ACC: Clemson Tigers

ACC bowl projections: Week 3

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
8:00
PM ET
The ACC makes no sense right now. Virginia Tech thumps Ohio State on the road, then loses to East Carolina at home. Boston College coughs up 214 rushing yards to James Conner one week, then holds USC to 20 yards on the ground the next. Georgia Tech is 3-0, but has hardly looked impressive yet. Oh, and there’s that little matter of the conference’s top two teams facing off this coming Saturday.

For now, we’re doing the best we can with a fluid situation, so fair warning that these projections are a moving target at this point in the season.

College Football Playoff: Florida State
Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Notre Dame*
Russell Athletic Bowl: Virginia Tech
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Pittsburgh
Belk Bowl: Duke
Hyundai Sun Bowl: Miami
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Louisville
Military Bowl presented By Northrop Grumman: Virginia
Duck Commander Independence Bowl: North Carolina
Quick Lane Bowl: Boston College
BITCOIN St. Petersburg Bowl: Georgia Tech

*Note: Notre Dame is eligible for a bid to any ACC tie-in game unless it is selected for a New Year’s Six game, which can include playing an ACC team in the Orange Bowl.

ACC Power Rankings: Week 3

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
2:00
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What we learned in the ACC: Week 3

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
1:03
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Here’s what we learned in the ACC following the Week 3 slate of games. One thing we already knew -- and which the ACC proved again Saturday -- is that this can often be a befuddling league.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Smith celebration
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsEast Carolina's stunning upset of Virginia Tech knocked the Hokies out as a College Football Playoff contender.
1. Two more ACC schools are knocked from the College Football Playoff discussion.
And that could change again by the end of next week, as No. 23 Clemson travels to No. 1 Florida State on Sept. 20. With Saturday’s results, the ACC turns its eyes to you, Clemson, Duke, Florida State and Pittsburgh. And to be honest, most aren’t considering Duke or Pitt legitimate contenders just yet, considering each school’s nonconference schedule. Virginia Tech offered hope that a Coastal team might be able to crack the playoff four, but the Hokies laid an egg in the first quarter against East Carolina and were knocked off. Considering it came a week after their big road win at Ohio State, it leaves a sour taste in ACC mouths. Louisville was loading up the hype train after a nice win against Miami in a prime-time setting, but the Cardinals’ offense was suffocated by upset-minded Virginia. Pittsburgh has a manageable schedule and would almost certainly get in if undefeated, but the Panthers don't have the look of a team destined for a spotless record just yet. So once more, the ACC is looking to you, Clemson and FSU.

2. The ACC Coastal: 'Bring your brooms, because it’s a mess.'
Marty Huggins from “The Campaign” said it best, and there’s really no need to compound on what he said as far as the ACC Coastal goes. Following last week, it seemed Virginia Tech was the team to beat in the division. It certainly could still be that team as the East Carolina loss was out of conference, but there isn’t nearly as much confidence in the Hokies any longer. Pittsburgh was the flavor of the hour last week after a dominating win on a Friday night, but the Panthers struggled against a terrible Florida International team. Georgia Tech is 3-0 but has been less than impressive in all three wins. North Carolina hasn’t looked great, either. Right now, it is only Duke quietly taking care of business, which is what it did last season, too.

3a. Boston College was a bunch of Dudes on Saturday. So was the Virginia defense.
That is Steve Addazio’s motto for his team, and that is an apt way to describe what we saw from the Eagles against No. 9 USC. Many felt the Eagles had a chance to keep it close, but few felt they would be able to upset a USC team coming off a win at Stanford. Boston College followed the lead of its quarterback, Tyler Murphy, beating up the Trojans on the ground to the tune of 452 rushing yards. After a lopsided loss to Pittsburgh last week, it seemed Boston College was destined for a down year, but now the Eagles have the look of a bowl team. They’re not going to win the Atlantic, but that defense is nasty, and with Murphy running the option, the offense is efficient enough that this might not be the last upset the Eagles pull off in 2014.

In the aftermath of the BC win, we almost forgot the effort from Virginia, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Virginia deserves the recognition, and while it doesn’t use the same "Be A Dude" motto, you can certainly apply it to that Cavaliers defense after its performance against Bobby Petrino’s Louisville offense. All afternoon, quarterback Will Gardner was harassed and made uncomfortable. He was hit, chased and had passes batted back into his face. Eventually, Petrino turned to his backup quarterback. And just like Boston College, the Virginia offense never gave Louisville the ball back in the final minutes after forcing a Cardinals punt. If the Cavs can get any help from their offense, this is a bowl-worthy team. Good for Mike London and his team, which went winless in the ACC last season.

3b. The ACC owns prime time.
Virginia Tech last week. Boston College this week. Just let us have this one.

4. Speaking of Pitt and Georgia Tech, what do we make of their scares?
That one depends on the team. First, there is something to be said to still being undefeated at this point even if the competition is not very good. Now that that is out of the way, I’d be much less concerned with Pitt’s first-half struggles in its 42-25 win than Georgia Tech’s second-half nightmare against Georgia Southern. The Panthers were playing in a noon game against a dreadful FIU team. They came out flat. It happens in college football, and it happens a lot. Ideally, a coach never has those performances, but they’re hard to avoid. Expect a much more focused Pitt team against Iowa. As for the Yellow Jackets, this is becoming a trend. They did not look great against FCS teams Wofford or Tulane, and Saturday they blew a 25-point second-half lead to Georgia Southern. Georgia Tech needed an 11-play, 72-yard drive to score the game-winning touchdown with 23 seconds remaining and earn a 42-38 victory.

5. Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya can sling it.
The Hurricanes opened up the playbook a little more for Kaaya, and he responded with 342 passing yards, a school record for a true freshman. The Miami offense was balanced on first down, which allowed Kaaya to throw in situations in which defenses weren’t always expecting it. What really stood out to coach Al Golden in the Hurricanes' 41-20 win over Arkansas State was how Kaaya audibled into a new play at the line of scrimmage several times, including on two touchdowns. “Brad hits the quick out that Phillip [Dorsett] ends up taking. That’s all him. The other check that we ended up scoring on, the run, [it was] the same thing there. That was all him on the line of scrimmage,” Golden said. And the first touchdown was a deep throw, which Kaaya struggled with in the first two games. On throws of at least 10 yards in the first two weeks, he was 7-of-17 for 188 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions.

ACC mailblog

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
4:00
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Time to open up the mailbag. And don't forget to follow me on Twitter!

Ernest Brooks in New York writes: You are giving Louisville's defense the Rodney Dangerfield treatment ... no respect. Miami only scored 13 points on our defense (three points are a turnover on the 5-yard line). ... No way Virginia scores 17 points. All you writers at ESPN will realize soon enough that Louisville is for real. My thoughts have not changed ... we will win the division. Go Cards!

Andrea Adelson writes: Well, we do have the Cards No. 3 in the power rankings, so I don't think anyone here believes they are pretenders. As for the score, Virginia has done a terrific job creating turnovers. I got to 17 penciling in a defensive score.

 
Kirk Bare in Arlington, Virginia, writes: Ms. Adelson, respectfully, Maryland was not the second-most important rivalry for UVa. Yes, most Wahoos consider it a big game, but they do not look at the schedule and figure out a way to get to the game like we do for Tar Heels and Hokies games. It was always a much bigger game for the Maryland fans than UVa fans. ... They had no other game to be considered a rivalry. North Carolina vs. Virginia is a much bigger rivalry in football than the UVa-Maryland ever was. Many"'old timer" wahoos still believe it is a bigger rivalry than with VPI (the old-school way of referring to the college in Blacksburg). UVa-UNC, I believe, is the fourth-oldest rivalry in college football and the oldest in the South. ... I do agree with you 100 percent that in order for Louisville to become a rivalry with UVa, some pretty big games need to occur. I can only hope that the Wahoos become more competitive in football and make that a possibility. It is interesting to note that overall, the two athletic programs are some of the most well-funded and competitive in nonrevenue sports in the country. There will be rivalries in other sports definitely. The ACC is very lucky to have Louisville as a member school.

Adelson: Thanks for sharing, Kirk! Great perspective.

 
Kevin in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, writes: Does a double standard exist for the ACC and other conferences? Florida State plays three big-time nonconference programs, but somehow they have an easy schedule, according to the media. I can't think of any other Power 5 conference team that plays three big-time nonconference programs though. Virginia Tech just beat Ohio State, but somehow they are still ranked behind Ohio State in the coaches poll? People scream strength of schedule as the ACC started the season with only three ranked teams, but teams climb in and out of the rankings as the season goes on, so how does anyone in the media know how strong a schedule truly is before a single game gets played? ... USC had a nice win against Stanford, but how do we know Stanford is a great team? UCLA has struggled, but they retain a high ranking. What do we really know about Arizona State after the two wins they had, considering the opponents they played? Oregon proved themselves against Michigan State, but their other two nonconference opponents are a complete joke. ... Virginia Tech and Louisville are very underrated teams. After the season Duke had, I thought they might get some more respect this season. I do think the SEC is the best conference, but after that, I really think it's a tie for second place between the Big 12, ACC and Pac-12. I don't see anything tangible that makes the Pac-12 the second-best conference. It just appears that some conferences get a pass while other conferences have it earn it more to get the same recognition.

Adelson: Certain conferences that have had teams in the national championship conversation on a yearly basis are perceived to be better. And, well, there is an annual love fest with Oregon, and I think that has influenced how much people gush about the Pac-12. I looked at the Ducks' schedule, and they have two ranked teams remaining, as of right now. Florida State has three. Having said that, there is absolutely no explanation for Ohio State being voted ahead of Virginia Tech in the coaches' poll. That is an embarrassment. Thankfully, that poll is irrelevant now. Having said all this, I think rankings should start mid-October. Preseason polls make no sense for a host of reasons. Mostly, we have no idea which teams will actually be good until the season begins. I also believe those perceptions are formed in the preseason and then carried through, hurting conferences and programs.

 
Ethan in New York writes: Hi Andrea! As a Hokies fan, I am elated at Virginia Tech's win in the'Shoe Saturday night, especially seeing it wasn't just a win, it was domination. I have been very impressed with our new quarterback, Michael Brewer, and the defense stood tall as usual. Does this win put Virginia Tech as the front-runners in the Coastal race, even though it wasn't a conference win? And what do you put their chances at running the table in the regular season at?

Adelson: I changed my mind about the Hokies before the season started and pegged them as the Coastal favorites. The win at Ohio State reinforced my opinion. The defense was great, as usual, but it was Brewer that carried this team through. He is a difference-maker. So couple an effective offense with a stellar defense and you have the recipe Virginia Tech has used to win Coastal titles in the past. As for running the table ... I think the biggest test ahead is at Pitt on Oct. 16. The Hokies should be undefeated headed into that game. Based on just two games, I am going to say 50 percent chance right now at running the table. Not enough of a sample size to go higher than that right now.

 
Daniel in York, South Carolina, writes: I know I am coming from the side of the glasses that make everything seem orange, but I have to address your Week 2 power rankings for the ACC. First, here is my slow clap for Virginia Tech beating an Ohio State team, judging on the first two games, that shouldn't be in the top 20, much less top eight. Do you, Andrea Adelson, see a top-10 team in Ohio State the first two games? I don't. OK, on to the standings. After Week 1, you had Louisville and Clemson tied at second. Then, after Week 2, not only do you have Virginia Tech skyrocketing to second place, but you have Louisville jumping Clemson while falling to third and Clemson at fourth. OK, I need your help to understand the love for Virginia Tech jumping to second and Clemson being jumped by Louisville all the way to fourth. I do not understand your mathematical equation you used to come up with the placement of each team, seeing how they were tied the week before and that both teams played outmatched opponents, basically making the results null.

Adelson: The four ACC reporters -- myself, David Hale, Matt Fortuna and Jared Shanker -- rank the teams 1-14 and assign point values. First-place gets 14 points, all the way down to one point for No. 14. The reason there was a tie last week was because Clemson and Louisville received the same number of points. The reason there was no tie this week is because three of us had Louisville No. 3. I can only speak for my own rankings. After Week 1, I had Louisville No. 2 and Clemson No. 3. The Cards beat Miami pretty handily; Clemson lost to Georgia. After Week 2, I moved Virginia Tech to No. 2 because I deemed that a better win, on the road against a Top 10 nonconference opponent. Clemson still has only one victory, against an FCS team. So, essentially, I do my power rankings based on the win quality and the way the team played, and they are adjusted every week. Maybe Ohio State was over-ranked, but I still count winning in Columbus as a solid victory. If Ohio State ends up being mediocre, I will take that into account in my ranking. If Clemson beats Florida State, then I absolutely will consider the Tigers for the No. 1 spot based on strength of victory. That's why we do these every week!

ACC morning links

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
8:00
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Let's get the morning started with a few quick news items:

Miami receiver Stacy Coley is out against Arkansas State on Saturday with a shoulder injury. The announcement is not a huge shock, considering Coley was in a non-contact jersey during practice this week after getting hurt against Florida A&M. Still, Coley has not gotten off to the start the Hurricanes anticipated after a breakout freshman season.

He only has three catches for 9 yards, all in the opener against Louisville, as the Miami offense has struggled to find consistency and production in the passing game. Coley was a major deep threat for Miami a year ago, averaging 17.9 yards per catch. But with freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya, Miami has not been able to get its downfield passing game going the way it did with Stephen Morris, who excelled at the deep ball.

The season is early, and Coley is not seriously injured. Perhaps he will be back next week when the Hurricanes travel to Nebraska. But there's no doubt Miami is going to need a Kaaya-to-Coley connection to develop for the passing game to be seen as a serious threat. Miami does have depth at the position with Phillip Dorsett, Malcolm Lewis, freshman Braxton Berrios, and Herb Waters. But Coley is the most dynamic player in that group.

Meanwhile, Virginia Tech defensive tackle Corey Marshall is questionable for the East Carolina game with a sprained ankle. Marshall was hurt last week against Ohio State, and would be a pretty big loss for the group up front. As the Roanoke Times notes, Marshall has six quarterback hurries already this season and was the MVP of the spring for the Hokies. Facing a veteran quarterback in Shane Carden, the Hokies will want to keep the pressure on to disrupt his timing in the pass game.

If he can't play, Woody Baron would get the start. Tight end Kalvin Cline also is out for his third straight game.

Finally, North Carolina announced it had concluded its investigation into an alleged hazing incident between football players last month. But that is basically all the school said. No details were provided on what exactly happened; on the players involved; or whether what happened was, indeed, a hazing incident. The information gathered has been given to the student attorney general, who will decide whether any player will be charged through the honor court.

Strangely enough, the Raleigh News & Observer reported earlier this week that a police report on the alleged incident was riddled with errors. The truth, it seems, remains elusive.

Now here's a look at what else is happening in the ACC:
Virginia Tech’s tight ends have made a big difference for the Hokies’ offense so far this season, writes The Roanoke Times.

Bucky Hodges and Ryan Malleck have been excellent, and even without Kalvin Cline, the only tight end to catch a pass for the Hokies last season, the position has been a big plus through two games.

I noted the significant uptick in tight end targets earlier this week, too, in our stats column, but here are a few more tidbits worth passing along:
  • Virginia Tech’s tight ends have combined for 163 receiving yards so far this season -- the fifth-most by any team in the country.
  • The 23 targets for the Hokies’ tight ends ranks third nationally, trailing only Oregon State and Penn State. The Hokies have only targeted their wide receivers 27 times so far this year.
  • Among teams targeting tight ends at least 15 times so far this season, only Purdue and UAB’s position groups have caught a higher percentage of passes thrown their way.
  • Among ACC teams, only Louisville comes close to the Hokies in terms of targeting its tight ends. The Cardinals have thrown to tight ends 21 times. That makes sense since Louisville has a star tight end in Gerald Christian and is playing without its top receiver in Devante Parker.
  • Syracuse should have its tight end, Josh Parris, back in time for the Maryland game next week, writes The Post-Standard. That’s good news for the Orange, who targeted a tight end just twice in their opener.

Other tight end production around the ACC through two weeks:

Wake Forest -- 14 targets
Florida State -- 12
Miami -- 10
UNC -- 8
NC State -- 8
Duke -- 8
Clemson -- 8
Pitt -- 5
Virginia -- 4
Boston College -- 0
Georgia Tech -- 0

A few more links:

ACC playoff watch: Week 3

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10
3:00
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The march to the College Football Playoff figures to include plenty of twists and turns, and at season’s end, the ACC is hoping to have at least one team with a chance to win a national championship. Throughout the year, we’ll monitor the league’s chances and preview the biggest battles still ahead.

Where the ACC stands: After a perfect week against nonconference foes and an implosion by the Big Ten, the ACC jumped into the No. 4 spot in the latest ESPN conference power rankings. The conference increased its rating 7.2 points — by far the best week of any FBS league. The problem for the conference, however, is that there still aren’t a ton of teams widely considered elite, with Florida State checking in at No. 4 in ESPN’s Football Power Index, but no other team ranked higher than 17th.

Top playoff contenders: FSU (No. 1 AP poll, No. 4 FPI), Virginia Tech (17/28), Louisville (21/31), Clemson (23/17), Pitt (NR, 25).

Nonconference record: 20-3 overall (11-0 last week), 8-3 vs. FBS, 2-2 vs. Power 5

Week 2 recap: It was a perfect week for the ACC and an utter implosion for the league’s closest competition, the Big Ten. While the ACC added another legitimate contender to the playoff mix with Virginia Tech’s upset of Ohio State in The Horseshoe, the Big Ten saw the Buckeyes, Michigan State and Michigan all lose. This followed a loss for Wisconsin in Week 1, meaning four of the league’s top teams all now have an "L."

The Hokies did their part, but much the rest of the ACC continued to look flawed, as one-time chic pick North Carolina needed a furious comeback to beat San Diego State at home and top-ranked Florida State left some fans grumbling after a less-than-gaudy 37-12 win over The Citadel. After winning all of its games by an average of nearly 40 points last season, the Seminoles are again 2-0, but by an average margin of just 15. That certainly shouldn’t undermine FSU’s playoff chances, but it does provide the appearance of vulnerability, and in this new College Football Playoff era, appearances can be important.

Week 3 preview: Well, Week 2 was fun, right? Hopefully you got your fill of ACC action because Week 3 doesn’t offer much other than opportunities for the league to take a big step back.

Virginia Tech proved its value at Ohio State, but this week the Hokies welcome pesky East Carolina. The history for the two programs includes plenty of good games, including last year’s contest in which Tech came back from a three-point, second-half deficit to win 15-10. This certainly appears to be a much improved Hokies team, but after the big win in Columbus, a let-down game certainly wouldn’t be unexpected.

Meanwhile, Pitt travels to Florida International after two dominant wins to start the season. The Panthers should be able to handle FIU, but road games are rarely easy. The same goes for Syracuse, NC State and Wake Forest — all of whom travel to play on the home turf of non-Power 5 opposition.

But if possible upsets are the key story line for Week 3, we’d be remiss not to mention Boston College, too. The Eagles could deal another big blow for the ACC if they can pull off an upset over No. 9 USC in Chestnut Hill. Boston College was torched by Pitt’s James Conner last week, which doesn’t offer much hope for slowing down the Trojans’ Javorius Allen, but perhaps the Eagles can use those low expectations to fuel an unlikely victory. If they did, the ACC’s status as a distant fourth in the conference power rankings could be erased quickly.
For the third consecutive season, this could be the game that dictates the Atlantic Division and potentially the ACC: Clemson-Florida State.

It was a highly anticipated showdown in October, and while the hype machine isn't quite rolling like it was in 2013, the Sept. 20 version could end up being a much better game. That is because both teams have a bye, and will have two weeks to prepare.

But which team benefits more from the extra week?

Florida State benefits most, says Jared Shanker:

There is certainly a case for each school needing the bye week more, but, for starters, Florida State's defensive line is reeling after The Citadel game when three tackles, including starters Eddie Goldman and Nile Lawrence-Stample, exited early with lower leg injuries. The Seminoles were considerably luckier in 2013, dealing with very few injuries, especially at marquee positions.

The depth at defensive tackle was already questionable for Florida State, so the bye week allows the Seminoles to rehab. If the tackles can't go, and Goldman might be the most likely candidate to sit out, the extra practices should help prepare backups Desmond Hollin, Derrick Mitchell Jr. and true freshman Derrick Nnadi for a significant number of snaps. And with Clemson's up-tempo approach, those three could be on the field a lot if the Tigers' offense finds a rhythm.

Florida State's defense could use the extra week to shore up a few early-season deficiencies. Both Oklahoma State and The Citadel found running room against the Seminoles, and ESPN metrics are not impressed with the defense thus far. Florida State ranks 85th among FBS schools in defensive efficiency after finishing No. 1 in that category last season.

It was known going into the season there would be some bumps for a defense that lost pieces throughout the unit, including the coaching staff. Linebackers coach Charles Kelly was promoted to defensive coordinator after Jeremy Pruitt resigned to become the DC at Georgia. The front seven was dealt major blows this offseason with the departures of Timmy Jernigan, Christian Jones and Telvin Smith. All three were on NFL opening-day rosters.

The offense is seemingly in good shape, although Florida State could stand to continue developing a threat opposite Rashad Greene at receiver. There is a lot of confidence in Jesus Wilson, who scored a touchdown in his first game back from suspension. The 5-foot-9 Wilson doesn't have prototypical size for an outside receiver, but coach Jimbo Fisher and quarterback Jameis Winston both believe Wilson more than makes up for his height with his speed and route running.

Overall, it isn't panic time in Tallahassee, but the early bye is definitely welcomed.

Clemson benefits most, says David Hale:

There's no doubt Clemson benefits from the bye week before the trip to Tallahassee, but just what coach Dabo Swinney and his staff plan to do with the time remains something of a mystery.

The biggest reason for that, clearly, is the topic Swinney doesn't want to talk about: Quarterbacks.

In the first two games of the season, Cole Stoudt has gotten the bulk of the reps, leading 21 drives. Freshman phenom Deshaun Watson has led just seven drives, but there are plenty of Tigers fans who believe he looks like the better option already.

That's not necessarily fair, because Stoudt was subjected to much more time on the field against Georgia, while Watson padded his stats a bit against South Carolina State. But it is true that the offense has been far more prolific with Watson under center -- nearly twice the yards-per-play -- through two games, and the freshman has made some very pretty throws while also proving to be a weapon as a runner. Stoudt's biggest asset is his experience, but even Swinney admitted after Saturday's game that Watson's knowledge of the playbook isn't far behind.

So what happens against Florida State?

Frankly, it would be a shock if Watson started, but it also would be a surprise if offensive coordinator Chad Morris hasn't gotten busy already dreaming up some new ways to utilize Watson against an FSU defense that has looked a bit vulnerable in the first two games -- particularly against a mobile QB in Oklahoma State's J.W. Walsh, who had 65 yards and two TDs on 10 carries in the opener.

It's not that an extra week of prep is suddenly going to allow Watson to morph into an experienced veteran, but after two weeks of real games -- one against tough competition, one not -- Clemson may have a better idea of what it has in the young QB, and Morris may have a few new ideas about how to use that ability as a weapon.

All the other bye-week narratives apply here, too: Getting healthier, getting rested, extra film study. But the real wild card is Watson, and even Florida State can't be sure what to expect when he's unleashed on Sept. 20.

ACC morning links

September, 9, 2014
Sep 9
8:00
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The coaching opening at SMU is one that should interest several head and assistant coaches, and with the university being located in Dallas, there is already talk of whether one of the ACC’s top assistants will be interested in taking over the Mustangs program.

Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris was a high school coach in Texas for 16 seasons before joining Tulsa’s staff in 2010. Whenever there is an opening at just about any school, Morris’ name is almost certain to come up. However, Morris has remained loyal to the Tigers and is waiting for the right opportunity.

On its surface, it might not make much sense considering SMU is not a Power 5 school, and Morris could possibly land at one of those programs if he waits for the right opportunity. However, just how much will the draw of returning to Texas interest Morris, who turns 46 in December? FOXSports.com’s Bruce Feldman listed seven potential replacements for June Jones, and Morris is one of them. (Ohio State assistant Tom Herman also has ties to the state and is the other popular name being mentioned.)

The season is still in its infancy and it’s early to speculate about potential candidates for the Mustangs job, but few would be surprised if Morris’ name begins popping up on the rumor mill.

Here are a few more links from around the conference:

ACC morning links

September, 8, 2014
Sep 8
8:00
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Is it time to start worrying about Florida State?

I was having that discussion Sunday afternoon and felt it is still too early to make any meaningful determination on the Seminoles. After all, our Brad Edwards has Florida State still in his predicted playoff field even if the Seminoles did drop to No. 4 in the Football Power Index (FPI).

Everyone agrees Florida State has not been as dominant as most expected, but Oklahoma State, despite the lineup overhaul, is probably better than many gave the Cowboys credit for. It's not as if the Seminoles played poorly in Dallas either, but rather did not win in a convincing manner.

In Week 2, Florida State beat The Citadel 37-12, and the defense struggled at times in the first half. But The Citadel is an FCS opponent and a team that runs the option, and it can be tricky defending those teams with just a week of practice.

ESPN metrics, however, raises questions on the Seminoles' defense. According to ESPN's defensive efficiency, which measures how many points a defense contributes to its team's net scoring margin and adjusts for the strength of opposing offenses, Florida State is ranked 85th among FBS teams. They Seminoles led the country in defensive efficiency last season.

I'm still not ready to judge Florida State based on the season's first two weeks, although it's clear this team has legitimate concerns. Every team does.

What is worth keeping an eye on is Florida State's schedule might be tougher than originally thought. Florida, Louisville and Notre Dame look to be bigger challenges as the three have combined to start the season 5-0 with a convincing win in each game. The FPI originally gave Florida State a 38 percent chance to finish the regular season undefeated, but that number has dropped to 13 percent.

Before the season began, the FPI gave Florida State a 94 percent chance to beat Notre Dame. That percentage has now dropped to 66. Their chances of winning dropped double-digit percentage points against Clemson (13 percentage points), Florida (20) and Louisville (17), too, according to the ESPN Production Analytics Team. The Seminoles' next game is Sept. 20 against Clemson.

Is Florida State as good as advertised this preseason? It's still probably too early to tell. What is clear is the Seminoles' road to a second undefeated season is much tougher, and that could pose the biggest threat.

Here are a few more links to help kick off Week 3:

ACC bowl projections: Week 2

September, 7, 2014
Sep 7
8:00
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Virginia Tech’s big win combined with a manageable schedule the rest of the way vaults the Hokies into the No. 2 spot in the ACC and a berth in the Orange Bowl in our projections. Notre Dame makes a nice jump, too, based on its dominant win over Michigan and the obvious allure for a top-tier bowl. The rest of this week’s projections are educated guesses, but so much is up in the air. For now, this is how the bowl picture stacks up.

College Football Playoff: Florida State
Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech
Russell Athletic Bowl: Notre Dame
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Louisville
Belk Bowl: Clemson
Hyundai Sun Bowl: North Carolina
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Pittsburgh
Military Bowl presented By Northrop Grumman: Duke
Duck Commander Independence Bowl: Miami
Quick Lane Bowl: Virginia
BITCOIN St. Petersburg Bowl: Georgia Tech

ACC Power Rankings: Week 2

September, 7, 2014
Sep 7
2:00
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ACC helmet stickers: Week 2

September, 7, 2014
Sep 7
9:00
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The opposition for the ACC wasn't all that tough outside of the night's marquee event, but that didn't mean there weren't some stellar performances. Of course, we reserved two of our spots for Virginia Tech, which pulled off the conference's biggest win of the season so far, 35-21 over Ohio State.

Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Brewer: He had three turnovers, and that nearly cost the Hokies, but few players in the nation showed more poise Saturday than Brewer, making just his second start for Tech. The Texas Tech transfer completed 23-of-36 for 199 yards, two touchdowns and two picks, but he converted myriad third downs, hung in on a number of tough runs and, after coughing up a fumble that set up the tying score in the fourth quarter, led a gutty six-play, 65-yard drive to regain the lead.

The Hokies' defense: Brewer gets tons of credit, but it was Bud Foster's D that carried the day. The line was dominant, pushing around Ohio State's young offensive line and utterly dismantling QB J.T. Barrett. From the time the Buckeyes tied the game at 21 to when Tech iced it, Ohio State ran 14 plays. Six ended in sacks, two in turnovers. The defense controlled the game throughout, led by lineman Dadi Nicolas, who had three tackles for loss and two sacks.

Pitt running back James Conner: The Panthers got off to a strong start in ACC play, toppling Boston College 30-20 behind a huge game from Conner. The sophomore tailback carried 36 times for 214 yards and a touchdown, and in his last three games dating back to last year's bowl win, Conner has racked up a whopping 596 yards and six touchdowns.

Georgia Tech defense: Once again, the Yellow Jackets were far from crisp against lesser competition, but Tech's defense ensured Tulane's upset bid never came to fruition. The Yellow Jackets intercepted three passes during their 38-21 win, and Georgia Tech found the end zone following each one, including Quayshawn Nealy's 10-yard INT return for a touchdown.

North Carolina QB Marquise Williams: It wasn't an entirely stellar performance, and the Tar Heels' offense remained stuck in neutral for much of the night, but Williams' 91-yard touchdown pass to Mack Hollins early in the fourth quarter gave UNC new life and sparked the rally ending in a 31-27 win over San Diego State. For the game, Williams was 20-of-29 for 255 yards and two TDs and also led the Heels in rushing with 63 more yards on the ground.

Clemson's freshmen: Forget the competition (Clemson 73, South Carolina State 7). The goal for the Tigers was to get the kids some work, and they certainly looked sharp. Freshman QB Deshaun Watson led the Tigers to touchdowns on each of his four drives, completing 8-of-9 passes for 154 yards and three TDs. Freshmen tailbacks Wayne Gallman, Adam Choice and Kurt Fleming combined for 31 rushes, 200 yards and a TD. And freshman receiver Artavis Scott topped them all, catching six balls for 164 yards and two scores. The test, of course, gets much tougher in Clemson's next game against No. 1 Florida State.
Here's a look at what we learned in the ACC in Week 2.

1. Virginia Tech is for real. Virginia Tech defensive tackle Luther Maddy guaranteed the Hokies would beat Ohio State during ACC Kickoff back in July. Not many people took him seriously until Saturday night. Virginia Tech went into Columbus and took down the No. 8 Buckeyes 35-21 behind an aggressive, attacking defense and an offense that has finally found its footing behind Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer. When Braxton Miller got hurt, many thought this game would be more winnable for the Hokies, but not many predicted the upset. Coach Frank Beamer has been telling reporters since the fall he liked the makeup of this team. It was easy to see why during the game. Brewer brings poise and moxie to the quarterback spot, and young players such as Marshawn Williams, Shai McKenzie and Deon Newsome add a dimension to the offense that has been missing the past several years. Couple that with an always-stellar defense -- Virginia Tech finished with seven sacks and three interceptions -- and the Hokies have the makings of a darkhorse playoff contender. There. I said it.

[+] EnlargeVirginia Tech's Dadi Nicolas
AP Photo/Paul VernonDadi Nicolas sacks Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett during Virginia Tech's 35-21 win.
2. #goACC. Those who follow the ACC on Twitter know the #goacc hashtag has been a way to poke fun at the league when something goes horribly wrong. But on Saturday night, all was perfect in ACC land. While the Big Ten fell flat on its face, the ACC skipped along to a happier tune and went 11-0 in nonconference play. That set an ACC record for the most nonconference games ever won on a single day and a single weekend. The ACC had previously won eight nonconference games in a single day on Sept. 12, 2009, and Aug. 31, 2013. The league won 10 nonconference games in a weekend on Sept. 2 to 6, 2010.

Several crises were averted -- Georgia Tech, NC State, Duke and North Carolina all had to come from behind to beat their non-Power Five opponents. Virginia Tech grabbed the biggest win, of course, and there’s no diminishing its significance for the program. The Hokies earned a reputation for failing to win the big game because of their BCS failures. But Beamer can hold his head high. Virginia Tech posted its first win in 35 tries away from home against top-8 teams.

3. Watch out for Pitt. It was easy to dismiss the Panthers’ 62-0 win over Delaware in Week 1. But it’s not so easy to dismiss the Panthers now, after a 30-20 win over Boston College on Friday night that was not as close as the final score indicates. Once again, James Conner bulldozed through the opposing defense and racked up 214 yards on a career-high 36 carries. He accounted for more than half of Pitt’s offensive yards. The offensive line continued to block well, and Tyler Boyd had 108 all-purpose yards of his own. The Pitt defense also held firm, especially up front, and limited BC to 276 total yards. Up next is FIU, so the Panthers’ train should keep on rolling.

4. Earth to North Carolina. The Tar Heels seem to start every preseason with high expectations, only to crash and burn. This year might not be so different. For the second week in a row, No. 21 North Carolina struggled to put away an opponent from a non-Power Five conference. Last week, it used a second-half blitz to beat Liberty. But on Saturday, the Tar Heels nearly lost. Tim Scott saved the day when he secured an interception with mere seconds remaining in the game and gave North Carolina the 31-27 win over San Diego State. The Aztecs had more first downs, total yards and dominated time of possession. But they also turned the ball over three times, including a pick-six that Brian Walker returned for a touchdown. In two games, North Carolina has given up 855 total yards and has looked totally out of sync on offense and defense. The schedule only gets tougher from here. Following a bye, they play at East Carolina, at Clemson, Virginia Tech and at Notre Dame.

5. Lots of young faces. We saw plenty of young faces play well across the league in Week 2. In addition to the aforementioned players at Virginia Tech, freshman quarterback Reggie Bonnafon went 8-of-11 for 112 yards and a score, and freshman running back L.J. Scott had 126 yards and a touchdown for Louisville. Clemson freshman receiver Artavis Scott set the school’s single-game record for receiving yards by a freshman with 164 yards, while Tigers freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson went 8-of-9 for 154 yards and three touchdowns, and Tigers running back Adam Choice had 72 yards and a touchdown. Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford went 30-of-38 for 291 yards with two touchdowns, but he also threw three interceptions. Florida State running back Dalvin Cook led the Seminoles with 13 carries for 67 yards and a score, while Miami running back Joe Yearby had 14 carries for 95 yards. Plenty to look forward to from all these players into the future.

No. 23 Clemson 73, S. Carolina State 7

September, 6, 2014
Sep 6
4:40
PM ET
video

Cole Stoudt completed 22 of his 31 passes for 302 yards, and Clemson scored its highest point total in 33 years in a 73-7 win over South Carolina State.

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