavily on him. Miami has some better players this year and that should help Peterson out. He was the only player in the conference to reach the 300 carry mark last year, so Miami should look to take some of the weight off of him this year. Last Year: Rushing, 300 attempts, 1245 yards, 13 TDs, 4.15 YPC. Receiving, 2 catches, 9 yards, 0 TDs. 1. DeSean Dockery - - Expect to see a lot from Dockery again this year. He had 1645 yards and 24 TDs on the ground last year, but Louisville has a new starting QB, and still doesn't have much in the way of receiving threats. Teams will no doubt stack the box, but that wasn't enough to stop Dockery from running all over the competition last year. Last Year: Rushing, 299 attempts, 1645 yards, 24 TDs, 5.50 YPC. Receiving, 3 catches, 41 yards, 1 TD.
  10. ACC WR Rankings: Preseason Greensboro, NC -- The rules for this ranking is different than for the QB and RB list. Not every team will be represented on this list. Some teams will have 2 players on the list, and it will only be a top 10 in the preseason. The 2 best receivers in the ACC in 2020 went to the NFL, which leaves a void at the top of the best WRs in the ACC list. There is a lot of young talent at this position, and there are players who aren't on this list who could breakout and find their way onto this list. 10. Andrew Harrison - - Harrison faces the tough task of having to catch passes from Jamel Armstrong. Armstrong struggled last season with more seasoned receivers, and Harrison becomes the number 1 option as a redshirt freshman. Harrison is a talented player, but has a tough road ahead of him in what could be an anemic Clemson offense in 2021 Last Years Stats: No Stats 9. Felix Browning - - The NC State offense faces some potential difficulties in the 2021 season. A season after getting little production from their QBs and in the run game, the Wolfpack look to rebound with a better offensive performance. Along with RB Keith Harley, Felix Browning will be one of the primary playmakers for the Wolfpack. The QB situation is a complete unknown, and having a generally inexperienced WR corps will not make things easier. The Wolfpack need big things out of Browning this season as he hopes to build on a promising freshman season. Last Years Stats: 12 Games, 36 Receptions, 422 Yards, 3 TDs. 8. Amari Nicholson - - A second WR from the Duke Blue Devils is part of a unit that possibly is the deepest in the ACC. This receiver group has the benefit of having possibly the best QB in the ACC as well, and will be in a very balanced offense. The trio of Nicholson, Spaczek, and Stinson will give Bryce Thompson a lot of weapons as the Devils hope to march towards their first ACC Title. Last Years Stats: 12 Games, 32 Receptions, 320 Yards, 3 TDs. 7. Franklin Pineda - - The Pittsburgh Panthers lost the top 3 WRs on their depth chart after the 2020 season. This included the second best WR in the ACC last season, Adam Coles. No one expects Pineda to come close to Coles production, but there is no question that he will be expected to be the Alpha in that WR group. Pineda will have to be the primary playmaker for the Panthers, as they try to acclimate freshman QB Messiah Winston to college football. Last Years Stats: No Stats 6. Eddie Owens - - The second player on this list from Boston College, this sophomore WR will pair with Ricky Cameron to give BC a potentially explosive offense. Owens and Ricky Cameron may be the best WR tandem in the ACC this year, and will help work in QB Miles Carmichael as he gets adjusted to D1 football. Both of these WRs are young talents who should terrorize defenses for years. Last Years Stats: 12 Games, 43 Receptions, 622 Yards, 6 TDs. 5. Deshaun Pickens - - Pickens joins the Wake Forest team as a transfer, and is looked to to immediately lead this receiving group. Pickens will bring a big body target to this Demon Deacons squad, and will be used to bring balance to this Wake Forest offense in 2021. Last Years Stats: No Stats 4. Sean Spaczek - - The Senior WR from Duke is probably just glad that he will get to have the same QB for 2 years in a row. Spaczek has had a new freshman QB for each of the first 3 seasons of his career. However, this year Spaczek will lead a deep WR group in catching passes from second year QB Bryce Thompson. Spaczek is closing in on the Duke All Time Receiving yards record, and looks to have a big season in his senior campaign. Last Years Stats: 12 Games, 60 Receptions, 846 Yards, 9 TDs 3. Hunter Crenshaw - - Purely in Yards per game, Crenshaw is the leader in the ACC among returning players. However, his production could be hurt with the Cavaliers possibly switching to a more run heavy offense with the graduation of Matteo Rook. Crenshaw will be an essential safety valve for the freshman QB Mike Lucas as he transitions to college football. Last year Crenshaw was a number 2 option, but he will prove to be a solid number 1 option for this young Virginia squad. Last Years Stats: 14 Games, 76 Receptions, 997 Yards, 11 TDs 2. Anthony Swanson - - If anything, Anthony Swanson will have a lot of opportunities this season. He had a productive season in 2020 and looks to build on that this season, and Georgia Tech wants to translate some of their talent to wins. Swanson and QB Josh Beckett have shown chemistry on and off the field, but Beckett needs to be better for GT to have success. If Beckett is more successful, it will only make Swanson look better. Last Years Stats: 12 Games, 68 Receptions, 885 Yards, 9 TDs 1. Ricky Cameron - - Ricky Cameron is one of the good young WRs in the nation, and the best in the ACC. Of the returning WRs in the ACC, Cameron lead the ACC in yards per game last season, and has a chance to take an even bigger step in the 2021 season. Cameron benefits from having a good QB in Miles Carmichael, and will receive many opportunities to receive the ball. Last Years Stats: 12 Games, 72 Receptions, 982 Yards, 8 TDs.
  11. ACC QB Rankings: Preseason Greensboro, NC-- Every week the ACC will be releasing positional rankings. For rankings during the season, the positions will be together all in one article, but for the preseason it will be individual by position. The first article in this series is the Quarterbacks. 14. Harrison Pratt - - Harrison Pratt ends up on the end of this list, but undoubtedly is in a better position than some other players near the bottom of the rankings. He has a simple job this year. Hand the ball off to the best player in the ACC Desean Dockery. If he is required to do too much, this Louisville team will struggle. Teams will key in on Dockery, which could give Pratt opportunities to show some flashes, but that feels doubtful for the first year starter. Last Years Stats: No Stats 13. Mike Lucas - - Mike Lucas is one of a handful of QBs in the ACC who have to replace star QBs at their school. Mike Lucas has the unique challenge of having to do it as a true freshman. He will have more help than some, with running back Reginald Saunders and wide receiver Hunter Crenshaw. However, this is a team that will not be able to rely on a QB to bail them out and will experience some growing pains as Lucas brings in a new era for the Cavaliers with new Head Coach Beeznik. Last Years Stats: No Stats 12. Messiah Winston - - There was a lot of change for the Pitt Panthers this offseason. Star QB Grant Mcconnell and WR Adam Coles left school for the NFL at the conclusion of 2020, and Head Coach Jumbo left for USC. The cupboard on offense is pretty empty for the the redshirt freshman Winston, who has the challenge of following some very good QBs at Pitt, but with little help around him. Freshmen tend to struggle in their first year starting, with the exception of some exceptional players, and it is hard to imagine Winston being any different. Last Years Stats: No Stats 11. Sebastian Norwood - - The Tarheels replace oft criticized QB Max Laws with the true freshman Norwood. After not landing 5.0 potential QB Kyler Wilson, UNC was able to snag Norwood in the recruiting period, ensuring that they were able to have some level of talent at QB. Norwood will face a tough challenge this year, with a running back group that is inexperienced, and doesn’t have a ton of talent, and receivers who have little upside as well. It is hard to imagine Norwood having much success in this offense as Coach Carl begins to see the impact of years of poor recruiting. Ultimately, it would not be surprising to see Norwood at the end of this list by the end of the season. Last Years Stats: No Stats 10. Jacob Eubanks - - The Wolfpack struggled at the QB position last year, and it is unclear whether first time starter Jacob Eubanks will be able to change anything. NC State switched between two QBs in 2020, neither one to provide what was needed for this team to compete in the ACC. Coach Imposter chose not to give the ball to Andrew Crockett, who started 1 game last year and struggled in that start, and instead give the ball to Eubanks to start the year to replace Blake Fry. Blake Fry also struggled, so the bar for competency for a QB is low for the Pack. This NC State offense will most likely struggle this year, especially if they cannot run the ball, and Eubanks may not be able to help out very much. Last Years Stats: No Stats 9. Jason Ledford - - Ledford leads a Miami team that is looking for the light at the end of the tunnel for a program that was reduced to shambles before Coach Youngmark took over. Reinforcements are coming for the Hurricanes, but this is another transition season for the Canes. Last season Ledford was the better of the two QBs who started games. However, that was mainly because the other starter, Aiden Benton was bad. With more talent in the run game with JUCO transfer Ronnie Peterson taking the load from the pass game, the hope in Miami is that Ledford won’t have to do too much. However, this is a Miami team that will have to win games despite Ledford, and not because of him. Last Years Stats: (6 games) Passing, 50-90 (55.56%) 3 TD, 6 INT, 624 Yards, 111.46 Passer Rating. 8. Red Mosher - - Red Mosher has the tough task of replacing FSU legend Benjamin Schuler. Adding to the difficulty of that task, is that All World Wide Receiver Luke Cobb has graduated, and the Seminoles don’t have anyone that comes close to replacing him. Though that itself would be impossible. However, while Cobb exits, the team’s leading receiver in the 2020 season, tight end Wyatt Cornett, returns. Red Mosher will have have to make connections with Cornett in order to have success. The rest of the receiving corps for FSU is young, or not talented enough to support a QB who is in his first year starting. Mosher could have a tough year for the Seminoles, as they enter an uncertain time for their program. Last Years Stats: No Stats 7. Beckett Morrison - - Morrison replaces Ralph Westfall, who was solid but unspectacular for the Hokies in 2020. Morrison’s biggest challenge this season will be his lack of weapons, but Coach Brightfalls will hope to use Morrison as a multifaceted weapon himself. The Offensive Line at VT is solid, and the Hokies have a solid Tight End threat in Senior Darnell Pierre. Throwing the ball could be a struggle for this team, but the hope in Blacksburg is that Morrison is able to make plays with his legs. Last Years Stats: No Stats 6. Jamal Armstrong - - Which Jamel is the real Jamel. The 2020 Jamel who turned in a very disappointing season in which the Clemson Tigers won the Orange Bowl despite his play, or the 2019 Armstrong who had a very strong year, but with more talent on the offense than on the 2020 team. Armstrong has less talent on this team than on either of his two previous years, which doesn’t bode well for this year. If he can’t improve on his 2020 production, he will end up lower on this list. Maybe Jamel will take on the challenge and will be able to adjust and have a production senior season. Or maybe it will be another long season for the Clemson Senior. Last Years Stats: Passing, 248-438 (56.62%) 20 TD, 18 INT, 2769 Yards, 116.57 Passer Rating. 5. James Betts - - Betts is another first year starter at the QB position. He won’t have to do much to make Demon Deacon fans forget about 2020 starter Hemena Toma. Betts represents an unknown variable for the Wake Forest team, who has talent on the offensive side of the ball. This offensive support is ultimately what leads Betts to be ranked at this position over similarly talented QBs. Last Years Stats: No Stats. 4. Josh Beckett- - Beckett being at 4 shows how shallow the ACC is for QBs this year. Beckett came into Georgia Tech as a highly regarded prospect, and going into his redshirt Junior year, it feels like his talent has not been realized yet. Beckett has suffered from hands off coaching by Coach Chaffin, but with a new sheriff in town, Beckett is looking to have a comeback year. Beckett has good weapons in WR Anthony Swanson, and TE Jamir Rolle, and looks to use them to move up this list. Last Years Stats: Passing, 249-440 ( 56.59%) 23 TD, 16 INT, 2816 Yards, 120.33 Passer Rating. 3. Christian Coates - - The second year man at Syracuse had the unenviable job of replacing Heisman winner Dylan Bishop. Coates had a solid freshman year and looks to build upon that. The Orange hope to have more stability this season, after a year with inconsistent coaching. Coates will be held back from his full potential though, because of a lack of weapons on his offense. Coates will be leaned on a lot by his team to produce this year. Last Years Stats: Passing, 196-311 (63.02%) 15 TD, 9 INT, 2395 Yards, 137.86 Passer Rating. Rushing, 52 Rushes, 309 Yards, 5 TDs. 2. Miles Carmichael- - A newcomer in the ACC, the JUCO transfer will have the targets and the opportunity to succeed for this Boston College team. Carmichael is a relative unknown, as he has never played on this level before, but given his weapons and the talent that many profess that he has, Carmichael has a chance to shine in the conference. Last Years Stats: JUCO, No Stats. 1. Bryce Thompson - - Of the returning QBs, Thompson definitely outpaces the competition, and he should be the best QB in the ACC, even with several JUCO transfers. Thompson has a deeper WR Corps from the year before, an improved offensive line, and running back Christian Collins should be improved after a solid freshman season. Bryce Thompson looks to lead his program to another level, after bringing the Devils to their first bowl game in 2020. Last Years stats: Passing, 227-370 (61.35%) 21 TD, 9 INT, 2704 Yards, 136.60 Passer Rating. Rushing, 49 Rushes, 150 Yards, 9 TDs.
  12. ACC Preseason Survey and Analysis Greensboro, NC -- The Coaches of the ACC programs took a preseason survey on their predictions for the 2021 CFBHC Season. Ten coaches submitted votes, and these are the results: Question: Who Will Finish First in the ACC Atlantic? Result: 6 of the coaches voted for Clemson to make it back to the ACC Championship game for the 3rd consecutive year, while 4 coaches believe that Boston College can make their 3rd ACC Championship. Question: Who Will Finish First in the ACC Coastal? Result: 7 of the respondents predicted that Duke would win the ACC Coastal this year for the first time, while 2 voters predicted Pittsburgh would make it for the third time, and that Miami would make it also for the third time. ACC teams will be fighting to win this trophy in the 2021 season Question: Who Will Win the ACC Championship Game? Result: 4 of the respondents voted for Duke to win the ACC Championship game for the first time. 3 other coaches believe that Clemson will win their second ACC Championship, while 2 believe that Pittsburgh will win the conference, and 1 believes that Boston College can raise the trophy for the second time. Desean Dockery looks to dominate the ACC for a second season. Question: Who Will Be the ACC Player of the Year? Result: In a clear result, the ACC Coaches overwhelmingly voted for RB Desean Dockery of Louisville to win the ACC Player of the Year. More than half of the coaches who participated in the survey voted for Dockery to win, and 2 others voted for Duke QB Bryce Thompson. Question: Who Will Be the ACC Coach of the Year? Result: The ACC Coach of the Year prediction produced results for 8 different ACC Coaches. Duke Head Coach Darman was the leading vote getter here for the award prediction. Which Team Will Have the Most All-ACC Players? Result: Clemson was overwhelmingly predicted to have the most All ACC players in the 2021 season. 7 coaches believed that they would have the most All ACC players, while 3 other teams received 1 vote. Which Team Will Have the Most NFL Draft Picks in the 2022 NFLHC Draft? Result: The two teams predicted to play in the ACC Championship game, Clemson and Duke, were predicted to have the most players picked in the 2022 NFLHC Draft. 4 coaches voted for Clemson to have the most players, while 3 players voted for Duke. Analysis: This survey yielded some interesting results. Both Boston College and Clemson seem to be worthy foes for the ACC crown. Clemson’s offense could be challenged again this year, while Boston College has the potential for a very good offense in 2021. However, Clemson could have an extremely good defense if things fall into place for this team. Boston College has a really good offense this season if JUCO QB Miles Carmichael and first year starter Jorge Tovar can produce. This BC also has the potential for a good defense this season. It was surprising to me to see more votes for Clemson than BC, and that Boston College only received 1 vote to win the ACC Championship game. This is a seriously good ball club. Votes for Pittsburgh really surprised me for all of the question. Pittsburgh received 2 votes to win the ACC Coastal and to win the ACC Championship, but new Head Coach Liberator, received 0 votes in ACC Coach of the Year predictions. Pittsburgh lost a lot of talent last season, and their offense could find some struggles. However, if Pittsburgh does win the ACC Championship, it’s hard to imagine that Coach Liberator wouldn’t win the conference’s Coach of the Year. The ACC Player of the Year vote seemed predictable. The 3 players to receive votes were, 2020 ACC Offensive Player of the Year Desean Dockery, 2020 Defensive Player/Freshman of the Year Glenn Thorpe, and 2020 Offensive Freshman of the Year Bryce Thompson. These three seem like favorites to win the Player of the Year award in the ACC this year if they can continue last season’s success and build upon it in 2021. The votes for the ACC Coach of the Year award were chaotic. It seems that there were some homer votes, or people really believe in some coaches a lot. Like was said before, Coach Liberator received 0 votes, despite being predicted by 2 coaches to win the ACC. This just feels incorrect. Coaches of 3 teams who face long odds to even reach bowl eligibility received votes. Assuming these weren’t homer votes, maybe people think that these teams will outperform their expectations which will help their coaches receive votes. Even more ridiculous, was that of the 8 coaches, only 1 coach received multiple votes. Maybe the votes for those 3 teams skewed these results, as it seems strange that Coach Emperor and Coach Smokingcricket would only receive 1 vote for the prediction for ACC Coach of the Year. Good luck to all ACC teams in the 2021 season!
  13. Seasonal Awards OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: DeSean Dockery, RB, Louisville Cardinals: 299 carries for 1,645 yards (5.50 YPC), 24 TDs, 0 fumbles; 3 receptions for 41 yards (13.67 YPR), 1 TD In a season that saw a Heisman-level receiver and two quarterbacks playing at another level, it was DeSean Dockery that swept aside the conference in his debut season. The JuCo transfer finished second nationally in rushing yards, putting up 100+ yards in all but one game this season. Dockery thrived in the national spotlight, inserting himself in the Heisman discussion while leading Louisville to their best finish ever in the ACC. DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Glenn Thorpe, DE, Clemson Tigers: 34 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 1 INT It was a toss-up between Thorpe and UNC defensive end Josiah Harden, but Thorpe's play stood out on a solid Clemson defense. The freshman defensive end finished second in the conference in sacks, leading a very dominant Clemson front seven en route to a second-consecutive conference championship game appearance. OFFENSIVE FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: Bryce Thompson, QB, Duke Blue Devils: 227/370 (61.35%), 2,704 yards, 21 TDs, 9 INTs; 49 carries for 150 yards (3.06 YPC), 9 TDs Duke's meteoric rise this season came in large part to their freshman duo of running back Christian Collins and quarterback Bryce Thompson. Thompson started as last year's starting quarterback, Kyle Jefferson, was benched, and now Thompson might have secured that starting role after having arguably the best season ever for a Duke quarterback, leading the Blue Devils to a school-record 9 wins and a 3rd-place finish in a top-heavy Coastal division. DEFENSIVE FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: Glenn Thorpe, DE, Clemson Tigers: 34 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 1 INT The only surprise here is that Thorpe wasn't the unanimous selection, with Florida State's Jack Ramsey and Virginia's Soldier Brooks receiving a vote each. The Tigers have a very solid player that should become a household name in college football. COACH OF THE YEAR: npklemm, Virginia Cavaliers: 12-1 record (school record), first-ever division title, first-ever conference title, first-ever playoff appearance Props to Jumbo of Pittsburgh and Broletariat of Louisville for special seasons, but it's no surprise that npklemm takes this prestigious award. Virginia has lived in the shadow of the ACC giants, but behind an efficient offense and a resilient defense, the Cavaliers were arguably a defensive stop away against Louisville from competing a perfect season to go along with their first division and conference titles. All-Conference Team QB: Grant McConnell, Pittsburgh Panthers - 285/433 (65.82%), 3,671 yards, 34 TDs, 11 INT; 53 carries for 370 yards (6.98 YPC), 7 TDs, 0 fumbles RB: DeSean Dockery, Louisville Cardinals - 299 carries for 1,645 yards (5.50 YPC), 24 TDs, 0 fumbles; 3 receptions for 41 yards (13.67 YPR), 1 TD FB: Maurice Ervin, Virginia Tech Hokies - 262 carries for 1,118 yards (4.27 YPC), 15 TDs, 1 fumble; 2 receptions for 32 yards (16.00 YPR), 0 TDs WR: Luke Cobb, Florida State Seminoles - 109 receptions for 1,597 yards (14.65 YPR), 19 TDs WR: Adam Coles, Pittsburgh Panthers - 88 receptions for 1,240 yards (14.09 YPR), 13 TDs TE: Owen Workman, Duke Blue Devils - 51 receptions for 765 yards (15.00 YPR), 7 TDs OT: Shawuan Holsey, Virginia Cavaliers - 6.85 team OL rating OT: Mahamadou Hooker, Virginia Cavaliers - 6.85 team OL rating OG: Jermaine Singleton, Virginia Cavaliers - 6.85 team OL rating OG: Aden Rosas, Virginia Cavaliers - 6.85 team OL rating C: Tim Kerns, Pittsburgh Panthers - 7.07 team OL rating DE: Glenn Thorpe, Clemson Tigers - 34 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 1 INT DE: Josiah Harden, North Carolina Tar Heels - 25 tackles, 10 sacks, 1 FF DT: Marcus Brown, Clemson Tigers - 32 tackles, 4 sacks OLB: Prince Matos, Louisville Cardinals - 31 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 FF OLB: Jack Ramsey, Florida State Seminoles - 25 tackles, 3.5 sacks ILB: Soldier Brooks, Virginia Cavaliers - 52 tackles, 1 FF, 1 FR ILB: Beckett Ring, Louisville Cardinals - 53 tackles, 4 INT CB: Andrew Boyd, Boston College Eagles - 20 tackles, 6 INT, 1 TD CB: Timothy Parks, Virginia Cavaliers - 25 tackles, 9 INT, 1 TD FS: Marquise Holliday, Clemson Tigers - 27 tackles, 2 INT, 1 sack SS: Marlon Roland, Louisville Cardinals - 38 tackles, 4 INT, 1 FR K: Andrew Ryan, Florida State - 45/45 XP (100%), 23/26 FG (88.46%), long of 46 yards P: Erik Kline, Virginia Tech Hokies - 42.35 punting average Thank you all for a great 2020 season in the best damn conference in the land. Here's to a successful bowl season and an even better 2021 season. ~ImposterCauster, Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner
  14. Welcome to the big stage, Virginia. After years of struggling to stay afloat in a conference filled with perennial national powerhouses, gunslinging quarterbacks, explosive receivers, and dominating defenses, the Cavaliers finally ascended to top the Coastal Division in what has been the best season in program history. They've handed Pittsburgh their only loss (something not even Penn State or West Virginia could do). They swept through their division, handling upstart Duke and resurgent UNC. They ascended to the peak of the college football world, only to be brought back down to Earth by the best running back in the nation in DeSean Dockery. Yet here they are with a chance to take the conference and insert themselves once more into talks of a national title. A win here would surely put them in the Top 8 alongside division rivals Pittsburgh. Virginia still has one last opponent left in this magical regular season. Who better to knock Virginia off their pedestal and deny them to join the ranks of champions than last year's title-winners in Clemson? Indeed, the Tigers have traveled down the beaten path that Virginia now takes, having won their first division title last year and beating Pittsburgh to make a run at the title. While any hopes of getting back to the playoffs were officially dashed by South Carolina last week, Clemson can still take pleasure in knocking out Virginia and preventing that budding program from blooming into the cream of the crop. Clemson's path to Charlotte isn't all that different from Virginia's - both teams managed to win every game in conference except for the Louisville game. The Tigers haven't been convincing at times, but a still-dominant defense could make things very, very interesting in the conference title game. Will Virginia put the icing on the cake and claim their first conference title and a spot in the College Football Playoffs? Or will Clemson play the spoiler to claim their 2nd-consecutive crown? I'm ImposterCauster joined by Darman, and we'll dissect the two sides and make our predictions. Quarterback: Darman - Edge: Jamel Armstrong has had a very tough season throwing the ball this year after losing wide receiver talent last year. Matteo Rook may be the best QB in the ACC. This easily is in the favor of UVA. Armstrong has been prone to interceptions against a defense that has been ball hawkish this year. Rook uses all his receivers, and will take advantage of the shallow Clemson secondary. ImposterCauster - Edge: This time last year, Armstrong was considered the best of the two quarterbacks playing for the title. It's weird how things change after one season. Whereas Rook kept the bulk of his receiving corp from a year ago, Armstrong finds himself without playmaker Marquise Reed - and the numbers definitely reflect this. Armstrong has struggled with accuracy this season (56.69% on 411 pass attempts), and he's thrown 17 interceptions to only 20 touchdowns. Rook has been way more efficient and far less turnover-prone, giving the Cavs the clear advantage under center. Running Back: Darman - Edge: Running back is probably a more important unit in this game for Clemson than it is for Virginia. Timmy Mark has technically rushed for more yards this season, but Reginald Saunders is right behind him in yards and ahead in TDs and efficiency. Saunders has been the better back this year and is a bigger plus for UVA than Mark is for Clemson. Clemson does need a bigger game from Mark than UVA needs from Saunders though. ImposterCauster - Edge: Push I don't particular like either running back, and I don't think either is capable of changing the tide of this game. Mark has put together bigger games this season as opposed to last, and the same can be said for Saunders. Both have been efficient at finding the endzone and in keeping the ball off the turf, but neither are leaned on to really win games. Sure, Mark is going to have to be effective to provide Armstrong with some security blanket, and Saunders will have to play up to standards to fight off a scary pass rush, but I'm convinced that both teams are evenly matched in this department. Receivers: Darman - Edge: UVA has a more productive and deeper unit than Clemson. Rook has been better at finding all of his receivers, with 4 of them getting over 500 yards for the year. UVA had one 1 thousand-yard receiver compared to Clemson's 0 thousand-yard receivers. Clemson also had 1 600-yard receiver compared to UVA's 3. Both units face top corners, but the depth in UVAs unit help them take advantage of that shallow defensive back unit of Clemson. ImposterCauster - Edge: Don't get me wrong; Clemson has the better receiver on the field in McCray. The thing is, despite what Emperor might tell you, McCray is the only receiver capable of dominating defenses week-in and week-out, and even he only managed 66.83 yards per game this year. Corey Bolden hasn't shown up aside from one or two games, and while Chris Irizarry has been a nice surprise at tight end, it hasn't really been enough for this offense. Virginia, on the other hand, is wealthy with receivers. Cameron Beatty and Hunter Crenshaw posted near-similar marks this season as the top two targets for Rook, with Crenshaw exceeding the thousand-yard mark (Crenshaw was at 930). Throw in a tamer but still effective Jonathan Greer at tight end, and this Clemson secondary will have its hands in stopping a high-octane passing attack. Offensive Line: Darman - Edge: Virginia had one of the best offensive lines in the ACC. They gave lots of time to Matteo Rook, and opened up holes for Saunders all year. Clemson also had an above average offensive line in the ACC this season, but they are a step behind Virginia in this category as well. ImposterCauster - Edge: Virginia averaged the 2nd-best offensive line rating in the conference at 6.87. Clemson was third at 6.57. So why is Virginia's line that much better? With the likes of Shawaun Holsey and Mahamadou Hooker on the edges of the line, Saunders has been able to thrive to the outside, and that's really helped the Cavalier offense move. Jermaine Singleton and Aden Rosas have locked up the middle of the line, giving Rook ample time to throw this year. Clemson's line has taken some beatings this year, notably against the Gamecocks last week. It's hard not to give the edge here to Virginia. Defensive Line: Darman - Edge: Clemson has one of the best young defensive linemen in the country. Glenn Thorpe finished with 9.5 sacks as a freshman this year for the Tigers. The Cavaliers have a solid group on the defensive line, but they are a step behind this Clemson group. Just barely though. The advantage that the Cavs have on this offensive line could neutralize this advantage. But Clemson getting pressure on Rook is one of the major keys to this contest. ImposterCauster - Edge: Meet Glenn Thorpe, freshman phenom. Only Josiah Harden (10) of UNC has more sacks that Thorpe (9.5), and that's saying something given that Harden is bound to be an early 1st-round selection in the upcoming NFLHC draft. In total, this Clemson line has recorded 18.5 sacks, with Ivan Castle getting 5 of those and defensive tackle Marcus Brown getting the remaining 4. Teams haven't been able to run through this defensive line either - only Dockery, Zahir Watts, and Giovanni Coley have surpassed the century mark running the ball on this defense. Virginia's line hasn't been nearly as potent in the backfield - Steven Proctor has 7 of the line's 11 sacks - but they've been just as effective stopping the run, with only Dockery and Watts breaking the century mark (Ronnie Patterson was close with 97). With both defending the run rather well, I'll give the edge to the scary good pass rush. Linebackers: Darman - Edge: Push Both of these units are excellent groups. Virginia has a young but talented group, led by wunderkind Soldier Brooks, who led his team with 52 tackles - ss a true freshman too. On the other sideline we have another talented inside linebacker in redshirt junior Omar Trotter, who led Clemson with 52 tackles as well. Both sides seem evenly matched in my expert opinion. Both sides have playmakers that could make a real impact on this ball game. ImposterCauster - Edge: Push It's definitely a harder call here, with both units functioning almost identically this season. Clemson's core of Trotter, Negron-Chacon, and Yeager have more of a presence when it comes to bringing down the quarterback, with Trotter and Negron-Chacon combining the 2.5 sacks on the year. Virginia's core of Brooks, Faulk, and Wolfe isn't nearly as focused on the pass rush, but they are incredible at stopping the run. Brooks in particular has been better than expected as a true freshman, recording 52 tackles while becoming a nightmare for running backs heading his way. Faulk seems to have taken a step back in his sophomore season for Virginia though, and that's why I can't really call this in the Cavaliers' favor. Secondary: Darman - Edge: Clemson is known for having a tough secondary over the past few seasons. This season they had talented players but the depth isn't there, which could be a problem against a deep receiving corps. UVA has the conference leader in interceptions in Timothy Parks, and good depth at their corners. While Clemson may have the most talented player in Malachi Douglas, I believe the depth that UVA gives their unit the advantage. ImposterCauster - Edge: Don't get me wrong - Clemson has a very talented secondary. Unfortunately, the unit gets carried a bit more by the pass rush than by their own talent. Yes, Malachi Douglas is a fantastic corner and Marquise Holliday has been a rock at free safety, but outside of those two, the Tigers lack the talent that made this unit truly elite last season. Virginia comes in with a slightly less potent pass rush and a secondary that strives to take the ball away from opposing quarterbacks. With 15 picks on the year (8 by cornerback Timothy Parks), this unit has been the definition of ball-hawkish, and they'll be primed to give McCray and Co. a lot less breathing room than what they're normally given. Special Teams: Darman - Edge: Push Neither team kicked a ton of field goals this season and both units were solid when kicking, but not spectacular. Neither kicker made a kick over 50 yards, so if the game comes down to that, it could give us a wild finish. Clemson had a slightly better punting average than UVA but neither team allowed a return touchdown this season. Corey Bolden for Clemson is an explosive player though, and can turn field position in an instant. But nothing is big enough for me to give an edge to either team. ImposterCauster - Edge: Push We know about Amir Millard's leg. Clemson's kicker has been pretty spot-on this season, hitting nine kicks from beyond 40 yards. You might not be aware of Marquis Addison's leg though, with the Virginia kicker hitting the same percentage of his kicks, including seven from beyond 40 yards. Matteo Doran (Clem) and Noah Tomlinson (UVA) haven't been great punters by any means, with both averaging less than 40 yards per punt. Doran has the higher ceiling, but he's yet to really showcase that this year. Special teams are too identical to really give an advantage to either side. Score Predictions: Darman - Virginia 27-13 Clemson I don't know if Clemson can score enough points to win this game. If Rook can get it to his deep receiving corps, or the Cavs run the ball they should win comfortably. If Rook tries to force it against Douglas maybe Clemson has a chance, or if Armstrong can reach into his past to pull out a classic. ImposterCauster - Virginia 31-14 Clemson Clemson just doesn't have enough offensively to keep up with Virginia. The Cavaliers have enough playmakers offensively to expose the weaker parts of Clemson's defense, and their offensive line should be capable of keeping Thorpe and company at bay. Armstrong will struggle with his best receiver being locked down by Parks, and Mark won't be able to make up nearly enough ground with his feet. I want to give Clemson the benefit of the doubt, but I haven't been convinced all season that the Tigers can beat an opponent like Virginia. This game simply comes down to whether or not Rook plays like the quarterback that led the Cavaliers to wins over Pitt and Duke. If he does, this game isn't close. If he plays like he did against UNC, Virginia Tech, or even Louisville, Clemson has a chance. Thank you all for an exciting 2020 season in the best damn conference in the land. Best of luck to both teams as they vie for the ACC Crown in the Hornet's Nest.
  15. Week 16 Preview Guide: W2W4, Bold Predictions, Keys to the Game, Game Predictions Teams in Action: TNF: Miami (FL) Hurricanes (3-8 at FSU), Florida State Seminoles (5-6 UM) FNF: North Carolina Tar Heels (6-5 at NCSU), NC State Wolfpack (2-9 UNC), Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-9 at Cuse), Syracuse Orange (3-8 Wake) Sat. Morning: #13 Clemson Tigers (9-2 SC), Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-9 #16 UGA), Virginia Tech Hokies (4-7 at #10 UVA), #10 Virginia Cavaliers (10-1 VT) Teams on Bye: Boston College Eagles (5-7), Louisville Cardinals (8-4), #23 Duke Blue Devils (9-3), #3 Pittsburgh Panthers (11-1) Thursday Night Football: Tallahassee, Florida: Miami (FL) Hurricanes (3-4 ACC, 3-8 overall) at Florida State Seminoles (3-4 ACC, 5-6 overall) What 2 Watch 4: The Seminoles' last stand. Florida State did what they needed to do against Wake, and now they'll have to do the same at home against rival Miami. The job should arguably be easier this time given how questionable Miami's pass defense has been, recording only 4 interceptions on the year - don't forget that Luke Cobb is only a Top 5 receiver nationally. While the Hurricanes do have a presence in the pass rush, it might not be nearly enough to get through FSU's solid offensive line and disrupt the efficient Benjamin Schuler. The 'Noles are fighting for bowl eligibilty, but I don't think this game will be much of a fight at all. Bold Prediction: Luke Cobb will have more receiving yards than Jason Ledford will have passing yards. A bit unrealistic a prediction, but hey, these need to be especially bold on rivalry week. Ledford has done exceptionally better than former starting quarterback Aiden Benton in terms of scoring and not throwing the ball to defenders, but they've been par for the course in terms of actual production. Cobb could have a field day with this secondary, but the same can't be said for Ledford as he goes up against a formidable pass rush and a few pro prospects in that secondary. Keys to the Game, UM: Control the clock offensively. Florida State can't score if they don't have the ball, right? Ronnie Peterson has to play a huge role in the offense, and Ledford has to avoid throwing picks - something that might not be as easy considering he threw three of them last outing against Nebraska. Defensively, I really can't suggest much outside of trying to pressure Schuler into some bad throws. Gavin Crockett has a respectable seven sacks on the season, and he'll have to come up with more if this defense is to stand a chance. With a grand total of eleven sacks, it's not out of the realm of possibility for the 'Canes to bring Schuler down twice or three times before the day is done. Keys to the Game, FSU: Spread the ball around. Yes, Cobb is obviously a juicy target in this one, but between Miami being really weak at corner and showing inexperience in the middle of the field, it'd be wise of Schuler to utilize the likes of Nicolas Singer and Wyatt Cornett to mix things up. On the other side of the ball, the key for the 'Noles is to force Ledford to throw. He's not going to beat the 'Noles with his arm barring a huge defensive breakdown, but Peterson can definitely run on a defense that at times has struggled against the run. Prediction: Miami (FL) 10-49 Florida State . I know Coach ajyoungmark has been mixing things up to get the best out of this squad, but I haven't seen nearly enough all season to inspire any sort of confidence against a Florida State team that, while they have struggled overall, has feasted on much weaker teams. 'Noles get that bowl berth after a very shaky 2020 season. Friday Night Football: Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Tar Heels (4-3 ACC, 6-5 overall) at NC State Wolfpack (1-6 ACC, 2-9 overall) What 2 Watch 4: How do the Heels build off a dominant win over Duke? North Carolina returned to their early-season form in tearing apart Duke's defense, but can they replicate that against a State defense that, for lack of better words, has been pisspoor at times this season? UNC has been about as inconsistent offensively as the Wolfpack have been defensively, so the real question regarding this game is whether or not good UNC/NCSU shows up or not. Bold Prediction: Isaiah Peko leads the Heels in receiving for a second-straight game. Running back Peko surprised everyone in a dominant receiving performance against the Blue Devils, compiling 89 yards and 2 touchdowns out of the backfield. While the Pack haven't allowed many running backs to do damage in the passing game, they haven't really played a running back capable of such damage. The interior of the Wolfpack defense has been mediocre at best this season; expect Peko to do lots of damage to that unit. Keys to the Game, UNC: Get the run game going. State's front seven have been worse than advertised against the run this season, and if Peko can get off the blocks quickly, it'll be a long day for both the rush defense and the pass defense. Likewise, the Heels need to shut down the ground game. Keith Harley hasn't been great by any means in his sophomore season, but forcing Blake Fry to throw is probably the best thing this Heels' defense can do. Keys to the Game, NCSU: Contain Peko. The rush defense really has gone missing as of late, but if Peko can be held down (both on the ground and through the air), then the Pack secondary might be able to handle a rejuvenated Max Laws. If the Heels' offense becomes one-dimensional similar to the way Louisville was a few weeks ago, State could very well come out with another win. Offensively, Blake Fry has to be quick and precise with the ball. As if being the best defensive end in this upcoming draft class wasn't enough, Josiah Harden came very alive against Duke, helping bring down freshman Bryce Thompson on three separate occasions. Fry can't take many hits this game - he'll have to get rid of the ball before Harden gets rid of him. Prediction: North Carolina 38-17 NC State . These are two teams that have gone in two very different directions this year, and that will be prevalent throughout the day. Win or lose, the Heels will be going to a bowl, but they'd much rather win here than suffer a second embarrassing loss in two seasons to the Wolfpack. Syracuse, NY: Wake Forest Demon Deacons (1-6 ACC, 2-9 overall) at Syracuse Orange (2-5 ACC, 3-8 overall) What 2 Watch 4: The end of an era in New York. Despite how the 2020 season turned out, the Orange defense has been loaded with talent. For the past few years, the likes of Noah Tubbs, Bradley Nunn, Antoine Mayfield, and Chance McKenzie have been terrorizing ACC offenses, finding a bulk of their success last season when the offense wasn't in shambles. We'll get to see this quartet of pro-talent one last time as they take on Oscar Sanderson and a middling Wake offense. Bold Prediction: The combined total for rushing yards will exceed 300. Sanderson has been a pleasant surprise for a Wake team that redshirted most of their offensive talent, hitting 100 yards rushing on four different occasions. On the flipside, Giovanni Coley has fully re-earned his starting spot by breaking 1,000 yards on the season, including hitting the century mark a solid six times. Coley and quarterback Christian Coates should find moderate success against a flimsy Wake front seven, whereas Sanderson can probably whip up a solid 80 against a formidable 'Cuse front seven. Keys to the Game, Wake: Run the ball as much as possible. Hemana Toma is easily considered a bottom three quarterback in the conference, and his receiving corp is nothing special by any means. Going up against the likes of Tubbs and Nunn in that secondary, it'd be wise for Toma to just hand the ball off to Sanderson, who can likely do more with a few runs than Toma should do in a half. The defense needs to keep Coates in the pocket and force him into throwing situations. The Orange receivers aren't nearly as good as the group the Deacons faced last week (FSU), and Coates, while accurate, has been turnover-prone through the air, throwing nine picks on the year so far. The Wake defense could thrive off passing situations in this game. Keys to the Game, Cuse: Stay safe with the ball. Between Coates and Coley, the ball has been turned over on ten separate occasions this season, and in a game where points might be more at a premium than expected, it's important that the ball not end up in the opposing team's hands. The defense needs to break into the backfield to slow down Sanderson before he hits the edges. The Demon Deacons have had on average the worst offensive line in the conference, and while the Orange haven't been great at breaking into the backfield this season, they should be able to get more opportunities in this one. Prediction: Wake Forest 13-20 Syracuse . I'm not particularly impressed with either offense, and I'd much rather take the team with the proven defense with pro-talent than the defense with exactly zero players looking forward to playing in the pros. Saturday Morning Football: Clemson, SC: South Carolina Gamecocks (6-5 overall) at #13 Clemson Tigers (9-2 overall) What 2 Watch 4: A Tigers team with something to prove. At #13 in the recent coaches poll, there's genuine belief that the ACC Atlantic Division champions can still make the playoffs with an upset win over either Virginia or Pittsburgh, both ranked in the Top 10. It's definitely not impossible, but Clemson can't start talking about playoffs unless they can take care of a much-improved Gamecocks team. The Gamecocks clinched a return to the postseason by handling Kentucky, and Milo Condon has turned things around with a solid season thus far. Can Clemson handle an upstart SC team? Bold Prediction: Condon will throw half as many picks in this game as he's thrown all year. With a 15-5 TD:INT ratio, you'd expect this to be a joke. But let's not forget that the Tigers still own one of, if not the best secondary in college football. The Tigers have forced 11 interceptions thanks in part to a load of talent in the secondary (Marquise Holliday and Malachi Douglas, to name a few) and a mean pass rush that has brought down the quarterback 20 times this season. The Gamecocks' offensive line has been decent but not great, and their receivers, while exceptional, have yet to take on the talent that the Tigers' defense brings. Keys to the Game, Clemson: The offensive line has to hold strong against a formidable SC pass rush. With 13.5 sacks of their own, the Gamecocks have had their fair share of QB takedowns. Clemson's O-Line has to give Jamel Armstrong time in the pocket to throw the ball - he'll definitely need all the time in the world given his 2020 track record. Defensively, pressure the hell out of Condon. Behind a somewhat average offensive line, Condon has had the benefit of not facing tough pass rushes this season. Welcome Glenn Thorpe and Co. to the field. If the Tigers can put enough pressure on the junior QB, the secondary should be licking their lips at a few misplaced balls. Prediction: South Carolina 14-31 Clemson . I really don't think the Gamecocks have won a meaningful game this season. They've lost to teams better than them and beat teams worse than them (with the exception of maybe Akron?). Clemson is far and away the best team on their schedule, and I can't see Clemson dropping the ball in a rivalry game at home with a shot at the playoffs still alive. Atlanta, GA: #16 Georgia Bulldogs (8-3 overall) at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-9 overall) What 2 Watch 4: Can the Jackets end this sour season on somewhat of a high note? It's been rough waters from the start in Atlanta, and without a reliable head coach in place, it's bound to end similar to last season's disaster in this same venue. Josh Beckett and Anthony Swanson both fell into a bit of sophomore slump, and the defense has been nonexistent. All of this can be blamed on a lack of proper coaching, but who's to say that they can't do the unthinkable and beat the Bulldogs at home? It's possible, right? Bold Prediction: Georgia scores more than 3/4ths of last year's total. The Bulldogs racked up 51 points in Atlanta last season, and with the Yellow Jackets playing as poor as they have been in recent weeks, it's not hard to imagine the Bulldogs putting up 38+ in this one. The real question is if Tech can put up more than 7, which they couldn't do last year. Keys to the Game, GT: Slow down Isaac Wilson. It's no question that the offense runs through the rushing attack, and Wilson has been as solid a back in the SEC as any. The Jackets have to lock him down and force Salvatore Tanner to throw the ball. The offense has to hold on to the ball; most importantly, Beckett can't afford to throw the ball away. The Georgia secondary has forced seven picks this season, led by athlete Dominique Dawkins (five). Beckett has thrown the second-most interceptions in the conference; adding to that total will surely make this game as miserable as the last. Prediction: Georgia 48-6 Georgia Tech . I have no faith in a coachless team going up against a Top 20 team in the country with a dominant running game. There's really not a lot I need to write about this game. Fans in Atlanta can't wait for the upcoming announcement regarding their new coach. One thing is for certain: they will love the hire. Charlottesville, VA: Virginia Tech Hokies (2-5 ACC, 4-7 overall) at #10 Virginia Cavaliers (6-1 ACC, 10-1 overall) What 2 Watch 4: Can the Cavs' handle the extra pressure of clinching the Coastal? The defense in particular cracked hard with the division crown in their grasp, allowing 40+ points and over 230 rushing yards against Louisville in a triple-overtime loss, their first of the season. The Hokies come to town with nothing to play for except ruining their rivals' season in the most crushing of manners. It's up to Matteo Rook and the offense to finish the job once and for all, but can they avoid the biggest choke job in the conference in recent years? Bold Prediction: The rush defense holds the Hokies to sub-100 rushing yards. One week after seeing DeSean Dockery put up his best performance of the season in an upset, the Cavaliers have to handle a similar-styled Hokie offense. Maurice Ervin is no Dockery though, lacking that killer speed that tore apart the Cavaliers last week. We'll see Virginia regroup and stifle Ervin and the VT offense. Keys to the Game, VT: Expose the rush defense. Is this a recurring theme or did Virginia succumb to Dockery's Heisman-like talent? If Ervin can find holes and pull off huge chunks of yards similar to Dockery a week ago, then the Hokies will be more than able to hand with a high-powered offense. The defense has to force turnovers, mainly in the passing game. Rook threw his 7th and 8th interceptions of the season against Louisville, and while that doesn't sound bad, it's notable in that he threw multiple picks for only the third time this season, with the former two (Duke and UNC) being in semi-close performances. Keys to the Game, UVA: I could use this for both offense and defense, but this mainly goes out to Coach npklemm: maintain composure. I feel that the playcalling and decision-making in the Louisville was a result of a lack of composure; as the game wore on and Louisville kept hanging around, the Cavs' became more and more nervous and made some hasty decisions. The Cavaliers can't let talks of a choke or of being overrated get to them. Virginia needs to play with only two things in mind: beating their rivals and clinching the Coastal. Outside of that, not throwing picks certainly goes a long way in winning the game. Prediction: Virginia Tech 20-34 Virginia . Virginia starts the game shakily, but they'll grow into the game and ride Rook to a small halftime lead. From there, it's all sunshines and rainbows and Virginia should wrap up the Coastal Division, a school-best 11-1 record, and one last game before a shot at the playoffs.
  16. Week 15 Preview: WRW4, Bold Predictions, Keys to the Game, Game Predictions Teams in Action: Sat. Morning: Florida State Seminoles (4-6 at Wake), Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-8 FSU), #4 Pittsburgh Panthers (10-1 at Cuse), Syracuse Orange (3-7 #4 Pitt), #17 Duke Blue Devils (9-2 at UNC), North Carolina Tar Heels (5-5 #17 Duke) Sat. Evening: Boston College Eagles (5-6 at #15 Clem), #15 Clemson Tigers (9-2 BC), #3 Virginia Cavaliers (10-0 at LVL), Louisville Cardinals (7-4 #3 UVA) Teams on Bye: NC State Wolfpack (2-9), Miami Hurricanes (3-8), Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-9), Virginia Tech Hokies (4-7) Saturday Morning Football: Winston-Salem, North Carolina: Florida State Seminoles (2-4 ACC, 4-6 overall) at Wake Forest Demon Deacons (1-5 ACC, 2-8 overall) What 2 Watch 4: Luke Cobb's Heisman push. It hasn't been the best of years for the Seminoles by any means, but Luke Cobb has continued putting up astronomical numbers this season, leading all ACC receivers in receptions (90), receiving yards (1,311), touchdowns (14), and yards per game (131.1). On the other end of the ball, Wake's secondary has been lackluster at best. While CB Alexander Glenn is T-3rd in the conference for interceptions with five, they haven't exactly been great at stopping the pass. There are worse units, but they've struggled against upper-level receivers, including Josiah McCray (8 for 109 yards, 1 TD) and freshman receiver Ricky Cameron (6 for 108 yards, 1 TD). Cobb is a different breed, and with Benjamin Schuler throwing to him, expect this to be a rough outing for the Deacs. Bold Prediction: Wake keeps this within two scores. Between the game being in Winston-Salem (where the Deacs have played better, relatively speaking) and last year's game being way closer than anticipated (27-17 FSU, also in Winston-Salem), I could see this being very similar in that Wake likely stands a chance for a half, especially given how one-dimensional the Seminoles have been offensively. Keys to the Game, FSU: Limit the ground game. It was Kyle Palmer's brave running that gave Wake a fighting chance last season, and Oscar Sanderson has carried the torch this year with 855 yards and 8 touchdowns in 10 games (and most importantly, no fumbles). The 'Noles have been susceptible to the run at times, but limiting Sanderson can and will be their one-way ticket to a 5th win and another week alive in the postseason hunt. Offensively, the 'Noles need to utilize tight end Wyatt Cornett (46 for 577 yards, 6 TD) and not force the ball to Cobb, as tempting as that can be. Expect Cobb to face rough coverage, and while he can certainly make plays in this secondary, it'd be wise to target other receivers in what should be a porous Wake defense. Keys to the Game, Wake: Limit the big play. Outside of a 29-yard touchdown pass last year, the Deacons' defense was great at making Florida State work for points. The 'Noles are a lot more one-dimensional with Richard Thurman being largely ineffective at running back, so it stands that the secondary has to limit opportunities. Wake has been decent at getting pressure on the quarterback (eight sacks among three linemen), so a solid presence in the backfield can help pressure Schuler into a few rushed throws. Offensively, Hemana Toma can not turn the ball over. While Sanderson has been great in keeping the ball to himself on the ground, Toma has been a turnover machine this year, being responsible for all fifteen of Wake's offensive turnovers (13 INT, 2 fumbles). Wake can't have a chance at pulling the upset if Toma gives the ball away like he has all season. Prediction: Florida State 24-10 Wake Forest . Florida State might be having an awful year in their standards, but Wake is still Wake, and there's nothing about this team that convinces me that they can knock off the Seminoles. I doubt Cobb has one of his best performances against the Deacons, but a big game from him should be more than enough to put away a pesky Wake side. Syracuse, New York: #4 Pittsburgh Panthers (6-1 ACC, 10-1 overall) at Syracuse Orange (2-4 ACC, 3-7 overall) What 2 Watch 4: How bad does Pitt want a playoff spot? Barring a Virginia fallout these next two weeks, this will be Pittsburgh's last game until the postseason. At #4 in the coaches poll and carrying wins over West Virginia and Penn State, a win at Syracuse virtually locks Pittsburgh into the playoffs (except in the case of that Virginia fallout, though a loss in the conference championship game wouldn't eliminate Pittsburgh by any means). The Panthers in general have been on a tear in recent weeks, most recently tearing NC State a new one in a 62-7 thrashing. Syracuse isn't that much better than State or other recent Pitt victims Georgia Tech, and given Pitt's recent results, you'd have to imagine that the drive for the final eight is indeed there. Bold Prediction: Adam Coles shows that he's the best receiver in the ACC this year. Whereas Cobb has been first in almost every receiving category in the conference, Coles has been right behind him, being 2nd in receptions (80), receiving yards (1,138), touchdowns (12), and yards per game (103.45). He'll be line up opposite 'Cuse CB Bradley Nunn (10 tackles and 3 INT), who has arguably had better seasons than this one. The 'Cuse secondary has surprisingly been porous, struggling against the likes of Cameron, McCray, Cornett, Cobb, and even Miami's Conor Pruett. With McConnell's improvement in the pocket going along with Coles' outstanding play in general, this could be a big game for the junior receiver. Keys to the Game, Pitt: Treat the Orange offense just like the Wolfpack offense. Pittsburgh was all over Fry and his receivers last week, limiting the Wolfpack offense to a measly 86 yards through the air. Coates has posted very similar passing numbers to Fry this season, and his receivers have more or less been on the same level as the Pack's receivers. I can't see Pittsburgh changing up their gameplan too much in this game, though they'll have to be a bit more concerned about Coates' ability to run the ball. Offensively, don't let Antoine Mayfield have a big impact in this game. Mayfield has been a monster in the middle of the field for the Orange, but he can be limited severely if Pittsburgh favors the outside both on the ground and in the air. Keys to the Game, Cuse: Stop the run. As dangerous as Pittsburgh is through the air, a lot of damage has come from the ground game. Jaeden Daniel has surprisingly been efficient running the ball this year, racking up 815 yards and 12 touchdowns; to add to that, Grant McConnell is a great dual-threat quarterback that's definitely effective when using his legs. The secondary has the talent to deal with the likes of Coles and Samuel Ritter, but they'll find themselves beat time and time again if Pitt can't be forced into obvious passing situations. The Syracuse offense has to make holes for Giovanni Coley. With 963 yards of his own on the ground, including 6 games of 100+ yards, Coley has been a workhorse this year (shocking given he was benched for a fullback last year). He has to have a presence in this game because I highly doubt that Coates can win it through the air. Prediction: Pittsburgh 38-17 Syracuse . I might be putting a bit more faith in the Syracuse defense with this prediction given just how dominant Pittsburgh has been this year. Pittsburgh should control this game thoroughly, and they'll likely benefit from shorter field position if the Orange can't get anything going offensively. A relatively easy in in Syracuse will have Pittsburgh at most a game away from the playoff, given that they're not already there. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: #17 Duke Blue Devils (5-2 ACC, 9-2 overall) at North Carolina Tar Heels (3-3 ACC, 5-5 overall) What 2 Watch 4: Will the streak finally end? You might not believe this given how much better Duke has been over UNC in recent years, but the Blue Devils have never beaten the Tar Heels. Last year was probably the most inexcusable loss, with the Tar Heels, despite all their struggles, winning 37-28 in Durham to end Duke's hopes of a first-ever bowl game. Duke looks to exorcise some demons while the Tar Heels are again somewhat down, though not to the extent of last year. With Bryce Thompson putting together one of the best seasons ever for a Duke quarterback and Christian Collins finally giving the Blue Devils a serviceable ground game as a freshman, Duke looks to ensure that six years of torment comes to an end at last. Bold Prediction: Duke holds UNC to a new low for points scored in this series. North Carolina is a very pass-oriented offense, with Isaiah Peko not taking too much work off the arm of Max Laws. Duke has been solid against the pass this year outside of a few iffy performances against a few big-name tight ends (Cornett, Jonathan Greer, Dovid Dobson) and the Luke Cobb game. While UNC TE Jeremy Patterson has overperformed for the Heels, the offense in general has been missing that flame that carried them to bigger wins early in the season. The fewest points scored by the Heels in this series is 21; anything lower is realistically possible given that these teams have been going in two different directions. Keys to the Game, Duke: Put pressure on Laws. With an average OL rating of 5.08, the Tar Heels' offensive line has been a bottom 5 unit in the conference, and that bodes well for a Duke front seven that has produced 12 sacks thus far. Omar Vasquez has been the main source of that pressure, recording a team-high 6.5 sacks, good enough for T-3rd in the conference (and more than probable first-round pick Josiah Harden). Max Laws already has some questionable accuracy issues (only 58.13% passing on the season), and putting him into situations where he either has to force a throw or take a sack can only add to those woes. Likewise, a solid offensive line unit for the Blue Devils has to give Thompson time to throw. The Tar Heels have a solid pass rush of their own, and while Thompson has been better than Laws when under pressure, it's still a good idea to give the freshman time to hit those important throws. Keys to the Game, UNC: Contain Thompson and Collins. There's two different meanings for contain in this situation. In regards to Thompson, he needs to be kept in a collapsing pocket; allowing him to extend plays with his legs is the worst thing this UNC defense can allow to happen. For Collins, the Heels have to keep the quick freshman from bursting into the open field. There's not enough quality in the second level of the defense to stop Collins; letting him get those 4-5 yards could turn into him pulling off 15+ yards. Prediction: Duke 27-16 North Carolina . As with most rivalry games, this one should be closer than what we'd normally expect, but I'm a firm believer that Duke is simply on another level this year, which is scary considering the classes they have coming in and the fact that the two best players on this team are freshmen. The streak ends at six, and Duke will capture their first 10-win season in school history and with that, a potential birth in the Orange Bowl. Saturday Evening Football: Clemson, South Carolina: Boston College Eagles (5-2 ACC, 5-6 overall) at #15 Clemson Tigers (6-1 ACC, 9-2 overall) What 2 Watch 4: A low-scoring showdown between a team fighting for survival and a team keeping its conference championship hopes alive, along with its sliver of a chance at the playoff. As has been publicized before today, the winner of this game will play in Charlotte for the conference title. For the Eagles, it's a win-or-go-home situation, with a loss eliminating them from bowl contention (barring an invite as a 5-7 team, which is possible). For Clemson, they're not entirely out of the playoff race, but a loss here not only ends those chances abruptly, but it also takes away the chance to defend their conference title. Expect a brutal fight in Death Valley for two teams in two different do-or-die situations. Bold Prediction: The two quarterbacks will throw more interceptions combined than total touchdowns scored by both offenses combined. The Eagles' defense matches up well against Clemson's dysfunctional offense, with the secondary picking off opposing quarterbacks ten times this season (star corner Andrew Boyd has six of those). Clemson signal-caller Jamel Armstrong has regressed from last year's conference champion team, throwing 14 interceptions this year, good enough for 2nd-most in the conference (behind Josh Beckett's 15). On the flipside, Donte Pickett hasn't been that much better, playing game-manager while Zahir Watts carries most of the workload, although Pickett has been putting up decent numbers against worst secondaries as of late. Clemson's secondary isn't like those that BC has faced so far though, as it remains as a Top 5 unit nationally. Expect poor performances from both quarterbacks. Keys to the Game, BC: Keep McCray quiet. While Armstrong hasn't had the best of times throwing it to his top target, McCray is still very dangerous when he gets the ball. Andrew Boyd, however, is a top corner in the country, and if he can lock out Armstrong's favorite target, the junior QB might be put under more pressure to make a throw against this dangerous defense. Offensively, there's not much to say outside of feeding Watts. If Watts has a good game and can move the ball for this offense, beating Clemson becomes entirely doable. If he doesn't get enough touches or if Clemson finds a way to limit him, it'll be tough to rely on Pickett to win. Keys to the Game, Clem: Get into the backfield. It's not a difficult task considering Clemson's Glenn Thorpe leads the conference in sacks (9.5) and is fourth among defensive ends in tackles (34), but it becomes pivotal for this front seven to stop Watts before he gets going. Pickett can be dealt with, but Watts is the clear threat for this defense. Offensively, Armstrong can't turn the ball over the way he's been doing this season. I expect a low-scoring game as it is, but it can only get worse for Clemson if Armstrong blesses the Eagles with great field position. Take care of the ball. Prediction: Boston College 13-17 Clemson . The Eagles are going to give it their all and try to take advantage of an offense that hasn't impressed this season, but Clemson just have too much talent defensively for this offense to get anything going. They'll benefit from good field position once or twice, but it'll be hard to see them take the W on Clemson's home turf with a division title, and possibly a playoff birth, on the line. Louisville, Kentucky: #3 Virginia Cavaliers (6-0 ACC, 10-0 overall) at Louisville Cardinals (4-3 ACC, 7-4 overall) What 2 Watch 4: Can Virginia close out what should be an easy division title? Their first chance at clinching comes in Louisville, where they'll be tasked with slowing DeSean Dockery and a team with a lot of upset potential in the Cardinals. While the Cardinals have been on a slide as of late, including an inexcusable loss to NC State, they still have a few big playmakers that can give the Cavs trouble. Virginia, in the meantime, is in a brand new situation - can they handle the pressure that comes with going perfect and wrapping up their first-ever division title? Things could get interesting in Louisville. Bold Prediction: Dockery has his worst performance since the Illinois game. Virginia has had a decent track record against running backs this year, with only Watts able to break the century mark (and he wasn't able to score in that game). Dockery is far and away the best running back in this conference, putting up numbers comparable to 2019's Elijah Harden. Virginia's defense is a new challenge of course, and the Cavs have enough talent at linebacker (notably OLB Cameron Faulk) to stifle Dockery's outstanding speed. It might not be as bad as the Illinois game (which wasn't that bad all things considered), but I don't expect Dockery to be the force that he's been since that first game of the season. Keys to the Game, UVA: Force Ayden Steele to throw the ball. Steele has the 3rd-worst completion percentage among starting quarterbacks (4th if you count former starter Aiden Benton of Miami) and is nearly 1:1 in touchdowns and interceptions. This game becomes one-way traffic if Dockery is held; it's very unlikely that Steele can win this game with his arm against a solid Virginia secondary. Offensively, the Cavs' OL has to be sharp in covering for Matteo Rook. Louisville's front seven has brought down opposing quarterbacks 15 times this season, with OLBs Prince Matos and Hudson Tompkins account for 5.5 of those opportunities. Virginia's OL has been the 2nd-best unit in the ACC this season (Pittsburgh), and they'll have to show this to give Rook time to expose a much weaker secondary. Keys to the Game, LVL: Limit Reginald Saunders. Virginia normally isn't known for their run game, but Saunders has powered up this year to the tune of 743 yards and 13 touchdowns. He's been a big part of this UVA offense, keeping the defense guessing and giving Rook a few more opportunities in the air. ILB Beckett Ring has been a stud for the Louisville front seven; he has to control the middle field and not allow Saunders to bully his way to an extra 2-3 yards per play. The offense needs to control the ball in this game. We know Virginia can score, but Louisville are capable of keeping the ball out of their possession. Dockery has to be Dockery, and Steele needs to not turn the ball over with careless throws. The less time the Cavs' offense has with the ball, the less time the Cavs have to score. Prediction: Virginia 28-17 Louisville . It's a closer one for sure, but Virginia has more than enough in the tank to take care of the Cards. I haven't talked a lot about Rook but he has quietly been the 2nd-best quarterback in this conference and has made a lot of progress between his junior and senior years. I don't think the Cardinals are capable of stopping him on a good day, and if Virginia is playing on point, I don't think there are many teams that can stop them this year.
  17. The ACC Network has officially released the Mid-season All-ACC team along with several awards recognizing a select group of players that have played above and beyond this season. Congratulations for those players that have been recognized below, and the Atlantic Coast Conference is proud to have these players represent the best damn conference in the land. Mid-Season All-ACC Team QB Matteo Rook, (Sr), Virginia: 148-226 (65.49%) for 1920 yards, 18 TD, 3 INT, 160.48 QB Rating The heart and sole of this Cavalier offense over the past three years, Rook has been phenomenal through the first half of the season. Often criticized for turning the ball over too many times in previous years, Rook now has the fewest interceptions in the conference to go along with the second-most touchdowns, playing a huge part in the Cavaliers' 6-0 start and a meteoric rise to the Top 10 in the country. RB DeSean Dockery, (Jr), Louisville: 149 carries for 804 yards (5.40 YPC), 11 TD It's been a strong first year in Division 1 football for Dockery, who rebounded from a lackluster opening game to slice through opposing defenses. With 5 games of 100+ yards, Dockery has been the driving force behind Louisville's rise to the top of the Atlantic, gashing the likes of normal division favorites Clemson and Boston College. Reginauld Saunders gives Dockery a run for his money, but being the only back averaging more than 5 yards per carry puts the new boy over the rest. FB Giovanni Coley, Sr, Syracuse: 142 carries for 629 yards (4.43 YPC), 6 TD At the beginning of the year, I recommended that the Orange stick with Anthony Smith at running back. Coley has more than proved me wrong after getting the nod, complimenting Christian Coates and breaking out in his final season in New York. Syracuse has still taken a step back with the loss of Dylan Bishop, but with Coley playing much better this season, 'Cuse have avoided crashing altogether, still claiming wins over Florida State and Boston College. WR Luke Cobb, Sr, Florida State: 59 receptions for 826 yards (14.00 YPR), 10 TD The player we all expected to be here has indeed done what he's needed to get here. In a heavily pass-oriented offensive, Cobb has far and away been the best receiver in the conference, and maybe even the country. Cobb continues his run as a potential Heisman candidate, though even his play has not been enough to ease the pain of a really poor first half of the season. Leading the rest of the conference by 200+ yards and 3 touchdowns, expect Cobb to continue on this tear and maybe set some records along the way. WR Adam Coles, (Jr), Pittsburgh: 44 receptions for 615 yards (13.98 YPR), 6 TD For as good as Cobb has been in Tallahassee, Coles has been just as amazing for Pittsburgh's successful 2020 campaign that has included a win over the defending national champs in rivals Penn State. The Panthers' passing game has thrived this season with Coles leading the way, giving Grant McConnell that reliable target in sticky situations. With the running game somewhat lacking this season, Coles has done more than enough to rise to the occasion. TE Jeremy Patterson, Sr, North Carolina: 36 receptions for 435 yards (12.08 YPR), 5 TD With Max Laws improving a ton this season, the passing game has finally picked up, thus leading to the surprising rise of Patterson. The senior tight end leads all players at that position in receiving yards and is tied for 1st in touchdowns, which is especially surprising given the talent at that position in the conference (Jonathan Greer of UVA and Jahmir Rolle of GT to name a few). If the Tar Heels are to keep winning, they'll need Patterson to keep performing with Laws. OT Shawaun Holsey, (Sr), Virginia: Team OL Rating of 7.03 Holsey has commanded the Cavalier offensive line this season, covering Matteo Rook with great success; Virginia have not allowed a sack in conference and have given Reginald Saunders the space he needs to pick up small chunks of yardage. Holsey should be a top NFL prospect this upcoming draft. OT Caleb Pope, (Jr), Florida State: Team OL Rating of 6.37 The only junior to make this list, Pope has yet to allow a sack on the right side of the offensive line. Schuler has needed time to throw with the running game being worse than sub-par, and Pope has done just that in a rather successful junior season. OG Aden Rosas, (Sr), Virginia: Team OL Rating of 7.03 Rosas has been just as solid as Holsey on the opposite side of the line, giving Rock ample time in the pocket while providing assistance to sophomore tackle Mahamadou Hooker. It's telling how dominant Virginia's line has been compared to the rest of the conference with the likes of Rosas and Holsey leading the way. OG Nicolas Quick, Sr, Clemson: Team OL Rating of 6.68 Quick is the most experienced member of this Clemson offensive line, and his play has shown just that in what's been a mixed first half for the Tigers. Outside of a poor-ish showing in the loss against Louisville, Quick and the offensive line have given Jamel Armstrong the time he's needed to make very important throws. C Tim Kerns, (Sr), Pittsburgh: Team OL Rating of 6.92 Kerns has taken charge over a youthful offensive line, molding them into a Top 3 unit in the conference and giving quarterback Grant McConnell all the time he needs. Despite the running game woes, Kerns has developed space nicely for McConnell and Jaiden Daniel. DE Glenn Thorpe, (Fr), Clemson: 25 tackles, 1 INT, 5.5 sacks It's been a strong debut season for Thorpe, giving the Tigers a strong pass rush by terrorizing backfields everywhere. With 2 sacks against TCU and 1.5 sacks against Syracuse, Thorpe has had plenty of strong performances this season, whether it's been bringing down the quarterback or stopping the running game in its tracks. Expect more from this young man, and expect Clemson to have a great pass rush for years to come. DE Tyler Ashworth, Sr, Florida State: 17 tackles, 3.5 sacks It hasn't been a great showing from the Seminoles' defense this year, but Ashworth has been better than anticipated this season, peaking so far with his 1.5 sack performance in the loss to Boston College. Ashworth, too, is a first-time starter, and his addition to this defense has kept the 'Noles in quite a few games. Expect Ashworth to take charge in this final half of the season in hopes of getting FSU back on track. DT Marcus Brown, (Sr), Clemson: 25 tackles, 2.5 sacks Next to Thorpe and senior Ivan Castle, Brown has been more than effective in contributing to the pass rush and in stopping the run. Clemson's defensive line plays second-fiddle to a Top 10 secondary in the country, but make no mistake; with playmakers like Brown and Thorpe running the show, good luck moving the ball. DT Bryan Hendrickson, Sr, Wake Forest: 16 tackles, 4 sacks Making up half of Wake's surprising pass rush, Hendrickson is a stud when it comes to getting into the backfield. Not many expected the senior to do much this year, but Hendrickson has come alive to lead a defensive resurgence in Winston-Salem, leading all defensive tackles in conference with his 4 sacks. OLB Stuart Patterson, Jr, North Carolina State: 34 tackles, 1 sack There have been few bright spots for the Wolfpack this season, but newcomer Patterson is certainly one of those. Patterson has been the star of the show for the Pack, leading the team in tackles (with more than 10 over the next highest total), and leading all but Antoine Mayfield in conference for that same statistic. It's been rough for State's defense, but Patterson's play could hopefully inspire a few teammates down the line. OLB Austin Milner, (Sr), Georgia Tech: 26 tackles, 2 INT, 1 FF, 1 FR Milner remains a hawk in the Yellow Jackets' midfield, halting plays in their tracks with jarring hits and enforcing his no-fly zone with charismatic power. Milner is responsible for three of the Jackets' seven turnovers on the year, having picked off quarterbacks twice and stripping the ball from none other than Evan Grant himself. ILB Beckett Ring, (So), Louisville: 25 tackles, 3 INT Louisville have lacked playmakers on defense in recent history, but Beckett Ring has filled that role in the Cardinals' rise to prominence, recording three interceptions in this first half while being a consistent tackler in the second level. Next to Prince Matos, Louisville's linebacker corp has gone from decent to great in one measly year. ILB Antoine Mayfield, Sr, Syracuse: 41 tackles, 1 INT Leading the conference in tackles, Mayfield has been a pivotal player in Syracuse's front 7. Mayfield has helped shut down relatively potent rushing attacks so far, with teams finding it difficult to hit the century mark in rushing yards. Throw in his awareness in coverage, and you've got a talented and effective leader of a surprisingly underrated defense. CB Timothy Parks, Sr, Virginia: 11 tackles, 4 INT, 1 TD Every great defense comes with a great cornerback, and sure enough, Timothy Parks is that man. The senior is tied for best in the conference in picking the ball off, notably being on the receiving end of throws from Bryce Thompson of Duke and Grant McConnell of Pitt. Despite struggling recently against the likes of Sean Spaczek and Adam Coles, Parks has more than proven just how much of a ballhawk he can be. CB Lucas Freeman, (So), Virginia Tech: 8 tackles, 3 INT, 1 TD Like Parks, Freeman has been the ballhawk that the Hokies' defense needed, rarely allowing quarterbacks to easily hit their targets on the edge. With picks on Chester Brenner and Max Laws, Freeman has shown that even higher-skilled quarterbacks aren't invulnerable to Freeman's solid play. FS D'Qwell Moore, Jr, Florida State: 17 tackles, 2 INT There's no questioning that this Florida State defense has talent, and Moore is just another example of that shining talent. With two picks and a respectable 17 tackles so far this year, Moore accounts for all but one interception by this Seminole defense. Moore's been a rock deep in this secondary, more than making up for any mishaps from less-experienced players. SS Noah Tubbs, (Sr), Syracuse: 26 tackles, 3 INT, 1 sack The MVP of this Syracuse defense, Tubbs has made play after play in a dominating first half, pulling in three interceptions and even a sack against Kentucky to compliment his 26 tackles thus far. Tubbs has unquestionably been the leader of a strong defensive side, and his performances so far have justified that. K Leonel Quezada, (Sr), North Carolina: 23/23 XP (100%), 11/11 FG (100%), 6 40-49 FG, long of 46 Quezada's gotten more work kicking for one than for three this season, but his accuracy from deep has given the Tar Heels crucial points at times this season, with more than half of his completed field goals coming from 40 yards or more. P Erik Kline, (Sr), Virginia Tech: 42.58 Punting Average, Top Single-Game Punting Average of 45.40 The ACC has quite a few punters with great legs, but Kline sits atop that mountain, having three of the four best performances by a punter this season, including averaging an incredible 45.40 yards per punt against Oklahoma State in a nail-biting loss. Mid-Season ACC Awards Offensive Player of the Mid-Season: WR Luke Cobb, Sr, Florida State: 59 receptions for 826 yards (14.00 YPR), 10 TD The preseason Heisman candidate out of Tallahassee has lived up to the hype with a few immaculate performances in this first half. It helps being Benjamin Schuler's favorite target, but his general consistency and ability to make big catches makes him the best offensive player in the conference so far. Defensive Player of the Mid-Season: DE Glenn Thorpe, (Fr), Clemson: 25 tackles, 1 INT, 5.5 sacks It's crazy to think that a freshman could earn this award in just eight weeks of play, but Thorpe has broken out in unbelievable fashion, just claiming this award over Noah Tubbs. Thorpe has exploded into opposing backfields and onto the scene as one of the country's best defensive ends. Offensive Freshman of the Mid-Season: QB Bryce Thompson, (Fr), Duke: 113-190 (59.47%) for 1308 yards, 9 TD, 4 INT, 128.72 QB Rating; 30 carries for 87 yards (2.90 YPC), 6 TDs He's been far from perfect so far, but Thompson has made play after play to lead Duke to a 5-1 record and on the verge of their first-ever bowl appearance. The dual-threat quarterback has the 2nd-fewest interceptions in the conference (tied with Ayden Steele of Louisville) and is 6th in terms of yardage. When not moving the ball through the air, Thompson has been able to pull off big runs to extend drives or, in most cases, get into the endzone, accounting for half of Duke's rushing touchdowns. Defensive Freshman of the Mid-Season: DE Glenn Thorpe, (Fr), Clemson: 25 tackles, 1 INT, 5.5 sacks It shouldn't come as a surprise after being named the Defensive Player of the Mid-Season. Thorpe has far and away been the best freshman defender this season, with his 5.5 sacks being unrivaled in the conference as a whole, let alone along freshman. Clemson should have a stud for years to come if he keeps making this kind of impact. Coach of the Mid-Season: npklemm, Virginia (6-0) This was really close between Broletariat, who has Louisville flying and on course for a first-ever birth in the ACC Championship Game, and npklemm, but klemm gets the nod thanks in part to two huge wins over up-and-coming Duke and division favorite Pittsburgh. Virginia now have a game to spare in their quest for their first appearance in the conference title game, but that seems like a consolation with Virginia threatening for a Top 4 seed in the CFBHC Playoffs. Klemm has the Cavaliers playing better than anyone expected, and we should see Virginia in the national conversation for the rest of this season.
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