ACC: James Franklin

Penn State and Pittsburgh haven't played since the 2000 season, cooling off a spicy in-state rivalry.

Thanks to the (relatively) new coaching staff, namely Penn State assistant Herb Hand -- he of "Chopped" fame -- things are getting stirred up again.

New Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi, never one to back down from a challenge -- just ask Michigan -- started the chirping shortly after his hiring. Asked in late December about the pledge from Penn State coach James Franklin to "dominate the state," Narduzzi told a local radio station, "We had a school like that down the road in Michigan that maybe had the same attitude."

Things are spilling into social media now. Franklin and his staff are extremely active, and Pitt's new staff has joined the fun, as colleague Andrea Adelson writes.

The teams' offensive line coaches -- Penn State's Hand and Pitt's John Peterson -- entered the Twitter ring Wednesday night.

Peterson got things started with this graphic, proclaiming Pitt as the state's premier program. Hand didn't take kindly to it, listing Penn State's accomplishments over Pitt last season, including a bowl win and a better record against common foes (Penn State went 2-0 against Boston College and Akron; Pitt went 1-1). Is mentioning Pitt's bowl collapse a shot below the belt? Ouch. Hand then proceeded to drop the mic, SNL style. A night's rest didn't cool off Hand, who added this picture Thursday morning. Your move, Pitt coaches. By the way, Penn State and Pitt resume their series Sept. 10, 2016 in the Steel City. The game can't get here soon enough.
Josh Bordner's final college football game might look a little like some of his first college football games. At least the first ones he attended.

The Boston College wide receiver was born in State College, Pennsylvania, and grew up a huge Penn State fan. He said his father, Scott, had a government job in town and would take him to Nittany Lions games regularly, with little Josh tagging along in one of those "little kid backpacks."

"I just remember when everyone gets up and starts jumping, the whole stadium feels like it's going to collapse," Bordner said with a laugh. "They definitely take pride in their football there."

[+] EnlargeJosh Bordner, Tony Steward
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesBoston College receiver Josh Bordner, a converted quarterback, caught three touchdown passes for the Eagles as a senior.
Bordner's football career will in many ways come full circle when his Eagles face the Lions in the Dec. 27 New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. The career reserve quarterback was called into coach Steve Addazio's office last winter and, with Florida transfer Tyler Murphy coming in to take over the reins under center, was asked if he would be willing to switch to receiver.

Bordner said he had not played the position since he was a sophomore at Century High — his family moved to Sykesville, Maryland, before high school — but he was eager to have an opportunity to get on the field in his final season.

The numbers followed, as Bordner's 26 catches, 342 receiving yards and three touchdown grabs all led or tied for the team lead in the regular season. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Bordner's biggest attribute, however, might have come in the run game — more specifically, blocking for Murphy and the rest of a BC rushing attack that put up 251.83 yards per game, good for 14th in the country.

Those efforts did not go unnoticed, as Bordner was rewarded Sunday as the recipient of the Scanlan Award, the program's highest honor, which goes to the senior who was outstanding in scholarship, leadership and athletic ability.

"Every Sunday morning we’d come in and watch highlights of the big plays from Saturday’s game and most often it’s highlighting Josh making a huge block down the field," center and fellow captain Andy Gallik said. "He’s always making big cuts down field and making wider lanes for Tyler and the running backs. He’s always making blocks and doing whatever he can to get his blockers down. It helped us tremendously.

"He was the hands-down, clear favorite to win that award. When I think of the Scanlan Award, I think of Josh Bordner. There’s nobody that should have won that besides him.”

Bordner will run into one more familiar face next Saturday when he sees coach James Franklin roaming the Penn State sideline. Franklin had recruited Bordner when the coach was an assistant at Maryland, with Bordner recalling an hour-long meeting in which he loved Franklin's enthusiasm.

Bordner said he had two cousins attend Penn State and still has a handful of friends and family members in town. He joked that the bowl game will mark the first time any of them find themselves rooting against the Lions, even if this is a long time coming for a Penn State program that was banned from bowls the previous two seasons in light of NCAA sanctions.

"I'm definitely really excited," Bordner said. "It's going to be a sold-out, packed crowd. It's going to be one of the top-viewed bowl games. I'm looking forward to going out there and playing against a team I grew up loving. They're definitely a good team. They have a great defense, so we're really looking forward to getting out there and playing."
So just what should we expect from Maryland as the Terrapins enter the Big Ten? To get some answers, I turned to our in-house expert, Heather Dinich. She covered the program for the Baltimore Sun before joining ESPN.com's ACC blog. And Heather still lives in Maryland.

As we take the Terps off Heather's hands, she was kind enough to answer a few of our pressing questions about the Big Ten newbie-to-be:

Heather, how competitive should Big Ten fans expect to the Terrapins to be when they enter the Big Ten?

[+] EnlargeRandy Edsall
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyRandy Edsall and the Terps will face a brutal schedule in their first foray into the Big Ten.
HD: Think Hoosiers. Somewhere around not quite as good as Penn State and not as bad as Purdue. And nowhere near the likes of Ohio State. Average at best. The schedule is brutal, with Ohio State and back-to-back road trips to Wisconsin and Penn State, plus a trip to Michigan. The travel and stadiums alone are going to be a culture shock for the Terps. It’s a good thing Rutgers joined the Big Ten so the Terps have somebody they can match up against. (Though former Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen is going to be a wee bit motivated for that one as the Scarlet Knights’ new OC.) I think it’s going to be a long season for Randy Edsall, and it’s going to be a dose of reality for athletic director Kevin Anderson. Then again, ADs are paid to see the big picture and follow the money. I have football tunnel vision and it looks like a huge train coming at the Terps through this one.

How solid is Randy Edsall's standing as head coach, especially now that he'll have to compete against Friedgen and former Maryland coach-in-waiting James Franklin (the new head coach at Penn State)?

HD: I think it’s tenuous at best. Look, considering all of the injuries they’ve had, Edsall gets a bit of a pass. Two seasons ago his quarterback position was completely decimated by injuries, to the point where he had a backup linebacker throwing the ball. Last season he lost his top two receivers to injuries, including Stefon Diggs, one of the most exciting playmakers in the country. But he lost the bowl game to Marshall last year -- in Annapolis. That’s unacceptable if you’re the top team in the state. The Terps lost five of their last seven games. They lost to Wake Forest and Syracuse, you think they’re gonna beat Wisconsin and Penn State? On the road? Maryland is going to be haunted by its past, with those games against Franklin and Friedgen, and losses against those two programs will further fuel the fire for Edsall’s critics. Playing the first season in the Big Ten could buy him some time, but it shouldn’t buy him much.

As you mentioned, injuries have been a big problem for the Terps lately. How good can they be if everyone stays healthy?

HD: Even at full strength, I still don’t think they can match up with the best of the Big Ten, but Maryland should look like a better team than what fans saw in 2013. They should be expected to beat Indiana, Iowa and Rutgers and be able to steal one or two they’re “not supposed to win.” The question is if they can handle winning on the road in a new conference. This could actually be a pretty decent team with Diggs and WR Deon Long healthy for the season, and a veteran quarterback in C.J. Brown. Overall, they lose only four starters, and last year was a very young team. The whole defensive line returns and the entire defense should be an experienced group. They should pick up at least two more wins in the nonconference schedule, but they’ve got to win at Syracuse, a team they lost to last year. So while it might be a better team overall, it might not necessarily be reflected in the win column. Still, if everyone stays healthy, fans should expect a bowl game.

Have Maryland fans come around to the idea of leaving the ACC, or does it still seem weird to think of Maryland in the Big Ten?

HD: Weird. Very weird. I live in Maryland and can’t get used to it, and a lot of fans, of course, are focused on the impact it has on the hoops season. Many fans are indifferent, and even more are still trying to understand it.

Finally, what are some must-see attractions/traditions for visiting Big Ten fans who come to College Park?

HD: I cannot tell a lie: Gameday traffic will be created by Ohio State fans. I recommend checking out Cole Field House, which is right behind Byrd Stadium, for some historic hoops scenery, and Comcast Center, for the modern version. On the field, the statue of Testudo is said to bring some good luck, and of course, the pride this state takes in its flag is, well, dizzying. As for places to eat and consume adult beverages downtown, sources say R.J. Bentley’s and the Cornerstone Grill & Loft are the local institutions.
Maryland's 2014 Big Ten schedule just got even more interesting.

On Nov. 1, the Terps will travel to Penn State, where they will face their former offensive coordinator, James Franklin, who is now head coach of the Nittany Lions.

On Nov. 29, Maryland will end its first regular season in the Big Ten with a home game against Rutgers -- and former coach Ralph Friedgen, who was just hired by Rutgers as offensive coordinator.

That might be a little, um, awkward.

Friedgen, who was replaced by Randy Edsall after the 2010 season, will go back to Byrd Stadium for the first time since he was fired by athletic director Kevin Anderson. Odds are he'll have a wee bit of motivation going into that game. Maryland is his alma mater. He earned two letters as a guard. And then he was fired after winning nine games and being named the ACC's Coach of the Year. No wonder he's not convinced there's much loyalty left in his business.

So, instead of moving forward in a new conference and looking ahead at a clean slate, Maryland will have little choice but to face its past along the way.
Penn State is Dream Job No. 2 for James Franklin.

Dream Job No. 1 slipped out of his grasp in 2010, when Maryland hired Kevin Anderson as its athletic director.

In February 2009, Franklin was Maryland’s offensive coordinator and one of the country’s fastest-rising young assistants. He was one of the nation’s top recruiters and locked in to become the program’s next head coach. Franklin was named Maryland’s head-coach-in-waiting, patiently working alongside former coach Ralph Friedgen as offensive coordinator and waiting for his turn as the CEO of the struggling program.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty ImagesNew Penn State coach James Franklin, shown in 2010 as Maryland's offensive coordinator, was once Maryland's head-coach-in-waiting.
“I always dreamed of this opportunity,” Franklin, a two-time assistant with the Terps, said at that time. “I think I have a pretty unique perspective on the university and what it’s going to take to be successful here. Really, our plan and our discussion was about continuing to build off the foundation Ralph has laid here and continue to build this program into one of the elite programs in the country.”

How ironic.

As Maryland heads into the Big Ten next season, James Franklin is going to be the Terps’ worst nightmare. (Well, him and Ohio State ...)

He’s already established as a recruiter in Maryland’s backyard, working the high schools of the District of Columbia and the surrounding counties of Maryland. He’s well connected with high school coaches, prospects and their families throughout the Baltimore-Washington-Pennsylvania territories -- all areas that the Nittany Lions have successfully recruited in the past. (Franklin, a native of Langhorne, Pa., versus Mike Locksley in recruiting will be as good as any rivalry in the ACC – or the Big Ten, for that matter.) Franklin is an energetic, passionate young coach who will take over a program that – despite all its lingering issues – still has more resources and support than Maryland.

And yet there was a time when Maryland was the only place he wanted to be.

Franklin used to spend his Thanksgivings at the University of Maryland, where his aunt used to work in admissions. Franklin, a graduate of East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania, had plenty of connections to the area, much as he does to Penn State. When Anderson was hired in 2010, though, he made it very clear that while Franklin could be a candidate to replace Friedgen, there was no guarantee Anderson would honor the coach-in-waiting plan.

In retrospect, it was a smart move by Anderson. Had Franklin stuck around and not been named head coach by January 2012, Maryland would have owed him $1 million. By letting Franklin know there were no promises, it not only opened the door for him to leave on his own, it encouraged the move before Friedgen was even fired. Had Franklin still been on staff when Friedgen was fired, many would have expected Franklin to take over.

So when Vanderbilt called, Franklin had little choice but to answer.

Vandy’s win was Maryland’s loss, as it was impossible not to compare the direction of the programs during Anderson’s tenure.

The Commodores' 24-15 record under Franklin matched the legendary Dan McGugin for the most victories in school history by a coach in his first three seasons. For the first time in the program’s 124-year history, Vandy was ranked in the AP Top 25 in back-to-back seasons. Vanderbilt's 41-24 win over Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl gave the Commodores back-to-back nine-win seasons for the first time in program history.

Meanwhile, Maryland was thrilled just to get to a bowl game for the first time under Randy Edsall – a bowl game they lost Dec. 27 to Marshall in nearby Annapolis.

While the decision made sense to many at the time and eliminated a sticky situation on Maryland’s coaching staff, Maryland will now continue to be haunted by the one who got away.

The timing of the hire is certainly uncanny.

Once seemingly inseparable, Maryland and James Franklin are heading to the Big Ten together -- and yet they couldn’t be further apart.
Editor’s note: Each day this week Florida State reporter David M. Hale and Auburn reporter Greg Ostendorf will preview a position battle in Monday’s VIZIO BCS National Championship Game. Today’s matchup is between Florida State’s wide receivers and Auburn’s secondary.

Florida State’s wide receivers: It’s not a deep group, but there may not be a more dynamic set of receivers in the country than what Jameis Winston has at his disposal at Florida State.

[+] EnlargeBenjamin
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsFSU WR Kelvin Benjamin is a physical presence who can also break free and make big plays.
Rashad Greene, Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw are all within striking distance of 1,000 yards. Greene is one of the nation’s most consistent threats, and while he’s not imposing physically, he runs precise routes and rarely drops a pass. Shaw is the lone senior in the group, and he’s averaging 18 yards a catch and has topped 89 yards receiving seven times. But it’s Benjamin who should keep Auburn defenders awake at night.

At 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, Benjamin is as physical a receiving threat as there is in college football. He excels at jump balls, is physical at the line of scrimmage, and loves blocking downfield. His career has been marked by inconsistency, but he was red hot to end the regular season, with 17 catches for 458 yards and eight TDs in his last four games.

Even if Auburn manages to corral all of Florida State’s deep threats, tight end Nick O’Leary is a wild card. O’Leary has 33 catches for 557 yards and seven touchdowns this season and is one of Winston’s favorite targets. As the big three receivers draw attention downfield, O’Leary provides a dangerous weapon underneath and is capable of picking up big chunks of yards after the catch.

And, of course, the key to all of it is Winston, the Heisman winner and one of the country’s most aggressive quarterbacks. Winston completes 55.8 percent of his passes of 15 yards or more (second only to Baylor’s Bryce Petty among AQ QBs) and has 19 TDs without an INT in the red zone this season.

Auburn’s secondary: In the last three games, Auburn has had a difficult time defending the pass. Aaron Murray threw for 415 yards and two touchdowns. AJ McCarron threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns. And in the SEC championship game, James Franklin threw for 303 yards and three touchdowns. Now, the Tigers are about to face the Heisman Trophy winner and the nation’s leader in opponent-adjusted QBR (90.8).

It’s a group that remains confident in their ability, but they know they have a steep challenge ahead of them.

The most notable name is cornerback Chris Davis, but that’s more because of his field-goal return to beat Alabama than his pass coverage. Still, he’s the No. 1 cornerback and the team’s best chance of shutting down an opposing wide receiver. It’s the cornerback opposite Davis, Jonathon Mincy, who teams have been able to pick on this season.

Mincy was defending Amari Cooper when the Alabama wide receiver hauled in a 99-yard touchdown pass in the Iron Bowl. He also had no answer for Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, who finished with six catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns against Auburn. If he draws the assignment of defending Benjamin, which is what he wants, it could be a long day for the Tigers.

The X-factor could be Robenson Therezie who plays the Star position in Ellis Johnson’s 4-2-5 defense. He leads the team in interceptions (four) and is fourth in tackles (55). He’ll primarily focus on covering the slot receiver, but he might also be asked to cover O’Leary at times or even blitz from time to time. Auburn isn’t going to stop Winston, but Therezie could make life a little more difficult for the Florida State quarterback.

Hale: Big edge Florida State

Ostendorf: Edge Florida State

Pregame: Music City Bowl

December, 31, 2012
12/31/12
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NC State (7-5, 4-4 ACC) vs. Vanderbilt (8-4, 5-3 SEC)

WHO TO WATCH: NC State quarterback Mike Glennon. He is a legitimate pro prospect who finished first in the ACC in passing yards per game (304) and second in total offense (292 yards per game). He was clutch in the fourth quarter of a dramatic upset of then-No. 3 Florida State during the regular season. He threw for 30 touchdowns this season and 14 interceptions. Vandy’s defense, though, has allowed just six passing touchdowns and an average of 175.8 passing yards to rank in the top 10 nationally in each category.

WHAT TO WATCH: NC State’s rushing defense against Vanderbilt running back Zac Stacy. In conference play, All-SEC running back and school career rushing leader Stacy finished fifth in the league with 1,034 rushing yards. The Commodores ranked 53rd nationally with an average of 170.4 rushing yards per game. NC State’s rushing defense has been average this year, allowing 157.9 yards per game.

WHY TO WATCH: Vandy is on a hot streak under second-year coach James Franklin. The Commodores are riding a six-game winning streak, the program’s longest in three decades, and this is the first time in school history that Vanderbilt will make back-to-back postseason appearances. A win in the Music City Bowl would equal the team’s single-season record of nine victories, set in 1904 and matched in 1915. For NC State, it’s the last game with the Wolfpack for offensive coordinator/interim coach Dana Bible, who replaced good friend Tom O’Brien. O’Brien was fired at the end of the season and replaced by Dave Doeren of Northern Illinois.

PREDICTION: Vanderbilt 24, NC State 17: The Commodores’ defense will be the difference. Vanderbilt ranks No. 17 in the country in total defense, No. 15 in points allowed and No. 10 in passing defense. Vandy will fluster Glennon into making some mistakes, and a turnover or two will be the difference.

ACC's lunchtime links

February, 14, 2012
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Today is Valentine's Day. You know you'd luuuuuv to join the chat at 1 p.m. ET today. I am still waiting for my flowers and chocolates from you. Join the chat. Show the ACC some love. And check out these lovely links ...

Independence Bowl keys

December, 26, 2011
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Here are three keys for North Carolina (7-5) heading into its matchup against Missouri:

1. Attitude. As simple as it sounds, if the Tar Heels aren’t emotionally and mentally into this game, they won’t be in it on the scoreboard, either. North Carolina has already announced Larry Fedora as its new head coach, and interim coach Everett Withers has already accepted a job as an assistant with Ohio State. Can Withers get his team to remain focused, even as he has one foot out the door?

2. Win the turnover margin. In North Carolina’s seven wins, the Tar Heels have a plus-7 turnover margin, compared with a minus-8 turnover deficit in the five losses. Overall, Carolina ranks 65th in the country with a minus-0.08 turnover margin. Missouri has lost 18 turnovers this season, compared with UNC’s 22.

3. Contain quarterback James Franklin. He's a first-year starter and a true sophomore, but he has caused headaches for opposing defenses despite an inconsistent start. Franklin enters the bowl game ranked 15th in the NCAA in total offense, averaging 298.25 yards per game. He’s thrown for 200 yards or more six times this season, and he’s also a big threat on the ground, as he has 839 yards and a team-best 13 rushing touchdowns. UNC has allowed just nine rushing touchdowns all season, but the Tar Heels’ pass defense is No. 90 in the country.

Independence Bowl: UNC vs. Missouri

December, 26, 2011
12/26/11
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North Carolina (7-5) will make its fourth straight bowl appearance and first in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl when it faces Missouri (7-5) in Shreveport, La. Here’s a quick preview of the game:

WHO TO WATCH: The 1,000-yard club. For the first time in school history, North Carolina has a 1,000-yard rusher (Giovani Bernard) and a 1,000-yard receiver (Dwight Jones) in the same season. UNC is also one of five FBS teams in the country with a rusher and receiver that have reached at least 1,100 yards. Missouri has played two of those five teams and lost to both Baylor and Oklahoma State. Bernard enters the game with 1,222 rushing yards and ranks first among all freshman runners in the country with 101.8 yards per game. He is the first 1,000- yard rusher at UNC since Jonathan Linton in 1997. Jones, only the second player in school history with 1,000 receiving yards, has 1,119 on a school-record 79 catches and 11 touchdowns, one shy of the single-season school record.

WHAT TO WATCH: UNC’s defense vs. dual-threat quarterback James Franklin. He is one of only three FBS players with 800 or more rushing yards and 2,000 or more passing yards in 2011. Missouri lost some of its offensive identity when running back Henry Josey suffered a serious knee injury. The Tigers go as Franklin goes, and UNC will have to contain him. Defensively, Carolina is 16th in the nation against the run and features a pair of first-team All-ACC selections in defensive end Quinton Coples and linebacker Zach Brown. Coples ranks fourth among active players with 24 career sacks. Brown led the Tar Heels with 91 tackles, including 11.5 for losses and 5.5 sacks. UNC’s passing defense, though, was statistically the worst in the ACC this season.

WHY TO WATCH: Farewell parties. This will be the final game for North Carolina interim coach Everett Withers, who took over after former coach Butch Davis was fired just days before summer camp began. It will also be the final game for Missouri in the Big 12 before the Tigers join the SEC.

PREDICTION: Missouri 31, North Carolina 28: The Tar Heels will get an inspired performance in Withers’ last game, but Missouri is a better team than its five losses indicate. North Carolina will make one or two costly turnovers, and the Tar Heels’ defense won’t be able to make enough stops in the red zone.
In his first collegiate start last weekend, Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown rushed for 162 yard against the No. 7 team in the nation, undefeated Clemson. Are the Terps gearing up for back-to-back Rookie of the Year awards by two quarterbacks on the same roster? Danny O'Brien, at least for now, is out; Brown is in. I caught up with Brown earlier this week to get his take on how this season has unfolded for the position. Here are the highlights of our interview:

How much have you surprised yourself?

[+] Enlarge C.J. Brown
Mitch Stringer/US PresswireSophomore quarterback C.J. Brown nearly led Maryland to an upset of Clemson in his first career start.
C.J. Brown: I always knew I could do it. It was just a matter of having things fall into place and being able to take advantage of the opportunity. Luckily so far I think I have, and hopefully I can build upon that.

I remember during the spring or summer that coach Randy Edsall had mentioned you were pushing Danny O’Brien, but I’m not sure how seriously everyone took it. I don’t think people were really aware of how much you were pushing him. In retrospect, how much of a competition was really there this summer?

CJB: I think there’s always going to be competition, but how much are people really going to pay attention to it, especially with the season Danny had last year and the accolades he received? I really wasn’t reading into it because there wasn’t anything I could control. I could only control what I was doing and the coaches were seeing that and he made a comment, but I’m just lucky and thankful I’ve been given this opportunity.

When did you realize that entering the starting lineup was a real possibility for you?

CJB: Not until last week. When I was able to get some time at Georgia Tech and go in and make an impact. I always knew I could do it, but when was the right time for that opportunity to come?

You had a big touchdown in that Georgia Tech game and showed you can run, but how much of that has taken a toll on you? I think you had more carries than Davin Meggett against Clemson.

CJB: Physically I feel good, my legs feel good, I take care of my body. I haven’t taken too many big hits, so I feel good.

Is it still a competition? Are you constantly looking over your shoulder, or do you feel like there’s been an official changing of the guard?

CJB: No, I think there is always going to be a competition. Danny is going to push me just like I pushed him. We’re just trying to better each other and better the team and hopefully get victories.

How comfortable are you in this offense?

CJB: I feel like I’m very comfortable. I feel like I fit like a piece to a puzzle. What coach [offensive coordinator Gary] Crowton has taught me and installed in this offense, I think I can run the offense the way he wants it to be run.

How have you been received in the huddle?

CJB: I feel like I’ve been received as the person I come off as. I have great chemistry with the guys, I’ve known most of the guys since I’ve been here. We’ve all come in together. I feel like it’s been a smooth transition. Everything is running well.

How has it been with Danny? Has it been rocky at all?

CJB: No, not really, and I didn’t think it would. We’re great friends. I was there to support him, and he’s been there to support me. When I came off the sideline, or he came off the sideline, we were always there telling each other what we saw and what we could do to make changes and stuff like that.

How frustrating is it having for you the kind of game you did against Clemson and still not coming out with the win?

CJB: I think it’s frustrating anytime you lose, especially having a lead against a top-10 team in the nation at home. But you’re proud of the effort and disappointed in the outcome. Unfortunately we didn’t get a win. We’ll get back at it this week and we have a big road test at Florida State.

What do you guys have to do better to reverse your fortunes down the stretch?

CJB: We just have to beat down the door, finish. We’ve had the opportunities and we’ve come up short. Once that happens, we’ll be able to take the next step.

It seems like the coaching transition has been a huge positive for you. How much of it has been about the change in offensive styles?

CJB: I guess you can look at it that way. I still have tons of respect for coach (Ralph) Friedgen and coach (James) Franklin. I love those guys to death. I’ve tried to adapt to the offense. Anytime you’re put in adverse situations you have to adapt. I’m just trying to do my best and do what the coaches want me to do.

Getting back to a bowl: Wake Forest

July, 5, 2011
7/05/11
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Having spoken to Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe several times this offseason, one thing is clear: He honestly believes his team is better than it was a season ago, when the Deacs finished 3-9. And it should be. A natural progression is expected for any second-year starting quarterback, and Tanner Price should be no exception. Wake Forest also has nine starters returning on defense, a deep secondary, and four starters returning on the offensive line.

So what’s the problem?

Florida State, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and Clemson, just to name a few.

Grobe is a straight shooter. I have no doubts that this team will be better than last season's team But in order for the Deacs to return to the postseason after missing it the past two years, three important things must happen:

1. Go 3-1 in the nonconference schedule with wins at Syracuse, and home against Gardner-Webb and Vanderbilt. Syracuse is improving, and winning on the road is never easy. Former Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin is now head coach at Vandy and will be familiar with Wake’s defense. But if the Deacs can get those three and then find three more wins among NC State, Boston College, Duke and Maryland, they’ll be bowl-bound and even have a little margin for error. Don’t count Duke as a given, though, this season.

2. Improved passing game. This will come with the maturation of Price, but also important is the emergence of one or two dependable playmakers at wide receiver. Wake ranked 114th in the country in passing offense last season and 109th in passing efficiency. They lost two of their top three receivers from last season, but there are plenty of options waiting in the wings.

3. Improved red zone and third-down defense. Wake’s defense was one of the worst in the country last season, but where they need specific improvement is inside the 20-yard line. The Deacs were tied for 106th in the country last season in red zone defense, allowing 39 touchdowns in 56 drives. It’s no wonder they ranked 110th in the country in scoring defense. They couldn’t get anyone off the field, and ranked 111th in the country in third-down conversion defense.

2011 ACC vs. SEC prediction

March, 17, 2011
3/17/11
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The ACC posted a 4-5 record against the SEC in 2010, including a 2-0 record in the bowl games with wins over Tennessee and SEC East champ South Carolina.

The league was hardly embarrassed by the bully of college football, but can it improve upon that success in 2011?

It can and it will.

The ACC has five chances during the regular season this year to close the gap between it and the best conference in the country: Clemson vs. Auburn, Clemson vs. South Carolina, Florida State vs. Florida, Georgia Tech vs. Georgia and Wake Forest vs. Vanderbilt. Three of those are home games, but Clemson and FSU will end the season on the road against their rivals.

Here’s your bold prediction for 2011: The ACC will finish 3-2 against the SEC with wins over Auburn, Florida and Vanderbilt.

Vandy is under a first-year head coach in former Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin, so there will be some familiarity there as he has coached against Wake Forest in the Atlantic Division. Still, it’s a transition year for the worst team in the SEC, and Jim Grobe’s group will be older and better. Auburn is not the same team that won the national title, and Clemson has something to prove in that game after losing in overtime on the road last year. And right now, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher owns the state. He’s ahead in recruiting and winning over both in-state rivals Miami and Florida.

Even if Georgia Tech and Clemson both flop against their in-state rivals (again), there is enough transition going on throughout the rest of the SEC that the ACC has enough working in its favor to finally turn the tables on the SEC in 2011.

Bring it, C-Low.

ACC's best offseason coordinator hire

February, 17, 2011
2/17/11
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Finally. Now that Maryland has hired/promoted a defensive coordinator, all of the major coaching changes in the ACC should be complete.

Aside from the two new head coaches -- Maryland's Randy Edsall and Miami's Al Golden -- the coordinator positions will have the most influence on the conference race. Five programs in the ACC -- Boston College, Clemson, Maryland, Duke and Miami -- will have new coordinators in 2011:

BOSTON COLLEGE

OUT: Offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill (retired)
IN: Offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers (spent past five seasons as QB coach of Minnesota Vikings)

CLEMSON

OUT: Offensive coordinator Billy Napier (fired)
IN: Offensive coordinator Chad Morris (hired from Tulsa)

MARYLAND

OUT: Offensive coordinator James Franklin (head coach at Vanderbilt)
IN: Offensive coordinator Gary Crowton (hired from LSU)
OUT: Defensive coordinator Don Brown (took same position at Connecticut)
IN: Todd Bradford (promoted from inside linebackers coach after a month)

DUKE

OUT: Defensive coordinator Marion Hobby (hired as Clemson defensive line coach)
IN: Jim Knowles (promoted from within)

MIAMI

OUT: Mark Whipple (fired)
IN: Jedd Fisch (former QB coach of Seattle Seahawks)
OUT: John Lovett (fired)
IN: Mark D'Onofrio (spent past five seasons with Golden at Temple)

BEST HIRE: Rogers. His experience is unmatched, and it's what separates him from the others. That's not to say there's not experience on this list -- Knowles and Crowton are both former head coaches. That's a huge bonus. But Rogers recently completed his 36th year in the coaching profession, 28 of which have been spent at the collegiate level. Fisch coached one collegiate season, at Minnesota. Morris has one season of collegiate coaching experience. Rogers has worked with the likes of Donovan McNabb, Bryan Randall and most recently Brett Favre. His biggest strength -- developing quarterbacks -- is what BC needs most right now. Rogers knows the ACC -- he coached at Virginia Tech. That's not to say that the others won't make an immediate impact or extract drastic improvements, but Frank Spaziani's hire was worth the wait.
It’s been an emotional month for Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen, who will coach his final game after athletic director Kevin Anderson announced the department would buy out the final year of Friedgen’s contract. Friedgen was named the ACC’s Coach of the Year and Maryland had the second-best turnaround in the FBS, but it wasn’t enough to save Friedgen’s job. The Terps are looking to send him out on a winning note. Here’s a quick preview of the Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman.

WHO TO WATCH: Maryland receiver Torrey Smith. This could be his final game, as the junior is considering leaving early to enter the NFL draft. He has 12 touchdown receptions, which is tied for eighth in the FBS, while his 87.08 receiving yards-per-game average is 20th.

WHAT TO WATCH: Maryland’s secondary against East Carolina quarterback Dominique Davis. If the Pirates are going to win, they’re going to have to do it with their passing game, which ranks seventh in the NCAA at 319.33 yards per game. Davis, a Boston College transfer, passed for 3,699 yards, the fourth-most in the nation, while completing nearly 65 percent of his passes and throwing for 36 touchdowns. The Terps had at least one interception in 10 of 12 games this season. Kenny Tate ranks tied for fifth in the FBS in forced fumbles (0.33 pg), safety Antwine Perez is tied for 11th in the FBS in fumbles recovered (0.25 pg) and leads the team in pass breakups (eight). Cornerbacks Cameron Chism and Trenton Hughes are tied for second on the team with seven pass breakups apiece.

WHY TO WATCH: This is Friedgen’s farewell after a decade coaching his alma mater, and a win would give the program at least nine wins for the first time since 2006. It will also be interesting to see how the play-calling goes, as the departure of former offensive coordinator James Franklin to Vanderbilt left the Terps in an awkward situation. Running backs coach John Donovan, who will eventually join Franklin on his staff, stayed behind to coach in the bowl game and will call the plays. Maryland is bowl-eligible for the seventh time in 10 seasons under Friedgen and is 4-2 during that span. The four bowl wins are the most in school history.

PREDICTION: Maryland 31, East Carolina 24 -- Instead of letting Friedgen’s farewell become a distraction or a spoiler, the Terps will use it as motivation and rally together to send him off with a win. East Carolina’s defense won’t be able to stop ACC Rookie of the Year Danny O’Brien, and Smith will have another eye-popping statistical performance.

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