ACC: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Nobody in the ACC has more of it returning in 2013 than Miami -- and nobody lost more of it than Florida State. How much that will matter in the conference race is yet to be determined, but it can't be overlooked.
Here's a look at who has the most starters returning in the ACC, according to numbers provided by the conference:
Wake Forest: 18
Boston College: 17
Virginia Tech: 17
Georgia Tech: 17
North Carolina: 14
NC State: 12
Florida State: 11
Here's another way to evaluate the experience returning in the ACC, as per a note from the conference office:
Three ACC teams rank among the top 10 teams nationally in the FBS in numbers of games their returning players have started. In a survey put together by Colorado sports information director Dave Plati, Texas leads all schools nationally with 393 returning starts. Duke leads all ACC schools and is third nationally in number of returning starts with 364. Georgia Tech is right behind the Blue Devils with 361 starts, and Virginia Tech ranks 10th (331).
The Nation’s Top 10:
Pl. School ....................................... Starts
1. Texas ..............................................391
2. Mississippi .....................................365
3. Duke ..............................................364
4. Georgia Tech ................................361
5. East Carolina ..................................355
7. Stanford .........................................336
9. Rice ................................................334
10. Virginia Tech ................................331
Since 1998, when the BCS began, here’s a look at five things each the ACC has done to overachieve and underachieve during that span:
Five best overachieved
1. Wake Forest in the 2007 Orange Bowl. The 2006 Deacs were the Cinderella of the BCS that year, the smallest school in the BCS making big history under coach Jim Grobe. The unheralded team defeated Georgia Tech 9-6 to win the program’s second ACC football championship (and its first since 1970). The Demon Deacons' nine points were by far the fewest ever scored by a winning team in a Division 1-A title game. Wake Forest earned the program’s first trip to a BCS game.
Josh D. Weiss/US PresswireRalph Friedgen, who coached the Terrapins from 2001-2010, finished his career at Maryland with a 75-60 overall record.
3. ACC conning Notre Dame into affiliation. It was a major coup for commissioner John Swofford, who convinced the Irish to join the ACC in all sports but football, and to commit to an agreement to play five annual football games against the ACC, beginning in 2014. It was a critical step in stabilizing the future of the conference.
4. 2007 Boston College: The Eagles were ranked as high as No. 2 in the country that year after rallying to beat Virginia Tech in late October. Jeff Jagodzinski had one of the most successful first seasons in school history, as he guided the team to 11 wins, including a win against Michigan State in the Champs Sports Bowl. It was the first time BC had won 11 games since 1940.
5. Joe Hamilton Heisman runner-up. Georgia Tech’s quarterback finished second in the 1999 Heisman Trophy voting, an impressive accomplishment for a player listed at 5’10, 190 pounds. While many doubted his pro potential because of his size, there was no questioning his accomplishments with the Yellow Jackets. The ACC’s all-time leader in total offense with 10,640 yards led the Jackets to an 18-5 record over his last 23 games, including a share of the 1998 ACC championship.
Five worst underachieved
1. Florida State’s 2012 loss to NC State. The Seminoles’ 17-16 loss at NC State last year was unforgettable, and to some FSU fans, probably unforgivable. The Noles were ranked No. 3 in the country at the time and finally being taken seriously as a national-title contender again when it all slipped away in the fourth quarter in Raleigh. Despite the ACC title and Orange Bowl win, there will always be a sense of what could have been had FSU not squandered a 16-0 halftime lead.
2. The ACC’s 3-13 record in BCS bowls. Despite all of the NFL draft picks the conference has produced, despite all of the elite recruits the league lured in, the ACC spent the BCS era digging itself a gaping hole it could never climb out of in the current system. Florida State, Virginia Tech and Clemson combined for a 3-10 record in BCS bowls.
3. Miami’s mediocrity. Five national titles -- and yet not one Coastal Division crown. When Miami joined the ACC on July 1, 2004, league officials thought the perennial power would be an instant upgrade. Instead, Miami’s mediocrity has been its main storyline, and more recently, its saga involving the NCAA has overshadowed any success Al Golden has had on the field. Since joining the ACC, Miami has had three different head coaches and hasn’t been able to win more than nine games or finish better than second place in the division. When Miami is great again, the ACC will be, too.
4. Clemson’s collapse in 2008. The Tigers entered the season as the No. 9 team in the country and finished with a thud at 7-6. The downward spiral began in the opener against Alabama, when Clemson had zero yards rushing on 14 attempts. Despite the dynamic duo of James Davis and C.J. Spiller, and standout receiver Jacoby Ford, Clemson lost three straight to Maryland, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech, and former coach Tommy Bowden resigned mid-season. It couldn’t have gone much worse for a team that began with such high expectations.
5. FSU vs. the best since its last BCS appearance. Since 2000, when Florida State last played for a national title, the Seminoles are 18-24 against opponents ranked in the Associated Press top 25, and that includes a win against Northern Illinois in the Discover Orange Bowl. Despite playing in two national championship games in the BCS era, Florida State was unable to translate that success into a winning record against ranked opponents.
- Russell Bodine, North Carolina
- Jay Finch, Georgia Tech
- Macky MacPherson, Syracuse
- Shane McDermott, Miami
- Bryan Stork, Florida State
Two of the five players include a pair of repeaters from the 2012 Watch List in Finch and MacPherson.
From the ACC's release:
Finch led a Georgia Tech offense which finished 4th nationally in rushing yardage in 2012 and has rushed for more yards in the past three years than any other school in the nation. MacPherson, is the hub of a Syracuse offensive line that set school records in 2012 for total offense, passing yards and touchdown passes. He is the grandson of Syracuse Hall of Fame head coach Dick MacPherson.
Stork keyed a 10th-ranked Florida State team which finished ranked 10th nationally in scoring offense and 19th nationally in total offense. McDermott blocked for a Miami team which averaged 31.4 points per game and 440 yards of total offense per game. Bodine helped lead a UNC offense which set school records in total points (487) and points per game (40.8), as the Tar Heels finished 8th nationally in scoring offense.
The ACC was one of three conferences with five nominees, including the Pac-12 Conference and the Mountain West Conference. Only the Southeastern Conference (9) had more selected to the 2013 Spring Watch List.
The winner of the Rimington Trophy will be selected by determining the consensus All-American center pick from four existing All-America Teams: American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), Walter Camp Foundation (WCF), Sporting News (SN), and Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).
- The Baltimore Sun is reporting that the Virginia Tech-Maryland game scheduled for 2014 in M&T Bank Stadium is off because the Terps are heading to the Big Ten.
- Former FSU coach Bobby Bowden is preparing for a return trip to Tally.
- The quarterback situation at NC State just got more interesting with the addition of Arkansas transfer Brandon Mitchell.
- Paul Johnson disputes the criticism that playing against his offense in practice hurts his defense.
- A rivalry between Clemson and Pittsburgh is unlikely.
- Memo to North Carolina -- these are the rings you want.
- Virginia Tech's video board is coming down to be replaced.
- Clemson got a commitment from a running back, according to a few reports.
You bet we’re counting.
If you’re Scot Loeffler, Virginia Tech's new offensive coordinator, 100 days must feel like a nanosecond. The Hokies aren’t the only ones, though, with plenty of work to do before the season begins. Here’s a checklist of five things the ACC and its teams must accomplish before the opening kickoff:
1. Name starting quarterbacks. Syracuse can’t even talk about Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen yet because he’s not on campus and won’t enroll until next month, but the Orange are just one of several teams in the ACC that still have an ongoing quarterback competition. Virginia’s quarterback controversy has seemingly gone on for years, and Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher has yet to officially anoint Jameis Winston as EJ Manuel’s successor. Pitt is also still searching for a dependable leader, along with NC State.
2. Find an offense in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech has become one of the ACC’s brand-name programs, a consistent winner and a representative in the Top 25 and BCS standings. That changed last season when the Hokies bumbled their way through their most disappointing season in 20 years. Coach Frank Beamer made sweeping changes to his offensive staff, but little improvement was seen in the spring game. Loeffler said it wasn’t a true indication of the progress that was made in the other 13 practices, but also conceded there is still a lot of work to be done. With Alabama looming in the season opener, all eyes will be on the ACC in Week 1. When the Hokies are good, the ACC is better.
3. Improve defensively. With the exception of Florida State, which finished the season ranked No. 6 in the country in scoring defense, 2012 wasn’t a banner year for ACC defenses. The conference usually has some of the nation’s best defenses -- including Boston College -- but there was no Luke Kuechly and no identity for the Eagles last fall. Miami beat Duke 52-45. Georgia Tech beat North Carolina 68-50. Clemson beat NC State 62-48. Clemson took a major step forward defensively with its bowl win against LSU, but the defense must become elite in its second season under coordinator Brent Venables if Clemson is going to be a national-title contender.
4. Minimize the turnovers. Virginia Tech was No. 86 in turnover margin last year, and quarterback Logan Thomas threw three picks in the spring game. Boston College was No. 88 in the country in turnover margin, FSU No. 93, NC State No. 99, Maryland No. 104, Virginia No. 110. That’s almost half the league ranked among the worst in the country in turnover margin. The Hokies play Alabama. Virginia plays Oregon. BC plays at USC. FSU is at Florida, and the Seminoles turned it over five times versus the Gators in FSU's 37-26 loss last year. The Gators scored 10 points off turnovers in that game. If the ACC is going to stand a chance, it can’t give away freebies.
5. Stay out of the trainer’s room. Virginia Tech standout corner Antone Exum is still rehabbing from the torn ACL he suffered in a pickup basketball game. The bulk of Wake Forest’s offensive line was walking wounded all spring, and that group will make or break the Deacons' season. Clemson backup quarterback Chad Kelly and starting tight end Sam Cooper both tore their ACLs this spring. If the ACC is going to beat the best this fall, it needs its best players on the field. For some programs, like Boston College, the depth isn’t there to afford injuries.
There’s only one problem: Pitt-West Virginia doesn’t exist anymore.
For half the ACC, this is a no-brainer. It’s already become an expected date on the schedule for many schools, like Virginia Tech-Virginia, Wake Forest-Vanderbilt, Clemson-South Carolina, Florida State-Florida and Georgia Tech-Georgia. NC State-North Carolina is another logical option. With the addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to league this July, though, the idea of a rivalry week becomes a little more complicated.
Virginia Tech fans will gladly tell you the Hokies have owned UVa for nine straight seasons and 13 of the past 14. It is a rivalry in proximity and between the fan bases, but it has lost much of its luster on the field because of the lopsided results in the series. That doesn’t diminish the importance of the game. Last year, bowl eligibility was on the line for Virginia Tech. In 2011, the Hokies clinched the Coastal Division title against a surging Virginia team that had won four straight and finally appeared ready to make a serious run at the Commonwealth Cup. It was a similar situation to 2007, and again the Hokies came out on top.
In order for a rivalry to truly exist, there must be geographical and recruiting relevance, familiarity, meaningful games and history between the programs. Pitt and Virginia Tech have all of the above as former members of the Big East. In 2000, Virginia Tech beat Pitt on a last-second field goal. In 2002, Larry Fitzgerald had his breakout season, and Pitt rallied from a 21-7 deficit to beat Virginia Tech 28-21. In 2003, Pitt scored a touchdown with 47 seconds remaining to beat No. 5-ranked Virginia Tech in what would become one of the best games played at Heinz Field, college or pro. And last year? Ugh. If Virginia Tech isn't ready to pounce on Oct. 12 in Blacksburg and redeem itself, somebody should make sure the Lunch Pail hasn't been painted pink.
Virginia Tech-Pitt is a rivalry that can continue to grow, even if it’s not played on the final week of the regular season.
Two other top rivalry options for Pitt would be Boston College and Miami -- because of their obvious history in the Big East -- but with BC in the Atlantic Division, those games could have less relevance to the division standings and their meetings would be less frequent. BC and Pitt haven’t played since 2004, but their history dates back to 1959. If you’re looking for the regular-season finale, though, Miami seems like the most logical option. The two have history in the Big East, the Canes aren’t tied up with an SEC game and the game will have meaning to the Coastal Division standings. This year’s scheduling might be the first step toward building that rivalry, as Miami ends the season at Pitt on Friday after Thanksgiving in a nationally televised game. Pitt hasn’t had much success against the Canes in recent years, though, as Miami leads the series 22-9-1 and Pitt hasn’t won since 1997. How the series with Georgia Tech evolves will also be intriguing, but the two city schools have little recent history.
The good news for Pitt is that there are plenty of options in the ACC for a rivalry to be either renewed or created -- regardless of whether or not it's played on the final week of the regular season. Which one gets your vote?
They prefer the committee to resemble the model used in basketball to select the NCAA tournament field, and also prefer that people currently affiliated with the sport serve on the committee.
Could that work in football? There really is no better person to ask than Georgia Tech athletic director Mike Bobinski, who has served as chairman of the NCAA men's basketball tournament selection committee the past two years.
"Without fleshing out a little more fully the criteria we want to use as a sport to select those teams for the playoff -- I think you need to do a little bit more of that before you figure out what the right makeup of those people are," Bobinski told ESPN.com. "But having served on the basketball committee, I like the model. I think it’s really evolved over time so if the football model borrowed from that, it would be borrowing from an evolved model and not something that we’re still figuring out.
"I think there can be a lot of transferability. It’s a different challenge for sure. There’s a different focus and a different sort of level of intensity over what the football group will be doing, but I do think there’s a lot of commonality and approach in the process. A lot of it will make some sense, so I think there is a good starting point to transition into the football model."
What does he think about the idea of having only people currently in the game serve on the committee?
"Having that current expertise and knowledge is really important. I also think having folks that have been in and around the sport and spent a lifetime in it can add value, maybe in an advisory capacity, maybe structure it in a way that if they’re not full voting members they provide perspective and background that might be helpful to the committee’s work," Bobinski said. "I know from the basketball committee’s perspective, many of us in the room did that on our own. We would reach out to people who had been long-time coaches or folks who had been in and around the sport and got their opinions, got their thoughts and that just added to our own deliberations and our own perspective and knowledge. I wouldn’t want to discount folks that have spent a lifetime in and around the game. It would be foolish to do that."
No. 2 Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Next up: Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech
Of Boyd, Kiper Jr. writes, "People who would question Boyd because he was throwing to a great arsenal of pass-catchers last year should watch what he did against LSU in the Chik-fil-A Bowl. Boyd might as well have gone 12 rounds with Rocky in that game. Not only did he take hits on a lot of designed runs, the LSU defense battered him. But he played through it. The kid is tough."
And yes, you knew Thomas would make this list, considering how high Kiper Jr. has been on the senior-to-be in the past. Kiper calls him a "must-watch prospect" for 2014. Boyd and Thomas are featured on ESPN Insider Travis Haney's "make-or-break scenarios" for top quarterback prospects.
Kiper also gives a shout out to Bryn Renner of North Carolina, Stephen Morris of Miami and Pete Thomas of NC State in a "more I like" category.
No. 3 Eric Ebron, North Carolina
Kiper Jr. writes: "He has the athleticism to be split out at the next level a la an Aaron Hernandez, but I like that Ebron displays a willingness, and even a bit of a nasty streak, when called on to block."
No. 5 Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech
Next up: Christian Jones, Florida State
Kiper Jr. says of Attaochu: "Tall, rangy and with good closing speed, he could play either outside linebacker or defensive end, but projects better at OLB for the NFL."
Want more? Haney ranks the Top 10 most talented teams in America . Florida State checks in at No. 4, and Miami is at No. 8. Clemson just misses the cut at No. 12. Of those three teams, only Miami is not projected to start the season in the Top 25. But don't be surprised if the Canes end the season there.
There is no such mandate in the ACC, where league coaches and athletic directors said during spring meetings they have no issues with playing one FCS game per season. Georgia Tech athletic director Mike Bobinski said discussions about eliminating all FCS games went nowhere during the meetings.
"Geographically the Big Ten has a different set up. They have a relationship with the Mid-American Conference, which works philosophically, geographically, competitively on a lot of levels. We live in an area where there’s an awful lot of FCS football. We have some responsibility, and I think the SEC will do the same thing. I don’t think they’re going to do what the Big Ten has done, either. We feel like we have a responsibility to the sport in our region to continue to play some of those games."
Because if these games go away, many of these FCS programs will not have the money to support themselves. Payouts from these guarantee games support the entire athletic department.
"I just think it’s not something we would feel good about as a league," Bobinski said. "There’s a lot of FCS teams that are important to the sport of college football and we don’t necessarily want to cut them out."
The ACC has gotten some backlash, though, because some teams have had two FCS teams on the schedule. It happened to Florida State last year, though that was out of the Seminoles' control. When West Virginia backed out of their game last season with only months to spare, the Seminoles couldn't find an FBS team to fill the open slot.
"I don’t necessarily want to play them, either, but you go find four nonconference games, it’s a lot harder than finding three," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. "I would rather play all Division I-A schools but that goes back to finding opponents that are willing to do it. You hate to get in a lot of home and homes because you do lose revenue, but at the same time you don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for what they price them out. Those situations will all determine how you schedule games. It’s harder scheduling than people think it is.
"A year ago for us we get punished but here’s the thing, whoever wrote the contract 10 years ago. We (get blamed) for getting out of it but we had nothing to do with it. There was a buyout, so West Virginia bought it out to do what’s best for them."
Clemson is in a similar situation this season, having to play two FCS teams. When the league decided to move to a nine-game league schedule, Clemson jettisoned Kent State for this season. But when Notre Dame agreed to a scheduling partnership, the league went back to eight conference games. It was too late for Clemson to get Kent State back, so it had to add a second FCS team. Georgia Tech also has two FCS teams on the schedule this year for the same reason.
Neither is ideal, and nobody supports playing two FCS games per year.
"Everybody is OK with one," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "There’s a lot of positives that come from it. Duke, it’s important to them to play North Carolina (Central). I think it’s great for us to play somebody in our state, a Furman, a Citadel and really create that revenue for our state and the opportunities for those student-athletes."
Miami athletic director Blake James also said the preference is to keep FCS teams on the schedule.
"You have to always be looking at what puts your program in the best position," James said. "If there were structures put in place by the league, we’d be in line with those parameters. With that said, we’ve scheduled a number of FCS opponents going out and we have a number of commitments to those institutions and we plan on honoring those commitments moving forward."
Yes, he did expect the backlash that followed after it was revealed his players got those rings despite being ineligible for the postseason.
"I knew there would be but that’s not why it was done," Fedora said. "I didn’t do it for the backlash. It was done for those seniors and those kids that accomplished everything they could accomplish. They had nothing to do with what happened so they were paying the price. I felt like they deserved it."
North Carolina would have played for an ACC title last year had it not been serving a postseason ban for NCAA violations committed well before Fedora and his players arrived on campus. The way Fedora explains it, he was looking for any source of motivation to give his players, who had no championship or bowl game to play for last season.
"I was searching for any reward that I could give them because I was proud of what they did," he said.
When it was revealed a few weeks ago that the players received rings, a firestorm erupted, and a great debate ensued. Was it right to hand out rings proclaiming yourselves champions when Georgia Tech ended up representing the Coastal Division in the ACC title game against Florida State?
None of that much mattered to Fedora, who was only looking out for his players. Fedora actually was not in town when the rings were handed out shortly before players finished up the semester. He does have his ring, but as is his custom, Fedora never wears any of the championship rings he has won.
And for the record, the ACC does not officially recognize North Carolina as Coastal Division champions.
And they told the athletic directors as much.
The ACC scaled back from a nine-game league slate to an eight-game league slate last October after Notre Dame entered into a football scheduling partnership with the schools as part of their membership in all other sports. Notre Dame essentially takes up one nonconference spot every three years. For those teams with long-standing rivalry games like Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech, playing nine league games, plus Notre Dame, plus a rivalry game is untenable.
Mark Dolejs/USA TODAY Sports Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said he likes the flexibility in nonconference scheduling that an eight-game conference slate allows.
And if the SEC goes to nine league games? Would the philosophy change then?
"They don’t have Notre Dame," he said. "If they had a lock-in with Michigan for five games then it might be a little different. Everybody has to pave their own way. That’s the consensus of the ACC coaches. A lot of us already have really quality nonconference opponents, plus you’re adding Notre Dame in there. If we were playing Notre Dame this year and you’ve got eight conference games, Notre Dame, Georgia and South Carolina, nobody in the SEC is playing a schedule like that."
Given the strength of schedule that is going to be a component in the College Football Playoff, the Big Ten decided to move to nine league games. But there is a delicate balancing act that schools must follow.
"You can overschedule, too," Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. "If your schedule’s too tough it may give you two or three losses. You may be a heck of a team but you’re not getting in at the end if you have 2 or 3 losses. There’s a balance. You want to have strength of schedule, but you don’t want your schedule so strong that throughout the course of 12 games you’re not going to win but eight or 9."
Though Georgia Tech athletic director Mike Bobinski is not in favor of a nine-game league schedule, he wants to hear more about the possibilities. And not every single AD is in favor of eight league games. Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver, for one, remains in favor of a nine-game league schedule.
Athletic directors are the ones with a final say, not the coaches. But it doesn't seem like there will be any movement for now.
"I wouldn't necessarily be in favor of the nine-game model although I’d like to hear more conversation about it, and there are several of us in that room with the same dynamic as us," he said. "We haven’t gotten together as a group and talked through that yet."
With eight bowls and 14 teams in the conference, that means only 57 percent of the ACC will make the postseason this year, at most.
Last year, when the SEC went to 14 teams, it added the Independence Bowl as its 10th bowl tie in, but only nine teams qualified, and one -- Alabama -- was playing in the national championship. With the new College Football Playoff system to start in 2014, the ACC will have to replace the Chick-fil-A Bowl in its lineup, as that bowl will be one of the host bowls in the playoff. The ACC also has to consider the possibility of having a team in the playoff. It also has to acknowledge the reality of having only eight bowl-eligible teams on average:
ACC’s bowl eligible teams during 12-team era
2012: 6 (not including UNC and Miami, which were ineligible)
2008: 10 (ACC record)
The number of bowl games is currently up for debate. Cast your votes now.
- Here are a few notes from Day 1.
- Several ACC records are in reach for Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd.
- Injured Duke receiver Blair Holliday will enroll in summer classes.
- Will Myles Autry join his brother on the Georgia Tech football team?
- Here is a Maryland recruiting update from Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post.
- Miami picked up a commitment from quarterback Brad Kaaya, but commit Alin Edouard is wavering.
- Torry Holt has been selected for the NC State Hall of Fame.
- Who else deserves to have their jersey retired at Syracuse?
- Andy Bitter of the Virginian-Pilot recaps how the Virginia Tech defensive line did this spring.
More from the release:
Cassano returns to college football, where he last served as running backs coach at Miami in 2010. From 2007-09, he worked as running backs coach and recruiting coordinator at FIU.
Khalif (known in college as Kyle Ambrose) played defensive line at Georgia Tech from 1984-86. Khalif was a member of Tech's "Black Watch Defense," selected first team All-ACC in 1986. He returns to his alma mater after working the previous two years as defensive coordinator and defensive line coach at Savannah State.