ACC: Gerod Holliman

The end of our countdown has finally arrived. Here are the ACC's top five players of the 2014 season.

To see the full list, click here.

1. James Conner, Pittsburgh
Position: Running back
Year: Sophomore
Tough to go with anybody else at No. 1 after watching Conner bulldoze the competition en route to ACC Offensive Player of the Year and ACC Player of the Year honors. And, well, it is not every day that Tony Dorsett's long-standing school records are shattered. Conner led the league in rushing yards (1,765), rushing touchdowns (26), rushing yards per game (135.8) and scoring (156 points). His touchdown and scoring totals broke the Pitt single-season records Dorsett set in 1976. Conner had three 200-yard games and seven 100-yard games, often taking multiple defenders on his back along for a ride. He was downright dominant, and in a year of powerful backs, he deserves the No. 1 spot.

2. Jameis Winston, Florida State
Position: Quarterback
Year: Redshirt sophomore
If there is one player on this list you would take with the game on the line, it would be Winston. But this list is an evaluation of the top performances week in and week out, and Winston was simply not consistent enough to merit the top spot this year. He made too many mistakes, whether he was trying too hard with an inexperienced receiving corps or just making the wrong decisions. But those mistakes do not diminish the fact that Winston remains one of the best (and most dangerous) players in the nation. Winston ended the season with an ACC-leading 3,907 yards passing, 25 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, all down from a year ago. But he did lead Florida State to a third straight ACC title and a spot in the College Football Playoff.

3. Vic Beasley, Clemson
Position: Defensive end
Year: Senior
Beasley returned to school for his senior season and was even better -- despite facing more double- and triple-teams than at any point in his career. He won ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors and was a finalist for the Bednarik and Lombardi awards after racking up a team-high 21.5 tackles for loss, a team-high 12 sacks, nine quarterback pressures, three pass breakups and two forced fumbles. Nobody in the ACC was better off the edge than Beasley, and he was a nightmare for many teams to block.

4. Duke Johnson, Miami
Position: Running back
Year: Junior
Johnson had the best season of his career because he was able to stay healthy and play all 13 games, finishing second behind Conner in the ACC in rushing with 1,652 yards. But Johnson led the league in all-purpose yards with 2,073, emerging as a much bigger pass-catching threat out of the backfield. When the season ended, he stood above all the other Miami greats on the career rushing and all-purpose yards lists. But maybe most impressive of all, he averaged 7.4 yards every time he touched the ball.

5. Gerod Holliman, Louisville
Position: Safety
Year: Redshirt sophomore
There were plenty of questions about the Louisville secondary heading into the season, following the loss of Hakeem Smith and Calvin Pryor, two of the best players on the 2013 defense. But Holliman stepped right into the starting lineup and made an immediate impact in Todd Grantham's 3-4 scheme, using his athleticism to make plays all over the field. When it was over, Holliman had tied an NCAA record with 14 interceptions and won the Jim Thorpe Award as the best defensive back in college football.

Story of the season: Louisville

January, 19, 2015
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There is only one way to describe the story of Louisville’s first season in the ACC:

Especially when you consider what the Cardinals had to deal with throughout 2014. Forget about the new staff and schemes. Louisville had to go without its best player for seven games; played three different quarterbacks; and faced perhaps the toughest schedule in school history.

Though the Cardinals fell short of a third straight 10-win season, they did get to nine victories and finished ranked in the Top 25, serving notice that they are not going to require much of a transition period in their new conference home.

[+] EnlargeBobby Petrino
AP Photo/Stephan SavoiaBobby Petrino's Louisville squad won nine games and finished ranked in the Top 25 despite key injuries.
Yes, the season ended in disappointment with a bowl loss to Georgia. Yes there were plenty of "what if?" moments ... 'What if DeVante Parker was healthy' ... 'What if there was no spike play on the goal line against Clemson' ... 'What if Louisville did not collapse in the second half against Florida State.' ...

But nearly every team has those 'what if?' moments. Nearly every team has major injuries that must be overcome. What made this Louisville effort special was the way the team rebounded from adversity. There were plenty of important takeaways: a huge win at Notre Dame, a fourth-straight win against in-state rival Kentucky, and a third-place finish in the Atlantic behind top-15 teams Florida State and Clemson.

Maybe this one is the biggest of all: Among teams that transitioned into new Power 5 conferences since 2012, only Texas A&M had a better record in Year 1 in its new league home. Pretty impressive when you consider how Louisville won.

Without Parker, the Cards relied on a more aggressive defense and the outstanding play of safety Gerod Holliman, who tied an NCAA record with 14 interceptions. Under Todd Grantham, Louisville grabbed 26 total interceptions, had 41 sacks, and was ranked No. 1 in the nation at the midway point of the season. Lorenzo Mauldin joined Holliman on the All-ACC coaches first team.

Parker made his way back in time for the Florida State game, a huge Thursday night showdown in Louisville. He had a huge game, but Louisville could not hold on to a 21-7 halftime lead and lost. Rather than allowing that loss to beat them again, the Cards won their final three regular-season games -- including the finale against Kentucky with third-string quarterback Kyle Bolin.

Much of that is a credit to coach Bobby Petrino, who was able to keep his offense together despite missing Parker and starting quarterback Will Gardner for chunks of the season. The offense was not nearly as explosive as those Petrino has guided in the past, and that caused Petrino definite frustration.

But considering the personnel losses and new scheme, Petrino cannot consider his efforts a failure. As for Petrino himself, much was made before the season began about how he would handle his second chance with the Cards.

So far, so good at least after one season. Petrino remains as intense as he always has been, but has made more of an effort to be visible in the community and made no negative off-field headlines during the season. Perhaps that storyline can be put to rest with a full season under his belt.

Because Petrino showed once again he has a firm understanding of what Louisville is capable of on the field. He guided one smooth conference transition during his first stint. It appears as if he will do the same again.

Here is a look at how Power 5 teams fared in their new league homes, since 2012:

2012

Texas A&M, SEC: 11-2

Missouri, SEC: 5-7

Utah, Pac-12: 5-7

Colorado, Pac-12: 1-11

TCU, Big 12: 7-6

West Virginia, Big 12: 7-6

2013

Pitt, ACC: 6-7

Syracuse, ACC: 7-6

2014

Louisville, ACC: 9-4

Maryland, B1G: 7-6

Rutgers, B1G: 8-5
The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft has passed. Now let's take a quick look at the biggest draft deadline winners and losers across the ACC:

Winners

Clemson: The Tigers did lose an underclassman: punter Bradley Pinion. Head-scratching, yes. But the reason the Tigers are winners this year is that they held on to all their top offensive talent. While nobody was in position to declare early, it still is notable that this is the first time Clemson has not had an underclassman on offense turn pro since 2010. That could very well change once these freshmen start growing up, but for now, it is good to be co-offensive coordinators Jeff Scott and Tony Elliott.

Duke: The Blue Devils had only one player who could have potentially left early: safety Jeremy Cash. When he announced he would return to school, there must have been a huge sigh of relief. Not only does the Duke secondary now return all its starters, it returns its best player. Cash had 111 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 2 interceptions and 4 forced fumbles this past season. With linebacker Kelby Brown (ACL) expected healthy for 2015, Duke potentially has two of the best defensive players in the ACC.

Notre Dame: So the Irish have only one toe in the ACC football waters, but they did end up a huge winner, and that is something teams with Notre Dame on the 2015 schedule need to know. All underclassmen who could have returned did: defensive lineman Sheldon Day, left tackle Ronnie Stanley, center/guard Nick Martin and quarterback Everett Golson (at least for now). Stanley was the biggest surprise because some had projected him as a first-round pick on a few early mock drafts. While Golson's status remains unclear, getting Day, Stanley and Martin back means expectations will again be high in South Bend, Indiana.

Losers

Florida State: The Seminoles might be the biggest draft-deadline loser in the country, with five players turning pro early this year: quarterback Jameis Winston, cornerbacks P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby, defensive tackle Eddie Goldman and defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. Of that group, Winston and Goldman are listed on the first Mel Kiper Jr. mock draft. Losing players to the draft is nothing new for the Seminoles, but they have taken heavy losses from their underclassmen in the past three years: 12 in all. Add to that losses from a terrific senior group, including Rashad Greene, Nick O'Leary and Karlos Williams, and 2015 might end up being a bit of a rebuilding year for the Seminoles as they get a boatload of young guys ready to play. On the bright side, kicker Roberto Aguayo and linebacker Terrance Smith announced they would return to school.

Louisville: Many expected safety Gerod Holliman to leave after he tied an NCAA record with 14 interceptions, despite some questions about his pro potential. But losing defensive backs Charles Gaines and James Sample has to be a blow the Cardinals were not quite expecting. Louisville, which ranked No. 5 in the nation in pass efficiency defense, must now replace five of its top six defensive backs in 2015. Put another way, Louisville is losing players responsible for 21 of the 26 interceptions it had last season.

Miami: While we all expected running back Duke Johnson to leave, losing him is still tough for a Miami offense that revolved heavily around him in the past three seasons. Johnson leaves as the school's all-time career all-purpose yards and rushing yards leader. Add the departure of offensive tackle Ereck Flowers and now Miami has to replace its two best underclassmen, plus top seniors Clive Walford and Denzel Perryman.

ACC morning links

January, 6, 2015
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Underclassmen have increasingly declared for the NFL draft over recent years, and there appears to be no sign that the trend is letting up.

Louisville safety James Sample became the third player in the Cards' defensive backfield to announce he is leaving school early for the draft, posting his intentions Monday on his Instagram account. The move came as a bit of a surprise, especially when you consider he has only been in Louisville for four months after transferring in from junior college -- and he is not listed among Mel Kiper Jr.'s top 10 safeties.



Already, safety Gerod Holliman announced he would be turning pro. Cornerback Charles Gaines also has reportedly decided to follow the same path. Holliman seems to be in the best position, after tying an NCAA record with 14 interceptions and becoming a consensus All-American; Gaines had 11 passes defended this past year.

With these three players leaving early, Louisville must replace five of its top six defensive backs, as Terell Floyd and Andrew Johnson just finished their senior seasons. Louisville had 26 interceptions in 2014, tied for No. 1 in the nation. The Cards will lose players responsible for 21 of those picks.

But as Jeff Greer points out in the Louisville Courier-Journal, Louisville could be in good shape without them next season. Georgia transfers Josh Harvey-Clemmons and Shaq Wiggins are ready to make an impact after sitting out this past season because of NCAA transfer rules. Jermaine Reve returns as well, along with a host of young talent.

As I mentioned above, the three Louisville underclassmen are just the latest from the ACC to declare for the draft. Players have until Jan. 15 to do so. Here is a look at who has said they will turn pro:
There could be more underclassman news in the days to come. Florida State's bevy of highly-rated draft prospects have yet to announce their draft intentions. Among those to keep an eye on: kicker Roberto Aguayo, defensive tackle Eddie Goldman, defensive end Mario Edwards Jr., cornerbacks P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby and -- last but not least -- quarterback Jameis Winston.

Here are a few other headlines across the ACC:


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The season began with Georgia’s hopes pinned to star tailback Todd Gurley. It ended with a huge game by his understudy, freshman Nick Chubb. Georgia’s ground game pounded Louisville, and the defense forced three turnovers in a 37-14 win Tuesday in the Belk Bowl.

How the game was won: Louisville stacked the box early in hopes of slowing down Chubb and Georgia's ground game, but really, the Cardinals had no answers. Chubb ran for 20 yards on his first carry, and the deluge continued from there. For the game, Georgia had eight plays of 19 yards or more, including runs of 20, 30, 31 and 82 yards by Chubb. Louisville might have kept the game close, but three turnovers and a handful of ugly throws that prevented big plays downfield from Kyle Bolin and Reggie Bonnafon killed the Cardinals’ momentum again and again. When Sony Michel rumbled into the end zone to put Georgia up 27-7 midway through the third quarter, the outcome was all but assured.

Game ball goes to: Chubb. Who else? The freshman tailback stepped in for Gurley earlier this year, and Georgia’s ground game didn’t miss a beat. With offensive coordinator Mike Bobo gone and starting QB Hutson Mason hurt, it was no surprise Chubb stepped up once again; he set a Georgia bowl game record for rushing yards. Chubb finished with 33 carries for 266 yards and two touchdowns. He demoralized Louisville’s defense again and again and totaled the second most rushing yards in a game by a Georgia back. For the game, UGA racked up 299 yards on the ground -- the most by any team against the Cardinals in more than six years.

What it means: For Georgia, it’s an optimistic conclusion to a season filled with some bitter disappointments. The late loss to South Carolina, the thumping at the hands of Florida and the stinging defeat to Georgia Tech -- not to mention the controversy surrounding Gurley -- still are likely to be the overwhelming memories of a season that started with high expectations. But the Belk Bowl performances by Chubb and Jeremy Pruitt’s defense offered a more palatable finish and some hope for next year. There’s still much for the Bulldogs to figure out -- from the vacant offensive coordinator job to the vacant QB position (Mason's a senior) -- but there is plenty of talent already in place on this roster. For Louisville, Year 1 under Bobby Petrino had its high points, but as DeVante Parker, Gerod Holliman and other stars depart, the real work is just beginning.

Best play: Chubb had plenty of them but perhaps none bigger than his 31-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter that put Georgia in control of the game 17-7. The Bulldogs didn't looked back from there.

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Belk Bowl: No. 13 Georgia Bulldogs (9-3) vs. No. 21 Louisville Cardinals (9-3)

Dec. 30, 6:30 p.m., Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C. (ESPN)

Key matchup: Georgia RB Nick Chubb vs. Louisville front seven.

Why it matters: Chubb has been absolutely terrific as a true freshman, and is the key to the entire Georgia offense. Since taking over as the starter in Week 7, Chubb ranks seventh in the FBS in rushing yards per game (151.0) and fifth in rushes of 10 yards or more (29), according to ESPN Stats & Information. Not only that, Chubb is averaging 3.3 yards after contact per rush, No. 2 among power-5 backs with at least 100 carries. Louisville, meanwhile, counters with former Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and a group that has been feisty all season against the run. Louisville ranks No. 3 in the nation in rush defense, No. 2 in yards per rush allowed. Following the standard set under former coordinator Vance Bedford, the Cardinals have not allowed an opponent to rush for 200 or more yards in an FBS-high 28 straight games. Only three times this season have the Cards allowed a 100-yard rusher. If Louisville can find a way to limit Chubb and his explosive plays, the Cards will put themselves in great position to win.

Who wins: Louisville has been pretty stellar against the run, so the take here is that will continue -- especially when you consider how familiar Grantham is with the way Georgia runs its offense. Making Georgia rely on the pass and Hutson Mason not only means taking Chubb and Sony Michel out of the game, it also means more opportunities for Gerod Holliman and teammates to grab a few interceptions. Here is one more telling note from ESPN Stats & Information: Louisville leads the FBS in Opponent Total QBR (16.9), thanks in part to its FBS-high 25 interceptions. Louisville has won two straight bowl games over Power 5 opponents in impressive fashion, dominating Florida and Miami. While there is uncertainty over who will start at quarterback for Louisville, there is no doubt this team will rely on its defense again to win. Louisville 30, Georgia 27.

ACC morning links: Miami goes young

December, 15, 2014
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It’s not exactly a great time to be a Miami fan right now. The 6-6 finish for a team with loads of talent was disappointing, to say the least. Saturday’s broadcast of “The U Part 2” only underscored how far Miami is from its glory years. Duke Johnson and Denzel Perryman, the heart and soul of the current Canes’ roster, both figure to be gone after the bowl game.

So what’s left to boost the optimism around Coral Gables?

Well, according to the Sun-Sentinel, Al Golden is giving plenty of practice reps to the young players in preparation for Miami’s Duck Commander Independence Bowl date with South Carolina, and that’s probably a good step in the right direction.

There will be plenty of turnover at Miami after the season, and as much as Johnson says he’s still undecided on the NFL, it certainly feels like these practices are the beginning of the Canes turning the page.

"It was very important to us," freshman tailback Joseph Yearby told the Sun-Sentinel. "The veteran guys were sitting back, watching and coaching us so the younger guys could get their feet wet and be prepared for next year."

And for a 6-6 team that wrapped up the year with some serious questions about its motivation, that’s a good attitude to have.

If Johnson does depart, Miami will lose its top rusher, leading receiver (Phillip Dorsett), star tight end (Clive Walford), top tackler (Perryman) and leader in sacks (Thurston Armbrister). But Yearby and Gus Edwards, Jermaine Grace and Braxton Berrios, Stacy Coley and Brad Kaaya all will be back, giving an injection of new blood to a program that is probably much better off looking to the future than the past right now.

A few more links:

ESPN.com's All-ACC team

December, 12, 2014
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Presenting the 2014 ESPN.com All-ACC team:

Offense

WR Rashad Greene, Florida State: Whenever FSU was in trouble, Greene was there to save the day. He made big catch after big catch, took big hit after big hit, and ended the season with 93 catches for 1,306 yards, helping him break both FSU's records for receptions and receiving yards.

WR DeVante Parker, Louisville: The senior caught 35 passes for 735 yards and five touchdowns, the latter two numbers among the top 10 in the ACC. Oh, did we mention he missed the first seven games?

TE Clive Walford, Miami: Was there a more complete tight end in the country? The numbers say there might not be: 44 catches (third nationally), 676 yards (third), 7 TDs (third nationally). Walford did this all with a true freshman QB, too.

OT Cameron Erving, Florida State: Erving repeated as the ACC's blocking trophy winner, moving from left tackle to center in Game No. 10 this season and staying there, further showing his value to a unit that had dealt with interior injuries but came on strong late to help running back Dalvin Cook bloom into one of the country's finest freshmen.

OT T.J. Clemmings, Pittsburgh: Clemmings ought to get at least a piece of James Conner's player of the year trophy. The converted defensive end was among the nation's most improved players, starting every game for the second season in a row while using his athleticism to ace a position switch he had resisted earlier in his career.

C Andy Gallik, Boston College: BC lost a Heisman finalist at running back and actually improved its rushing totals this season. A dual-threat QB explains part of that, but so, too, does a powerful offensive line, led by Gallik in the middle, who helped pave the way for the league's No. 2 rushing attack.

OG Shaquille Mason, Georgia Tech: The only ACC team that rushed for more than BC? The only one that kept its QB unscathed more than Duke? The Yellow Jackets are the answer to both, with Mason captaining an oft-overlooked unit that was absolutely integral to the program's resurgence this season while running its famed triple-option attack.

OG Laken Tomlinson, Duke: The future pro turned in his best season yet, helping a Blue Devils offensive line that anchored a balanced offensive attack and kept QB Anthony Boone upright all season long, as Duke surrendered just 13 sacks, tied for 11th-best nationally.

QB Jameis Winston, Florida State: The reigning Heisman winner was not as sharp as last season, but he once again put up big numbers (3,559 yards, 24 TDs) while leading FSU to another perfect mark. Winston is 26-0 for his career as a starter. You simply cannot beat that.

RB James Conner, Pitt: The ACC player of the year rewrote the Pitt record books -- no easy feat for a place that boasts names like Tony Dorsett, Curtis Martin and LeSean McCoy. Conner rushed for 1,675 yards and 24 TDs, responding to each defense's best shot game after game.

RB Duke Johnson, Miami: Like Conner, Johnson set himself above his peers at a program that has produced plenty of great running backs. Coming off an injury-shortened 2013 season, the junior ran for 1,520 yards and 13 TDs, becoming Miami's all-time leading rusher and its career leader in all-purpose yards.

Defense

DE Vic Beasley, Clemson: The ACC's defensive player of the year has seen his decision to return for his senior season pay off, as Beasley led the ACC in sacks (11) and tackles for loss (18.5) while making Clemson's defense the top-ranked unit nationally.

DT Eddie Goldman, Florida State: Who can forget Goldman forcing a Clemson fumble late to keep FSU's perfect season alive? The junior was in the right place at the right time often, a versatile threat who moved back inside this season after playing end. He dominated the line of scrimmage, and one just needs to look at how FSU fared without Goldman -- giving up 331 rushing yards to Georgia Tech as he went down early -- to see his value.

DT Grady Jarrett, Clemson: Ends might get all the stats and glory, but Jarrett's impact on offenses might have been as big as Beasley's, as he helped form arguably the top defensive line in the country. Jarrett had 6.5 TFLs and 11 QB hurries, freeing up those around him and making running the ball next to impossible down the stretch for opponents.

LB David Helton, Duke: The senior led the ACC in tackles (125) and ranked 11th nationally. Helton helped Duke overcome the preseason loss of linebacker Kelby Brown and led a unit that continued its ascension under coordinator Jim Knowles, finishing fifth in the ACC in scoring average (20.6 ppg), and 20th nationally.

LB Lorenzo Mauldin, Louisville: A step-up in competition for Mauldin and the Cardinals meant even better results, as the hybrid notched a career-best 45 tackles and led the team in tackles for loss (13), while notching 6.5 sacks. Louisville's defense was one of the most surprising units in the country this season in its first year under coordinator Todd Grantham, ranking No. 6 nationally.

LB Stephone Anthony, Clemson: The leading tackler (73) on the nation's top defense, Anthony impacted games in a number of ways for the Tigers, making 9.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage while forcing two fumbles and picking off one pass.

LB Denzel Perryman, Miami: The senior led the Hurricanes in virtually ever major category: Tackles (102), TFLs (8.5) and forced fumbles (3) among them. He validated his decision to return after last season, recording yet another 100-tackle season and making his case as perhaps the top linebacker in the ACC.

S Gerod Holliman, Louisville: Fourteen interceptions. Fourteen! What more needs to be said? Holliman broke the ACC record and tied the NCAA mark. He had four multi-pick games, including a three-pick performance at BC. And he did this all after transitioning from corner to safety under Grantham's tutelage.

S Jalen Ramsey, Florida State: The sophomore made big play after big play, giving FSU's D an edge at the star position. He clinched the Miami game with a late pick and had two on the season to go with two forced fumbles, 11 break-ups, 13 passes defended and 9.5 TFLs. He blocked a kick, too.

CB Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech: The last in line of the storied Fuller family to come through Blacksburg, the sophomore showed plenty of the same NFL promise that has guided his older brothers. One of only a handful of Hokies to start every game, Fuller finished second in the ACC in passes defended (15), recorded 4.5 TFLs and recovered one fumble.

CB Garry Peters, Clemson: As overlooked as one can be on a defense loaded with stars, Peters quietly executed his job to a T, picking off one pass, breaking up 11 and defending 12. He forced a fumble and managed eight TFLs as well on a pass defense that ranked No. 3 nationally.

Special teams

K Roberto Aguayo, Florida State: Just another year at the office for Aguayo: 25-of-27 on field-goal attempts, perfect on extra points and a number of crucial kicks, which wasn't always required last year when he first stepped into the national spotlight. Aguayo is a whopping 46-of-49 for his career on field-goal attempts.

P Will Monday, Duke: Monday averaged 43.4 yards per punt, with 12 of his boots going for 50 or more yards. Eight of his punts were touchbacks, 19 were fair caught and 17 were inside the 20-yard line.

KR DeVon Edwards, Duke: Edwards averaged 25.4 yards per kick return, including a 99-yard touchdown in a high-scoring affair at Pitt, which the Blue Devils ended up winning in OT.

AP Tyler Boyd, Pitt: Boyd was a jack-of-all trades for Pitt, catching 69 passes for 1,149 yards and eight touchdowns. He was also the ACC's top punt returner, averaging 10.8 yards per return, which ranked 15th nationally.

All-ACC team, coaches' awards unveiled

December, 10, 2014
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The ACC coaches' awards and all-conference teams looked a lot like the media's version from last week, as Pitt running back James Conner led the way by winning offensive and overall player of the year honors.

Likewise, Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley one again took home defensive player of the year honors, while Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya was named both overall and offensive rookie of the year. Virginia safety Quin Blanding was again named defensive rookie of the year.

Coach of the year? That would be Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson, who received 10 of the 14 votes from his peers.

Defending national champion Florida State led the way in all-league teams, tallying 18 players across the three teams.

The team with the second-most? Virginia, surprisingly enough, as the Cavaliers landed nine players on the all-league teams despite finishing with a 5-7 record.

First-team

WR: Rashad Greene (FSU)
WR: Jamison Crowder (Duke)
WR: Tyler Boyd (Pitt)
TE: Nick O’Leary (FSU)
T: Cameron Erving (FSU)
T: T.J. Clemmings (Pitt)
G: Laken Tomlinson (Duke)
G: Tre' Jackson (FSU)
C: Shane McDermott (Miami)
QB: Jameis Winston (FSU)
RB: James Conner (Pitt)
RB: Duke Johnson (Miami)
K: Roberto Aguayo (FSU)
SP: Jamison Crowder (Duke)

DE: Vic Beasley (Clemson)
DE: Mario Edwards Jr. (FSU)
DT: Grady Jarrett (Clemson)
DT: Eddie Goldman (FSU)
LB: Denzel Perryman (Miami)
LB: Stephone Anthony (Clemson)
LB: Lorenzo Mauldin (Louisville)
CB: Kendall Fuller (Virginia Tech)
CB: Garry Peters (Clemson)
S: Gerod Holliman (Louisville)
S: Jalen Ramsey (FSU)
P: Wil Baumann (NC State)


To see the full roster, click here.

Among the biggest differences between the coaches' and media's voting: Boston College center Andy Gallik was relegated to the second team this time around, with Miami's Shane McDermott taking the top spot on the coaches' team. McDermott received only honorable mention status from the media last week. Louisville linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin was also a first-team newcomer, replacing Duke's David Helton, who made the media's first-team and who took home some pretty impressive hardware of his own Tuesday night in New York. Clemson cornerback Garry Peters was also a first-team addition, leaping the media's selection of FSU's P.J. Williams.

Louisville receiver DeVante Parker made the coaches' second-team after playing in just five games. Parker had made the media's third-team. The coaches flipped the media's second- and third-team quarterbacks, putting Georgia Tech's Justin Thomas on the second-team and North Carolina's Marquise Williams on the third-team.

The coaches' third-team ended up containing five linebackers, as four tied in the voting, as well as two cornerbacks and two punters.

To see the media's All-ACC picks from last week, click here.

Ranking the ACC's bowl games

December, 10, 2014
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We finally have our bowl matchups set, but unfortunately we have to wait another few weeks before we get to watch more football. So to fill that void, we’re ranking the bowl games from the most exciting to the least.

1. Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual: Florida State vs. Oregon

The Seminoles could win a lot of respect for the ACC with a win over Oregon here, but what should make this game fun is the showdown between last year’s Heisman winner and the odds-on favorite for this year’s award. It’s only happened three previous times that two Heisman winners faced off.

2. Belk Bowl: Louisville vs. Georgia

What’s not to like about this ACC-SEC showdown? Georgia’s powerful ground game vs. Louisville’s stout defense. Gerod Holliman trying to set the NCAA interceptions record in Hutson Mason's last game. And, of course, Todd Grantham vs. his old team.

3. Capital One Orange Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. Mississippi State

All year, ACC fans had to hear about the big, bad SEC West. Now Georgia Tech gets a chance to prove that all that hype was just bluster by knocking off the upstart Bulldogs. If FSU can land the biggest blow for the ACC this postseason, the Yellow Jackets are a close second on that list.

4. Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Notre Dame vs. LSU

We’re including the Fighting Irish on this list since they grabbed one of the ACC’s slots and have a chance to do some damage to the SEC West. But don’t worry, if they lose, we can pretend they never had anything to do with the ACC in the first place.

5. Hyundai Sun Bowl: Duke vs. Arizona State

Duke has gained plenty of respect during the past three seasons, but a weak nonconference slate has meant there are still some doubters. David Cutcliffe’s crew can do a lot to erase those doubts with a win here. And after the Blue Devils pushed Johnny Manziel to the limit in last year’s bowl game, we’re hoping for a few fireworks this year, too.

6. Russell Athletic Bowl: Clemson vs. Oklahoma

This might be No. 2 on our list if it weren't for all the injuries. Deshaun Watson may undergo knee surgery. Samaje Perine sprained his ankle in Oklahoma’s regular-season finale. Trevor Knight missed the last three games of the season, too. But on the upside, it’ll give us one last look at that terrific Clemson defense, led by departing seniors Grady Jarrett, Vic Beasley and Stephone Anthony.

7. Duck Commander Independence Bowl: Miami vs. South Carolina

OK, so two 6-6 teams don’t exactly equal a great matchup, and there’s a real question about how motivated Miami is after the Canes dropped their last three. But this is chance to hear from Steve Spurrier and watch Duke Johnson, so it can’t be that bad, right?

8. Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman: Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati

This isn’t a matchup with much cache, but it’s a chance to see one of the best young QBs in the country in Gunner Kiel go against one of the best defenses in the country, including Hokies’ superb sophomore corner Kendall Fuller. Add in a couple accomplished coaches in Frank Beamer and Tommy Tuberville and there’s plenty to like about this game.

9. New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Boston College vs. Penn State

We like the matchup, but there are two big problems here. First, it’s two teams from the Northeast, which isn’t going to spark much national love. More importantly, we don’t expect much offense as Penn State ranked second nationally in total defense and BC ranked 12th.

10. Quick Lane Bowl: North Carolina vs. Rutgers

It’s a bowl game in Detroit in late December, so there’s only so much excitement to go around, but we like watching Marquise Williams and Ryan Switzer, and given that UNC and Rutgers ranked 113th and 115th in yards-per-play allowed this season, there should be ample scoring to keep your attention.

11. Bitcoin St. Petersbug Bowl: NC State vs. UCF

We still don’t completely understand how bitcoin works, but we like the idea of Jacoby Brissett returning to his home state to take on the nation’s No. 3 defense.

12. Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Pitt vs. Houston

It’s the team none of the ACC bowls wanted vs. a team that fired its head coach, so that’s not an easy sell. But any game with James Conner and Tyler Boyd is one worth watching, so we’ll still be tuning in for this one.

Conner, Beasley win ACC POY honors

December, 3, 2014
12/03/14
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Pitt running back James Conner was honored as ACC Player of the Year on Wednesday, while Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley won Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Conner, also awarded ACC Offensive Player of the Year, edged Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston for overall honors in a vote among 55 members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association. The sophomore back ranks No. 4 in the nation with 1,675 yards rushing. His 24 rushing touchdowns set an ACC single-season record and a Pitt school record, breaking the old mark of 22 set by Tony Dorsett in 1976.

"We are tremendously proud of James and all that he achieved this season," Pitt head coach Paul Chryst said in a statement. "In addition to his production on the field, James has been an excellent teammate and leader. I know our entire program takes pride in James receiving this prestigious honor.”

Beasley edged Louisville safety Gerod Holliman for defensive honors. The senior end leads the ACC in sacks (11) and tackles for loss (18.5), remaining a dominating force despite facing double- and triple-teams this season. He holds the Clemson school record and leads all active FBS players with 32 career sacks, and is a finalist for the Bednarik Award and Lombardi Trophy.

“He came back for his senior year to graduate, and to have a great season and improve as an all-around player,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said in a statement. "He has done that -- he is a complete player. He is a big reason we currently rank No. 1 in the nation in total defense and many other areas. He is the best defensive player in the ACC, and I really feel he is the best defensive player in the nation."

ACC Player of the Year (votes in parentheses)
1. James Conner, RB, Pitt (16)
2. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State (13)
3. Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson (8)
4. Gerod Holliman, S, Louisville (6)
5. Duke Johnson, RB, Miami (5)
t6. Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State (2)
t6. Justin Thomas, QB, Georgia Tech (2)
t6. Marquise Williams, QB, North Carolina (2)
9. Quayshawn Nealy, LB, Georgia Tech (1)

ACC Offensive Player of the Year
1. Conner (23)
2. Winston (16)
3. Johnson (7)
4. Greene (4)
5. Thomas (3)
6. Williams (2)

ACC Defensive Player of the Year
1. Beasley (24)
2. Holliman (20)
3. Denzel Perryman, LB, Miami (7)
t4. David Helton, LB, Duke (2)
t4. Nealy (2)

Blog debate: Who are players of the year?

December, 2, 2014
12/02/14
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The ACC regular season is in the books and award time is upon us. The conference has already announced its All-ACC team and its winners for ACC Coach of the Year and Rookie of the Year. In advance of Wednesday's offensive, defensive and overall player of the year announcements, we at the ACC blog decided to give you a look at who we think deserves each honor.

Vic Beasley: He won’t win defensive player of the honors, and given the sheer absurdity of Holliman’s 14 interceptions, that’s probably fair. But Beasley’s impact is tough to gauge by the numbers, but his performance may be every bit as historic as Holliman’s. Really, it comes down to whether you appreciate the guys creating the havoc or the players cashing in on it. Holliman certainly has made his share of big plays, but he’s also benefited from a lot of QB mistakes. Beasley, on the other hand, has spent the last two years dictating the action at the line of scrimmage for a Clemson defensive front that is as good as any in the country. For the year, Beasley finished with solid numbers — 11 sacks, 18.5 TFL, 29 total tackles — but he also was doubled routinely, allowing openings for other players on his defense. And the Tigers certainly capitalized. Clemson finished the year as the nation’s top defense, No. 2 rushing D and following an opening-week loss to Georgia, surrendered just 844 yards on the ground — fewest in the nation. But most impressive was the tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Clemson had 122 tackles for loss — 15 more than any other team. The Tigers averaged better than 10 TFL per game, thanks in large part to Beasley. Only two other teams since 2008 have even averaged 9. --David Hale

James Conner: This year in college football marked The Return of the Running Back, and no one embodied that mantra better than the burly Conner. He dominated early in the season, welcomed the heightened attention and never really slowed down. Conner finished No. 4 nationally in rushing yards (1,675), and he tied for second in rushing touchdowns (24). He re-wrote the Pitt record book, breaking Tony Dorsett's mark for rush TDs, total TDs and points -- records Dorsett set during his Heisman-winning season in 1976. He led the ACC in virtually every rushing category. He took plenty of pressure off new QB Chad Voytik, and he established himself as perhaps the nation's top running back heading into next season. No player in the ACC meant more to his team than Conner, who helped the Panthers reach a bowl again despite a hip injury over the final two games. He had three 200-yard rushing games and, dating back to last year's bowl, rushed for 150-plus yards in five straight games, just the eighth time that's happened among FBS players since 2004. --Matt Fortuna

Rashad Greene: Here’s the scenario: FSU is the top team in the nation, taking every opponent’s best shot. The star QB misses the biggest game of the year while suspended and struggles with interceptions all season. The rest of the receiving corps is young, including two true freshmen playing major roles. The defense has been shaky and the Noles are in one early hole after another. And after 12 games, Florida State is still unbeaten. How? Rashad Greene. He’s led FSU in receiving all four years of his career, setting career highs this season with 86 catches and 1,183 yards. But Greene’s impact goes beyond the obvious stats. He’s saved FSU from the brink of disaster again and again. When Jameis Winston lacked any established targets in Week 1, Greene stepped up with 11 catches for 203 yards against Oklahoma State. When Winston sat out against Clemson, Greene hauled in a game-tying 74-yard touchdown from Sean Maguire. When FSU fell behind big against NC State, Greene chipped in with 11 catches for 125 yards to mount the comeback. Despite being the one target every defense could focus on, Greene turned in seven 100-yard games this season, rewriting the FSU record book in the process. Yes, Greene leads the ACC in receiving, has the fifth-most yards and fourth-most catches in the country against Power 5 foes, and he accounts for nearly one-third of FSU’s receiving first downs — but it’s more than all that. Greene is a leader on and off the field, the best player on the ACC’s best team. That warrants player of the year honors. --David Hale

Gerod Holliman: This is the toughest category to pick. Conner, Beasley and Greene are absolutely terrific at what they do. If they divided the trophy up four ways, I would support that. But since I can make one choice, I am going with Holliman. There is no more productive safety in the entire country than Holliman, who should be a consensus All-American this season. He tied the NCAA single-season record with 14 interceptions, grabbing at least one in nine of 12 games this season. What makes his story even more incredible is the way he emerged to become a standout after spending most of his career on the bench. But defensive coordinator Todd Grantham identified Holliman as a player capable of making a huge impact in his new defensive scheme because of his superb football instincts. Holliman had a record-setting season and deserves the hardware to go with it. --Andrea Adelson
The ACC announced its 2014 all-conference selections Monday, with a handful of noteworthy winners and snubs.

Florida State once again led the way with 17 players named, including 10 named first-team All-ACC. Duke had nine players named, Virginia had eight, and Coastal Division champ Georgia Tech had seven.

The most noteworthy first-team selection was FSU quarterback Jameis Winston, who has led the Seminoles to a second straight undefeated season, but also leads the league in interceptions. The battle for the top spot at quarterback was particularly close, with UNC's Marquise Williams (second team), Georgia Tech's Justin Thomas (third team), Miami's Brad Kaaya, Clemson's Deshaun Watson and NC State's Jacoby Brissett all having strong seasons, too.

Here's the first-team All-ACC selections:

QB: Jameis Winston (FSU)
WR: Rashad Greene (FSU)
WR: Jamison Crowder (Duke)
WR: Tyler Boyd (Pitt)
RB: Duke Johnson (Miami)
RB: James Conner (Pitt)
C: Andy Gallik (Boston College)
G: Laken Tomlinson (Duke)
G: Tre Jackson (FSU)
T: T.J. Clemmings (Pitt)
T: Cameron Erving (FSU)

DE: Vic Beasley (Clemson)
DE: Mario Edwards Jr. (FSU)
DT: Eddie Goldman (FSU)
DT: Grady Jarrett (Clemson)
LB: Denzel Perryman (Miami)
LB: David Helton (Duke)
LB: Stephone Anthony (Clemson)
CB: Kendall Fuller (Virginia Tech)
CB: P.J. Williams (FSU)
S: Jalen Ramsey (FSU)
S: Gerod Holliman (Louisville)

K: Roberto Aguayo (FSU)
P: Wil Baumann (NC State)
Ret: Jamison Crowder (Duke)

To see the full roster, click here.

Among the biggest snubs in the ACC:

Miami tight end Clive Walford is a Mackey Award finalist and has more yards, touchdowns and first downs and caught a higher percentage of his targets than fellow Mackey Finalist, Nick O'Leary. Still, O'Leary was named to the first team.

Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker was a third-team selection thanks to missing the first seven games of the season, but he ranks seventh in the league in yards in spite of just playing five games.

NC State's Shadrach Thornton is third among running backs in yards (811) but was not named to any of the All-ACC teams.

BC's Josh Keyes has 11 tackles for loss — good for 12th in the conference — but was not one of the 10 linebackers named to All-ACC teams.

Wake Forest's Marquel Lee ranks 10th in the league with 12 TFLs and ninth in tackles with 101 but did not even earn an honorable mention.

Georgia Tech's Shaq Mason has anchored one of the best offensive lines in the country, helping pave the way for the nation's No. 4 rushing offense, but he was not a first-team selection.

By the numbers: Week 14 recap

December, 1, 2014
12/01/14
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We’ve reached the end of the regular season, which means we’re blowing out the last installment of our stats recaps.

Georgia Tech’s big win

Georgia Tech’s win against Georgia was the fourth time this season an ACC team knocked off a non-conference top-10 opponent (Virginia Tech against Ohio State, Boston College against USC and FSU against Notre Dame were the others). The other four Power 5 leagues had just two wins against non-conference top-10 foes combined this season (both by the Pac-12).

Georgia Tech forced two crucial turnovers in the red zone against Georgia, and also had an interception to seal the game in overtime. That has been par for the course for the Yellow Jackets, who rank 10th nationally in turnover margin (+11), 12th in takeaways (27), fourth in points off turnovers (123), and second in red-zone takeaways (7).

In its past five games, Georgia Tech has 17 takeaways. Only Louisiana Tech has more during that span in the nation (18). And considering Georgia Tech averages the highest time of possession per drive (3:02), not only do all those takeaways lead to points, but it also accounts for average of 11 extra minutes of possession time per game. Not coincidentally, the Jackets’ time-of-possession edge during the past five weeks is an average of 12 minutes, 12 seconds.

Lucky No. 14 for Holliman

Louisville’s Gerod Holliman snagged his 14th interception of the season to clinch Saturday’s win against Kentucky. The interception also clinched the FBS record for Holliman, who tied the mark set by Washington’s Al Worley in 1968. If Holliman can snag one more pick during Louisville’s bowl game, he would match the highest total by any player in NCAA history, regardless of division.

Holliman’s 14 interceptions are astounding. No other ACC defender has more than four. Ole Miss' Senquez Golson is the closest nationally with nine, but only three other players in the country have even half Holliman's total. In fact, there are only 12 players from Power 5 teams in the nation who have more total passes defended than Holliman has interceptions.

The term "ball hawk" gets thrown around pretty loosely, but Holliman’s exploits in 2014 certainly warrant the moniker.

ACC's top tight ends

The ACC will have two-thirds of the Mackey Award finalists for the nation’s top tight ends, and we saw their impact in Week 14.

Clive Walford had four catches for 49 yards in the early going for Miami, but he went down with an injury with the score 21-13. Miami came up empty on four of its final six drives without him, and Brad Kaaya completed just 12-of-32 passes the rest of the way.

Nick O'Leary was Jameis Winston's top target in the red zone against Florida, catching four passes for 52 yards and two scores.

Though Walford and O’Leary are two of the nation’s three best tight ends, they are not exactly head and shoulders above the rest of the ACC.

Bucky Hodges helped lead Virginia Tech to an 11th straight win against Virginia on Friday. David Grinnage had a TD against UNC on Saturday, and Wake Forest’s Cam Serigne had six catches and a TD against Duke.

In fact, there are only seven Power 5 tight ends with at least 500 receiving yards this season, and the ACC is responsible for four.

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Overall, the ACC has six tight ends with more than 300 receiving yards, nine with at least 20 catches, and eight with at least three touchdowns.

Cook comes of age

Dalvin Cook was the hero for Florida State yet again Saturday, rushing for a career-high 144 yards on 24 carries against Florida.

Since Cook emerged in Week 7, only four players in the ACC have accounted for more yards from scrimmage, and they are all pretty good: Duke Johnson, James Conner, DeVante Parker and Tyler Boyd.

But parse the numbers a little more, and it’s easy to see why Cook has been such a huge factor for the Seminoles. In the second halves of games since Week 7, no ACC player has more scrimmage yards than Cook (468), and he ranks eighth nationally in second-half yardage during that span.

Wolford steps up

It was a rough freshman season for Wake Forest's John Wolford, who was thrown to the fire early and then endured the highest sack rate of any quarterback in the nation. But if there is reason for optimism in Winston-Salem, it is because of how Wolford finished the season.

After tossing 13 interceptions in his first eight games, Wolford had just one in his final four games. In his first seven ACC contests, he completed 55 percent of his throws, averaged 4.9 yards per attempt and had three TD passes with seven interceptions. Against Duke on Saturday, he completed 67 percent of his passes, threw for 251 yards and had a career-high three touchdown passes without an interception.

Pitt’s dynamic duo

The regular season ended with Pitt’s Conner (1,675 yards) and Boyd (1,149 yards) as one of just four sets of Power 5 conference teammates to top 1,000 yards. The others were USC’s Nelson Agholor (1,223) and Javorius Allen (1,337), Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong (1,062) and D.J. Foster (1,002), and Michigan State’s Tony Lippett (1,124) and Jeremy Langford (1,360).

If you add a tailback’s rushing and a wideout’s receiving yards together, only Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon and Alex Erickson (2,911) and Colorado State’s Dee Hart and Rashard Higgins (2,894) had more yards than Conner and Boyd (2,824).

Extra points
  • In the past two seasons, Miami is a combined 13-3 with an average scoring margin of +17 in games before playing Florida State. The Hurricanes are a combined 2-7 with a scoring margin of -10 from the FSU game on.
  • Entering this season, Florida State had at least four tackles for loss in 56 straight games. Saturday’s win against Florida marked the third time this season FSU has finished with three. In nine of the Seminoles’ 12 games this season, they recorded zero or one sack. They had produced only 15 such games in the first four years of Jimbo Fisher’s tenure.
  • Only five Power 5 conference teams held every opponent this season to less than 450 yards of offense. Two of them are in the ACC: Boston College and Virginia.
  • Here is the complete list of quarterbacks with at least 2,000 passing yards, 300 rushing yards, 20 passing TDs and no more than five interceptions this season: Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley and NC State’s Jacoby Brissett. In fact, in the past five years, only eight Power 5 conference quarterbacks have matched those numbers.
  • J.C. Coleman racked up 118 yards on 18 carries in Virginia Tech’s win against Virginia. He has now topped 95 yards in all three games since Marshawn Williams went down with an injury. The last Hokies tailback to do that was David Wilson, who did it in seven straight in 2011.
  • Parker had his fourth 100-yard receiving day of the season against Kentucky. Only 10 players in the country have had more against Power 5 opponents, which is made even more impressive given that Parker has only played in five games total. Despite missing the first seven games of the season, Parker still ranks seventh in the ACC in receiving.
  • Miami’s Phillip Dorsett finished off the regular season as the nation’s leader in yards-per-catch, averaging 26.65. Colorado State’s Higgins (19), a Biletnikoff Finalist, is the only receiver in the country with more grabs of 30-plus yards than Dorsett (12).
  • Clemson’s Artavis Scott set a school record for freshmen with 185 receiving yards against South Carolina. Scott now has 851 yards this season, which is second to only Illinois' Mike Dudek among Power 5 true freshmen.
  • Clemson finished the regular season averaging 10.2 tackles-for-loss per game, tops in the country and the difference between the Tigers and No. 2 Virginia Tech (1.47 TFL per game) is the same as the difference between No. 2 and No. 19. In fact, Clemson's numbers are historically good. Since 2008, only two other teams even averaged 9 TFLs per game -- and one of those was last season's Clemson team.
  • With 11 tackles on Saturday, FSU's Reggie Northrup now has 101 for the year. He's the first Seminoles defender to top 100 tackles in a season since Buster Davis in 2006.

ACC helmet stickers: Week 14

November, 30, 2014
11/30/14
9:00
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Well, as rivalry weeks go, this is about as good as it gets for the ACC. And with that in mind, there’s plenty of competition for the helmet stickers.

Virginia Tech DL Dadi Nicolas: The Hokies needed a win to continue a decade-long streak of wins over rival Virginia, but more importantly, to get bowl eligible. Michael Brewer, Bucky Hodges and the offense did just enough to get the win in the end, but it was the defense that set the stage, and Nicolas was the star. He racked up nine tackles, including two for a loss, a sack and five QB hurries in the game, and Nicolas helped stifle the UVA running game to the tune of just 38 yards allowed.

Clemson QB Deshaun Watson and WR Artavis Scott: Watson’s passing numbers certainly looked a lot better Saturday thanks to his roommate. Scott took three short throws and raced downfield for big gains, finishing with seven catches for 185 yards and two touchdowns. Watson played on a torn ACL, as Dabo Swinney admitted after the game, but still accounted for four touchdowns. And most importantly, for the first time since 2008, Clemson toppled its in-state rival.

Georgia Tech RB Zach Laskey: The senior had never beaten Georgia, but he did his part to ensure it happened Saturday. Laskey ran 26 times for 140 yards with three touchdowns, including a 2-yarder that proved to be the difference in overtime. Of course, a big hat tip still goes to kicker Harrison Butker, whose 53-yard field goal as time expired sent the game to OT, and to D.J. White, who picked off Hutson Mason to seal the win.

Louisville WR DeVante Parker: Down both of its top two QBs, Louisville didn’t need to worry. Parker makes everyone look good. Kyle Bolin came on in relief of Reggie Bonnafon and connected with Parker three times for scores. Overall, Parker caught six passes for 180 yards to help the Cardinals knock off Kentucky. But a special helmet sticker also goes to Gerod Holliman, who sealed the game with an INT -- his 14th of the season, tying the NCAA record.

NC State QB Jacoby Brissett: Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was the Wolfpack thumping North Carolina, and Brissett was the star. He completed just nine passes for 66 yards, but threw three touchdowns and added another on the ground, while rushing for 167 yards in the win. Teammate Shadrach Thornton chipped in with another 161 yards and a TD, too.

Florida State RB Dalvin Cook: The storyline is getting awfully familiar. FSU falls behind early. Jameis Winston coughs up some costly turnovers. And then the freshman tailback saves the day late. It was more of the same against Florida as Winston slumped through four INTs, but Cook was spectacular. He rushed 24 times for 144 yards and caught two passes for 28 yards. Overall, Cook had eight plays of 10 yards or more in the win.

Pitt receiver Tyler Boyd: The Panthers needed a win in Miami to get bowl eligible, and Boyd did all he could to ensure it happened. He caught five passes for 72 yards and scored on an all-out dive for the end zone. He also added 190 yards in the return game to set Pitt up with terrific field position throughout the game. The end result? Two 6-6 teams headed in completely opposite directions.

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