ACC: Virginia Cavaliers
Strongest position: Receivers/tight ends.
If there’s one thing quarterbacks David Watford and Greyson Lambert don’t have to worry about, it’s having a veteran receiver to throw it to. Darius Jennings, Tim Smith, Dominique Terrell and E.J. Scott all return, along with standout tight end Jake McGee. The group combined for 163 catches for 2,212 yards and 17 touchdowns last year. Each of them had at least 20 catches last fall. McGee accounted for five of those touchdown receptions, which ranked No. 5 all-time at the school by a tight end. He also had 28 catches last year, overall one of the most productive seasons for a tight end at UVa. Jennings led the team last year with 568 receiving yards, and he also had five touchdowns.
Weakest position: Quarterback.
It’s hard to call out the quarterbacks as the weak link, but how do you not, when it’s been such an inconsistent, transient position for the Cavaliers? It's probably more accurate to call it a question than a weakness, considering the lack of playing time, but it's certainly not a strength right now. Coach Mike London began his career at UVa with a quarterback controversy that never ended. Now, he doesn’t seem to have much of a choice, as starter Michael Rocco has since transferred to Richmond, and the university announced in May that Phillip Sims was ineligible and will no longer be enrolled at the university. That leaves Watford and Lambert – two players who both redshirted last year – as the frontrunners. Watford at least has some game experience, as he played in 10 games in 2011. He has thrown the ball 74 times and had four interceptions and three touchdowns. Lambert, meanwhile, has yet to take a collegiate snap in a game. Virginia fans have at least seen the potential in Watford, but it’s been a year since he has played, and there are still far more questions than answers with this position.
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Just most of it.
Such was the case with the recent “most important game” series, where colleague Andrea Adelson and I picked the make-or-break game on the schedule for each school in the ACC and then narrowed the choices to five for you to cast your vote.
We only disagreed on the key game for four teams -- Duke, Miami, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. One of the more interesting debates was over Pitt, as the votes were close between the season opener against Florida State and the game against the Hokies, but the Coastal Division clash won out over the Labor Day game.
Here are the most recent results, in what is still a fluid list:
Our pick: Syracuse
Your vote: 51 percent
Our pick: Florida State
Your vote: 50 percent
Our pick: at Clemson
Your vote: 65 percent
Our pick: Virginia Tech
Your vote: 45 percent
Our pick: at NC State
Your vote: 31 percent
Our pick: Miami
Your vote: 38 percent
Our pick: North Carolina
Your vote: 38 percent
Our pick: Virginia Tech
Your vote: 37 percent
Our pick: Clemson
Your vote: 45 percent
Our pick: Virginia Tech
Your vote: 75 percent
Our pick: at Wake Forest
Your vote: at North Carolina 57 percent
Say what?: It ain't basketball season, guys.
Our pick: at North Carolina (14 percent)
Your vote: Florida State 49 percent
Say what?: You're clinging onto the past, Canes. Win the division first.
Our pick: Georgia Tech (28 percent)
Your vote: at Miami 46 percent
Say what? That Miami game won't mean as much if the Hokies lose in Atlanta first.
Our pick: Duke
Your vote: NC State 41 percent
Say what? Justifiable, but if the Deacs are going to make a comeback, they can't be second-fiddle in-state to Duke.
- Somebody took a chunk of it, and police are investigating.
- Two former Pitt football players failed to show up in court.
- There's a rare recruiting battle going on between Georgia and Georgia Tech.
- Duke coach David Cutcliffe shares his take on a selection committee.
- The Flutie name is coming back to BC. Wow.
- Are UConn and BC friends again?
- Miami is prepared for its Committee on Infractions hearing. SI talked to Nevin Shapiro, who keeps on yapping and yapping.
- Who is Syracuse's best offensive player?
- It's a windfall for everyone!
- Could Pitt land Wisconsin safety Reggie Mitchell?
- NC State had a big week in recruiting.
- UVa has gotten some out-of-state commitments.
Recruiting is the lifeblood of every program in the country, and every conference has its own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to landing top prospects. This week, we are examining the BCS conferences plus Notre Dame to find each one's strength, the biggest obstacle each faces and the overall view of the conference. The ACC is up today.
Biggest obstacle: Getting out from under the SEC's shadow. This conference shares the same player pool and it needs every matchup versus the SEC to count. Clemson beating LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in 2012 was big, but over the course of the past few years Clemson, Virginia Tech and FSU haven't always fared as well, and South Carolina has been a thorn in the side of Clemson. This conference needs a resurgence from Miami and North Carolina as well as NC State. The middle- and bottom-tier teams in these two conferences are very comparable. The ACC needs its powers to consistently dominate on and off the field, and for recruiting classes from the likes of FSU, Clemson and Miami to produce double-digit wins.
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Most important game: Nov. 30 vs. Virginia Tech.
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The answer is no.
What do Heather Dinich and Andrea Adelson think? So glad you ask.
Heather says: The divisions are fine the way they are
Talking about division realignment in the ACC is like the years of discussions that once engulfed what will formerly be known as the BCS -- everyone seems to have a problem with it, many try to come up with a solution, but nobody with the power to change it is in any mood to do so.
Atlantic Division teams are 75-69 against the Coastal Division in eight regular seasons, and 4-4 in ACC championship games. It’s the very definition of competitive equity, and it’s exactly what the league athletic directors and officials were aiming for when the conference first split into two divisions. At the time, it was strategically designed to get the best matchups (Florida State vs. Miami) and avoid lopsided results (SEC West). Nobody can argue it hasn’t worked to this point.
The same can’t be said in the mighty SEC, where the SEC West has claimed eight of the past 12 SEC titles. The SEC West has a winning percentage of .536 (199-172-3) against the SEC East, with only Arkansas and Ole Miss below .500 against their East opponents since 1992. If it weren’t for Florida and Georgia, the SEC East would have been blanked.
In the ACC, the question is obviously whether the formula will continue to work with 14 teams and what appears to be a top-heavy Atlantic Division, with Louisville joining in 2014. The only way to find out, though, is to have a little patience.
The outcries about the fact that Clemson and Virginia Tech will only face each other twice every 12 years are valid. It’s understandable and a legitimate argument, but it’s also one of the sacrifices that comes with having a 14-team league. If you look at a true North-South geographic realignment, Florida State, Miami, Clemson, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and NC State could all wind up in the same South Division, and that could be overload. If you have Syracuse, Boston College, Virginia Tech and Pitt in the same league, you’ve got the stigma of the old Big East, and there are probably a few athletic directors out there who aren’t in favor of that label.
The bottom line is this: ACC officials have done the same thing you have. They have rearranged the conference on paper. They have looked at it every which way. They have done their research, looked at winning percentages of schools, factored in the math, and in the end realized it was a fruitless exercise.
At the end of the day, competitive fairness always wins -- at least in the ACC.
Andrea says: Change ‘em up!
Take a gander across the college football landscape. How many conferences look just the way they did in 2005?
That would be zero.
So why is the ACC being so stubborn about divisional realignment? What worked in 2005, when the league split into two divisions, simply does not work in 2013 and beyond.
For proof, I give you the wacky rotating crossover opponents schedule, featuring one meeting between Duke and NC State between 2014 and 2024. That is just for starters.
Florida State opens at Pitt. The teams meet again in 2020.
Virginia Tech and Louisville meet for the first time in 2020.
Georgia Tech next visits Tallahassee in 2022.
You get the idea.
I understand the league was in a tough spot trying to come up with this schedule while maintaining eight league games and keeping a permanent crossover opponent to preserve long-standing rivalries. But things would be a lot easier if said rivals were all paired in the same divisions, opening up two slots of rotating crossover opponents.
That would allow rivalries to be preserved and give ACC teams an opportunity to see each other more frequently. How should a coach explain to a player that in a five-year window, he might never have an opportunity to play Florida State or Virginia Tech?
Look, if the Big Ten can switch its divisions each time it expands (creating divisions first with the Nebraska addition, then changing them with Rutgers and Maryland entering), surely the ACC can do the same.
This is a new era, and, well it makes little sense to plug Louisville in place of Maryland and pretend the Cardinals will magically form a rivalry with Virginia worthy of making them permanent crossover opponents.
I hear the competitive balance argument. There is no such thing as finding competitive balance. In 2005, Clemson was not seen as a power in the Atlantic Division. Boston College was. Today, Clemson is an elite program. BC just finished a 2-10 season.
In the Coastal, the only representatives in the ACC title game have been Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. Is that competitive balance? Hardly.
It is time. Scrap the current divisional alignment and start over. Get teams better situated geographically. It makes much more sense to have Pitt, Syracuse and BC in the same division not only for travel, but because they all are former Big East rivals. There should be no stigma attached to that.
I have no issues with Florida State and Miami being paired up, either. We have never seen a rematch between them in the ACC title game, so it’s not as if that is something we all would miss.
College football has changed. The league itself has changed. It’s time for the divisions to change, too.
Dave in Charlotte, N.C., writes: My solution for the scheduling issue is to place all the teams you want playing every year in the same division. In the current setup, in a dream ACC year, you'd have Miami and FSU playing a rematch in the ACC championship. The Big Ten's dream matchup is even worse -- Ohio St/Michigan playing a rematch one week after their big game. Think about it, what's more appealing? The OSU-Michigan game (most years) having Big Ten Championship implications, or OSU/Michigan playing (every 10-20 years) in the Big Ten championship a week after they just played? Drop permanent crossovers and play two different crossovers every year. Then you'd be playing the other division teams every 3-4 years instead of every six. What do you think?
JC in Miami writes: Hi Andrea, What is the point of being in the same conference if as a fan you can't go to away games more than one a decade against half the schools. Miami won't play in Death Valley until 2022? UNC won't play at Wake until then either! 12 years between visits? If the ACC went with geographic North-South division splits no natural rivals would be separated and you could then have two rotating crossover games. I think this would be much better for everyone involved.
Andrea Adelson: Dave and JC both bring up the frustrations many ACC fans feel over this rotating crossover scheduling AND divisional alignments. I would have no problem with the ACC realigning divisions at this point, considering the additions of Pitt, Syracuse and Louisville. I am not sure it makes much sense to have Louisville in the Atlantic Division and paired up with Virginia as a permanent crossover rival just because it worked for Maryland. Unfortunately, divisional realignment is not even in the discussion stages at this point. One reporter asked commissioner John Swofford at the ACC spring meetings whether there was any talk about shifting divisions around and he had a one-word answer: "No." So for now, ACC fans are stuck with this plan. But for a little fun, let me play commish for a sec. How would these divisions look to you all? Division A: Florida State, Miami, NC State, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Duke, Louisville. Division B: Virginia, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Pitt, Syracuse, Boston College, Georgia Tech. The games that need to be played would be played; then you can rotate two cross-divisional games per season. All primary crossover opponents would be in the same division except Louisville-Maryland. But as discussed earlier, that one can be tossed out.
Ben L. in San Diego writes: Outside of the Sun Bowl, why doesn't the ACC line up another PAC-12 team bowl game? They're the only conference the ACC hardly plays in the regular season, and it can be used for great recruiting exposure.
Adelson: Geography, Ben. It makes the most sense for the ACC to stick to games on the East Coast against opponents like the Big Ten and SEC because 1. It helps fans travel to games and 2. That is the primary area where the league recruits. Not sure what ACC teams would gain by a second team further West vs. the Pac-12 when only a handful of schools are recruiting that region. The majority of recruiting battles in the ACC are against the SEC, so it's hard to get much more exposure on that front than matchups between these two leagues in bowl games.
Bill in Vero Beach, Fla., writes: Do you really think anyone but the Maryland fans give a hoot what their Big 10 schedule is going to be? No one else is interested!
Adelson: I feel your pain, Bill, but Maryland remains a member of the ACC blog for this season. Therefore, Terps news remains on this blog.
Justin Thompson in Ocala, Fla., writes: Hey Andrea, Just wanted to comment on your piece about FSU's home schedule. We are having an event almost every single home game this season (Bobby Bowden returning twice, family day, senior day, homecoming) and this clearly screams of exactly what you were talking about. These seem like marketing ploys to try and fill the stadium far more than events to justify ticket prices, a la stadium giveaways. While the schedule aside from at Clemson and at Florida is pretty easy going, my friends and I are already planning our trips for 2014, almost writing off this entire season. It seems to provide little to be excited about, and if Miami doesn't find a line for both sides of the ball, that game is of little interest as well. Boo on the athletic department at FSU for following up last year's laughable schedule with this year's forgettable one.
Adelson: Look, I understand the schedule is not the greatest, and I understand Florida State is in a unique situation asking alums to drive long distances to come to games. Virginia Tech was supposed to come to town this year, but expansion forced that game off the schedule. West Virginia was supposed to be there last year. So there have been attempts at providing a quality home slate. As you mentioned, the 2014 home schedule is going to be terrific. But I thought fans went to all games no matter what, just to support the home team.
Scott in Atlanta writes: As a GT student and an Atlanta native, I'm looking forward to playing Georgia Southern a year earlier than we anticipated. Regional matchups are a great part of college football that we don't get all that much in Georgia.We will now, however, be playing them in the middle of their transition from the FCS to the Sun Belt. Since we will already be playing an FCS team (Wofford) that year, would a win against Georgia Southern count towards bowl eligibility for Tech?
Adelson: I asked Jackets sports information extraordinaire Dean Buchan and he says, "In 2014, Georgia Southern will be an FBS opponent for Georgia Tech. The Eagles, in 2014, will be eligible for the Sun Belt Conference championship, although they will not be eligible for a bowl game."
- Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
- Lamarcus Joyner, S, Florida State
- Tommy Hibbard, P, North Carolina
- Duke Johnson, RB, Miami
- Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland
- James Hurst, OT, North Carolina
- Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt
- Christian Jones, LB, Florida State
- Ross Martin, PK, Duke
- Spiffy Evans, PR, Boston College
- Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
- Tre' Jackson, OG, Florida State
- Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
- Antone Exum, CB, Virginia Tech
- Chandler Catanzaro, PK, Clemson
- Jamal Golden, KR, Georgia Tech
- Rashad Greene, PR, Florida State
Notice anyone missing?
That would be Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd. I can pretty much guarantee Boyd will be using the slight as even more motivation, considering it is his goal to be recognized as the best quarterback in America this season.
Here are the four quarterbacks that Steele selected instead: Johnny Manziel, first team; Braxton Miller, second team; AJ McCarron, third team; Teddy Bridgewater, fourth team. Hard to argue with the reigning Heisman Trophy winner in Manziel, or Miller, who led his team to an undefeated season a year ago.
Bridgewater is a good choice, too, considering many believe he will be one of the first players taken in the 2014 draft if he turns pro at the end of the season. But, in my opinion, Boyd is a better overall quarterback than McCarron. Yes, I know McCarron has led the Tide to two straight national championships. Alabama will be a preseason top 5 team once again. But Boyd is a much more dynamic player with more upside. I view McCarron as much more of a game manager.
In any case, there certainly appears to be a tremendous amount of talent across the country at quarterback. All five go into the season as preseason Heisman candidates. You can throw Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray into the mix as well, along with Marcus Mariota at Oregon. Should be a fun season to watch.
A few other observations:
- It is now clear that folks around the country expect Watkins to have a bounce-back season. Seeing him listed on the first team is testament to all the talent he has, and the belief he will be even better than he was his freshman season.
- Once again, Florida State is well represented, with a league-leading five players recognized. That supplies even more proof that the Noles remain the most talented team in the ACC, despite losing 11 players to the NFL draft.
- When Exum tore his ACL during a pickup basketball game earlier this year, many feared his senior season would be in jeopardy. But Exum has made a remarkable recovery and could play in the season opener against Alabama. Steele clearly has confidence that Exum can remain an elite corner despite his injury setback.
- Ross Martin was a true freshman last season, replacing Will Snyderwine, who ranks No. 3 in school history in points scored. Now, Martin is a third-team preseason All-American. What a rise.
- Commissioner John Swofford addressed a wide variety of topics on the David Glenn radio show, including some discussion about having the league title game played on campus.
- Clemson's academic track record is a centerpiece of Dabo Swinney's recruiting pitch.
- Why did Jumichael Ramos flip from Georgia Tech to NC State?
- Maryland coach Randy Edsall appears on another hot seat list. Joining him on this one -- UVa coach Mike London.
- Outgoing North Carolina chancellor Holden Thorp once again says presidents should stay out of athletics matters.
- The timing of Randy Spetman's reassignment is odd, but the decision is not.
- North Carolina, Duke and NC State have moved up in the Directors' Cup standings.
- How did Syracuse land Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen?
- Virginia Tech picked up a commitment from Hampton Roads area receiver Jaylen Bradshaw.
- Orlando is the natural choice to replace Atlanta as the ACC's top bowl destination after the Orange Bowl and playoff.
- Don't expect an ACC Network any time soon.
- Boston College defensive tackle Max Ricci has left the program.
- Former football standouts Brenston Buckner and Terrence Flagler are the newest members of the Clemson Hall of Fame.
- The first session of Dabo Swinney's summer camp features several top 2015 prospects.
- Duke picked up a commitment from quarterback Jonathan Lloyd, who plans on playing baseball for the Blue Devils, too.
- Duke-NC State football matchups are going the way of the dodo.
- Georgia Tech, meanwhile, won't play in Tallahassee until 2022.
- Speaking of Tallahassee, Florida State beat writer Coley Harvey takes a closer look at the future Noles schedules in the Orlando Sentinel.
- Some of the scheduling quirks are just the price of expansion.
- Is Maryland coach Randy Edsall on the hot seat?
- Incoming Miami quarterback Kevin Olsen was charged with leaving the scene of an accident in his hometown in New Jersey.
- Can Cameron Lynch be the next Shamarko Thomas for Syracuse?
- Former UVa running back Clifton Richardson has transferred to Liberty.
- Virginia Tech continues discussion about where to put its proposed indoor practice facility.
- ESPN Recruiting Nation folks predict where some of the best prospects in the class of 2014 will sign.
Crossover scheduling has become a hot-button issue in the SEC (ask LSU's Les Miles), and now the newly expanded ACC has followed suit.
Would you expect anything else but a crossover from a traditional basketball conference?
The ACC on Tuesday announced each school's conference schedule from 2014 through the 2024 season. Under the new format, each ACC team will play all six divisional opponents annually, one permanent crossover team from the opposite division, and one rotating team from the opposite division.
Pittsburgh and Syracuse are joining the ACC for football this coming season, and Louisville joins the league in 2014.
I get it: When you're trying to create equitable and exciting conference schedules for 14 teams, it's never easy and everyone isn't going to be happy.
For the most part, the ACC got it right with the permanent crossover opponents from the Atlantic and Coastal Divisions. Florida State and Miami might never meet in the ACC championship game, but at least they'll play each other every year in the regular season. Clemson and Georgia Tech will continue their thrilling rivalry every season, and so will instate rivals North Carolina and NC State, and Wake Forest and Duke. Former Big East rivals Syracuse and Pittsburgh will play every season, and Boston College and Virginia Tech were paired together. Louisville was matched up with Virginia as a permanent crossover opponent when it joins the league.
For the most part, the ACC kept its longtime rivalries intact and created some new ones.
But here's the worst part of crossover scheduling: ACC teams will play one crossover opponent only once in the regular season over 11 seasons, and each of those meetings occurs in the 2020 season.
Clemson fans better enjoy their trip to Virginia's Scott Stadium on Nov. 2, because the Tigers aren't going back to Charlottesville anytime soon. The Tigers play the Cavs at Death Valley in 2020.
Likewise, FSU opens the coming season at Pittsburgh on Sept. 2 -- the Panthers' first ACC game -- but the Seminoles aren't scheduled to return a second time until 2025 or later. FSU hosts the Panthers at Doak-Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee in 2020.
While Louisville fans might be chomping at the bit to join the ACC in two seasons, they won't get to experience one of the league's most exciting venues -- Virginia Tech's Lane Stadium -- before 2025. The Hokies are scheduled to play at Louisville in 2020, the schools' only meeting in the 11-year window.
What was the ACC's most egregious scheduling flaw? NC State and Duke might be separated by only 24 miles on Tobacco Road, but their football teams might feel like they're located on opposite coasts. The Wolfpack and Blue Devils are scheduled to play only once between 2014 and 2024.
Let's see the ACC try that in basketball.
- Vince Brown, Virginia defensive line coach/assistant special teams coach
- Scottie Montgomery, Duke passing game coordinator/receivers coach
- Al "Buzz" Preston, Georgia Tech receivers coach
- DeAndre Smith, Syracuse running backs coach
The Forum is set for June 13-15 in Orlando, Fla., and features an opportunity for participating assistants to meet with athletic directors, search firms that assists schools in coaching searches, conduct simulated job interviews, hear from head coaches and school presidents about expectations and challenges of the job, and get some media training as well.
Two other assistants with ACC ties will be there as well -- former Virginia Tech assistant Kevin Sherman (now at Purdue) and former North Carolina interim coach Everett Withers (now at Ohio State). In all, the Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12 and SEC will be represented at the event.
Brown is going into his fourth season as an assistant, but first coaching the defensive line. He started his coaching career in 2007 after playing in the NFL for eight seasons.
Montgomery and Smith are in their first seasons at their respective jobs. Montgomery, though, is in his second stint at Duke after serving as an assistant in the NFL the last three seasons and by all accounts is a rising star in the profession. Smith came to Syracuse from New Mexico, and has coached nine 1,000-yard rushers in 14 years as an assistant.
Preston is the longest serving assistant in the group, having been at Georgia Tech since 2008 and an assistant overall for 32 seasons.
- Boston College checks in on USA Today's college football countdown at No. 100.
- Former Duke receiver Wes Chesson is one of seven headed to the school's Hall of Fame.
- ESPN 150 athlete J.C. Jackson has decommitted from Florida State.
- Joe Ovies of WRAL says the ACC's recent moves are creating a bitter bunch in Maryland.
- Can the Terps create a rivalry with Penn State in the Big Ten?
- Miami defensive end Dyron Dye filed an incident report with the Coral Gables police regarding the way he was interrogated by an NCAA official.
- Syracuse signee PJ Batten has been told he will remain on offense.
- Phillip Sims' departure doesn't change UVa's quarterback problems.
- Not football related, but worth the read anyway -- how North Carolina won a wild NCAA tournament game against FAU.
- Clemson commit Deshaun Watson talks about his secret visit to Auburn.
- Duke has taken quite the recruiting tact with defensive lineman Harrison Phillips. A Blue Devils assistant has left for Ohio State.
- Never mess with Florida State athletic director Randy Spetman.
- Georgia Tech and South Carolina have canceled their future home-and-home series for 2021 and 2022.
- Maryland has picked up a commitment from a defensive lineman out of Pennsylvania.
- Former Miami running back Najeh Davenport is producing an unofficial Part II to the 30 for 30 documentary "The U." Prayers go out to Hall of Fame Miami quarterback Jim Kelly, diagnosed with jaw cancer.
- Jorge Milian of The Palm Beach Post with a nice profile on Miami athletic director Blake James.
- Athlon Sports makes its 2013 ACC predictions.
- Big bowl upgrade for the ACC.
- Syracuse is eyeing two skill players from Tampa. The Orange picked up their first defensive commitment for 2014.
- Former Virginia quarterback Phillip Sims says his first priority is getting his academics in order. Also included in the story: 2013 quarterback signee Corwin Cutler is headed to Fork Union Military Academy.
- Never too early to look ahead to some top 2015 prospects.