ACC: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

ACC Week 14 predictions

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26
Jared Shanker: In college football, there is no denying emotion plays a pivotal role, and playing for a coach and a bowl can be the tipping point for a team hoping to rally. No doubt Virginia will have no shortage of motivation against its in-state rival, but the Cavaliers are also the better team. Greyson Lambert is improving, and the Virginia defense is every bit as good as the one in Blacksburg. Virginia needs to limit mistakes, as the Cavs turned it over eight times during a four-game skid. The Hokies are struggling to create turnovers, though, which plays into UVa's favor. Mike London returns UVa to a bowl. Virginia 20, Virginia Tech 10

David Hale: If we’re slaves to whatever happened most recently, then Virginia Tech certainly looks like a lost cause. But let’s think bigger picture. The Hokies know what’s at stake here: A 22-year bowl streak, state bragging rights in a rivalry they’ve owned for a decade, perhaps the future of their longtime head coach. Is this a game where Virginia Tech is a no-show? No way. The Wake Forest game was brutal, but lessons were certainly learned. Brenden Motley will get a longer look at quarterback, and his mobility can help offset the Virginia pass rush. The ground game has actually looked better with J.C. Coleman the past two weeks. And while the Hokies clearly overlooked Wake Forest, that won’t be the case against rival Virginia. Plus, let’s not forget that, in spite of the record, Virginia Tech still features one of the most potent defenses in the country -- and it’ll give Lambert and the UVA offense fits. Virginia Tech 17, Virginia 14

Andrea Adelson: The Jackets and Bulldogs are running the ball extremely well this season, so both teams should be able to get some yards on the ground. The key in this game is going to be in the turnover category. Both teams have been excellent at taking the ball away this season. While Georgia Tech has converted 24 takeaways into 116 points, Georgia has allowed only six total points off its own turnovers. There is going to be quite the battle there. Given the way Georgia Tech has played during its winning streak, the Jackets will pull out a close one after one defensive score. Georgia Tech 35, Georgia 31

Matt Fortuna: Much like Georgia Tech, Georgia has proven its rushing attack can keep up the pace no matter who is in the backfield, as we've all seen what has happened even without the ridiculously gifted Todd Gurley. The Bulldogs' defense has greatly improved under coordinator Jeremy Pruitt this season, too, ranking 13th nationally. Has it shored up the loose ends that Florida exposed by repeatedly running on it earlier this month, to the tune of 418 yards? The Yellow Jackets' attack is different, sure, but the Dawgs have too much pride to fall to another rival, especially as they play for a chance at the SEC title game next week. Georgia 40, Georgia Tech 34

Shanker: If South Carolina manages to pull off the upset, Dabo Swinney will be hearing about it for as long as Steve Spurrier is hanging around college football. This is an absolute must-win game for Clemson, but dark clouds are already starting to form with star freshman Deshaun Watson still listed as day-to-day with a sprained knee. If Cole Stoudt starts, will he be able to take advantage of a vulnerable South Carolina defense? The Tigers have the No. 1 defense, but South Carolina is No. 18 in scoring against Power 5 competition. That means the Gamecocks could score just enough, and with Stoudt at quarterback "just enough" might be 17 points. South Carolina 17, Clemson 14

Adelson: The Tigers have relied on their defense all season, and will do it again to finally break their long losing streak to South Carolina. Clemson ranks No. 1 in the nation in total defense and will make life difficult for Dylan Thompson, who is not having the type of season anybody expected. While the prospects on offense look shaky if Watson is out, Clemson has won squeakers this season with an inconsistent Stoudt behind center. As long as Clemson takes care of the football, the defense will lead the victory. Clemson 17, South Carolina 14

Hale: Strictly from a matchup standpoint, Pitt doesn’t have a distinct edge, but this game may be a question of motivation. The storyline for Miami is a familiar one right now. Just like last year, the season built to Florida State, and the Hurricanes came up short. Last year, Miami responded by losing four of six to close out the season. This year, the follow-up to the FSU game was perhaps Miami’s worst performance of the season, which certainly bodes well for Pitt. On the flip side, the Panthers are desperately seeking win No. 6 to get bowl eligible, so there’s no question which team has more to play for. Add the fact that Chad Voytik is playing his best football of the season now, and Pitt is in position to move the ball even if James Conner isn’t at 100 percent. Pitt 21, Miami 20

Fortuna: Pitt is the more desperate team here, fighting to extend its season and make a bowl game for the third straight season under third-year coach Paul Chryst. But the Panthers could be without Conner, which will put much more pressure on Voytik and the passing attack. Is Miami's defense ready to take care of business after consecutive letdowns? Its offense should not be a problem in this one. Miami 38, Pitt 24

Adelson: Everybody expects Florida to play an emotional game for outgoing coach Will Muschamp. That should serve the Gators well in the early going, and they will have opportunities to establish the run against a Florida State defensive front that has had its up and downs this season. Dante Fowler, Vernon Hargreaves and company will throw some different looks at Jameis Winston and force him out of his comfort zone. But ultimately, Winston will do what he always does -- find a way to win a close game. Florida State 28, Florida 27

More unanimous picks

Syracuse at Boston College: The Eagles were the latest team to nearly upend Florida State last week, but that hasn’t always been a recipe for success afterward. It will be interesting to see if the physical and emotional toll of that loss carries over, but Syracuse certainly hasn’t been playing good football either. BC 33, Syracuse 13

Kentucky at Louisville: The ACC’s newest rivalry game may not offer much in the way of fireworks in Year 1. Reggie Bonnafon finally looks comfortable running Bobby Petrino’s offense, and Louisville is still fighting for an Orange Bowl berth. Kentucky is desperate to get win No. 6, but the Wildcats have lost five straight. Louisville 24, Kentucky 20

NC State at North Carolina: Ready for some offensive fireworks? Both of these teams are allowing an average of more than 400 yards per game to FBS foes, and both have potentially explosive offenses. That should make for a fun rivalry matchup to end the regular season, but UNC gets the edge after playing easily its most complete game of the season last week against Duke. North Carolina 45, NC State 33

Wake Forest at Duke: Last week’s win over Virginia Tech was a fitting moment for a Wake Forest team that has continued to fight in spite of adverse circumstances all season, and the Deacons' D is legit. Meanwhile, Duke is reeling from two straight losses. This game may end up close, but it’s still hard to see Wake pulling off the upset in two straight. Duke 24, Wake Forest 10

Current standings
Shanker: 66-20
Adelson: 66-20
Fortuna: 65-21
Hale: 65-21

By the numbers: Week 13 recap

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
A tour of some intriguing statistical performances from Week 13 in the ACC.

FSU’s hangover effect

Florida State fans have been quick to point to the number of well-rested teams getting their shot at the Seminoles this season as an explanation for some of FSU’s struggles. Indeed, four opponents faced FSU the week after byes and another had an FCS foe the week before (and that doesn’t include the season opener or this week’s game against Florida). In other words, seven of FSU’s 12 opponents would have had an extra week to focus on getting ready for the Seminoles.

But in addition to what came before the FSU game, what came after is interesting, too. Here’s a rundown of how FSU’s opponents fared the week after playing the Seminoles.

Oklahoma State: FCS opponent
Clemson: Beat North Carolina 50-35
NC State: Lost to Clemson 41-0
Wake Forest: Bye week
Syracuse: Fell behind Wake 7-0 but rebounded for 30-7 win
Notre Dame: Trailed Navy 31-28 entering fourth quarter before winning 49-39
Louisville: Trailed Boston College 13-3 before winning 38-19
Virginia: Bye week
Miami: Lost to Virginia 30-13

So of Florida State's six opponents to play an FBS team the following week, all but Clemson started sluggish, and two lost outright. Is that the hangover effect of teams giving FSU their best shot and coming up empty? It’s certainly not proof, but it’s worth consideration.

Marquise the magician

[+] EnlargeMarquise Williams
Gerry Broome/Associated PressNorth Carolina's Marquise Williams is one of two quarterbacks in the country with at least 2,500 passing yards, 700 rushing yards, 20 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing touchdowns.
It’s largely flown beneath the radar because North Carolina’s defense faltered so badly in the early going, but Tar Heels QB Marquise Williams has emerged as one of the top players in the conference, if not the country.

Williams’ 33 touchdowns this season are the seventh-most by any player in the country, trailing only Oregon's Marcus Mariota, Ohio State's J.T. Barrett, Notre Dame's Everett Golson and Mississippi State's Dak Prescott among Power 5 QBs.

Williams and Prescott are the only quarterbacks in the nation with at least 2,500 passing yards, 700 rushing yards, 20 passing TDs and 10 rushing TDs. In fact, in the last decade, only seven other Power 5 quarterbacks have done that: Vince Young, Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, James Franklin, Taylor Martinez, Brett Hundley and Johnny Manziel.

And since Williams stopped splitting reps with Mitch Trubisky at the end of September, he’s thrown 12 touchdowns, four interceptions, completed 63 percent of his throws and rushed for 10 more scores. His adjusted QBR of 78.9 is 10th-best among Power 5 quarterbacks during that span.

Ramsey’s all-purpose D

Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey had another exceptional game against Boston College, racking up eight tackles, 1.5 for a loss and a sack. Ramsey now has 68 tackles, 9.5 for a loss and 11 passes defended this year.

The 9.5 tackles for loss are tied for the third-most by a defensive back in the nation, and only USC’s Su’a Cravens also has at least 10 passes defended to go with the TFLs.

Hat tip to the kids

Four true freshmen started in the penultimate week of the regular season, and Reggie Bonnafon and John Wolford both came away with wins. But the youth movement has been rampant in the league all year.

Here’s a strange coincidence: Senior QBs have thrown 1,018 passes in the ACC this year. True freshman QBs have thrown 1,017. So, since they’ve thrown virtually the exact same amount of passes, who’s doing better?

No question the edge goes to the kids, which should certainly bode well for the future of offenses in the conference.

Changes coming in Blacksburg?

After a disastrous, 6-3 loss to Wake Forest, Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer admitted the QB position would be evaluated moving forward. Here’s why: Michael Brewer completed just 15 of 28 passes for 126 yards and an interception in the loss to Wake Forest. His QBR for the game was just 6.0 — the fourth-lowest by a starting QB in the ACC this season.

Since beating North Carolina on Oct. 4, Brewer’s Adjusted QBR is 29.8, the lowest of any ACC quarterback with at least 50 pass attempts.

Of course, if changes are in store, Beamer’s position could be under review, too. The Hokies are just 17-17 against FBS teams since the start of 2012, and six of those games required overtime. In regulation, Virginia Tech is just 13-15-2, and it has just four wins by two touchdowns or more against Power 5 foes.

Extra points

  • Pitt’s Tyler Boyd accounted for 126 of the Panthers’ 189 receiving yards Saturday, but that’s no surprise. For the season, Boyd is responsible for 52.3 percent of Pitt’s receiving yards — by far the highest percentage for any player in the country. Next up is Alabama’s Amari Cooper, who has 43.8 percent of the Tide’s receiving yards.
  • Virginia’s Quin Blanding had seven tackles and an interception in the victory over Miami, and he is second behind Duke’s David Helton in tackles in the ACC. More impressive, though: Of the top 100 tacklers in the nation this year, Blanding is the only freshman.
  • Louisville’s Brandon Radcliff has had four games with more than 95 rushing yards this season, and four games with less than 10. He gained 136 yards on 17 carries Saturday.
  • Duke Johnson could have set Miami’s all-time rushing record with 122 yards on the ground Saturday. Instead, he finished with just 88 — snapping a streak of 12 consecutive games with at least 90 rushing yards. He did have an additional 44 receiving yards, giving him 132 total scrimmage yards — his ninth straight game topping the century mark.
  • Wake Forest was the first team since 2012 to win a game when scoring six points or fewer (BYU beat Utah State 6-3) and the Deacons are just the fifth Power 5 team in the last decade to win a game with just six points scored. UTSA is the only other team this season to win a game in which it didn’t score a touchdown.
  • There were 13 field goals missed by ACC kickers in Week 13, and one more missed in an ACC game. That last one was by Notre Dame’s Kyle Brindza against Louisville, which cost the Irish the game. For the season, ACC kickers were connecting at a 78.2-percent clip. In Week 13, they made just 51.9 percent of their field-goal tries.
  • Defensive lineman Ron Thompson scored a rushing TD for Syracuse on Saturday — just the 11th rushing score of the year for the Orange, which rank 106th nationally in that category. But no running back has scored on the ground for Syracuse against an FBS team since Jerome Smith in last year’s bowl game.
  • Clemson’s Tyshon Dye missed all of last season and the first seven games of this year with injuries. Entering Saturday, he had just five career carries. Against Georgia State, however, he ran 20 times for 124 yards and two touchdowns.
There’s not much time for Virginia Tech to reflect on its 6-3 double overtime loss to Wake Forest, writes the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and that’s probably a good thing.

The Hokies probably have no interest in reliving the gory details, of course. And there are much bigger questions ahead.

[+] EnlargeFrank Beamer
AP Photo/John BazemoreFrank Beamer has a short week and plenty of issues after the Hokies' loss to Wake Forest.
First among them is getting prepared for Virginia. The Hoos’ defense was stellar against Miami on Saturday, and Mike London’s future in Charlottesville might depend on UVA ending its 10-game losing streak to its rival.

The future of many coaches on Virginia Tech’s staff could ride on Friday's outcome, too.

As The Roanoke Times writes, plenty of questions are swirling around the program, chiefly surrounding offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler.

Our Travis Haney suggests changes on the Hokies’ offensive staff seem likely — meaning Frank Beamer would be on his third offensive coordinator in four years.

But the more immediate change could come at quarterback, where Michael Brewer has struggled to ignite the offense.

For the season, Brewer has the second lowest Total QBR in the ACC (ahead of only Wake Forest freshman John Wolford, who bested Brewer on Saturday), and Brenden Motley certainly seemed to provide the only minor spark for the Hokies against the Deacons.

It’s a situation to monitor, and the decision on how Tech handles its QBs could have huge ripple effects for both the Hokies and UVA.

A few more links:

ACC helmet stickers: Week 13

November, 23, 2014
Nov 23
Here are the men whose play stood out above all others during another wild weekend in the ACC:

North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams: Williams turned in another outstanding game, keying a 45-20 rout of favored rival Duke on Thursday. He completed 18 of 27 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns, adding 98 rushing yards and two more scores on 21 carries. His 374 total yards gave Williams 3,499 total yards on the season, breaking Bryn Renner's single-season UNC record (3,394). Williams also has 32 touchdowns he has been responsible for this season, which also breaks Renner's single-season record (29 in 2012).

Florida State wide receiver Rashad Greene: Greene hauled in eight passes for 106 yards, and FSU needed every single one of them to extend its winning streak to 27 games and keep its repeat national title hopes alive. The Seminoles beat Boston College, 20-17, and Greene etched his name into the school record books Saturday, as his final catch helped him break Ron Sellers' FSU record for career receiving yards. Greene now has 3,613 career receiving yards, and the senior now has a personal-best 75 catches on the season. He still has at least three games left in his Noles career, too.

Wake Forest linebacker Marquel Lee: When you engineer a defensive effort that holds a team scoreless in regulation -- one that ends with your first league win of the season, no less -- you get recognition here. Lee, a sophomore, had a game-high 12 total tackles, including three for loss (2.5 sacks) and one forced fumble. The Demon Deacons shocked Virginia Tech in double overtime, winning 6-3.

Louisville running back Brandon Radcliff: Radcliff ran wild in the second half, carrying the ball 15 times for 129 yards and a touchdown in Louisville's 31-28 win over Notre Dame. He finished the day with 17 carries for 136 yards and a touchdown, the leader of a Cardinals rushing attack that set the tone for the day, finishing with 229 yards on the ground.

Clemson defense: There are too many people to name here, so the Tigers' defense will have to share this award. Yes, it was against Georgia State, but Clemson had nine different players record a tackle for loss, and three different players record an interception in the 28-0 win. The Tigers held Georgia State to 155 total yards of offense, the fifth different opponent they have held under 200 yards this season. This was also Clemson's second shutout of the season, marking its first multi-shutout season since 1998.

What we learned in the ACC: Week 13

November, 22, 2014
Nov 22
Thirteen weeks into the season, and we got some surprises (Wake Forest wins!) and some not-so-surprising results (Florida State narrowly escapes!). Here’s what we learned from the penultimate week of the regular season.

North Carolina is going bowling: No, the Tar Heels haven’t lived up to expectations this season, but just as they did a season ago, they’ve proven to be one of the most resilient teams in the nation. Marquise Williams turned in another phenomenal performance against Duke on Thursday, accounting for four touchdowns in a 45-20 win that eliminated the Blue Devils from the Coastal Division race, returned the Victory Bell to Chapel Hill, and officially made UNC bowl eligible for the second straight season.

[+] EnlargeCam McDaniel
Matt Cashore/USA TODAY SportsLouisville's victory over Notre Dame on Saturday kept the Cardinals alive for a New Year's Six bowl appearance.
Georgia Tech wins the Coastal: From rumblings about Paul Johnson’s job security in August to a division title in November, it’s been a stellar season for Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets actually had Week 13 off in preparation for another rivalry showdown against Georgia, but thanks to Duke’s Thursday night loss to North Carolina, Johnson’s crew officially wrapped up the Coastal and a trip to Charlotte to face Florida State in the ACC Championship game. Tech’s players are, of course, clearly focused on upending Georgia for just the second time since 2000, but the matchup for the conference title promises to be as intriguing as, perhaps, any in ACC championship game history.

The battle for the Orange Bowl is heating up: Sure, there’s no longer any drama about who’ll make it to Charlotte, and FSU is the league’s only chance at the playoff, but the question of which ACC team will take its turn in the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Day is awfully interesting. First off, FSU needs to make the playoff -- and after another close call against Boston College, that’s certainly not etched in stone. But if the Seminoles go to the playoff, then the three-team battle between Georgia Tech, Louisville and Clemson for a trip to South Florida could be awfully tight. Tech is currently the highest ranked of the group, but it’s got two games against top-10 teams remaining. Clemson currently would be next up, but it’s been a long time since the Tigers have beaten South Carolina -- their Week 14 foe. And then there’s Louisville, still alive for a shot after narrowly knocking off Notre Dame 31-28. The highest-ranked team after the ACC title game gets its ticket punched.

Wake Forest doesn’t roll over: It’s been a brutal season in Winston-Salem. Wake’s offense isn’t just bad, but historically so. It would’ve been easy for the team to have cashed it in -- particularly the veterans who won’t be around to see the fruits of this rebuilding project. But it’s a huge credit to Dave Clawson’s motivational tactics and the pride of the players on the roster that they continue to fight. The Demon Deacons couldn’t muster much offense again Saturday, but their stout D overwhelmed Virginia Tech and they prevailed 6-3 in double overtime. Wake certainly hasn’t been a great team this season, but four of its six conference losses were by 14 points or less and it’s played every game tough. That bodes well for the future for Clawson and Co.

Bowl bids on the line in Week 14: With Virginia’s dominant 30-13 win over Miami, Virginia Tech’s loss to Wake and Pittsburgh’s 30-7 drubbing of Syracuse, there will be three ACC teams playing for bowl eligibility in the final week of the season. Pitt gets its shot against reeling Miami, while UVA and Virginia Tech face off in their annual rivalry game, with one gaining that crucial sixth win and the other facing a long, ugly offseason. With a win, Mike London could secure another year on the sideline for the Cavaliers. With a loss, Frank Beamer’s future is going to move from debatable topic to outright controversy.

ACC viewer's guide: Week 13

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
Much of the drama is already gone from the ACC slate, and the SEC rivalry games are still a week away. But there is still plenty to watch for in Week 13.

12:30 p.m.

Virginia Tech at Wake Forest, ESPN3, #VTvsWAKE
The Hokies can wrap up bowl eligibility with a win against Wake Forest, which given the litany of injuries Virginia Tech has suffered this season -- including tailback Marshawn Williams, who tore his ACL last week -- is probably commendable. The Hokies are coming off their second road win of the season against a top-25 foe, so the trip to Winston-Salem against a Demon Deacons team still looking for its first ACC victory shouldn’t be a huge test. Wake hasn’t been able to run the ball on anyone this season, but Virginia Tech’s defense allows 5.64 yards-per-carry on non-sack rushing attempts this season -- 104th nationally.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesJameis Winston and Florida State will try to produce a rare fast start this week against Boston College.
3:30 p.m.

Boston College at No. 3 Florida State, ABC/ESPN2, #BCvsFSU
A year ago, it was the Eagles who gave FSU its toughest game of the regular season. Now, BC is the ACC’s last chance to send the Seminoles to a conference loss. The matchup isn’t ideal for an FSU defense that has been gashed by the run on a few occasions this season, and after escaping a physical matchup against Miami last week, it will be interesting to see how focused the Seminoles are for this one. But with a season of close calls already in their rearview mirror, Jimbo Fisher no doubt has emphasized the importance of a fast start this week, and for FSU, it needs to start thinking about earning some style points to impress the CFB playoff committee.

Syracuse at Pittsburgh, ESPNU, #CUSEvsPITT
Pitt has lost three straight despite 1,040 yards of offense from James Conner and Tyler Boyd. The Panthers have actually dropped six of their past seven after a 3-0 start to the season, and now they must win out to have a shot at a bowl game. Four of Pitt’s six losses have been by five points or less, however, and Conner and Boyd remain two of the most potent threats in the ACC. Whether Syracuse’s underrated defense can slow down Pitt’s stars might be paramount, but the Orange will also need to find some offense against a Panthers team that has allowed 147 points in its past three games.

No. 24 Louisville at Notre Dame, NBC
The Cardinals are back in the top 25, but they will go to battle in South Bend without starting quarterback Will Gardner. Reggie Bonnafon will take over at QB coming off his best game as a college player last week when he threw for 69 yards, ran for 76 more and scored three times against Boston College. But the real intrigue might come on the other side of the ball, where Everett Golson leads an Irish offense that leads all Power 5 teams in turnovers against Louisville’s stout defense, led by safety Gerod Holliman and his 13 interceptions.

Georgia State at No. 22 Clemson, ESPN3, #GSUvsCLEM
Since Deshaun Watson went down with a hand injury last month, Clemson’s offense has more turnovers (11) than touchdowns (7), and that downward spiral hit rock bottom last week when Cole Stoudt threw three interceptions, including two that were returned for touchdowns. But as bad as Stoudt’s performance was, Dabo Swinney and the Tigers believe he’s still a capable quarterback, and certainly the job gets a lot easier this week. The bigger question now is whether it will be Stoudt’s job in two weeks when Clemson looks to end a five-game losing streak against rival South Carolina.

7 p.m.

Miami at Virginia, ESPN2, #MIAvsUVA
The Hurricanes are coming off a physical and emotional loss to Florida State and looking to rebound. Virginia is still clinging to bowl hopes, and might need to win out to salvage coach Mike London’s job. The key to the game might be how well the Hoos’ defense can slow Duke Johnson and the Miami running game, but as FSU found out last week, quarterback Brad Kaaya is certainly capable of doing some damage. Virginia, on the other hand, has just 59 rushing yards combined in its past two games, and it has scored on the ground just once in its past five.

ACC Week 13 predictions

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20
Fortuna: Can Duke handle its first Thursday night game? Can it withstand the very real target on its back that has come from beating UNC two years in a row? Can it clean up its offensive miscues from this past week against Virginia Tech? That last question will matter most Thursday, as the Blue Devils will have to score plenty of points to keep up with QB Marquise Williams and the Heels offense. Turnovers will be key for Duke's defense, but here's guessing that Williams rebounds and delivers after throwing the game-sealing pick in last year's game. UNC 35, Duke 30

Hale: Saturday’s loss was a tough one for the Blue Devils, but it was hardly a game in which Duke was outplayed. David Cutcliffe's team has thrived all season by getting all the little things right -- but against Virginia Tech, Duke looked like a different team. So what’s more likely to happen: Duke falls apart again in a must-win game or it reverts to its status as one of the most fundamentally sound teams in the country? I’m betting on the latter, but I don’t need a leap of faith to get there. The biggest difference against the Hokies was a ferocious Virginia Tech pass rush, and UNC doesn’t bring anything close to that caliber of defense to the table. Anthony Boone will have time to throw, Jamison Crowder will find space downfield, and the Duke running game should have room to run. Duke has no choice but to get a win here, and Cutcliffe will have his team ready to get it done. Duke 31, North Carolina 27

Adelson: There is one stat that illustrates why Louisville will win: Everett Golson has 19 total turnovers in his past seven games. The Louisville defense has forced 25 turnovers this season, one of the best marks in the country. And Golson will be playing with a bum shoulder. So the focus has to be on whether Golson can finally start taking care of the football the way he did earlier in the season, something coach Brian Kelly has stated publicly for weeks now. Notre Dame is coming off an emotional overtime loss; Louisville had a bye to prepare. The Cards are not going to be intimidated, either, having played in big-time atmospheres over the past several years. Louisville 27, Notre Dame 24

Fortuna: Notre Dame was not as good as its 6-0 start indicated. But it's not as bad as this current slump indicates, either. Saturday against Northwestern was the perfect storm of miscues that left the Irish vulnerable to defeat. And while the defense remains banged up, there are some talented newcomers who have slowly grown into their roles. Golson, for all of his giveaways, remains a dynamic quarterback, one who was on the fringe of the Heisman Trophy discussion as recently as two weeks ago. If he can protect the ball -- and if the Irish can go through field goals without any pre-kick issues -- Notre Dame has enough talent to resemble the offense of a month ago and withstand the Cardinals' pressure up front. Notre Dame 31, Louisville 25

Unanimous selections

Virginia Tech at Wake Forest: The Hokies believe the upset of Duke last week will spur a late-season rally, and the good news is Wake Forest should help boost that push. Virginia Tech should become bowl eligible after this game as it is hard to see the Demon Deacons' offense doing enough to beat the Hokies. Virginia Tech 21, Wake Forest 7

Syracuse at Pittsburgh: It has been a rough few weeks for the Panthers, who are fighting to make a bowl game. The Panthers have two of the conference's best offensive players in James Conner and Tyler Boyd, and it will be tough for Syracuse and its struggling offense to match the production of those two. The Panthers defense should get a bit of a break this week after allowing 147 points in their past three games. Pitt 34, Syracuse 24

Boston College at Florida State: Boston College has the ability to annoy and potentially upset FSU because of the Eagles' ground attack and stout defense. However, Jimbo Fisher said the Seminoles are physically ready for the Eagles. It would not be a shock if this game was close -- every FSU game is -- but at this point no one has been able to beat the Noles and that should continue. Florida State 27, Boston College 17

Georgia State at Clemson: The Tigers are playing Georgia State, which is 1-9 with all nine losses coming in a row. No matter who plays quarterback for Clemson, this should be an easy win. Clemson 49, Georgia State 0

Miami at Virginia: The Canes are reeling after a devastating loss to Florida State, and there certainly could be a hangover. The loss proved how far Miami has come and how talented the Canes are, though, and they should be able to beat Virginia. But don't count out the Cavaliers. The defense is good and the offense is getting better. They also had an extra week to prepare and need a win to keep their bowl hopes alive. Miami 24, Virginia 20

Current standings
Shanker: 63-16
Adelson: 62-17
Fortuna: 61-18
Hale: 61-18

ACC Show: Week 13 replay

November, 19, 2014
Nov 19
Join ACC reporters Andrea Adelson, David Hale, Matt Fortuna and Jared Shanker as they get into the Week 13 schedule, the Coastal race and Florida State's lack of national respect. They'll also answer your questions live on screen.

ACC Power Rankings: Week 12

November, 16, 2014
Nov 16

ACC viewer's guide: Week 12

November, 14, 2014
Nov 14
If the Coastal teams want people to stop making jokes at their expense, then this is their weekend to make a stand.

12 p.m.

No. 19 Clemson at No. 22 Georgia Tech, ESPN, #CLEMvsGT
This game as close to a must-win if either team wants an opportunity to play in the Orange Bowl. As is the case with most every game that involves the Yellow Jackets, it probably will come down to rush and third-down defense. Clemson provides stiff competition in those areas, which makes for an intriguing game within the game. Georgia Tech ranks third in average rushing yards per game and leads the country with a third-down conversion rate of 59 percent, four points better than any other team. Clemson allows an average of only 91 yards on the ground, however, and no team is better than the Tigers at getting off the field on third downs. Just like Georgia Tech on third downs, no team is close to Clemson on third-down defense. If Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson can play the way he did before the injury and keep the Tigers' offense on the field, Clemson has the upper hand.

Virginia Tech at No. 21 Duke, ESPNU, #VTvsDUKE
This does not classify as a game Virginia Tech needs to win to reach bowl eligibility, but it would give the Hokies relief if they can steal a win against the Coastal-leading Blue Devils. Given how the Virginia Tech offense has played over the course of the season and now coupled with a defense that is not playing its best, it will be a tough task to upset Duke. For the Blue Devils, will they be caught looking ahead to a Thursday night matchup against classic rival North Carolina? The Duke offense was not playing to the best of its capabilities last week, so success against Virginia Tech would be a good boost before the UNC game. The Tar Heels know how to light up a scoreboard -- both by scoring points and allowing them.

12:30 p.m.

Pittsburgh at North Carolina, ESPN3, #PITTvsUNC
This is another game in which a win is desperately needed to help keep the hope of a bowl game alive. Both Pitt and UNC are sitting two wins shy of bowl eligibility with three games to go. The Tar Heels have quarterback Marquise Williams, who several teams have had an issue stopping, and Pitt is keeping its secondary together with adhesive at this point. However, the Panthers have James Conner and the Tar Heels don't stop the run well. Or the pass. Or anything really. Ideally, the Panthers would like Conner to keep moving the chains and eat up the clock, but this could end up being a high-scoring affair.

3 p.m.

Wake Forest at North Carolina State, ESPN3, #WAKEvsNCSU
The good news is somebody has to win this game. The bad news is it won't save either team's season, although the Wolfpack can get to six wins and a bowl game with a win. That still is a mild disappointment considering the program's 4-0 start this season. NC State has the potential to score with QB Jacoby Brissett, but the Demon Deacons have an underrated defense. If the Wake offense can sustain a few drives and find the end zone even twice, it could be enough to leave Raleigh with a win.

8 p.m.

No. 3 Florida State at Miami
The message was pretty clear from the selection committee Saturday: If the Seminoles lose, they can kiss the playoffs goodbye. That might have been assumed previously, but now it is understood. This will be a much tougher game for the Seminoles than it looked like it would be just a few weeks ago as Miami is playing the best it has all season. The Hurricanes present matchup problems for Florida State as they are able to run the ball effectively with a variety of backs, including Duke Johnson. The junior could be the country's best running back, and his backup Joseph Yearby is destined for stardom. If Miami controls the clock and piles up the rushing yards, it will be meaningless if it cannot cash in when it reaches the red zone. Otherwise, Miami leaves the door open for Jameis Winston and potentially another wild comeback for the Seminoles. Florida State's opportunity at consecutive national championships could end Saturday, which would close the door on the ACC making it into the inaugural playoff, too.
There's a group message including 16 or 17 of the top quarterbacks in last year's signing class, Miami's Brad Kaaya said, and he chimes in once or twice a week to join the discussion.

They'll talk a little trash, commiserate over tough practices and occasionally, Kaaya said, joke about the ugliness of another team's uniforms. As the 2014 season has progressed, however, the QBs -- along with a host of other top freshmen, particularly in the ACC -- have had a lot of game film to discuss.

[+] EnlargeBrad Kaaya
Brett Davis/USA TODAY SportsMiami's Brad Kaaya, who leads the ACC in several key passing categories, cites advanced preparation as the reason true freshmen are making a considerable impact.
Kaaya is one of five true freshman quarterbacks to start games in the ACC this season, and throughout the conference, the Class of 2014 is making an instant impact. From Virginia Tech, where freshmen have ruled the offense, to Florida State, where the newcomers are playing key roles in a title defense, there's a massive youth movement going on around the league.

"Guys are coming in at all positions being prepared a lot earlier," said Kaaya, who leads the ACC in touchdown passes, yards per attempt and passing efficiency. "A lot of the high school offenses around the country are really benefiting quarterbacks. A lot of coaches are starting to adopt a lot of spread formations and pass, pass, pass. That's really preparing guys for college a lot more."

Prepared or not, the QBs have been thrown into the deep end this season.

Kaaya has started every game for Miami. John Wolford has done the same at Wake Forest and been the recipient of the highest sack rate in the country to boot. Reggie Bonnafon is now the starter at Louisville, AJ Long had his shot at Syracuse before getting hurt and this week Deshaun Watson returns from a broken finger to helm the Clemson offense. After nearly upending FSU and throwing six touchdown passes against North Carolina a week later, Watson quickly established himself as one of the most prominent members of the Class of 2014.

"He's to the nth degree of what you want in a quarterback," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "He's a great player, very talented, but he's smart, a natural leader, very humble, he's a giver, he's confident, great instincts. He's got everything."

But it doesn't stop with the quarterbacks.

Six of the top 25 receivers in the ACC are true freshmen. Five of the top 15 rushers are from the Class of 2014. The conference's leading tackler arrived on Virginia's campus just six months ago.

Wolford's top target at Wake Forest is freshman tight end Cam Serigne. Jameis Winston has quickly developed trust in freshman Travis Rudolph as a capable complement to star Rashad Greene. Jon Hilliman's 11 touchdown runs for Boston College rank second in the league -- the most by a true freshman in the ACC in more than a decade.

It's a tribute, in part, to all the young talent entering the league. Of the ACC's top 27 signees from 2014, 22 have seen the field this year -- including 10 of the top 11.

"I just think you see the level of play at every level evolving," said Bo Hines, an early enrollee this spring who starred in the spring game for NC State before emerging as the Wolfpack's most reliable receiver. "Players at high school are becoming more gifted from working out or coaching. I just think you see a closer playing field once you get to the next level."

The transition may not be as steep, but it still takes work and patience.

Before the season began, Frank Beamer was giddy over the impact his 2014 signing class could provide -- in particular, a tandem of receivers with a bright future. It wasn't necessarily clear that future would start immediately, given that Virginia Tech returned three receivers with at least 700 yards from last season, but Isaiah Ford had no doubts he'd be an impact player from Day 1.

Last spring and over the summer, Ford worked with his high school coaches on strength training, conditioning, route running and any other skills he thought needed refining to play with the big boys at the next level. By the time he got to Blacksburg, he was already comfortable with what Virginia Tech's coaches wanted to see from him.

"One of the biggest things coming in is I knew that's what I wanted to do so I prepared myself all summer," Ford said. "So when I stepped on the field for the first day, I had every intention of playing right away."

[+] EnlargeTravis Rudolph
John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsTrue freshman Travis Rudolph has gained the trust of Jameis Winston and the defending national champion Florida State Seminoles.
Ford leads the Hokies with 41 catches, 522 yards and five touchdowns this year, but his fellow true freshman Cam Phillips has been nearly as good. Overall, 60 percent of Virginia Tech's receiving yards and 67 percent of its rushing yards have come from either redshirt or true freshmen.

But as physically fit as the group arrived, Beamer said the key is that the kids are smart, too.

"I think that goes hand in hand with being able to play early and play at a high level," Beamer said.

It's also about earning respect quickly. Mistakes are inevitable, Ford said, but having a patient coaching staff and a strong work ethic goes a long way.

For Kaaya, it's a little different. By virtue of his position, he's expected to command a huddle, but that's not always easy when the guys around him have been through a lot more battles.

"I'm a freshman who just got here and hasn't proved himself. There are guys in the huddle who have kids and are married and are five years older than me," Kaaya said. "So for me, it was just working hard, showing guys I'm a hard worker, practicing well and making good decisions."

So far, that hasn't been nearly as big a problem as fans might have expected for Kaaya or a host of his fellow newcomers.

It's a credit to the quality of talent entering the ACC, but also to the players making the most of their opportunities, Hines said. Playing time is easier to win for true freshmen these days, but it's not won with talent alone.

"My goal was to be the most reliable guy on the field," Hines said. "You want to be the guy that they want to throw to on third down or clutch situations during the game, and I've always worked on being that guy."

ACC Week 12 predictions

November, 13, 2014
Nov 13
Adelson: One big reason: Deshaun Watson. Clemson has a formidable defensive front, and that is obviously a huge advantage going against the rolling Georgia Tech offense. But having Watson back in the lineup against a mediocre Georgia Tech defense is going to be the key difference. His presence alone is worth at least 20 additional points, considering the way the Tigers scored with him playing an entire game -- 91 points against North Carolina and NC State; 90 total points in the next four games with Watson relegated to the sideline. Georgia Tech ranks No. 13 in the ACC in total defense, and has given up 33 touchdowns this season -- third worst in the league. The Clemson offense should come back to life in this one. Clemson 35, Georgia Tech 28

Hale: Yes, Clemson’s defense is stout, and it hasn't allowed much on the ground since a Week 1 loss to Georgia. But keep this in mind, too: The Tigers have faced just one team since UGA that ranks in the top 20 in rushing. It has faced four that rank 100 or worse. And looking back on that Georgia game, Clemson had no answers for the Bulldogs' ground game. Georgia Tech will stretch the Clemson D, and with safety Robert Smith suspended for the first half, that’s bad news for the Tigers. Add Justin Thomas' big-play threat and there’s every reason to think the Jackets will be the biggest offensive threat Clemson has faced all year. On the other side of the ball, Clemson’s running game has struggled all year, so the game will be all about Watson, who hasn't played in more than a month. Georgia Tech 35, Clemson 28

Hale: In fairness, this is more of a gut pick than anything. Virginia Tech certainly isn’t playing great football, but it’s coming off a bye week, its quarterback, Michael Brewer, is playing his best football of the season, and the Hokies' pass rush is easily the best Duke will have faced this season. Is that enough to topple a Blue Devils team that has been nearly flawless in the past month? Maybe not, but the Hokies are better than they've played recently and they're primed for an upset somewhere. Virginia Tech 24, Duke 21

Shanker: The Blue Devils did not play their best against Syracuse, but their defense was able to set up the offense. That should play a big role against the Hokies' anemic offense. When Virginia Tech isn't throwing interceptions they just aren't moving the ball. Duke's offense should be able to spend a good amount of the game on the field and get one game closer to a Coastal title. Duke 17, Virginia Tech 16

Shanker: At the beginning of the season, at least the Tar Heels' offense was playing well. Over the past two games, though, the Heels are averaging only 24 points, and the Panthers are No. 20 in total defense and are even better against the pass. James Conner and the Pitt rushing attack also will do their part to keep the UNC offense off the field, which means even fewer opportunities for the Heels' offense to get back on track. Pitt 42, UNC 35

Fortuna: Pitt has lost another starter in the secondary at the worst possible time, as safety Terrish Webb underwent season-ending surgery on his right ankle last week. Without him, the Panthers defense gave up 51 points to Duke. UNC enters averaging 35.4, and the Heels are the second-best passing team in the ACC (291.89 yards per game). Pitt's offense has looked sharper as of late, but it probably does not have enough proven weapons to keep up in a shootout. UNC 45, Pitt 38

Hale: Pick against Florida State at your own risk. The Seminoles have had their backs against the wall nearly every week, but they still won’t lose. Given the recent history of FSU-Miami battles, there’s no reason to assume that will change this week, but there is a formula for a Hurricanes win. First, Duke Johnson needs to run the ball effectively. He has been red hot as of late, and Florida State is vulnerable up the middle against the run. Second, Miami needs to control time of possession. Keeping Jameis Winston off the field was a big key as Notre Dame nearly pulled the upset a few weeks ago. Third, the Miami D needs to force Winston into a few mistakes. It’s not a big-play defense, but Winston has shown a lack of patience in recent games, and FSU’s young receivers haven't offered much help. If Miami can run the football and force a couple turnovers, it has as good a shot to topple the Seminoles as it has had in years. FSU 28, Miami 27

Shanker: Jimbo Fisher has owned his rivals and in particular Miami. Fisher has never lost to the Canes and has routinely embarrassed Miami, too. The Canes are playing much better and the rushing duo of Johnson and Joseph Yearby could give the FSU defense fits. However, one of the keys to beating Florida State is to pour on the points, because the Noles can score quickly and history suggests they will top 30. If Miami goes with a ball-control offense, it will have to finish with touchdowns. Otherwise lots of rushing yards and time of possession will be meaningless. The Florida State offense will make enough chunk plays and force a second-half turnover to swing the game in their favor. It will be another FSU game that comes down to the fourth quarter, but once again the Noles will pull it out. FSU 34, Miami 24

Unanimous pick
Wake Forest at NC State: If the Demon Deacons can get the most out of their offense for a second straight week -- 20 points last week despite 119 total yards -- they will have a chance to upset the Wolfpack and deal a blow to their bowl hopes on Senior Day. That's asking a lot, though, especially against an NC State defense all too happy to defend Wake after Georgia Tech's triple-option gave it fits last week. NC State 24, Wake Forest 13

Current standings
Shanker: 61-13
Adelson: 60-14
Fortuna: 58-16
Hale: 56-18

ACC Show: Week 12 (2 ET)

November, 12, 2014
Nov 12
Join's ACC reporters Andrea Adelson, Matt Fortuna and Jared Shanker as they discuss weather Miami has a shot at upsetting Florida State and the still- crazy Coastal Division.

By the numbers: Week 11 recap

November, 10, 2014
Nov 10
Looking at some statistical nuggets from last week's action in the ACC...

Boone getting it done

Since losing to Miami on Sept. 27, Duke QB Anthony Boone probably hasn't turned many heads with his play, but that's sort of the point.

Boone's numbers don't jump off the page -- 60 percent completions, seven TDs, 5.8 yards-per-attempt -- but when it comes to avoiding the kinds of plays that cost teams wins, he's been exceptional. In Duke's four games since the Miami loss, Boone has thrown just one INT, hasn't fumbled and hasn't taken a sack.

How crazy is that? If we add up sacks, fumbles and INTs for all QBs with at least 100 action plays during that stretch, they average a sack, fumble or INT every 12.3 plays. Boone has one in 164 plays.

Holliman gets lucky 13

Louisville safety Gerod Holliman went for the hat trick against Boston College on Saturday, picking off three passes in the game. That brings his season total to 13 -- tying David Amerson for the most by an ACC defender and just one shy of the NCAA record, set by Washington's Al Worley in 1968.

Here's how good Holliman has been: Not counting his own team, just nine other programs in the country have more interceptions this season total than he does individually.

Of course, Holliman doesn't get all the credit. Louisville's defensive front has forced many a bad throw this season, which has upped the takeaway numbers. Against BC, the Cards sacked Tyler Murphy twice and had him under pressure all night, despite missing leading pass rusher Lorenzo Mauldin. Against FBS opponents this season, Louisville's defense ranks sixth nationally in sack rate (9.8 percent) and has the 11th highest rate of plays going for zero or negative yardage (40.5 percent).

Georgia Tech's turnovers

The Yellow Jackets' defense hasn't fared too well statistically, ranking 114th nationally in yards allowed per play. But those struggles have been accounted for by capitalizing on takeaways.

Tech ranks ninth nationally in turnover margin (plus-9), is fourth in points off turnovers (101, including 14 on Saturday against NC State) and fourth in points-off-turnovers margin (plus-70). Since the start of last season, only five teams have scored more points off turnovers than the Yellow Jackets, despite ranking just 35th in turnovers created.

Murphy reaches 1,000

It was definitely Tyler Murphy's worst game of the season, but still worth noting that he became just the fourth QB in ACC history -- and first since 2009 -- to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.

Murphy's 28-yard run in the second quarter was also his 12th carry for 25 yards or more this season. In the past decade, the only Power 5 quarterbacks with more in a season are Johnny Manziel and Pat White.

Greene is go-to guy for FSU

Rashad Greene had a career-high 13 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown in a win against Virginia. Greene is now just five catches shy of his 2013 total, just 11 yards shy of topping 1,000 for the second straight season and just 16 receptions from breaking Ron Sellers' school record for catches, set in 1968. Greene is one of just five players in the country with three games with at least 11 receptions this season, and he's responsible for 34.2 percent of FSU's receptions vs. FBS teams this year, the 13th-highest rate in the nation.

Wake's woes on O

Wake Forest was held to just 119 yards of offense against Clemson. It's the fifth time this season the Deacons were held to fewer than 170. In the past decade, the only other team to tally no more than 170 yards in a game five times was Notre Dame in 2007.

Wake did still score 20 points against the Tigers, however, which ranks as just the third time in the past decade that a team had at least 20 points but no more than 120 yards of offense in a game. Oddly, Missouri also turned that trick this season (against Florida) and both previous teams to do it won their games. The other was Florida State (also against Florida) in 2011.

Clemson's stout D

The beneficiary of Wake's struggles -- or the cause of it, depending on your perspective -- was Clemson's defense. The Tigers became the first unit to hold an opponent to fewer than 170 yards in consecutive weeks this season. In the past decade, it's just the ninth time that's happened against Power 5 opposition, and the first time it's happened in the ACC.

For the season now, Clemson's D ranks first in third-down conversion rate (23.2 percent), yards-per-play (3.97), percent of plays resulting in loss or no gain (45.8 percent), percent of plays gaining 5 yards or more (30.8 percent) and tackles-for-loss (91).

Quick hitters
  • Since returning from injury on Oct. 18, DeVante Parker has 25 catches for 490 yards. That's the most receiving yards by any Power 5 receiver during that span, and no other ACC receiver is within 127 yards of his total.
  • Florida State tailback Karlos Williams scored twice in a win against Virginia, bringing his career total to 20. He's done all that on just 210 career rushing attempts -- scoring once every 10.5 rushes. Since the start of last season, no other Power 5 back with at least 200 carries has been better.
  • BC running back Jon Hilliman now has 11 rushing touchdowns this season, the most by an ACC true freshman in at least a decade.
  • Syracuse wide receiver Jarrod West ranks fifth in the ACC in receiving yards vs. FBS teams (596) despite the fact his quarterbacks rank 121st nationally in passer rating in those games.
  • Georgia Tech senior Synjyn Days had just 561 career rushing yards until three weeks ago. He's had 414 since, and only Miami's Duke Johnson has averaged more yards-per-carry in the ACC during that stretch.
  • Opponents' average starting field position against Duke this season is their own 24-yard line. Ohio State is the only defense in the nation to start with more advantageous field position.
  • Deshaun Watson is set to return for Clemson at quarterback this week against Georgia Tech. In his absence, the Tigers' offensive TD output (7) was exceeded by its turnovers (8).

ACC Power Rankings: Week 11

November, 9, 2014
Nov 9



Friday, 11/28
Saturday, 11/29