ACC: Jadeveon Clowney

This rivalry now belongs to Gamecocks

December, 1, 2013

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Everywhere you looked late Saturday night in Williams-Brice Stadium, they were holding up five fingers.

Well, at least everywhere but the Clemson sideline.

The script in this Palmetto State rivalry has become as predictable as Charlie Brown having the football pulled out from under him every Thanksgiving.

[+] EnlargeConnor Shaw
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesSouth Carolina QB Connor Shaw threw for 152 yards and rushed for 94 yards in the win over the Tigers. Shaw has 20 passing touchdowns and one interception this season.
Only the roles have reversed.

South Carolina won its fifth in a row over Clemson, 31-17, in a game that could have been a carbon copy in a lot of ways of the previous four.

The Gamecocks didn’t turn it over a single time. The Tigers turned it over six times. The Gamecocks made key plays. The Tigers made critical mistakes.

The Gamecocks turned up the pressure on Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd and sacked him five times. That’s 16 times in the last three games in this series that Boyd has been sacked.

The Tigers wilted under the pressure and will have another entire year to explain how they can play so well much of the season, and yet, so crummy when they meet up with their arch-rivals the final weekend of the regular season.

“They’ve got a good team, but continue to not play very well when they play us for some reason,” said South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, doing his best to play nice after becoming the first coach in South Carolina history to win five in a row over Clemson.

Of course, the Head Ball Coach just continues to rack up firsts at South Carolina.

The Gamecocks (10-2) have now won 10 or more games in three consecutive seasons. Before Spurrier arrived in 2005, they’d won 10 or more games in a season only once in school history.

“I was thinking back to all the teams I’ve had, and these guys may have achieved the most for such a young bunch of guys that haven’t played all that much and don’t have that much experience,” Spurrier said.

The only bummer for the No. 10 Gamecocks was that they didn’t get the help they were looking for Saturday night out of Columbia West. Missouri held off Texas A&M 28-21 at home to win the Eastern Division title and will face Auburn next Saturday in the SEC championship game.

“We’re still going to celebrate,” South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said. “A lot of us grew up in this state and know what this rivalry is about. No matter what happens, I can always say that I don’t know what it feels like to lose to Clemson because I never have and never will.”

For the No. 6 Tigers (10-2), it was a bitter pill to swallow. They’ve specialized in lighting up scoreboards, but haven’t scored more than 17 points in any of the their last five losses to the Gamecocks.

“We are playing a top-10 team, and every year, we have lost the turnover margin,” said Boyd, who was intercepted twice and lost a fumble. “Ultimately, I think that sums up the story every year.”

[+] EnlargeTajh Boyd
AP Photo/Rainier EhrhardtClemson signal-caller Tajh Boyd threw for 225 yards but had two interceptions vs. South Carolina.
The South Carolina players view it a little differently.

Senior quarterback Connor Shaw, who finished his career 17-0 as a starter at home, suggested that it’s not just a coincidence that the Tigers seem to stink it up every year in this game.

“It’s like blood in the water when we play these guys,” said Shaw, who threw a touchdown pass and rushed for a touchdown. “We have respect for them, and they’re a good team. But I don’t know how they would do if they had to play in our league, just the grind of the SEC.

"We’ve played better teams than them this year. That’s just how we feel.”

Clowney, who said in the preseason that he could tell Boyd was scared when the Gamecocks faced him, wasn’t backing down from those comments after seeing Boyd struggle once again.

“Every year, we talk about the same thing when we talk about them,” Clowney said. “We watch them play other teams, [and] nobody is really putting a lot of pressure on him. We know that we can get to him, contain him and add pressure. Once we hit him a few times, he starts getting the jitters a little bit and starts throwing crazy balls.

“That’s what he did tonight. We got the interceptions off those, and it worked out in our favor.”

But, then, that’s becoming the norm in this rivalry for the Gamecocks. Everything seems to work out in their favor.

“It’s just special for this program and for all the players on this team to know that we've never lost to Clemson,” Shaw said. “That’s something that nobody can ever take away from you.”

What to watch in the ACC: Week 2

September, 5, 2013
One week after Clemson and UNC took center stage with big nonconference games, Virginia and Miami step to the plate. Here's what to keep an eye on in Week 2 of ACC action.

1. A rivalry renewed: Once one of the most high-profile rivalries in the country, Florida and Miami have faced off just once in the past nine years -- a 26-3 Gators win in 2008. But the sparks fly again this week, and the matchup figures to live up to its rich history. Florida enters ranked No. 12 in the country, the latest SEC foe to provide a significant hurdle for the upstart ACC. Miami enters with its highest hopes in years, and a win over its in-state rival would solidify the notion that the Hurricanes are finally ready for the national spotlight again.

2. A big test for Virginia's defense: The Hoos sure looked impressive in their first game under coordinator Jon Tenuta last week, with Anthony Harris & Co. turning in a virtuoso performance in a come-from-behind win over BYU. Their reward? That'd be Oregon's high-flying offensive attack that managed to reel off 71 plays in less than 20 minutes of possession time in its opener.

3. David Watford put to the test: The bottom line for the first-year starter is that Virginia got the win, but it certainly wasn't a pretty offensive performance against BYU in Week 1. Watford was just 18-of-32 passing for 114 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His Total QBR ranked 107th nationally, and Virginia had eight three-and-outs. Fifteen of its 17 drives lasted six plays or fewer -- a major problem when trying to keep Oregon's up-tempo juggernaut off the field.

4. Syracuse vs. the Big Ten: For the second straight week, the Orange will take on a Big Ten foe, but after falling to Penn State 23-17 in Week 1, life won't get any easier this time around with a trip to No. 19 Northwestern. The defense looked solid against the Nittany Lions, but QB Drew Allen must improve on a performance that included 16-of-37 for 189 yards passing and two interceptions.

5. A rebound for Logan Thomas: Of the 121 Football Bowl Subdivision quarterbacks who qualified last week, none had a lower Total QBR than Thomas' 1.9. It was a dismal performance -- 5-of-26 for 59 yards and an INT -- and underscored numerous problems on Virginia Tech's offense. The receivers let Thomas down again and again, and the line didn't exactly provide smooth sailing. An overwhelmed Thomas shouldering the burden for the entire offense was the Hokies' downfall last season, and the situation doesn't appear to have changed much. On the upside, Western Carolina should feel like a weekend at the beach compared to Alabama's defense in Week 1.

[+] EnlargeLogan Thomas
Daniel Shirey/USA TODAY SportsQuarterback Logan Thomas started the season just 5-of-26 for 59 yards in Virginia Tech's loss to Alabama.
6. NC State's quarterback rotation: Brandon Mitchell's surgery to repair a broken foot appears to have been a success, but now there's the small matter of getting through the next four to six weeks without him. Dave Doeren says Pete Thomas will get the start this week but he wants to "explore his options." That's not exactly a vote of confidence, particularly when it might mean seeing some receivers and tailbacks getting a look at QB.

7. Tajh Boyd burnishes his Heisman candidacy: After the first week of games, the Clemson quarterback appears to be the Heisman front-runner, and he'll get a chance to add to his gaudy numbers against Football Championship Subdivision foe South Carolina State on Saturday. But offensive coordinator Chad Morris actually criticized his QB a bit, saying he'd like to see a faster offensive tempo.

8. Identifying a contender: Wake Forest and Boston College are both coming off down seasons in 2012, both struggled early against FCS foes in Week 1 and both eventually managed to win with relative ease. So what did we learn? Probably not much, but both teams will get a chance to prove they belong when they face off against one another Friday night in Chestnut Hill, Mass.

9. North Carolina's run defense: It wasn't Jadeveon Clowney who proved to be the Tar Heels' nightmare in a 27-10 opening-week loss. It was their own defense, which coughed up 228 rushing yards to the Gamecocks, including a whopping 9.6 yards per carry to sophomore Mike Davis.

10. More offense for Maryland, Duke: Both teams offered question marks entering the season. Duke was retooling its offensive pieces, while Maryland was happy to simply have a few more of its offensive stars -- namely quarterback C.J. Brown -- back at work. Both turned in dominant performances in their openers, both topping 40 points and 480 yards of offense. The Terps get newly minted FBS Independent Old Dominion this week, and Duke faces off against Memphis (9-39 over the past four seasons), meaning more fireworks are likely in store.
Eli Harold watched the South Carolina game last week with his eyes locked on superstar Jadeveon Clowney. Harold is in awe of the Gamecocks' pass rusher and he said he watches YouTube highlights of Clowney on a regular basis.

But something about Clowney's play against North Carolina's hurry-up offense last week rattled Harold. Clowney, who has been pegged as a sure-fire first-round NFL draft pick, was tired. It was an image striking enough to have Harold still on edge when he began gasping for breath Saturday against BYU.

"That guy's my idol, and I look up to him, but I didn't want to be as hurt as he was against North Carolina when they ran their no-huddle," Harold said. "I just said to myself, I don't want to be that guy that's bending down, touching my knees."

Harold and the rest of the Virginia defense managed to keep their composure Saturday in a stunning finish against BYU, but the task only gets tougher in Week 2. Yes, BYU ran an up-tempo attack, but it's nothing compared to the light-speed offense Oregon employs.

Nevertheless, Harold said he's confident he won't have his hands on his knees, sucking wind, when the Ducks click things into high gear.

"Even though Oregon runs it that much faster, I think we showed on film we can handle it and be in good shape," Harold said. "I think we're ready to play against that even that much more of a high-paced offense."

The confidence starts with a good game plan, and Virginia defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta said he has been breaking down film on Oregon since last season ended.

While the up-tempo, zone-read offenses are all the rage, Tenuta said few teams can match the speed with which Oregon runs it. What's worse is the rapid-fire offense keeps Tenuta from substituting on defense, meaning it will be a significant test of endurance for his players.

"You have to be pretty sharp in when and where you can sub," Tenuta said. "When you're sucking air, you're sucking air."

[+] EnlargeEli Harold
AP Photo/University of VirginiaDefensive end Eli Harold, who had two sacks in the Cavaliers' opening win over BYU, thinks Virginia is ready for Oregon's high-paced offensive attack.
With that in mind, Tenuta has had his defense work against the first-team offense in no-huddle situations throughout fall camp, and the scout team has worked with a two-huddle system to recreate the tempo Oregon will run.

If Virginia can keep pace from a cardiovascular standpoint, the next step is finding a way to throw speed bumps in front of the Ducks' offensive machine. That's simply a matter of execution, according to safety Anthony Harris.

"You've got to know your assignment, take care of your assignment each play, and you've got to tackle well," said Harris, who was named the ACC defensive back of the week after his 11-tackle performance against BYU. "You've got to be tackling down to the ground."

The pass rush figures to be the other piece of the puzzle. Harold said it's imperative the line disrupts Oregon's downhill attack, forcing the Ducks to the sidelines and taking them out of their rhythm.

"Look at the teams that beat Oregon in the past," Harold said. "They just shoot their gaps and get a lot of penetrations. If you stop them from running up the middle where they want to run the ball, get them to bounce it outside, just set the edge and penetrate, we can really stop those guys."

The final key is for the Virginia offense to keep Oregon's gunslingers off the field. That's a concern on two fronts. For one, David Watford and the Cavaliers mustered just 223 yards of offense last week. Secondly, Oregon doesn't need much time to make some big plays. In their opener, the Ducks held the ball just 19:42, and still ran 71 plays.

But if the numbers seem stacked against Virginia, Harold isn't worried. He knows it will be a test, and he's used to the role of underdog. The way he sees it, Oregon represents a chance for his defense to make its mark.

"I'm not afraid of anybody," Harold said. "I don't care who we're playing. I'm up for the challenge. I want to see what all the hype is about. I take a lot of pride in playing this team this weekend, and I can't wait."

ACC Power Rankings: Week 1

September, 3, 2013
Clemson stole the show in Week 1, solidifying its hold on the top spot, but it was Virginia that made the most noise by knocking off BYU. Here's how the power rankings shake out after the first round of games.

1. Clemson (1-0, 0-0 ACC; LW No. 1): They are who we thought they were. Tajh Boyd and the Tigers proved they were every bit the national championship contender with a huge win over Georgia on Saturday, and while a handful of significant obstacles remain, Clemson is clearly in control of its destiny from here. Boyd was the star, but the Tigers should be thrilled, too, to see a rejuvenated Sammy Watkins, a disruptive Vic Beasley and a punishing running performance by Roderick McDowell.

2. Florida State (1-0, 1-0 ACC; LW No. 2): If Boyd set the bar for ACC quarterbacks on Saturday, Jameis Winston eagerly leapt over it Monday. The much-hyped freshman had a debut for the ages against Pitt, completing 25 of 27 passes for 356 yards and four TDs, while rushing for another. Jimbo Fisher spent the offseason trying to quiet the buzz around his QB, but it's only getting louder.

3. Miami (1-0, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 3): This just in: Duke Johnson is pretty darned good. The Miami sophomore stole the show in a 34-6 win, burnishing the hopes that Miami has finally turned things around. That theory will be put to the test this week though, when SEC foe Florida comes to town. The Hurricanes have won 11 of the past 15 games against Florida, but this marks only the second time the two schools have faced off since 2004.

4. Georgia Tech (1-0, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 6): It's hard to take too much from a big win over Elon, but it's also hard to find any faults after one week for the Yellow Jackets. Vad Lee looked good, the running game didn't miss a beat, the defense was impressive, and the end result was the largest margin of victory for an ACC team in history.

5. Virginia Tech (0-1, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 5): This was one of those good news-bad news games for the Hokies. The good news was, the defense looked great, holding the two-time defending champs to only 206 yards of offense (and sending Alabama fans into panic mode in the process). The bad news is, Virginia Tech still got smoked thanks to repeated special-teams breakdowns and a woeful performance by the passing game. Logan Thomas struggled mightily, and the receiving corps looks dreadful. But hey, at least they don't have to play Alabama again.

6. Virginia (1-0, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 13): The task is daunting in Week 2, when the Cavaliers host Oregon, but for now, fans should bask in the beauty of a tremendous defensive performance in a win over BYU -- easily the second-best win of the week for an ACC team. Anthony Harris was the star with 11 tackles, a sack, a blocked punt and an interception that set up the winning score, but he was just one of five UVA defenders with double-digit tackles in the game.

7. North Carolina (0-1, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 4): The good news is, North Carolina largely contained Jadeveon Clowney -- even if a few pundits chalked it up to the South Carolina defender's condition or apathy. Beyond that, however, it wasn't much of a debut for the Heels, who were burned by big plays and never really recovered from an early 14-0 hole.

8. Maryland (1-0, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 9): Well, it looks as though the Terrapins found their quarterback. C.J. Brown turned in a dominant performance in his return from an ACL injury that forced him to miss all of 2012. He accounted for five first-half touchdowns, while throwing for nearly 300 yards and running for more than 100. With a relatively manageable schedule ahead, it's not impossible to think Maryland could be riding high at 4-0 when it heads to Florida State on Oct. 5.

9. NC State (1-0, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 8): Dave Doeren's Wolfpack did a nice job in thumping a Louisiana Tech team that didn't figure to be a pushover. The key was the time of possession, where NC State held a whopping 30-minute edge, keeping Louisiana Tech's offense off the field. The only downside was the loss of starting QB Brandon Mitchell, which is why the Wolfpack drop a spot behind the suddenly QB-stacked Terrapins.

10. Duke (1-0, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 12): No Sean Renfree? No Connor Vernon? No problem for the Blue Devils in their 2013 debut. A 45-0 win over NC Central was hardly a major test, but Duke looked good in all phases of the game -- outgaining NC Central by nearly 300 yards and racking up a 76-yard punt return TD from super sophomore Jamison Crowder.

11. Wake Forest (1-0, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 7): The Deacons won easily, so why the drop in the Power Rankings? Mostly, it's splitting hairs. The early struggles against Presbyterian weren't exactly inspiring, and with a cluster of teams in the middle of the pack, Wake Forest simply was the least impressive of a group that mostly looked pretty good.

12. Pittsburgh (0-1, 0-1 ACC, LW No. 10): It's hard to say whether Pittsburgh was that bad or Winston was that good. Either way, the result was a blowout in the Panthers’ ACC debut. Pitt should be encouraged that it moved the ball relatively well against an athletic FSU defense, and the Panthers appear to have some legitimate playmakers.

13. Syracuse (0-1, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 11): It was obvious Scott Shafer was going to have to do some rebuilding in 2013, but a 23-17 loss to start the season against Penn State only underscored how far the Orange have to go. Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen was supposed to be an answer at QB, but he didn't look good (16-of-37 for 189 yards and two INTs). This week's game against Northwestern won't get any easier.

14. Boston College (1-0, 0-0, LW No. 14): Sure, the Eagles won. That's worth celebrating. But they struggled early against Villanova, and it's clear Steve Addazio still has his work cut out for him. Make it two in a row this week against Wake Forest, however, and BC is guaranteed to climb out of the basement.

ACC weekend rewind: Week 1

September, 2, 2013
There's one more game to go, but here's a look back at the weekend that was in the ACC:

The good: You have to start with Clemson, which came away with a signature, 38-35 home victory over favored Georgia from the SEC and has earned the early status of national title contender. The Tigers became the first non-SEC team ever to defeat consecutive top-10 SEC opponents. Tajh Boyd looked like a Heisman contender and Sammy Watkins looked like the guy everyone remembered from 2011. Dabo Swinney stressed that it was just one game, but it was certainly a major one for the ACC and its national perception.

The bad: North Carolina's offensive line played respectable against Jadeveon Clowney and the vaunted South Carolina front. But the defense surrendered too many big plays, including a 75-yard touchdown run, a 65-yard touchdown pass and a 29-yard touchdown pass. The Tar Heels scored just one touchdown in three red zone trips in their 27-10 season-opening loss.

The ugly: Beamer Ball was missing Saturday, as Virginia Tech gave up a punt return touchdown and a kickoff return touchdown to Alabama's Christion Jones. Vinnie Sunseri also notched a pick-six off Logan Thomas, whose 5-of-26 passing line was far from spectacular, too. (Honorable mention: FAU coach Carl Pelini ordering a spike on fourth down late in Friday's 34-6 loss at Miami.)

The surprise: Jim Grobe was not kidding when he said he was going to play more true freshmen this season. Wake Forest broke in nine first-year players during Thursday's 31-7 win over Presbyterian. In his previous 12 years, Grobe had only played 22 true freshmen in total. (In opponent news, Villanova's fake punt against BC has to qualify here as well.)

strong>The history: In beating Elon 70-0, Georgia Tech tied a school record for points in the modern era and set a school record for margin of victory in the modern era. The Yellow Jackets also broke the ACC record for margin of victory, and their 10 touchdowns tied a school record as well.

The delay(s): UNC and South Carolina took a nearly two-hour break Thursday because of lightning. Virginia's opener Saturday against BYU was delayed more than two hours because of bad weather, too. How bad? Just take a look at the picture BYU posted on Twitter of the flooding in the tunnels of Scott Stadium.

The unfortunate turn of events: Dave Doeren unveiled Brandon Mitchell as his quarterback choice. It looked like the right one before Mitchell suffered a foot injury that will force him to miss four to six weeks. The Arkansas transfer went 3-of-3 for 93 yards and orchestrated consecutive touchdown drives to start the game. Colorado State transfer Pete Thomas shouldered the load after Mitchell's injury.

The playmaker: Duke Johnson gets this honor after tallying three plays of 35 yards or more in the first half Friday night for Miami. Johnson looks like he won't be taken down by a sophomore slump this year, as he opened with 186 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney smiled at reporters late Thursday night and quickly got one step ahead of them, just as he has so many offensive linemen in his career: “You can ask all the questions about conditioning,” he said. “Let’s get to it.”

Clowney, the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year, was not his Heisman hopeful self in the Gamecocks’ 27-10 win over North Carolina. He was sucking wind. He didn’t get one sack. He cramped up.

Clowney said he had a stomach virus the night before, and it was still ailing him the morning of the season opener. His pregame meal consisted of bananas and a few grapes, and it didn’t help that UNC’s up-tempo spread offense ran 79 plays to South Carolina’s 59.

So yes, Clowney was “pretty tired” -- but it didn’t matter, because South Carolina found other ways to win.

For all of the hype surrounding South Carolina’s bullish defensive line, it was the physical performance of the Gamecocks’ offensive line coupled with a poor performance from UNC’s defense that was the difference in the game. South Carolina was bigger and better up front, further padding the theory that the SEC recruits a different caliber of linemen than any other conference. The Gamecocks knew this advantage going in -- and used it to establish a running game led by rookie Mike Davis, who was making his first career start.

“We knew that coming in, watching film,” quarterback Connor Shaw said. “We were going to try to run the ball a lot. We struggled a little bit here and there on five-man protection … but other than that our offensive line played really well.”

Well enough for Davis to finish with 115 yards, the first 100-yard game of his career. South Carolina’s offensive linemen averaged 322.4 pounds compared to UNC’s 307. The gap up front was noticeable. South Carolina averaged 6.9 yards per play, six yards per carry, and finished with 228 rushing yards. The Gamecocks had all of the momentum early, as they outgained North Carolina 203 yards to 35 in the opening quarter.

“They’re bigger than we are,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said. “I’d have to go back and look at the film and see if we were getting mashed. I want to give the running back a lot of credit. That guy broke a lot of tackles. Mike Davis, he did a really nice job. We have to do a better job of tackling.”

North Carolina gave up too many big plays -- including a 75-yard touchdown run by Davis in the third quarter, and a 65-yard touchdown pass to Shaq Roland just 1:19 into the season. Quarterback Dylan Thomas came in for Shaw and on his first play of the game threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Kane Whitehurst. Meanwhile, the offense did a respectable job keeping Clowney at bay. Offensive tackle James Hurst was lined up against Clowney the most, but Clowney was also moved all over the field. Fedora said the game plan was to get rid of the ball quickly and use short passes.

“We felt like if we could move the chains and execute, it would tire him out,” Fedora said. “If you go back and look, there were times he was pretty tired out there. He can make plays when he wants to make plays. He’s definitely a hoss, there’s no doubt about it. He’s a great player, but … I didn’t feel like he was a huge factor in the game, actually. There were other guys I thought made some plays. I thought James Hurst did a pretty nice job against him.”

It was a disappointing start for the ACC, which opens the season with three games against SEC opponents. North Carolina seemed overmatched from the start, even though it was doing a good job of keeping Renner on his feet. He was sacked only one time all night, but South Carolina was simply the deeper, more talented team. The fact that Clowney had an off-night and South Carolina’s defense still held UNC to its lowest point total under Fedora was further proof that the Gamecocks are more than just Clowney.

UNC averaged 40 points 485 yards a game last year. But it sputtered and stuttered in the red zone, scoring just one touchdown in three trips. Clowney had a little something to do with that. Even though he wasn’t full speed, he was still on the heels of UNC quarterback Bryn Renner.

“I was pretty tired, but you have to play through that,” Clowney said. “I was still coming off the ball and that’s what matters. I might be bent over sometimes but when that ball snaps, I was getting off. … It’s just one of those games, you have to push yourself.”

They did. And North Carolina didn’t have enough to push back.

South Carolina had to endure a late weather delay, but used an extremely physical running game to overpower North Carolina in the Gamecocks' 27-10 win inside Williams-Brice Stadium Thursday night.

It was over when: With South Carolina already leading 27-10, the game probably should have been called when a weather delay stopped play halfway through the fourth quarter. The Gamecocks eventually sealed things when they forced North Carolina into a three-and-out that concluded with a 22-yard sack by Kelcy Quarles on the Heels' first drive after the delay.

Game ball goes to: South Carolina running back Mike Davis had a nice coming out party as the Gamecocks' new starting running back. He carried the ball 12 times for 115 yards and a 75-yard touchdown to put South Carolina up 27-10 during the third quarter.

Stat of the game: Despite running 86 plays to South Carolina's 66, the Tar Heels were out-gained 405-299.

What it means for South Carolina: The Gamecocks will head into next week's game against Georgia with a tough victory under their belt. South Carolina was sloppy at times, but the Gamecocks were able to work some kinks out. However, this team has to shore up some play in the secondary and get a lot more from Jadeveon Clowney, who was a non-factor for most of the night.

What it means for UNC: It's another loss for the ACC at the hands of the SEC. UNC's offense made some plays here and there, but there just wasn't enough consistency. The Tar Heels also saw their defensive line get overwhelmed all night. That can't happen going forward. The defensive line has to improve or this defense could be in for a long season.

Video: UNC-South Carolina preview

August, 29, 2013

ACC reporter Heather Dinich previews the matchup between UNC and South Carolina.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 1

August, 29, 2013
The moment is finally here. The season kicks off tonight, as two ACC teams take the gridiron and mark the return of college football. Here is what to keep an eye on this entire weekend as all 14 teams get back in action.

1. Battle in the trenches in Columbia, S.C. North Carolina will have three new starters on its offensive line Thursday night against No. 6 South Carolina, including two redshirt freshmen. And the Tar Heels will be going up against preseason Heisman contender Jadeveon Clowney and the Gamecocks' lethal defensive line. Don't overlook fellow end Chaz Sutton, either.

2. Conference debuts. Pitt and Syracuse play their first games as ACC schools after exiting the former Big East, which the Orange won a four-way share of in 2012. Both schools have the chance to make big opening statements, as the Panthers host defending conference champion Florida State on Labor Day and Syracuse faces a Penn State squad looking to build off Bill O'Brien's successful first year with the program.

[+] EnlargeSteve Addazio
John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesBoston College's Steve Addazio is one of the conference's new coaches this season.
3. Trio of first-year coaches. New BC coach Steve Addazio hosts Villanova, a familiar opponent from his Temple days. Dave Doeren and NC State host Louisiana Tech, which breaks in a new coach of its own in Skip Holtz after Sonny Dykes left for Cal following a 9-3 season. And Syracuse coach Scott Shafer debuts against Penn State in East Rutherford, N.J.

4. QB choices in Jersey and Raleigh. Two of those new coaches also will be unveiling their starting quarterback choices for the first time, as Shafer sends out either Terrel Hunt or Drew Allen and Doeren picks Pete Thomas or Brandon Mitchell. The Orange will be facing a Penn State team that carries the same surprise in its quarterback race between Christian Hackenberg and Tyler Ferguson.

5. ... Speaking of new starting QBs. Virginia's David Watford will make his first career start against BYU, Duke's Anthony Boone takes over the job from Sean Renfree against NC Central, and Florida State and Pitt will both start new signal-callers when they square off on Labor Day, with Jameis Winston running the Seminoles' offense and Tom Savage handling duties for the Panthers.

6. Pitt's running backs. Ray Graham is gone. Rushel Shell transferred to West Virginia. And Isaac Bennett and James Conner have dealt with injuries in camp. Coach Paul Chryst isn't sure how things will shake out Monday, but we likely will see Rachid Ibrahim and Malcolm Crockett get at least some action given the backfield situation.

7. FSU's defensive backs. Are too many bodies a good thing? Nick Waisome and Terrence Brooks started all 14 games last season for the nation's No. 1 pass defense. The crowd also includes preseason All-American Lamarcus Joyner, reigning ACC defensive rookie of the year Ronald Darby, former five-star prospect Karlos Williams and several other strong athletes. New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has his work cut out for him, although probably not as much as new Pitt quarterback Tom Savage does.

8. Virginia Tech's backfield. Coach Frank Beamer wasn't kidding when he said the Hokies went from having too many running backs to not enough. Michael Holmes was kicked off the team in July, Joel Caleb was suspended this month for the opener against Alabama, Tony Gregory suffered a career-ending ACL tear and J.C. Coleman's status for Saturday is up in the air because of two ankle sprains. Redshirt freshmen Trey Edmunds and Chris Mangus are the Hokies' next options after Coleman.

9. "Smoke." Taquan Mizzell has earned that nickname despite having never taken the college field. ESPN's No. 9 running back prospect from the class of 2013 has drawn plenty of buzz in Virginia's camp, and he will get a stiff first test against BYU's defense.

10. ACC vs. SEC. What, you really thought we'd forget this one? Three ACC teams face off against squads from the big, bad SEC, perhaps none with as steep a challenge as Virginia Tech's against Alabama. UNC kicks things off Thursday at South Carolina, and No. 8 Clemson hosts No. 5 Georgia on Saturday night in the headliner of Week 1. The ACC went 1-1 against the SEC in last year's weekend openers, with NC State falling to Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff the night before Clemson topped Auburn in the Georgia Dome.

Video: Is Clowney best defensive player?

August, 29, 2013

David Pollack discusses whether South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is the best defensive player in college football, how North Carolina plans to neutralize him and his chances at winning the Heisman Trophy.

ACC's lunchtime links

August, 7, 2013
Hey everyone, know what day it is?
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd said Sunday that he is not afraid of South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

[+] EnlargeTajh Boyd
Daniel Shirey/USA TODAY SportsClemson's Tajh Boyd wants it to be clear that he does not fear South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
Add Bryn Renner to the "not scared" list, too.

Of course, both of those guys are friends with Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas, who doesn't even play South Carolina this year, but added, "I'd imagine that nobody's afraid of anybody."

Just so there's no confusion.

"No, I'm not afraid of anybody, honestly,” Boyd said. “It's never been in my nature, never been in my character. I'm a competitor. I'm going to compete against whoever wants to compete. And it'll all take care of itself in due time."

Renner gets to see Clowney first, as the Tar Heels open the season Aug. 29 at South Carolina, and Renner sounded far more in awe of his first opponent than fearful. Renner called Clowney “one of the most natural athletes” he has seen play -- and Renner has seen plenty of his first opponent: He has watched every game South Carolina played last year.

“He’s phenomenal on tape,” Renner said. “There’s no player I can compare him to as far as who I’ve played against or seen on film. He’s the best player in the country for a reason. In order to get better, you’ve got to play against better opponents and better players. That’s the mindset our team has. We’re looking forward to the opportunity.”

So is Boyd, who has yet to beat South Carolina.

"He's a really good player -- one of the better defensive players in the country,” Boyd said. “… I respect the way he plays, I respect his game. It'll be fun. We're looking forward to playing those guys down at their place. It'll be a fun one."
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney fired the first shot of the season at Clemson, and we are only in July.

It is on!

[+] EnlargeClemson
AP Photo/Richard ShiroJadeveon Clowney, left, had a career-high 4.5 sacks against Tajh Boyd and the Tigers last season.
Clowney told reporters during SEC media days Tuesday that he thinks Tajh Boyd is scared of him. Here is what Clowney said:
"I can tell Tajh Boyd is scared back there. He ain't no sitting duck, but you can see in his eyes that he's scared of our D-linemen."

And ...

"We know that coming into the game that we have him shook already. We get a couple hits on him and it changes the whole game. He's scared every time we play them. I know he's probably listening to this right now, but I'm just telling the truth, man."

One more ...

"You can look at a guy and tell that he's scared. If he's staring at me before the ball is snapped and he's staring at me every play before the ball is snapped, oh we got him. I tell the players that he's shook."

Clowney had a monster game against the Tigers last year, with a career-high 4.5 sacks on Boyd. The matchup between the two preseason Heisman hopefuls to close out the regular season is one of the most highly anticipated on the schedule. No question Clemson is feeling the heat to end its losing streak to South Carolina. Given the Gamecocks' recent results in the series and his performance last year, Clowney can talk all the trash he wants. I can think of at least one player who is scared of him.

It's not Boyd. At least not to coach Dabo Swinney, who responded to the comments Tuesday evening following a golf event.

"I don't think Tajh Boyd is scared of anybody," Swinney told local reporters.

Is Boyd quaking in his cleats right now? I doubt that.

But he did have a pretty miserable game against Clowney and the Gamecocks last year. Everybody in the state of South Carolina and across the country knows for Clemson to beat its hated in-state rivals, Boyd has to rise up and the Tigers have to shut Clowney down. Clowney is clearly confident he will have a repeat performance.

The pressure is on Boyd and the Tigers.
The last week of the regular-season and some tough choices await. Good thing we have a plan.

Week 14 schedule

Friday, November 29
  • Miami at Pitt
Saturday, November 30
  • Florida State at Florida
  • Georgia at Georgia Tech
  • Maryland at NC State
  • Duke at North Carolina
  • Boston College at Syracuse
  • Wake Forest at Vanderbilt
  • Virginia Tech at Virginia
  • Clemson at South Carolina
Our pick: Florida State at Florida AND Clemson at South Carolina.

Pick one, and come along! Two bloggers means the opportunity to go to two games, are we right? Andrea lives 90 minutes away from Gainesville, so she is going to road trip it up to Florida State vs. Florida, and Heather will take a quick plane ride to watch Clemson vs. South Carolina. We have to be at both these games given their potential to be major blockbusters with national implications.

We all know that Florida State and Clemson fell short a year ago in their rivalry games. We all know that their rivals have owned recent history -- South Carolina has won four straight over the Tigers; Florida has won seven of the last nine meetings over Florida State, including last year. If Clemson and Florida State are going to be as good as people believe, they are going to need to win these games not just for their own national title/BCS hopes but to get the ACC some bragging rights for once.

The Clemson-South Carolina game may end up being a tad bigger. If Clemson can beat Georgia in the opener, Florida State at home later in the season and run through the ACC schedule unbeaten, the potential is there for this game to have national championship implications. South Carolina is expected to be ranked in the preseason top 10 as well. Imagine the possibility of BOTH teams going into this game unbeaten. Imagine the possibility of BOTH Tajh Boyd and Jadeveon Clowney being in the Heisman mix in the final week of the regular season.

On the Florida State side, if the Noles can upset Clemson at home and then avoid an upset to a team it should beat (something it hasn't avoided in recent history), they could have national championship hopes, too, headed into this game. Florida has high expectations once again as well. Dreaming of the possibilities now should get you a little hyped up well in advance of both these games. They are going to be too good to miss.

Let's go!

ACC's lunchtime links

May, 13, 2013
Headed to the ACC spring meetings in Amelia Island, Fla.