ACC: 2011-midseason-team-reports

Midseason report: Boston College

October, 11, 2011
10/11/11
11:30
AM ET
BOSTON COLLEGE

Record: 1-5, 0-3 ACC

It’s been a woeful first half of the season for the Eagles, who lost the ACC’s returning leading rusher, Montel Harris, for the first three games with a knee injury; one of their top receivers, Ifeanyi Momah, suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game. It only got worse this past week when Harris and defensive tackle Kaleb Ramsey were deemed out for the season with injuries. First-year offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers also took a leave of absence in mid-September, and coach Frank Spaziani has said there has been a leadership problem, which stems in part from injuries and a lack of upperclassmen. The problems run deeper than that, though, as attendance is down and fan frustration is up. Athletic director Gene DeFilippo has said Spaziani’s job is safe for this year, and turnover at the head position has been a problem for a program that has had three different coaches in the past five seasons. It’s no wonder the Eagles have struggled on the field. BC got off to a poor start when it lost the season opener to Northwestern and the Wildcats’ backup quarterback, and it snowballed into an 0-3 start. Statistically, BC has been one of the worst teams in the country. The Eagles are last in the ACC in total offense, scoring offense and total defense. Their lone win came against Massachusetts. It’s not going to get any easier in the second half of the season. The Eagles have a bye week before facing a stretch that includes four of the final six games on the road. So far, all signs point to BC having its worst season since 1998.

Offensive MVP: Quarterback Chase Rettig: He is No. 10 in the ACC in passing average per game with 196.8 yards, and he has six touchdowns and five interceptions. He has completed 53.4 percent of his passes for 1,181 yards.

Defensive MVP: Linebacker Luke Kuechly: He’s still an All-American and one of the best linebackers in the country. He leads the nation in tackles with 99 and 16.5 per game.

Midseason report: Clemson

October, 11, 2011
10/11/11
11:00
AM ET
CLEMSON

Record: 6-0, 3-0 ACC

With a first-year starting quarterback and a first-year offensive coordinator, there were plenty of reasons to doubt Clemson heading into this season, but the Tigers erased them in the first half of the season with three straight wins over ranked opponents. Clemson went 3-0 against championship row, defeating defending national champ Auburn, defending Atlantic Division champ Florida State, and defending ACC champ Virginia Tech on the road. Coming off a losing season, Clemson couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. The addition of offensive coordinator Chad Morris might have been the best hire of the offseason in the ACC. The new, up-tempo offense has kept defenses off-balance all season, and Morris got the players to buy into it early. The Tigers are reaping the rewards, as they have the upper hand in the Atlantic Division race and are the ACC’s top-ranked team. One of the biggest reasons for their success has been a variety of options at the skill position, and quarterback Tajh Boyd’s ability to effectively manage the game. Clemson got a brief scare when Boyd left the Boston College game early with a hip injury last week, but all indications from within the program since then are that the star quarterback won’t miss any game time. Clemson’s defense, led by end Andre Branch, has showed steady improvement over the past few weeks, and those within the program say the Tigers have yet to reach their peak.

Offensive MVP: Quarterback Tajh Boyd. Boyd has been on a record-setting pace this season. He ranks first in the ACC in passing yards per game (290) and total offense (310.3) and is second in touchdown passes (15). He has completed 119 of 194 pass attempts for 15 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He ranks 14th in the nation in total offense and 16th in passing efficiency.

Defensive MVP: Defensive end Andre Branch. He is tied for 15th in the country in tackles for loss (1.58 per game and 9.5 overall) and he is tied for seventh in the country in sacks (six). He is second on the team with 39 tackles, which is unusual for a defensive lineman. He also has one pass breakup, three quarterback hurries and a forced fumble.

Midseason report: Duke

October, 11, 2011
10/11/11
10:30
AM ET
DUKE

Record: 3-2, 1-0

Heading into this season, it wasn’t too unreasonable to think Duke could become bowl eligible if it went 3-1 against nonconference opponents, with the lone loss being an expected one to Stanford. It’s still not impossible, but the Blue Devils made it much more difficult on themselves when they lost their season opener to Richmond. Thanks to Duke, it was the third straight season the ACC had lost to an FCS opponent, and it raised the question of whether Duke had taken a much-needed step forward under coach David Cutcliffe. Losing injured running backs Desmond Scott (for three weeks) and Josh Snead didn’t help an already-struggling running game, and defensive end Kenny Anunike was leading the league in sacks when he suffered a season-ending knee injury against Tulane.

After an 0-2 start, though, Duke has rebounded with three straight wins, including an ACC win on the road against Boston College. Duke has improved significantly on both sides of the ball since the loss to Richmond, and the passing game has finally found its groove under quarterback Sean Renfree and receiver Conner Vernon. In the past three games, Vernon has 22 catches 329 yards and four touchdowns. The defense has allowed only one sack during the three-game winning streak, and Duke has found a way to win two one-possession games on the road.

Offensive MVP: Quarterback Sean Renfree: He is second in the ACC in passing average per game and directed game-winning drives in fourth-quarter comebacks against Boston College and FIU. Renfree has completed 71 percent of his passes for 1,361 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. He also has three rushing touchdowns.

Defensive MVP: Safety Matt Daniels: He has 48 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and nine pass breakups. He ranks sixth in the ACC in tackles and is tied for first in the conference in passes defended.

Midseason report: Florida State

October, 11, 2011
10/11/11
10:00
AM ET
FLORIDA STATE

Record: 2-3, 0-2 ACC

Surprise.

Or maybe not, if you’re one of the many college football fans who have heard this story before. Stop me if you have …

Florida State enters the season with lofty expectations, hype surrounding a potential run at the national title and as the overwhelming preseason favorite to win the ACC.

Midway through the season, the Noles are still looking for their first conference win and have to beat Duke to get it.

It’s one thing to lose to Oklahoma in respectable fashion, but Florida State reached the midpoint of the season on a three-game losing streak and with a team that has fallen from No. 5 in the country to out of the Associated Press Top 25 this week. The thud has resounded throughout all of college football.

Sure, there are plenty of excuses, starting with injuries and an inability to find cohesiveness on the offensive line. But halfway through the season, Florida State’s best wins are against Louisiana-Monroe and Charleston Southern. The Seminoles are No. 100 in the country in sacks allowed, No. 112 in the country in rushing offense and No. 114 in turnover margin. Quarterback EJ Manuel suffered a shoulder injury in the loss to Oklahoma and didn’t return until coach Jimbo Fisher deemed it an “emergency” situation when the Noles were losing to Wake Forest. Both Manuel and Clint Trickett, though, combined for five turnovers in that game.

Not once this season has Florida State looked like the defending Atlantic Division champs, and part of that can be attributed to undisciplined play and a lack of focus. No team in the country has been penalized more (9.4 per game), and a lack of leadership has been a problem. Instead of defending their division title this year, the Seminoles have come precariously close to playing their way out of the ACC race in the first half of the season.

Offensive MVP: WR Rashad Greene. Greene leads the team with six touchdowns and is on pace to shatter the freshmen school record for receptions and touchdowns in a season. He is No. 35 in the country with 91.4 receiving yards per game.

Defensive MVP: DE Bjoern Werner. Werner has been outstanding against the run and leads the Noles in sacks and is tied for third in the ACC with four. He also has 5.5 tackles for loss. He also has two forced fumbles, two passes defended and one quarterback hurry.

Midseason report: Georgia Tech

October, 11, 2011
10/11/11
9:30
AM ET
GEORGIA TECH

Record: 6-0, 3-0 ACC

This team has come a long way in a short amount of time. Heading into this season, there was some uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position and how long Tevin Washington would hold onto the starting job. Since summer camp, not only has Washington proven to be effective, but he has also shown he’s a better passer than his predecessor, Joshua Nesbitt. A manageable nonconference schedule helped inflate the Yellow Jackets’ September statistics, and they’ve been humbled by league defenses, but Georgia Tech continues to find a way to win and enters the midpoint of the season at 6-0 for the first time since 1966. They’re in sole possession of first place in the Coastal Division, undefeated at home, and one of the first teams in the country to become bowl-eligible. Georgia Tech, which was picked by the media to finish in fourth place in the Coastal Division, has far exceeded expectations. Unlike in years past, there’s not really one superstar on this team. Instead, it’s been a group effort that Washington has highlighted. Coach Paul Johnson has said repeatedly there is still plenty of work to do, and the defense has been average at best in the second season under coordinator Al Groh. The toughest tests still lie ahead with Clemson, Virginia Tech and Georgia.

Offensive MVP: QB Tevin Washington: His efficiency as a passer and his ability to manage the game are a big reason Georgia Tech is 6-0 and No. 4 in the country in total offense. Tech isn't throwing more often this season, but Washington has thrown 10 touchdowns and two interceptions. He has also added six rushing touchdowns.

Defensive MVP: ILB Julian Burnett: Paul Johnson has talked about the positive leadership Georgia Tech is receiving this year and Burnett is a part of that. Out of three co-captains, he is the only underclassmen voted by his teammates. On the field, Burnett is on pace to lead the Yellow Jackets in tackles for the second straight year. With 58 tackles, he has 28 more than any player on the team. He also has three tackles for loss, a pass breakup, and a quarterback hurry.

Midseason report: Maryland

October, 11, 2011
10/11/11
9:00
AM ET
Maryland Terrapins

Record: 2-3, 1-1 ACC

The excitement began and ended with the unveiling of the Terps’ new “Maryland Pride” uniforms in the season opener against Miami.

It’s been downhill since then.

First-year coach Randy Edsall put Maryland on the map in Game 1 with a 32-24 win over Miami, and at the time, it was literally a new look for Maryland. New coach, new schemes, and a new, bold uniform combination that took the Twitter world by storm. The uniforms got more ink than the game itself, and Maryland hasn’t received as much publicity since. The Terps have lost three of their last four games, including what was arguably the worst loss in the ACC, a 38-7 loss to Temple in College Park. Most recently, in the road loss to Georgia Tech, Edsall opened up the door for a quarterback competition when he benched 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year in favor for his backup, C.J. Brown. The passing game struggled under both of them, and Edsall’s overall record against ranked opponents dropped to 2-17.

Not exactly a resume builder for a coach who was hired to make Maryland a consistent contender in the top 25.

Meanwhile, former coach Ralph Friedgen, who was fired after being named the ACC’s Coach of the Year and winning nine games, flippantly said he burned his Maryland diploma. His wife, Gloria, made a surprise visit and brought the players snacks.

Huh?

It’s been a rough transition under Edsall, and the bumpy road looks to continue this weekend against league-leading Clemson.

Offensive MVP: RB Davin Meggett: He is fifth in the ACC in rushing with 413 yards on 83 carries. He has two rushing touchdowns and is averaging 82.6 yards per game. He is in 12th place on the school's career rushing yards list.

Defensive MVP: DT Joe Vellano: He racked up a career-high 20 tackles, including 14 solo and a tackle for loss against an undefeated Georgia Tech team. Vellano became just the fifth defensive player in the nation to post 20 or more tackles, though he is the only lineman in the FBS to register more than 15 stops in a game in 2011. He's tied for the lead in the ACC with two recovered fumbles, and he has 38 tackles.

Midseason report: Miami

October, 11, 2011
10/11/11
8:30
AM ET
MIAMI

Record: 2-3, 0-2 ACC

There was talk of the death penalty before the season even began.

The only thing that appears to have flatlined, though, are Miami’s chances of winning the Coastal Division this year.

First-year coach Al Golden walked into a mess at Miami, and the troubles have only been compounded by the Canes’ winless start in conference play. What looked like a season filled with promise and talent quickly turned into survival mode after Miami’s NCAA investigation became the center of college football news this summer. With eight players suspended for the season opener against Maryland, Miami couldn’t find a way to beat the Terps and entered the bye week already having abandoned Stephen Morris in favor of veteran Jacory Harris as the starting quarterback. A 24-6 win against then-No. 17 Ohio State in Week 3 made Miami look like a contender again. Five of the suspended players had returned, the Canes played a complete game, and Miami looked capable of a special first season under Golden.

And then they flopped against Kansas State.

While the loss to K-State doesn’t look so bad anymore, the value of the win over Ohio State has since decreased.

Miami’s inconsistency has been troublesome to Golden this season, and a significant amount of injuries have kept the defense from repeating a strong performance against the Buckeyes. Miami’s run defense has been one of its glaring weaknesses, but the Canes managed an all-out effort performance on the road against Virginia Tech in the league’s most exciting game of the first half. It still wasn't enough to win.

Miami was picked by the media to finish second in the Coastal Division standings this year, but the Canes have yet to win their first ACC game.

Not the kind of bienvenido a Miami Al Golden was expecting.

Offensive MVP: RB Lamar Miller: He ran for 166 yards against Virginia Tech, the fifth-straight game he eclipsed the 100-yard mark. He became just the fourth Hurricane to accomplish the feat, joining Edgerrin James (7), Willis McGahee (6) and Clinton Portis (6). He also caught his first career touchdown pass against the Hokies. Miller leads the ACC with 135.4 yards per game, and is averaging 7.2 yards per carry. He has six total touchdowns and is third in the ACC in all-purpose yards with 170.8 per game.

Defensive MVP: LB Sean Spence: He is fourth in the ACC in tackles for loss with seven, and is second in the ACC with 10.2 tackles per game. He also has two sacks and one forced fumble. He had 13 tackles at Virginia Tech, the second time in the past four games he reached double-digit tackles.

Midseason report: North Carolina

October, 11, 2011
10/11/11
8:00
AM ET
NORTH CAROLINA

Record: 5-1, 1-1 ACC

In looking at UNC’s record, you’d never know the Tar Heels fired their coach just days before August camp began. Interim coach Everett Withers was promoted and promptly picked up the pieces, just as the former defensive coordinator did in 2010 when the NCAA investigation depleted his defense with suspensions for the season opener against LSU.

With a first-year starting quarterback and a new head coach, North Carolina has put itself in position to contend for the Coastal Division title in the second half of the season. Their lone ACC loss to Georgia Tech hurt -- UNC still needs the Yellow Jackets to lose twice -- but it didn’t knock the Tar Heels out of the race. With a perfect 4-0 record against nonconference opponents this year, UNC is on pace to win more games this year than Butch Davis ever did in Chapel Hill. Withers is the school’s first head coach to start his tenure 5-1 since Ray Wolf in 1936. The Tar Heels are also undefeated at home for the first time since 1997.

Much of their success can be attributed to the quick maturation of quarterback Bryn Renner, who has not thrown an interception in three of his past four games. Tailback Giovani Bernard has also had an outstanding season, and UNC’s scoring defense is No. 19 in the country at 18.5 points per game.

The computers and critics would argue that UNC has yet to beat a quality opponent, but more importantly, UNC has yet to lose to more than one.

Offensive MVP: TB Giovani Bernard: He has scored eight rushing touchdowns through six games, and leads all freshman runners in the country with 109.5 yards per game. Overall, he ranks third in the league and 19th in the country. He has rushed for 100 yards in four straight games.

Defensive MVP: LB Kevin Reddick: He missed the Louisville game with an ankle injury, but is second on the team with 33 tackles and 4.5 tackles for losses. He also has one sack, one pass breakup, one fumble recovery and two quarterback hurries.

Midseason report: NC State

October, 11, 2011
10/11/11
7:30
AM ET
NC STATE

Record: 3-3, 0-2 ACC

This is the team that won nine games last year and finished in the Top 25?

No, it’s not, starting at quarterback, where Russell Wilson is now a Heisman hopeful at Wisconsin.

Injuries have decimated NC State’s defense, the team has yet to win on the road or in the conference, and the Wolfpack’s win over Central Michigan was its best of the season. With two FCS opponents on the schedule, NC State needs seven wins to reach bowl eligibility, and that’s looking like a stretch at this point. It’s not quarterback Mike Glennon's fault. He has a strong arm, he’s gotten noticeably better as the season has progressed, and he’s good enough to win. Most of NC State’s problems have occurred around Glennon.

The Wolfpack is No. 107 in the country with three sacks allowed per game. NC State is No. 97 in rushing offense, and has lost seven fumbles this season -- all problems that have nothing to do with its ailing defense. On that side of the ball, NC State is allowing just more than 30 points and 172 rushing yards per game. Granted, it hasn’t helped that entering the Central Michigan game, NC State had used three different starting combinations on the defensive line in five games. Two of the top six linebackers were also injured in reserve Sterling Lucas and starter Terrell Manning. Cornerback Jarvis Byrd was a projected starter, but he suffered a season-ending ACL tear in July. A total of 12 injured players, including 2010 leading rusher Mustafa Greene, missed the Georgia Tech game.

The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for NC State, as it needs to get better on the field and in the training room. Expectations within the program were much higher entering the season, as those within the NC State were intent on building upon last years’s success. Now they’d have to win out during the regular season just to match it.

Offensive MVP: WR T.J. Graham: He’s No. 7 in the ACC with 80.7 receiving yards per game and has 484 yards and four touchdowns. He’s made a name for himself in the return game, though, as the track star leads the ACC with 18.5 yards per punt return and one touchdown. He is second in the ACC in kick return average (24.2), and leads the league in all-purpose yards with 210 per game.

Defensive MVP: CB David Amerson: Amerson leads the country with six interceptions and has 77 return yards. He ranks third in the ACC in passes defended with nine and has been a bright spot on an otherwise dreary defense. He’s fourth on the team with 34 tackles.

Midseason report: Virginia

October, 11, 2011
10/11/11
7:00
AM ET
VIRGINIA

Record: 3-2, 0-1

Knowing the uncertainty facing the quarterback position this year, and the youth movement within the program, expectations were tempered for Virginia, which was picked by the media to finish fifth in the Coastal Division this year. Those concerns have proven valid through the first five games of the season.

Virginia went 3-1 against its nonconference opponents with a surprise loss at home to Southern Miss, and the Cavaliers needed overtime to beat a 1-5 Idaho team. It’s been an underwhelming start for a program trying to get to a bowl game in just the second season under coach Mike London, but growing pains should have been expected.

Quarterback Michael Rocco earned the starting job, but true freshman David Watford has also worked his way into the rotation. Together they have combined for four touchdowns and eight interceptions. It hasn’t been a complete disaster, as Rocco has completed 63.1 percent of his passes and is averaging 206.4 passing yards per game. Turnovers, though, have held the Hoos back, as they have lost the ball 13 times this year. There has been enough help around the quarterbacks, though, to help ease their transition as running back Perry Jones and receiver Kris Burd are both among the ACC's leaders, and Kevin Parks is tied for the league lead in scoring with six touchdowns.

Defensively, Virginia has made strides and is more comfortable in the second season of the 4-3 scheme. The Hoos are No. 3 in the ACC in total defense, and No. 2 in pass efficiency defense and tackles for loss. The best competition has yet to come, though, and if Virginia needed overtime to beat Idaho, there might not be enough time left in the season to find six wins.

Offensive MVP: WR Kris Burd: He has had six 100-yard receiving games in his career and is fifth in the ACC with six catches per game. He is No. 8 in the ACC with 74.6 yards per game. Of Kris his 30 receptions on the season, 22 have resulted in a first down (73.3 percent).

Defensive MVP: CB Chase Minnifield: He has four pass breakups and one interception this season. He has 23 tackles, four tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks.

Midseason report: Virginia Tech

October, 11, 2011
10/11/11
6:30
AM ET
VIRGINIA TECH

Record: 5-1, 1-1 ACC

The Hokies started the season exactly like they were expected to -- with a 4-0 record against unheralded nonconference opponents.

It was hardly a breeze, though.

A closer look beyond the scores would show hints of offensive struggles leading up to the ACC opener against Clemson. Quarterback Logan Thomas conceded even he was surprised he only threw for 91 yards against the East Carolina defense. With 12 penalties and two turnovers, the Hokies were fortunate to escape ECU with a 17-10 road win in what would be their toughest nonconference game of the season.

That schedule did nothing, though, to prepare the Hokies for what they would face against a ranked, undefeated Clemson team in their first ACC game of the season.

For the first time since 1995, Virginia Tech was held without a touchdown in Lane Stadium. The Hokies were just 4-of-16 on third-down conversions, and Thomas completed just 15 of 27 passes for 125 yards and an interception.

Virginia Tech, though, is one team you don’t count out after only one loss. With a reputation for making comebacks, the Hokies did just that the following week in a thrilling win over Miami. Thomas had more touchdowns (3) than he did incomplete passes (2) and was flat-out spectacular. His 19-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-one turned out to be the game winner and kept the defending ACC champs in the Coastal Division race.

Defensively, the Hokies have made measurable improvement from a year ago, ranking No. 13 in the country in rushing defense, No. 13 in total defense, and No. 14 in scoring defense. Injuries, though, have left the defense thin and a major concern for coach Frank Beamer moving forward. Miami didn't win the game, but it's offensive line won the battle up front. The Hokies allowed 519 yards of total offense and 236 on the ground. In order to stay in the ACC race, Virginia Tech will eventually need to put together a complete game, but it has to get healthy to do that.

Virginia Tech is playing catch-up now in the ACC standings, but this team knows how to make a comeback. They’ll just need a little bit of help from Georgia Tech.

Offensive MVP: RB David Wilson: He’s second in the ACC in rushing with 128 yards per game, and has five rushing touchdowns. He has a league-high 768 yards on 131 carries. He’s second in the ACC in all-purpose yards with 182.

Defensive MVP: CB Jayron Hosley: He’s fourth in the ACC in passes defended with eight, and he has three interceptions. He is also third in the ACC in punt return average with 11.1 yards per return.

Midseason report: Wake Forest

October, 11, 2011
10/11/11
6:00
AM ET
WAKE FOREST

Record: 4-1, 3-0 ACC

Coach Jim Grobe tried to tell us.

He had said all summer that his team was better than the one that finished 3-9 in 2010.

Florida State found out firsthand just how much better the Deacs are this season.

Grobe has made a solid case for ACC Coach of the Year through the first half of the season, as the Deacs are 3-0 in conference play for the first time in school history and are 4-1 for the first time since 2008. With the win over FSU, Wake Forest ended a streak of five straight losses to ranked opponents and put itself right in the mix to win the Atlantic Division title. The Deacs are confident from a four-game winning streak, and much of that can be attributed to the improvement of quarterback Tanner Price.

Price is off to the second-best start to a season of any Wake Forest quarterback. With his 233 passing yards against the Noles, Price now has 1,342 yards on the season. With eight touchdowns this season, he has already surpassed his season total of seven from last year. He’s making better decisions, and the players around him have improved.

Wake Forest hasn’t run the ball very well this year, but thanks to Price and a talented group of receivers, it hasn’t had to. The Deacs have the No. 18 passing offense in the country, and Price is third in the ACC in passing average per game. Receiver Chris Givens is second in the ACC with 6.6 receptions per game and off to the best five-game start by a receiver in school history. Improvement in the turnover margin has also been a key this year, as the defense has had multiple takeaways in each of the past two games, including five against Florida State.

The Deacs are an overtime loss to Syracuse away from being undefeated right now, and had Price not been injured with about 11 minutes to go in that game, odds are Wake Forest would have won. It was proof as to just how valuable Price is to this team. Wake Forest is as much in the Atlantic Division race as Clemson at this point, but a tough stretch lies ahead.

Grobe’s team isn’t just better this year, though, it’s one of the ACC’s teams to beat.

Offensive MVP: QB Tanner Price: He has already exceeded last season’s passing yardage total and has 1,352 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions. He has completed 62.3 percent of his passes, and is fifth in the ACC in passing efficiency.

Defensive MVP: OLB Kyle Wilber: He recorded a sack against FSU for the third straight game and now has 13 career sacks. He also recovered a fumble against the Noles, and is playing the best football of his career.

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