ACC: Rex Ryan

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December, 30, 2014
Clemson routed Oklahoma, 40-6, on Monday night to win the Russell Athletic Bowl and lift the ACC to a 3-4 mark so far in the postseason. Depending on one's view of Notre Dame, or the ACC, or the program and league's arrangement, one or two more opportunities await the league Tuesday, against high-profile SEC opponents.

These are the games -- outside of the obvious New Year's Six games -- that the ACC needs to win to help turn around its national perception. The Tigers did their part in resounding fashion in Orlando, Florida, and it was a win that could go a long way toward reshaping the league's image.

Think about it: Everyone knows reigning national champion and current Playoff team Florida State, but the ACC needs to establish more national players. Clemson re-asserted this season, and specifically on Monday night, that it is darn close to that conversation, if not already there. Four straight 10-win seasons? A 34-point rout of a brand-name opponent, with much-maligned back-up quarterback Cole Stoudt leading the charge, no less? It certainly helps that the Tigers have scheduled aggressively as well, with South Carolina, Auburn and Texas A&M all on-deck in the next four years.

The fact that Clemson lost its leading passer, rusher and receiver from a season ago and still managed to reach double-digit win totals speaks volumes about the operation that Dabo Swinney is running. Throw in the fact that they had to work around the injuries that their stud freshman quarterback endured, and that they had to overcome the loss of their offensive coordinator — Chad Morris, who took the SMU head job — and Clemson's 2014 looks all the more impressive.

The decision by Swinney to bring aboard defensive coordinator Brent Venables from Oklahoma never looked more brilliant than it did against the Sooners, when the Tigers' top-ranked defense dominated from start to finish. The program has come a long way from its 70-33 meltdown against West Virginia in the Orange Bowl three seasons ago, as it has now won its last three bowl games, all against programs that have won national titles since the turn of the century (LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma).

Clemson will now say goodbye to the winningest senior class in school history (42), a group heavy on defensive star power, one that joins just three other programs in winning 10-plus games in the past four years (Alabama, Oregon, Northern Illinois). But the Tigers should return a Heisman Trophy candidate under center in 2015 — provided that Deshaun Watson is healthy — along with a number of standout offensive weapons (Wayne Gallman, Artavis Scott and Mike Williams among them).

We probably learned more about the direction of Clemson through its ups-and-downs of this season than we had in recent years, and the possibilities that still await Swinney and the Tigers have to be enticing to the fan base.

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ACC's lunchtime links

August, 6, 2014
Kevin Olsen may or may not be suspended, still. Miami has not confirmed the report, and neither has the man himself. But the most telling sign of the Hurricanes' current quarterback situation came Tuesday, when Jake Heaps ran with the first team during the first day of fall practice.

Olsen was there, as were true freshmen Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier. Kaaya looked strong, per the Palm Beach Post's Matt Porter. Original starter Ryan Williams was also at practice, albeit in a very limited capacity, tossing some light throws.

Whether Williams -- who tore his ACL in spring practice and had surgery on April 9 -- can return to full strength at some point this season remains to be seen. Head coach Al Golden has said he plans to cut his current four-man crop of potential starting quarterbacks to two following the Canes' second scrimmage, and right now Heaps looks like a safe bet to make it at least that far.

The former BYU and Kansas quarterback said and did all of the right things, too, per Porter, especially as it relates to potential awkwardness amid a five-man group vying for playing time:
“It’s a great question,” Heaps said. “It definitely could be. It’s definitely an interesting dynamic that is going on right now. But it’s gone extremely well and that’s a testament to the group of guys that are in that room, that quarterback group – all great guys, all guys that understand the situation and just are focused on getting better individually.”

Elsewhere in the ACC ...

ACC's lunch links

March, 6, 2014
There are wow stats, and there are WOW stats.
One of the NFL draft's biggest surprises came right before the curtains closed at Radio City.

The New York Giants took Virginia Tech running back David Wilson with the 32nd and final pick Thursday night, giving the ACC three players taken in the draft's first round.

To the surprise of no one, Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly was the first conference player off the board, going No. 9 to the Carolina Panthers. North Carolina end Quinton Coples followed seven picks later, going to the New York Jets at No. 16.

The reigning ACC player of the year, Wilson figures to be the Giants' replacement for Brandon Jacobs, who departed in the offseason. New York finished last in the league on the ground in 2011.

"That, but also we’re looking at the fact that Brandon [Jacobs] is no longer here and we do have to try to balance that out," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "We believe that you do have to have multiple runners or at least two that can effectively take the field at any time and this young man we thought was one of those that can be a big play threat."

Wilson, who who set a school record with 1,709 rushing yards in 2011, became the Hokies' ninth first-round pick and the seventh during coach Frank Beamer's tenure. Beamer has had 83 of his former players drafted.

Kuechly became BC's 19th first-round pick, and after winning the Nagurski Trophy, Butkus Award, Lombardi Award and Lott Impact Trophy, he is thought of as one of the surest things of this draft class.

Coples became the Tar Heels' 20th first-round pick and their second defensive end in two years to be taken on Day 1. Jets coach Rex Ryan served as an honorary tackle to block against Coples last month at UNC's pro day.

"They knew I could get to the quarterback and help this team get to the Super Bowl," Coples told ESPN Radio. "It's good to be a Jet. I'm just going to go out there and be the best pass-rusher I can be."

The ACC figured to have at least three players taken on Thursday, but Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill was expected to be among them. Instead, the receiver will likely be an early pick Friday. He is one of Todd McShay's top five players still on the board.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 23, 2012
Do we really have to wait five months for more football?