ACC: Michael Campanaro

Reviewing the ACC pro days

April, 4, 2014
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Pro days are now in the rearview mirror, with a month remaining between now and the NFL draft. With that, let's take a look back at some notable performances from ACC pro days this year.

Boston College (March 12)
Big name: RB Andre Williams. Representatives from 29 NFL teams were on hand to see the nation's top running back from last season. Williams says he improved on his combine 40-yard-dash time of 4.56. Also of note: Nate Freese, who went 20 of 20 last season on field goal tries, did not disappoint in front of his future employers, hitting a 60-yard try.

[+] EnlargeSammy Watkins
AP Photo/Michael ConroyClemson WR Sammy Watkins in all likelihood will be the first ACC player drafted in May.
Clemson (March 6)
Big name: WR Sammy Watkins. Watkins stood on his 40 time of 4.43 from the combine but was there to help out quarterback Tajh Boyd, doing little to change the general consensus that he is the top receiver in this year's draft. Boyd said scouts told him his performance was much better than his showings at the combine and Senior Bowl, as he connected on short, intermediate and deep routes with familiar receivers in familiar environs.

Duke (March 26)
Big name: CB Ross Cockrell. Cockrell improved on his combine results, with Duke saying that his 40 time was sub-4.4, which is better than what he ran in Indianapolis (4.56).

Florida State (March 17)
Big name: Where to begin? DL Timmy Jernigan slightly improved his combine 40-time from 5.06 to 5.03. S Terrence Brooks, LB Telvin Smith, DB Lamarcus Joyner and LB Christian Jones all drew a crowd, but they declined to run the 40 in front of reps from all 32 NFL teams, content to sit on their combine performances.

Georgia Tech (March 28)
Big name: LB Jeremiah Attaochu. Attaochu ran drills at both linebacker and defensive lineman, recovering nicely from a hamstring injury in the Senior Bowl that forced him out of the combine. He said his 40 time was in the 4.5s. DB Jemea Thomas also impressed, reportedly running a 4.38 40.

Louisville (March 17)
Big name: QB Teddy Bridgewater. With scouts from 29 teams watching, Bridgewater was off target with several of his throws. He ran an unofficial 4.78 40 time, but the potential No. 1 pick misfired on at least 10 passes, leaving some questions lingering heading into the draft.

Miami (April 3)
Big name: OT Seantrel Henderson. This is the name that is going to stick out, as Henderson did not finish his workouts. His agent later told reporters that it was due to dehydration. With 30 NFL teams represented, quarterback Stephen Morris took a strong step forward, reportedly completed almost all of his 67 throws.

North Carolina (March 25)
Big name: TE Eric Ebron. Ebron stood on his 40 time from the combine of 4.60, but his pro day was marred by several dropped passes, though the always upbeat tight end was not stressed about the drops when speaking to reporters afterward.

NC State (March 25)
Big name: CB Dontae Johnson. Johnson showed his versatility, as he can play corner or safety, and he said he felt better than he did at the combine, where he ran a 40 time of 4.45 and jumped 38.5 inches in the vertical.

Pittsburgh (March 3)
Big name: DT Aaron Donald. College football's best defensive player rested on his combine numbers in the 40 (4.68) and bench press (35 times), but teammates Tom Savage and Devin Street helped themselves. Savage impressed during a scripted 100-throw workout while Street said he ran a sub-4.5 40.

Syracuse
Big name: LB Marquis Spruill. Spruill recovered nicely from a combine snub, weighing in at 231 pounds, nine pounds heavier than his playing weight. He did not disclose numbers. Running back Jerome Smith, meanwhile, said he ran in the 4.5-4.6 range, which would be an improvement over his combine time of 4.84.

Virginia (March 17)
Big name: OT Morgan Moses. A considerably different-looking Moses showed up at 311 pounds, roughly 20 pounds lighter from his playing days with the Cavaliers. After clocking in at 5.35 in the 40 at the combine, he unofficially ran between 4.9 and 5.06 at his pro day, though he pulled a hamstring during one of the runs, forcing him to miss the remainder of his drills.

Virginia Tech (March 19)
Big name: QB Logan Thomas. Thomas remains a fascinating prospect to keep an eye on in the NFL, and he threw well in front of NFL scouts at pro day. Corner Antone Exum impressed as well, running 40 times of 4.53 and 4.55.

Wake Forest (March 17)
Big name: WR Michael Campanaro. After seeing his final year end prematurely because of a shoulder injury, Campanaro, the only Demon Deacon to have garnered a combine invite, again impressed in receiver drills, making his case to become a potential mid-round pick. Nose guard Nikita Whitlock, meanwhile, saw himself lining up as a fullback for the first time in his career. Weather conditions were less than ideal for the NFL hopefuls.
Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins was as good as advertised when it came time to perform at the NFL scouting combine this past weekend.

Watkins seems to have solidified his spot as the No. 1 receiver available for the draft after posting a 4.43-second time in the 40-yard dash and posting top performances in the broad jump (10 feet, 6 inches) and bench press (16 reps) on Sunday. ESPN NFL expert John Clayton wrote that Watkins "was clearly the best receiving prospect and is a candidate to be a top-five pick. ... He catches the ball with his hands exceptionally well. He reminds me a lot of A.J. Green of the Bengals."

Meanwhile, NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks named Watkins one of his five biggest combine winners on Day 2. ESPN St. Louis Rams reporter Nick Wagoner explains why the Rams need to take Watkins with the No. 2 overall pick.

[+] EnlargeSammy Watkins
AP Photo/ Richard ShiroSammy Watkins seems to be soaring at the NFL scouting combine.
Another player garnering big-time attention at the combine is Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who ran a blistering 4.65 in the 40-yard dash Monday morning -- at 285 pounds.

Wowzers.

Donald continues to impress NFL scouts after his incredible All-American turn this past season. He had a great showing at the Senior Bowl and is now having a great showing at the combine. Not only did he record a fast 40 time, he had 35 reps on the bench press. Despite his small size for an inside player, Donald has the work ethic, athleticism and physical tools to make him appealing to any team. He continues to rise up mock draft charts. ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay tweeted Monday:
Here is a look at some other top performers from ACC schools in the last several days:

  • Clemson receiver Martavis Bryant put up some impressive numbers, too. He clocked the fifth-fastest 40 time among all receivers at 4.42 and was in the top 10 in bench press (16 reps), vertical jump (39 inches) and broad jump (10 feet, 4 inches). Wake Forest receiver Michael Campanaro also had some impressive numbers, ranking in the top 10 in the bench press (20 reps), vertical jump (39 inches), 20-yard shuttle (4.01 seconds) and 60-yard shuttle (11.31). He also clocked a 4.46 in the 40.
  • In the running back drills, Andre Williams ranked No. 3 at his position in the broad jump (10 feet, 9 inches), No. 2 in the 20-yard shuttle (4.06) and No. 3 in the 60-yard shuttle (11.62) and tied for No. 4 in the vertical jump (38 inches). He clocked a 4.56 in the 40-yard dash, making him a top performer in five of the seven drills.
  • As for the quarterbacks, it was a mixed bag for guys from the ACC. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd drew mixed reviews again. Clayton said Boyd, "has a strong arm, but his release point is all over the place. Some of his throws came a little sidearm, while the longer throws exposed a loop in his delivery." Logan Thomas had excellent measureables -- tops among the quarterbacks in the 40 (4.61), vertical jump (35.5), broad jump (9 feet, 10 inches), No. 2 in the 20-yard shuttle (4.18) and No. 4 in the three-cone drill (7.05). But when it came time to the throwing drills, he was not as good. Clayton wrote, "Thomas has the body to be a great pro quarterback (6-6, 248 pounds), but he doesn't get his legs into his throws and was inaccurate."
  • Clayton writes that North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron "all but locked up the top tight end position with an official 4.6 40, best at the position. Speed has become an overwhelming requisite with tight ends having less blocking demands on NFL teams. Ebron's 40 could make him a top-15 candidate."
  • Miami punter Pat O'Donnell showed once again why he was regarded as one of the top workout warriors in college football. O'Donnell recorded 23 reps on the bench press and ran a 4.64 in the 40 -- fifth-fastest among offensive linemen, tight ends and special-teamers on Saturday.

ACC and the NFL combine

February, 11, 2014
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The NFL draft combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis will be held from Feb. 19-25 and will feature workouts, medical examinations, psychological testing and interviews for the 335 invited prospects. The ACC has a total of 46 players who will participate, including at least one player from every school (we included Maryland and not Louisville in this post, because it is from the 2013 season). National champion Florida State led the league with eight players heading to the combine, but UNC was right behind with seven. Don't cry ... you're gonna miss some of these names next year. Good luck to these guys.

Here is the official list of the ACC attendees:

BOSTON COLLEGE (5)
CLEMSON (4)
DUKE (1)
FLORIDA STATE (8)
GEORGIA TECH (2)
MARYLAND (1)
MIAMI (5)
NORTH CAROLINA (7)
NC STATE (1)
PITTSBURGH (3)
SYRACUSE (2)
VIRGINIA (2)
VIRGINIA TECH (4)
WAKE FOREST (1)

How ACC players fared in Senior Bowl

January, 27, 2014
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The ACC's three quarterbacks struggled to get their North squad on the board Saturday, throwing three total interceptions in a 20-10 loss in the Senior Bowl.

[+] EnlargeStephen Morris
AP Photo/Chris O'MearaMiami QB Stephen Morris completed 10 of 18 passes for 89 yards and two picks at the Senior Bowl.
Clemson's Tajh Boyd, Miami's Stephen Morris and Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas combined to go 21 of 39 for 137 yards with no touchdowns. Thomas, who impressed all week down in Mobile, Ala., with his arm strength, threw just five passes, completing four. He was sacked five times for a total loss of 39 yards.

"I don't think I had much time to do anything with it," Thomas said, according to the Associated Press.

The other two quarterbacks managed to stay on their feet but accounted for the trio of turnovers.

Morris completed 10 of 18 passes for 89 yards with two picks. Boyd went 7 of 16 for 31 yards with one interception, adding two rushes for eight yards.

“Just talking to the linemen, they said these guys are kind of quick coming off the ball," Boyd said, according to the AP. "You've got to go out there and try to help those guys out."

One notable bright spot offensively for the ACC was the play of Michael Campanaro, who caught two passes for 11 yards for the North and returned three punts for 24 yards. The former Wake Forest receiver saw his first game action since Nov. 2, when he suffered a broken collarbone in a loss at Syracuse.

The ACC's biggest victory came two days earlier, when on Thursday night Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald added one more line to his résumé, as he was named most outstanding player for the week of practice.

"Donald is a very explosive defensive tackle," Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons and North team coach, said in a statement. "I've been very impressed with him. He's short in stature by NFL standards and doesn't maybe have all the measurables, but he's one of the more explosive guys we have on the North squad. He's done a very nice job both in the running and the pass game."

Below are ACC player statistics from Saturday. Scouts Inc. lauds a number of ACC players from the week of practice in its superlative post here.


QUARTERBACKS
Stephen Morris, Miami: 10 of 18, 89 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 0 sacks
Tajh Boyd, Clemson: 7 of 16, 31 yards, 0 TDs, INT, 0 sacks, 2 rush, 8 yards
Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech: 4 of 5, 17 yards, 5 sacks (39 yards)

WIDE RECEIVERS
Michael Campanaro, Wake Forest: 2 catches, 11 yards, 3 punt returns for 24 yards

DEFENSE
Christian Jones, LB, Florida State: 6 tackles
Telvin Smith, LB, Florida State: 5 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss
Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina: 4 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss
Dontae Johnson, DB, NC State: 2 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, 1 breakup
Terrence Brooks, S, Florida State: 2 tackles
Jeremiah Attaochu, LB, Georgia Tech: 1 tackle
Jemea Thomas, S, Georgia Tech: 1 tackle

ACC's lunchtime links

January, 22, 2014
1/22/14
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Can't wait for the ACC schedule to come out later today!

ACC's lunch links

January, 21, 2014
1/21/14
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Snow day here in the office. Spring ball, anyone?
 

ACC players in the Senior Bowl

January, 21, 2014
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Senior Bowl practices are underway this week, and wouldn't you know it -- scouts have their eyes on the quarterbacks.

That means Stephen Morris, Logan Thomas and Tajh Boyd are firmly in the spotlight this week among featured ACC players participating in the college all-star game, a critical first step in evaluations for the NFL draft in May. Scouts Inc. lists Thomas as the highest rated quarterback among the three and broke down what each has to accomplish this week.

For Thomas: The need to "thrive with an even playing field."

For Morris: More consistency with footwork and ball placement as a passer.

For Boyd: "Show improvement throughout the week with pro-style progressions and anticipation as a pocket passer."

Scouts Inc. also lists Miami offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson and Virginia offensive tackle Morgan Moses as having the most to prove.

Here is a look at all the ACC players participating in the Senior Bowl, with the game set for Saturday. Boston College running back Andre Williams was invited but pulled out so he can continue to rehab his injured shoulder.

Season wrap: Wake Forest

January, 15, 2014
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The disappointment of a fifth straight losing season was enough to prompt the resignation of longtime coach Jim Grobe following a 4-8 overall finish and 2-6 league record. In spite of returning one of the nation’s top receivers, a veteran quarterback, and a much-improved defense, the Deacs fell well below expectations and lost their final five games of the regular season. Wake Forest finished 113th or worse nationally in four of the five main offensive stat categories, and it only worsened after receiver Michael Campanaro broke his collarbone at Syracuse on Nov. 2. It was the fourth time in five years the Deacs missed out on a bowl game.

Offensive MVP: WR Michael Campanaro: He set the school record for career receptions with 229 and finished his career with 2,506 receiving yards, the third most in school history. He finished his career with seven 100-yard receiving games and led all receivers in receptions per game in ACC contests with 7.83. He ranked fifth in receiving yardage per game in ACC contests at 89.2 yards.

Defensive MVP: NG Nikita Whitlock: He finished second in the voting for ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Whitlock finished his career second in school history in tackles for loss with 49 and fourth in career sacks with 18.5. His nine sacks as a senior tied for the fifth most in a season. His 19 tackles for loss in 2013 marked the fourth-highest total by a Deacon in a season.

Best moment: Wake Forest 28, NC State 13: Despite its struggles, Wake Forest was still good enough to take advantage of the holes in Dave Doeren’s first roster and beat the Wolfpack for the sixth straight time in Winston-Salem. NC State lost for the eighth time in nine games at Wake, dating to 1997.

Worst moment: Campanaro’s injury. He broke his collarbone in the first quarter of a 13-0 loss at Syracuse and missed the final three games of the season. This was a huge loss not only for the program but also for the ACC, as Campanaro was one of the nation’s best receivers. Wake Forest didn’t score an offensive touchdown for the next 10 quarters following that injury.

Wake Forest job has its challenges

December, 3, 2013
12/03/13
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Hiring new coaches is always a risky proposition, but in the case of Wake Forest, there might be more risks involved than most.

First and foremost, it is never easy to replace a legendary figure. Despite the recent dip the Deacs have made, Jim Grobe leaves behind enormous shoes to fill because of what he did over the course of 13 seasons.

[+] EnlargeJim Grobe
Jeremy Brevard/US PRESSWIREJim Grobe showed that you can have success at a small school with an academic focus in the ACC.
He leaves behind a precedence of success, one that any coach must make his mission to try to match in a division stacked with front-runners Florida State and Clemson, rising Boston College and incoming Top 25 member Louisville.

Not only that, Grobe made a longtime commitment to the university and the community that is exceedingly rare in college football. Whoever is hired will not only be replacing a terrific head coach; he will be replacing a man who is loved and respected in Winston-Salem.

"If you’re a coach coming to Wake, you’ve got to know what you’re doing,” Wake receiver Michael Campanaro said. “You have to love it here, you have to want to be here. The biggest thing with Coach Grobe is after he had success here, he had SEC and big-time school offers to leave and he stayed at Wake. That’s the kind of mentality you have to have to take a guy like Jim Grobe’s spot. You’ve got to love it here and you’ve got to love Wake Forest. That’s what Coach Grobe was about.”

Secondly, Wake Forest presents unique challenges that are only found at a handful of schools across the country. The school is the smallest among all BCS conferences and has tough academic requirements that incoming student-athletes must meet. Missing on a handful of prospects at a school like Wake Forest means a potential setback in the entire program.

Grobe spoke to the difficulty on the recruiting trail during his farewell news conference Monday, saying, “You have to find the right guys. Wake Forest is an academic school and we're playing in a big-time league. You’ve got to find a guy who can leave Wake Forest with a degree and then you've got to find a guy that can play big-time college football.”

Third, seeing what has happened at Duke has raised the stakes at Wake Forest. It was the Deacs who showed a smaller, academically tough school could compete for and win an ACC title back in 2006. That essentially led Duke to re-evaluate its football program, spurring the Blue Devils on to the success they have found today.

Wake Forest, meanwhile, has taken a step back. Grobe and David Cutcliffe have proved you can win at these respective schools. The next coach will not only face pressure to replicate what Grobe did; he will face pressure to now catch up to Duke.

Grobe reiterated Monday that he believed it was time for a new focus and a new energy on campus. Campanaro said he would not be surprised if the Deacs decided to hire a young, up-and-coming coach, as is generally the case just about everywhere these days. A coach with an offensive background, given the struggles Wake Forest has had on that side of the ball in recent years, could even be a plus.

Despite what he has meant to Wake Forest football, Grobe said he does not want to have a say in choosing his replacement. But he did have some advice for the next man to roam the Wake Forest sidelines:

“No excuses. Pin your ears back, blow a couple snot bubbles and go to work.”
In retrospect, what Jim Grobe did Monday should not have surprised us as much as it did. But nobody knew his decision to step down had been two years in the making. Nobody really knew just how badly the last two seasons had eaten away at him.

He brought Wake Forest unprecedented success, perhaps the greatest coach in program history. But in the end, Grobe realized he could not match himself any longer. He walked into athletic director Ron Wellman's office Monday morning and tendered his resignation.

The news stayed quiet, all the way up until a team meeting in the afternoon. Receiver Michael Campanaro later said in a phone interview the team was stunned when Grobe told them all he would no longer coach them. Grobe cried. Players cried. Grobe reiterated how much he loved them, and how much he loved the program.

[+] EnlargeJim Grobe
Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY SportsWake Forest reached five bowl games under Jim Grobe, matching the school's pre-Grobe total.
When he was done talking, players gathered to give him a giant team hug. "It was emotional," Campanaro said. "Being a senior, it's tough for me just knowing we didn't have a successful year for him. I'm just happy I got to play for him for five years."

Grobe steps away after completing the greatest 13-year period in Wake Forest football history. Not only does he leave tied atop the record books for the most wins ever at the school, with 77. He also posted three times as many ACC wins as any other Wake Forest football coach. Grobe won 42 ACC games; Bill Dooley (1987-92) ranks second with 14.

What Grobe did in 2006 -- winning just the second ACC title in school history while taking his team to the Orange Bowl -- grows more impressive every day when you consider just how difficult it is to win, most especially at the smallest BCS program.

That season forever gives Grobe a spot in Wake Forest and ACC lore. The Deacs ended up making five bowl games under his watch, the same number Wake Forest had in its long football history before Grobe took over in 2000.

He won with dignity, and he won with class, and he won with players who made up for their lack of size with their unending work ethic and smarts. Grobe knew he had no margin for error every time his team lined up, so he made sure he had the most disciplined, best coached players on the field.

That strategy allowed him to find success where others before him failed. But Wake Forest has posted five straight losing seasons and made only one bowl game in that span (2011). His 2006 championship set the bar so high, Grobe could never come close to reaching it again, as much as he tried.

The last two losing seasons left him bitterly disappointed, because he expected his team to get back to the postseason. In fact, he believed his 2012 team would be a "slam dunk" to make a bowl.

Instead, Wake Forest lost too many close games, suffered through too many injuries, and could never win enough. Grobe accepted responsibility and decided to take one for the team, for the good of the team.

[+] EnlargeMichael Campanaro
Jeremy McKnight/Icon SMI"I'm just happy I got to play for him for five years," senior receiver Michael Campanaro said of Grobe.
"This has been something that's been in my head for a couple years," Grobe said during a news conference in Winston-Salem, N.C. "Were we making enough strides in recruiting, developing facilities, building the program and doing the things we needed to do with me as the head football coach?

"These last couple years, the losses that we've had, especially all the close games we've had, start to beat you up a little bit. I got to the point where I felt like we were working as hard as we possibly could, and we weren't quite getting it done. I just feel like we're in a position right now where there needs to be new energy or focus."

It takes a strong man, one who can see past himself and his pride, to admit he might no longer be the right fit at a place where he fit for so long. But Grobe is not like any other coach. He is a man who built relationships with his players, his coaching staff, the administration, boosters, alumni, students, the dining hall staff and just about every single person associated with Wake Forest.

Grobe the man, moreso than Grobe the football coach, left an indelible impression everywhere. Most especially on the young men who played for him.

"Being around coach Grobe off the field is the biggest thing I'd take away from my years with him," Campanaro said. "He's preparing us for life after football, to be great people once we're out there in the world."

Grobe made his mark on Wake Forest football, but he also made his mark on college football. He showed how to win at a small school, how to win the right way, how to be a nice guy as opposed to an aloof CEO. Only a few head coaches fit that mold anymore.

Even fewer realize when they should step away. Whether it was the right decision or the wrong decision, Grobe says he made the decision. For that, Wake Forest and college football have lost.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 14

November, 27, 2013
11/27/13
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It seems like just yesterday we were wondering if Florida State could manage with a freshman quarterback, if Syracuse and Pittsburgh would adjust to their new conference, if Miami was ready to rejoin the national conversation, and if Clemson could hang with the big boys in the SEC. With 13 weeks of football now in the rearview mirror, some of those questions have been answered (this just in: Jameis Winston is good) and a few others remain. Here’s what to watch for as the ACC wraps up its regular season.

[+] EnlargeAnthony Boone
Jeremy McKnight/Icon SMIQuarterback Anthony Boone and the Blue Devils have won seven games in a row.
1. ACC vs. SEC: After years toiling in the spotlight of the big, bad SEC, the ACC finally has a chance to deliver a punishing blow to their neighboring conference. Florida State has a huge edge over reeling Florida, after the Gators just lost to an FCS foe. Georgia Tech won’t have as clear a path to victory against Georgia, but after QB Aaron Murray became the latest Bulldogs star to be lost to injury, the Yellow Jackets certainly enter the game much healthier. Wake Forest can salvage some enthusiasm for the season by upending Vanderbilt, though that might be a tall order if Michael Campanaro can’t play. Then there’s the swing vote in the trio of inter-conference matchups: Clemson and South Carolina. Both teams are ranked in the top 10, and a win by the Tigers could be the single most significant nonconference victory of the year for the ACC.

2. Coastal showdown: For Duke, a win secures history. It would be the Blue Devils’ first trip to the ACC title game as well as their first 10-win season. Standing in Duke’s way, however, is red-shot North Carolina, which has won five games in a row after a 1-5 start to the season. Should the Tar Heels win -- and they’re actually favored -- the Coastal Division becomes a complete mess, with as many as five teams staking a claim to a share of the division title.

3. FSU’s defense vs. Florida’s offense: It really can’t get much worse offensively for the Gators, who haven’t topped 20 points in their past six games. Meanwhile, Florida State’s defense has been making plenty of teams look bad this year. The Seminoles are allowing just 4 yards per play this season, and in its past six games have racked up 18 takeaways, including six touchdowns.

4. Boyd’s curtain call: Few quarterbacks in ACC history have accomplished more on the field than Tajh Boyd, who now owns the conference record for touchdown passes and has thrown for more than 11,000 yards in his Clemson career. And aside from a disappointing loss to Florida State, 2013 has been a banner year for Boyd, who has 29 touchdown passes and is averaging a career-high 9.4 yards per attempt. But it’s hard to shrug off that loss to FSU or the fact that Clemson won’t play for an ACC title for the second straight season. Add to that, Boyd has never beaten South Carolina as the Tigers’ starting quarterback, and there’s a large part of his legacy on the line as he prepares to take the field against the Gamecocks for the final time.

5. Hokies stay hungry: Virginia Tech opened the season 6-1, the lone loss to No. 1 Alabama. It looked like the start of a banner season in Blacksburg, but it fell apart quickly. The Hokies have lost three of four now, and much of the early season goodwill has evaporated. But here’s the thing: If Tech can beat Virginia for the 14th time in 15 seasons this week, and Duke falls to UNC on the road, it will be the Hokies heading to Charlotte for the ACC championship game.

6. Terps say goodbye: Injuries certainly unraveled Maryland’s season, but coach Randy Edsall’s crew can wrap up its final year in the ACC with a winning record by beating reeling NC State on Saturday. When the season is over, Maryland moves on to the Big Ten, replaced by Louisville in 2014. But a winning season amid so much off-field chaos would be a solid finale for Edsall and the Terps, who have already locked up bowl eligibility.

7. Donald vs. Morris: For Miami, the season has gone into a tailspin since losing star tailback Duke Johnson, leaving QB Stephen Morris as the best vestige of hope on offense. He’ll try to carry the Canes to a second straight win this week against Pitt, but the task won’t be easy. Panthers defensive tackle Aaron Donald is making a push for ACC defensive player of the year honors after nearly single-handedly delivering a win over Syracuse last week. For the season, Donald leads the nation with 26.5 tackles for loss, six more than his closest competitor.

8. Williams keeps climbing: With his fifth 200-yard rushing game of the season last week, Boston College’s Andre Williams crossed the 2,000-yard mark for the season. He now leads the country with 2,073 yards, nearly 500 yards more than his closest competition. In the past decade, just two FBS players have run for more -- UCF’s Kevin Smith (2,567) and Tulane’s Matt Forte (2,127), both in 2007 -- and Williams still has two more games to pad his totals.

9. Can Cuse make it 11? North Carolina and Pittsburgh became the ninth and 10th ACC teams to clinch bowl eligibility last week, and Syracuse can make it 11 with a win over Boston College on Saturday. A one-point loss kept the Orange from clinching No. 6 last week. Syracuse made it to a bowl game in two of the past three seasons.

10. Pack, Hoos face ignominy: The last time an ACC team other than Duke finished its conference slate without a win was 1995. On Saturday, that dismal fate could befall two teams: NC State and Virginia. The Wolfpack have lost seven straight games, but will try to salvage one ACC win against Maryland. Virginia is in even worse shape. It hosts rival Virginia Tech having lost 14 of its past 16 conference games and nine straight against the Hokies.

ACC predictions: Week 13

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
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Hard to believe that only two weeks remain in the regular season. Andrea is clinging to a one-game lead on Heather in the overall predictions standings at 71-20, after they each went 4-2 last week. Neither saw Maryland coming into Blacksburg, Va., and upsetting Virginia Tech. Bet we were not alone there.

On to the picks!

OLD DOMINION (8-3) at NORTH CAROLINA (5-5), noon, ESPN3. #ODUvsUNC. The Tar Heels are going for their fifth straight win and bowl eligibility against a team that is 0-2 against ACC competition already this year. Old Dominion has put up some points this season, but the Tar Heels' D has been vastly improved in this recent winning streak and will be able to shut the Monarchs down. With another punt return for score, Ryan Switzer would tie the ACC single-season record.

AA picks: North Carolina 40, Old Dominion 17

HD's pick: North Carolina 44, Old Dominion 24

DUKE (8-2, 4-2) at WAKE FOREST (4-6, 2-5), noon, ESPN2. #DUKEvsWF. Before winning last season, Duke had lost 12 straight games to the Deacs. But the Blue Devils today are the superior program, with better athletes all the way around. They have successfully used two quarterbacks all season, and their defense is filled with young talent and playmakers at linebacker. Duke is 3-0 on the road and should pick up another win against an offensively challenged Deacs team still trying to find some answers with Michael Campanaro out.

AA picks: Duke 35, Wake Forest 20

HD's pick: Duke 24, Wake Forest 21

CITADEL (5-6) at No. 7 CLEMSON (9-1), noon, ESPN3. #CITvsCLEM. It's senior day at Clemson, giving the Tigers the opportunity to honor Tajh Boyd and his fellow seniors. The question is just how much Boyd will play after bruising his collarbone last week, especially with a big game looming next week against South Carolina. Coach Dabo Swinney says he prefers to have an FCS opponent in this slot, giving the Tigers ample time to prepare for their in-state nemesis.

AA picks: Clemson 56, The Citadel 3

HD's pick: Clemson 45, The Citadel 10

VIRGINIA (2-8, 0-6) at MIAMI (7-3, 3-3), noon, ESPNU. #UVAvsMIA. Miami's issues against UVa are common knowledge, so this game sets up to be closer than what some might anticipate. Plus, the Hurricanes have lost three straight after a 7-0 start and have seen their defense drop off considerably. Virginia does not scream offensive juggernaut, but neither did Virginia Tech and the Hokies racked up 42 points in a win two weeks ago. The Hoos have a solid back in Kevin Parks, No. 3 in the ACC in rushing, and a good tight end in Jake McGee, who will make some plays, but ultimately, Stephen Morris and the Miami offense will make a few more plays to win.

AA picks: Miami 28, Virginia 27

HD's pick: Miami 34, Virginia 24

EAST CAROLINA (8-2) at NC STATE (3-7), ESPN3. #ECUvsNCST. The Pirates took down North Carolina earlier this year, nearly beat Virginia Tech, and go into this game as the favorites. NC State has looked like a ragged bunch, losing six straight in its worst season since 2006. There is no doubt East Carolina has the much better quarterback, as Shane Carden has turned in an outstanding season. But NC State is going to find a way to dig deep and come out with a win thanks to a few big plays from its pass game.

AA picks: NC State 28, East Carolina 24

HD's pick: East Carolina 41, NC State 14: ECU is No. 10 in the country in scoring offense at 41.5 points per game, and Carden leads the No. 8 passing offense in the country. The Pirates undoubtedly have the edge at quarterback, as NC State has struggled with both Brandon Mitchell and Pete Thomas. The two have combined for 15 interceptions and five touchdowns. Carden threw that many TDs by himself last week. If North Carolina was embarrassed by the Pirates at home, there’s no reason to believe the Wolfpack will fare much better. ECU is a solid eight-win team that, unlike NC State, is bowl eligible.

PITT (5-5, 2-4) at SYRACUSE (5-5, 3-3), 12:30 p.m., ESPN3. #PITTvsCUSE. This game is a toss-up, as is nearly every league game these two teams have played this season (excluding Clemson and Florida State). Both are coming off losses, and both need one win for bowl eligibility. The problem for the Panthers is they have no real identity on offense. Syracuse does, and that is pounding the football. The Orange will get enough out of their run game and keep Aaron Donald at bay to win a close one.

AA picks: Syracuse 24, Pitt 23

HD's pick: Syracuse 21, Pitt 17

ALABAMA A&M (4-7) at GEORGIA TECH (6-4), 1:30 p.m., ESPN3. #AAMUvsGT. Like Clemson and Florida State, Georgia Tech also gets a warm-up game before it closes with its in-state rival next week. Coach Paul Johnson says the focus is on getting better at what his team does this week. You can bet Robert Godhigh will have another terrific performance, following his 100-yard rushing/100-yard receiving day against Clemson. Godhigh is on pace to set the ACC mark for highest average yards per carry, currently at 9.5.

AA picks: Georgia Tech 55, Alabama A&M 3

HD's pick: Georgia Tech 56, Alabama A&M 10

IDAHO (1-9) at No. 2 FLORIDA STATE (10-0), 3:30 p.m., ESPNU. #IDAHOvsFSU. Once again, the question is how long will Jimbo Fisher keep his starters in, especially with a bigger game against rival Florida looming. This also seems as good a time as any to get backup quarterback Sean Maguire some reps. Idaho is one of the worst teams in the entire country, and this game should be out of hand by the end of the first quarter.

AA picks: Florida State 65, Idaho 0

HD's pick: FSU 72, Idaho 3

BOSTON COLLEGE (6-4, 3-3) at MARYLAND (6-4, 2-4), 3:30 p.m., ESPN3. #BCvsMD. This may have been the toughest game to pick this week. Maryland is coming off an impressive win at Virginia Tech, while Andre Williams has put together two straight games of incredible performances. So which direction will this game go? It is hard to pick against the Eagles given what Williams and the offensive line have done this season. Simply put, they have worn the opposition down. Maryland has had injuries to contend with on defense, so I think BC will end up wearing the Terps down in the end.

AA picks: BC 24, Maryland 21

HD's pick: Maryland 21, Boston College 17: This game could go either way, but with it being the final home game in Byrd Stadium, it was hard to pick against the Terps. More importantly, Maryland has fared well this year in stopping the run, and is ranked No. 30 in the country in rushing defense, holding opponents to 139.8 yards per game. Boston College has made its living this fall with its running game, and Williams is certainly no secret. The Terps will be looking to slow down the ACC’s all-time single-season rushing leader, and they’ve also got the advantage in quarterback with C.J. Brown.

ACC's lunchtime links

November, 20, 2013
11/20/13
12:00
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Happy Wednesday.

ACC Power Rankings: Week 11

November, 11, 2013
11/11/13
9:00
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1. Florida State (9-0, 7-0; Last week: No. 1): The Seminoles reinforced their standing as one of the top two teams in the nation with a 59-3 win over Wake Forest, yet another game in which the starters were pulled in the second half. The offense did not have its best rhythm but defense and special teams earn A-pluses for their respective performances. Perhaps most impressive was the way Florida State took care of business without one hint of distraction.

2. Clemson (8-1, 6-1; LW: No. 2): Look who is sitting pretty for an at-large berth in the BCS? The Tigers were off Saturday, preparing for a Thursday night contest against Georgia Tech, a team that has given them trouble over the years. But if Clemson can beat the Jackets, FCS The Citdael and then South Carolina in the regular-season finale, another Orange Bowl appearance could very well be in order.

3. Miami (7-2, 3-2; LW: No. 3): We know. It does not seem logical to have the Canes remain at No. 3 after two straight losses. But they are the only other ACC team in the BCS standings (at No. 23). So they stay. For now. But their hold on this spot is precarious to say the least. The preseason favorites to win the Coastal are no longer in control of their destiny after a disheartening loss to Virginia Tech. Two weeks ago, Miami sat unbeaten and ranked No. 7. Now the Hurricanes need help. Big time.

4. Duke (7-2, 3-2; LW: No. 5): Just when things looked incredibly bleak against NC State, the Blue Devils reeled off 21 straight fourth-quarter points to win decisively. DeVon Edwards, with a kickoff return and two interception returns for scores, was honored as the Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week. Duke has won five straight, the second-longest streak in the ACC behind FSU. A win over Miami this Saturday would vault them to No. 3 in the standings.

5. Virginia Tech (7-3, 4-2; LW: No. 7): It was gut-check time Saturday in Miami, and the Hokies showed they are not going down without a fight. After ugly offensive performances in its past two losses, Virginia Tech had its best showing in years, essentially doing whatever it wanted in a 42-24 win. The Hokies had a season-high 549 yards and Logan Thomas posted his second straight 300-yard game. The last time Tech beat a top-15 team on the road when not ranked was in 1989, a 12-10 at No. 9 West Virginia. We realize the Hokies beat Miami, but they did lose to Duke and BC -- a team not as good as Florida State, the only other blemish on Miami's record.

6. Georgia Tech (6-3, 5-2; LW: No. 4): Trying to rank the Jackets, Virginia Tech, Duke and Miami could almost be considered an exercise in futility. Georgia Tech lost to the Hokies and Hurricanes, so it makes sense to rank those teams ahead. But they beat Duke early in the season and that should count, too. Georgia Tech has won three straight but has fewer wins than the three teams above. Ultimately, we will know much more about this group after its trip to Clemson on Thursday night.

7. Pitt (5-4, 2-3; LW: No. 8): Paul Chryst and the Panthers' program picked up a huge win over No. 23 Notre Dame on Saturday, right when they needed it. After a disappointing performance in a loss to Georgia Tech the week before, Pitt was firmly on the bowl bubble. But now, Pitt should have the confidence and momentum to win at least one more and keep its postseason streak alive.

8. Boston College (5-4, 2-3; LW: No. 6): The Eagles had a harder time than some expected on the road against New Mexico State, but they found a way to win the fourth quarter thanks to the incredible Andre Williams. The senior back scored the game-winning 80-yard touchdown and added another for good measure to finish with a single-game school record 295 yards rushing. It was Boston College's first road win this season and continued an exceptional turnaround under first-year coach Steve Addazio.

9. Syracuse (5-4, 3-2; LW: No. 10): The Orange are also on a winning streak after a 20-3 win over Maryland, inching ever closer to bowl eligibility. Syracuse is now 3-1 against Atlantic Division competition and above .500 for the first time this season. Jerome Smith had his third 100-yard game on the year as the Orange gained more than 200 yards rushing for the fifth time this season. Syracuse is 4-1 in those games.

10. North Carolina (4-5, 3-3; LW: No. 9): Watch out for the Tar Heels, who have won three straight after a 1-5 start and are making a serious push to make a bowl game. Marquise Williams impressed in his first start since Bryn Renner was lost for the season, and the defense has seemed to turn a corner, giving up an average of 14.3 points per game during this winning streak. Granted, two of those wins have come against the two worst teams in the ACC but you can see progress.

11. Wake Forest (4-6, 2-5; LW: No. 11): The outcome against Florida State was perhaps worse than some had expected, if only because senior starting quarterback Tanner Price was benched after throwing three interceptions. Backup Tyler Cameron was not much better, throwing three interceptions of his own. The Deacons have now scored three total points since Michael Campanaro was lost for the season. They might not win another game this year, with contests against Duke and Vanderbilt remaining.

12. Maryland (5-4, 1-4; LW: No. 12): Hard to believe the Terps began the year 4-0 with a Top 25 ranking. The wheels have come off since a 63-0 drubbing in Tallahassee, thanks in part to injuries at key spots on offense and defense. In a 20-3 loss to Syracuse, the offense was abysmal, with 292 total yards and four turnovers. The Terps still have bowl hopes, but given the way they have played in the past three losses, they could just as easily lose out.

13. NC State (3-6, 0-6; LW: No. 13): We thought there was a chance the Wolfpack would struggle this year with a new head coach, new scheme and a young team. But it is safe to say nobody anticipated they would be 0-6 in ACC play, pulling an oh-fer against in-state teams Wake Forest, North Carolina and Duke. The latest came in a 38-20 loss to Duke, in which NC State could not hang on to a fourth-quarter lead or take advantage of Duke's clearly struggling offense. The Blue Devils had four turnovers. But so did the Wolfpack.

14. Virginia (2-8, 0-6; LW: No. 14): What else is left to say about the Hoos? They have not even been competitive in their past two losses, falling to Clemson and North Carolina by a combined 104-24. David Watford was benched in the loss to the Tar Heels after throwing two interceptions, but it seems a little too late for that now.

ACC lunchtime links

November, 8, 2013
11/08/13
12:00
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For all those Florida State fans booking flights to Pasadena today, I recommend flying into the Burbank Airport rather than LAX.

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