A trio of Florida State receivers are poised to make history, writes the Tallahassee Democrat.
FSU backup quarterback Jacob Coker earned a standing ovation at Tuesday’s practice -- the first he’d attended since knee surgery, writes the Orlando Sentinel.
A run of good health has played a pivotal role in Duke’s dream season, writes the Raleigh News & Observer.
The Blue Devils say they’re ready to shock the world in Saturday’s ACC Championship Game, writes the Charlotte Observer.
The Winston-Salem Journal sees plenty of parallels between Wake Forest’s all-time best coaches in football and basketball.
Clemson’s Chad Morris is being mentioned as a possible successor to Jim Grobe at Wake Forest, writes The State.
The Hyundai Sun Bowl looks like the logical destination for Virginia Tech, writes the Roanoke Times.
Meanwhile, Kendall Fuller became the first Virginia Tech player to win ACC defensive rookie-of-the-year honors, writes the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Boston College great Doug Flutie puts Auburn’s shocking Iron Bowl win into historic context, writes the Boston Herald.
Miami will open practice to the public as it preps for bowl season, writes the Sun-Sentinel.
Syracuse is already making its pitch for a bowl bid in what could be an overcrowded ACC field, writes The Post-Standard.
Georgia Tech looks to be the frontrunner to land a transfer from Notre Dame, writes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Ahead of those four matchups, I got coaches who went up against the participating teams to share some of their insights about what we should expect this weekend, and mixed in a few of my own.
ACC: Florida State Seminoles versus Duke Blue Devils
Coach No. 1 on Duke: “They’re one of the two or three best-coached teams in the conference. They know what they’re doing. They’re opportunistic on defense. They do a good job of taking away what you like to do, the run game or particular routes that you like in the passing game. Everyone talks about that, but they actually do it. The offense adjusts well on game days, too.”
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Will Rocky Top be home sweet home?
Four-star receiver Josh Malone, the nation’s No. 48 player out of Gallatin (Tenn.) Station Camp, has already signed financial aid agreements with Tennessee, Georgia, Clemson and Florida State, but he will announce his decision at noon ET Wednesday on NBC Sports Network. The RecruitingNation Hot Board has Malone projected to select Tennessee. The Volunteers were smart and were the first to use the signing of the financial aid paperwork as a tool in the recruiting process. Because he was technically “signed” UT coaches were able to have regular contact with him. Shortly after, the three other schools followed suit.
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Recruiting junior college players is no longer a college football taboo, as even No. 1 Florida State has a handful of juco targets. Prospects from the juco ranks such as Cam Newton and Terrence Cody have helped programs to national championships over the last few seasons, so coaches are willing to go to juco programs to provide immediate help.
Here are the top five juco players in the ESPN JC 50 being recruited by ACC teams.
1. OT Chad Mavety (Garden City, N.Y./Nassau)
The second-ranked tackle and No. 8 overall among juco recruits, Mavety is down to Florida State and Ohio State. Clearly Mavety is a player who could have an impact on the national title race next season as both the Seminoles and Buckeyes are poised to make another title run . Mavety visited both schools in November, and a decision should come soon. The offensive line is priority No. 1 for the Noles between now and signing day.
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Lamarcus Joyner, all 5-foot-8 of him, has battled Benjamin for jump balls in practice, but how many corners can combat a 6-foot-5 frame?
Terrence Brooks plays with a unique blend of speed and physicality, but mixing it up with Benjamin isn’t exactly fun. A receiver with size and quickness that still likes to hit, to block downfield -- how many players in the country do that?
“It’s like it’s easy for him,” Brooks said. “I don’t think they make him anymore in the factories.”
This is how it’s been since Benjamin arrived at Florida State in 2011, a physical freak of nature who performed such astonishing feats of athleticism and strength on the practice field that the accounts from teammates were often met with skepticism from those who hadn’t seen it firsthand. But making it look easy was actually what made life hard for Benjamin.
His first year was a waste. He was overweight, unprepared and redshirted.
The 2012 season represented a big step forward, but still a disappointment. His focus wandered, and his production waned. He caught 30 balls, but he had just 52 receiving yards in the final five games of the season.
This season, however, Benjamin is blossoming into the player his teammates always knew he could be -- a monster few defensive backs are capable of taming.
“Anybody can make mistakes and have a season like  and throw excuses out there,” Benjamin said. “I felt like the season just improved me as a player.”
Benjamin’s improvements began in the weight room. He shed some excess pounds and got into the best shape of his life. He hit the film room, studying the playbook with renewed vigor, knowing a new quarterback was taking the reins of the offense, and he’d have a fresh start and a bigger role. He talked with Rashad Greene and Kenny Shaw, the veterans of the receiving corps, about finally showing the rest of the world what had so often been confined to the practice field.
“He’s a lot more focused mentally than anything,” Greene said. “He’s always had the ability, the skill, the talent. But the way he’s been locked in and just been all in for the team -- he can tell you, he’s really focused compared to what he was last year. And it’s showing all around.”
It’s helped, too, that Benjamin’s role has increased dramatically.
A year ago, the receiving corps was deep -- a solid mix of veterans and younger players all eager for their share of throws. For Benjamin, however, there simply weren’t enough footballs to go around. He’d be on the sideline for long stretches, then his head wasn’t in the game when he took the field.
But this offseason, Florida State lost three seniors for the season before fall camp concluded, and that’s meant a tight rotation on game days and plenty of throws for Greene, Shaw and Benjamin, who are now all within reach of 1,000 yards.
“A receiver wants to touch the ball as many times as you touch it in practice, and my first season, I wasn’t doing that,” Benjamin said. “I let that get to me, wanting the ball more and the rotation. This year, we stay on the field until we finish the game. It’s just staying in there and having that feeling that consistently you’re in the game and you’re warm and can go out there and do it.”
In last week’s win over Florida, Benjamin was constantly in quarterback Jameis Winston’s sights. He had a career-high nine catches for 212 yards and three touchdowns. It was the first time a Florida State receiver topped the 200-yard mark in 11 years. It was the eighth-best single-game total in school history, and Winston had predicted it earlier in the week.
"I said, 'KB, you are an unstoppable force. If you go out there and do what you're supposed to do, no one can cover you,'" Winston recalled after the win.
None of it comes as a surprise, of course. Just look at Benjamin, and it’s always been obvious he would become a star. There simply aren’t other receivers who do what he can do.
Duke corner Ross Cockrell said the key is to challenge Benjamin at the line of scrimmage, play physical with him. But really, Cockrell is grasping at straws. Benjamin has five inches and 50 pounds on the Duke corner.
“We'll be working all week on that answer,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said of defending Benjamin. “We don't have anybody that can line up and match up physically with him. He's just a monster and with great skills.”
Benjamin has always been a monster, but after three years, Jimbo Fisher has finally convinced him to prepare as if he were a mere mortal. Now those skills are well refined, and Benjamin presents a matchup as perplexing for defenders as any in college football.
And that’s when Florida State’s own defensive backs can break character and admit, covering the monster can’t be done. They know. They’ve tried.
“Seeing him go against other guys,” Brooks said, “we sit there and laugh about it.”
Cutcliffe received 62 of the 65 votes in balloting done by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association. Boston College first-year coach Steve Addazio received two votes, and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher received the other.
This is the second straight ACC Coach of the Year award for Cutcliffe and the first time the Blue Devils have had a back-to-back ACC Coach of the Year winner since Steve Spurrier in 1988 and 1989.
"(I’m) very appreciative of our staff and all of the support people that surround Duke football," Cutcliffe said in a statement. “It’s the best group of people, including the entire Duke football family -- best group of people I’ve been around."
In other conference awards, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was selected the overall ACC Rookie of the Year and Offensive Rookie of the Year, while Virginia Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller was selected ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Winston was the choice of 56 of the 65 ACSMA members casting ballots for the overall honor. Duke safety DeVon Edwards received four votes, and Pitt wide receiver Tyler Boyd got two. Maryland cornerback William Likely, Miami wide receiver Stacy Coley and Fuller each received one vote.
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesWith the Heisman-hopeful Jameis Winston at quarterback, Florida State is putting up huge numbers.
The Seminoles have been led by redshirt freshmen Jameis Winston. With Winston under center, they have scored more than 35 points in all 12 games, the longest active streak in the nation and tied for the third-longest streak in FBS history. They currently rank second in the nation in points per game (53.7) behind Baylor.
Winston has already set the ACC-freshmen records for both passing yards and passing touchdowns and is currently ranked first in the latest ESPN Heisman Watch.
Here are 10 stats to know regarding Winston’s season, heading into the ACC Championship against Duke:
1-- Winston has 35 passing touchdowns this season, the most in the ACC and third most in the FBS. He throws a touchdown every 9.1 attempts, best in the nation.
2-- Winston leads the FBS with a 91.9 opponent-adjusted QBR. The leader in opponent-adjusted QBR in three of the last six seasons went on to win the Heisman, including Johnny Manziel last season. Winston had an opponent-adjusted QBR of 90 or higher in eight games. In the last 10 seasons, only Russell Wilson (9) in 2011, Andrew Luck (9) in 2010 and Sam Bradford (9) in 2008 have had more such games in a season.
3-- Winston averages 11.0 yards per attempt, second best in the FBS behind Baylor’s Bryce Petty. He has 62 completions that gained 20 yards or more, fourth most in the nation. He had eight of those completions against Florida last Saturday, the most allowed by the Gators since 2007 when they gave up eight to Florida Atlantic Owls.
4-- Winston has completed 68.8 percent of his passes this season, ninth best in the nation. He is the only player since 2000 to complete at least 90 percent of his passes in two games in the same season (min. 15 attempts). Winston did it against Pittsburgh (25-27) and Syracuse (19-21).
5-- On third down, Winston leads all FBS quarterbacks with at least 60 attempts in completion percentage (71.0), yards per attempt (11.5) and Total QBR (99.3).
6-- Winston converts a first down on an FBS-high 61 percent of his passing plays (pass attempts + sacks) on third down. No player in the last 10 seasons has finished a season with a higher third-down conversion percentage on passing plays. The highest during that time period was 54.4 percent by Louisville's Stefan LeFors in 2004.
7-- Winston is 6’4”, 228 pounds and is very difficult to bring down. On plays in which he is pressured (knockdown or hurried), Winston completes an AQ-high 65.9 percent of his passes and is averaging 12.2 yards per attempt. The AQ average for a quarterback when pressured is 35 percent and 4.8 yards per attempt.
8-- When opponents send five or more pass rushers, Winston leads all AQ players in completion percentage (70.3), touchdowns (19) and yards per attempt (12.4).
9-- Winston completes an AQ-high 58.6 percent of his passes thrown 15 yards or longer this season. On such passes, he has 17 touchdowns, second most among AQ quarterbacks behind Baylor’s Bryce Petty (20).
10--Florida State averages 8.2 yards per play with Winston under center, the highest for any AQ quarterback who has taken at least 100 snaps. The Seminoles have scored a touchdown on 57 percent of the drives that Winston quarterbacked. The FBS average is 27 percent.
- Tremendous column from the Winston-Salem Journal’s Dan Collins on the legacy of Jim Grobe, who resigned as Wake Forest’s head coach Monday.
- A decision on the fate of Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston could come as early as this week, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
- Florida State’s No. 1-ranked defense managed to put just one player on the All-ACC first team, writes Tomahawk Nation.
- Duke isn’t expecting many believers when it takes on the Seminoles in the ACC championship game, writes the Tallahassee Democrat.
- DeVon Edwards credits his work at cornerback for much of his success at safety this season, writes the Charlotte Observer.
- The Roanoke Times says what Virginia Tech’s record and the All-ACC balloting already showed: The Hokies are not among the ACC’s elite teams.
- Steve Addazio is pushing for tailback Andre Williams to get serious Heisman Trophy consideration, writes the Boston Herald.
- In spite of the loss to South Carolina, the Orange Bowl still looks like the likely destination for Clemson, writes The Post and Courier.
- Georgia Tech’s bowl options are narrowing, writes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, with the Belk Bowl and Music City Bowl the most likely options.
- And in Miami, the Hurricanes are simply playing the waiting game to see how the bowl scenarios shake out, writes the Miami Herald.
- Syracuse quarterback Drew Allen says he doesn’t regret transferring from Oklahoma, writes The Post-Standard.
- Virginia players are backing Mike London to keep his job as head coach, writes The Roanoke Times.
- For Dave Doeren and NC State, the rebuilding process is already underway, writes the Charlotte Observer.
- Tar Heel Blog looks at the good, bad and ugly from North Carolina’s loss to Duke in its regular-season finale.
- In its first year in the league, Pitt placed six players on the All-ACC team, highlighted by defensive tackle Aaron Donald, writes the Post-Gazette.
- Meanwhile, in Maryland’s final year in the league, the Terps were shut out of All-ACC balloting completely for the first time since 1997, writes The Washington Post.
A thrilling Iron Bowl victory by Auburn on Saturday shook up the BCS standings and left only two undefeated AQ teams at the top of the polls. The Florida State Seminoles and Ohio State Buckeyes appear to control their own destiny as they prepare for their respective conference championship games. But three SEC teams -- Auburn, Alabama and Missouri -- also are ranked in the top five in the BCS standings and are in position to seize a title-game bid if the Seminoles and/or the Buckeyes are upset.
Those five teams are all ranked highly in our latest FEI ratings, although not in the same pecking order as the BCS standings. FEI is an opponent-adjusted drive-based system designed not to select a national champion but rather to measure overall team efficiency, the success of a team maximizing its own possessions and limiting the possession success of its opponents.
Team records are a function of performance and the strength of the opposition faced. Ohio State ranks ahead of Auburn in our FEI ratings, for instance, but, if the two teams swapped schedules, they likely also would swap records. According to our data, the Buckeyes would be 11-1 against Auburn's schedule and the Tigers would be 12-0 against Ohio State's schedule. (It should be noted that, in this alternate scenario, Ohio State would still be ranked just ahead of Auburn according to FEI).
The possession efficiency data is also useful in projecting what might lie ahead for the remaining BCS title contenders. We compared each of the top five teams in the BCS against every team in the 2007 to 2012 seasons across five key measures -- opponent-adjusted offense, opponent-adjusted defense, special-teams efficiency, field-position advantage and overall FEI rating.
Which teams from the recent past are most similar statistically to the BCS front-runners, and where might each end up when the dust settles this weekend?
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The teams have met 18 times, and the Blue Devils have lost all 18 times. By a lot. Florida State has outscored Duke 901 to 279, averaging slightly more than 50 points per game while Duke has averaged 15.5. None of the meetings have been decided by fewer than 19 points.
To put into context how dominant Florida State has been, ESPN Stats & Information dug up a few other one-sided series nationally. Indiana beat Penn State this year for the first time in 17 meetings. Oklahoma won the first 20 meetings against Baylor before losing in 2011. Tennessee won 22 straight against Vanderbilt from 1983-2004 and 26 straight over Kentucky from 1985-2010.
But each of these series has featured at least one breakthrough win. Will this be the year it happens for Duke?
To get an idea of what potentially awaits in the ACC championship game Saturday, let us take a look at the previous meetings between Florida State and Duke by the numbers.
0: Duke is the only ACC team that is winless against Florida State. Only one other ACC team is winless against another league member, with a minimum of five games played. Virginia is 0-5 against Boston College. Not nearly as futile.
1: Previous meetings between the two as ranked teams. It happened Oct. 29, 1994. No. 9 Florida State beat No. 16 Duke 59-20 in Tallahassee.
2: Florida State wins in 2006 and 2007 were vacated due to NCAA penalties.
6: Number of games in the series the Blue Devils have lost by 40 or more points.
49: The Seminoles' largest margin of victory, accomplished three times.
70: The most points scored in the series, a 70-26 victory in 1995.
Here is one more number to remember. Florida State is a 29-point favorite over Duke. But Seminoles beware. As ESPN Stats & Information notes, No. 2 West Virginia was a 28-point favorite and a win away from playing for the BCS national championship when it lost at home to 4-7 Pittsburgh to close the 2007 regular season.
"In the back of our minds we do know that there's people not giving us a chance," Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell said. "We know that we were picked last in the ACC at the beginning of the season. We understand all those things, but at the end of the day it's the guys in the locker room that have a belief in each other that's propelled us forward."
Sousa camped at both schools over the summer but was only offered a scholarship by FSU, which he quickly jumped on and committed to the Noles in June.
After having a strong senior season, Florida decided to offer the 6-foot, 177-pound wideout a scholarship. Sousa took an official visit this weekend and decided to go ahead and flip his commitment.
After struggling mightily in the passing game this year, the Gators have been looking to add playmakers on offense. Sousa, who totaled 4,107 receiving yards and 53 receiving touchdowns on 246 receptions in his high school career, joins four-star wide receiver Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead) as Florida commitments.
For Florida, the Gators now have 16 commitments, including nine ranked in the ESPN 300. Twelve of Florida’s commitments are ranked four-stars or higher.
Florida State, meanwhile, has 23 commitments including nine ranked in the ESPN 300.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The prosecutor investigating sexual assault allegations against Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston wants the process to be "thorough" and won't let football dictate when he will wrap up his inquiry.
State Attorney Willie Meggs on Monday reiterated he won't let FSU's football schedule or Winston's Heisman Trophy possibilities determine when his investigation will be completed.
Winston has led the Seminoles to the No. 1 ranking and they will play for a conference title Saturday, with a shot at the national crown. The quarterback is also the leading candidate for the Heisman and many voters are waiting to see if Winston will be charged with a crime before casting their ballots. The deadline for Heisman ballots to be turned in is Dec. 9.
Georgia Cappleman of the state attorney's office provided a timeline for a possible charge to the Orlando Sentinel.
"I do think it's going to be hopefully by the end of this week, possibly into next," Cappleman told the newspaper.
Timothy Jansen, Winston's attorney, said Monday he is communicating daily with his client, who "wants it to be over." Jansen last week publicly complained about the pace of the investigation.
"Obviously he's focusing on football and academics and he knows it's a process and we're waiting for Mr. Meggs to conclude his investigation," Jansen said.
While the allegations were initially reported to Tallahassee police nearly a year ago, the case wasn't turned over to prosecutors until November. The Tallahassee Police Department has defended its handling of the case even though the family of the victim has said that police detectives warned them about pressing charges.