ACC bowl projections: Week 1

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
5:00
PM ET
It wasn't the prettiest opening week for the ACC, but the end result wasn't much of a shake-up from our initial preseason projections. Louisville was the week's most impressive team, so the Cardinals make a leap to the Orange Bowl in our projections. The rest of the shake-ups were minor.

So, after a week of games, here are our ACC bowl projections:

College Football Playoff: Florida State
Orange Bowl : Louisville
Russell Athletic Bowl: Virginia Tech
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Clemson
Belk Bowl: North Carolina
Hyundai Sun Bowl: Pitt
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Notre Dame
Military Bowl presented By Northrop Grumman: Duke
Duck Commander Independence Bowl: Miami
Quick Lane Bowl: Boston College
BITCOIN St. Petersburg Bowl: Georgia Tech

Texas A&M jumps 12 spots

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
2:32
PM ET
video

The Texas A&M Aggies, buoyed by their victory over South Carolina, moved up 12 spots to No. 9 in the AP Top 25 after the opening weekend of college football.

The top four in the rankings -- Florida State, Alabama, Oregon and Oklahoma -- are unchanged, but the No. 1 Seminoles and No. 2 Crimson Tide lost some support in the first poll of the regular season after close victories against heavy underdogs.

Texas A&M began the post-Johnny Manziel era with a 52-28 victory at South Carolina. The loss dropped the Gamecocks from No. 9 to No. 21.

Georgia, led by running back Todd Gurley, rose six spots to No. 6 -- even earning two first-place votes -- after a 45-21 victory over then-No. 16 Clemson, which tumbled seven spots to No. 23.

Florida State dropped from 57 first-place votes to 46 after pulling out a 37-31 victory against Oklahoma State. Meanwhile, Alabama dropped 44 points in the media-panel voting, getting just one first-place vote, after beating West Virginia.


(Read full post)


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Last season, Jimbo Fisher said a No. 1 ranking wasn’t ever on Florida State’s collective mind. Maybe that is because the Seminoles didn’t earn the top ranking until the postseason and didn’t garner a first-place vote in either poll until Week 9.

As the preseason No. 1, there is no steady climb to the top. A performance worthy of a top-ranked team is expected every week, and Florida State is learning that lesson as it prepares for The Citadel on the heels of a 37-31 win against Oklahoma State, a sizable Las Vegas underdog.

“Last year we didn’t care about being No. 1. We cared about playing well,” Fisher said. “You have to remind yourself if the process is right, the results will come. If we’re worried about the results, we won’t get the results. Make no mistake about it.”

[+] EnlargeBrandon Sheperd
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesFSU didn't wear the target of being the nation's top-ranked team too well in the opener.
The fifth-year coach said he hopes the Seminoles still act like a team chasing No. 1, but he admitted Saturday night that is not what he saw.

“It is a wake-up call,” junior defensive tackle Eddie Goldman said. “We didn’t expect to have that many mistakes.”

The Seminoles are saying the right things, calling the game a learning experience. However, they said all the right things this preseason on the pressures of being the top-ranked team, too. That is not saying the team was insincere, but it’s hard to predict how this Florida State roster would react with the national target on its back for the first time.

Fisher said “no doubt” the close call was a positive for Florida State, but it has to result in a change in practice.

Sophomore All-America candidate Jalen Ramsey told the Tallahassee Democrat last week’s practices were not on par with the standards set at Florida State. “That’s what happens when you don’t practice like a champion,” he told the newspaper.

The practices last week were not poor, Fisher said, but he saw inconsistency in his team play to play during the week. It showed up in the final three quarters at AT&T Stadium, as the Seminoles did not play with the consistency they showed in the first few drives against the Cowboys.

So, how will Fisher know if the team has taken the wake-up call to heart?

“Your actions speak so loud that I can’t hear what you’re saying,” he said, relying on a tried-and-true Jimboism. “… We play a lot like we practice. We weren’t consistent enough. When pressure comes, your habits come straight to the surface.”

With each week, that pressure is only going to intensify. Fisher hopes those actions are enough to drown it out.

ACC Power Rankings: Week 1

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
2:00
PM ET
video

Week one of the college football season is in the books. Time to talk playoffs, right? Adam Rittenberg and Heather Dinich take an early look at what the playoff field looks like.

Weekend recruiting wrap: ACC 

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
10:00
AM ET
The college football season is officially underway with the first week of games now in the rearview mirror. While the opening weekend was a slow one with the first official visits on tap this weekend, one team did pick up a key quarterback commitment while another program hosted a number of top targets for unofficial visits.

The big takeaways from Monday night’s game will no doubt revolve around the quarterbacks.

Making his first start for Louisville, Will Gardner looked pretty sharp. He completed 20-of-28 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns, and if he could’ve done a better job of holding on to the football -- his two fumbles came deep in Louisville territory -- it would’ve been chalked up as a terrific debut.

On the other side, Brad Kaaya wasn’t quite so successful. He completed 17-of-29 passes for 174 yards, tossed one TD and two interceptions. Both of the picks came on particularly bad throws, all of which should've been expected for a true freshman making his first start in a hostile road environment.

But so much of what allowed Gardner to be so good and caused Kaaya to struggle had little to do with the quarterbacks.

Louisville’s Dominique Brown looked like a workhorse out of the backfield. He rushed 33 times -- three more carries than anyone else in the nation had in Week 1 -- for 143 yards and a score. Meanwhile, Miami’s ground game never really got going.

And that might be the real concern for Miami today. It’s not that Duke Johnson wasn’t good. He had 95 total yards, a few big runs and another long reception that was called back due to a silly penalty from an O-lineman who’d wandered too far downfield. Johnson was fine, but that O-line looked bad.

In addition to the flag that thwarted Johnson’s big catch, the line was flagged four other times for holding or false starts. On 12 of Miami’s 25 designed runs, the Hurricanes gained 1 yard or less. There was virtually no running room between the tackles all night. Kaaya was under pressure far more often than any true freshman should need to endure despite few looks downfield.

Gardner’s success came without his No. 1 receiver. The ground game was good without Michael Dyer. Louisville’s D looked exceptional in its first game in a new scheme. It was a good night for the Cardinals.

For Miami, the lessons were tougher, but it’s hard to pin too much of the blame on the freshman QB. Maybe Jake Heaps sees some snaps next week, maybe not. Maybe Ryan Williams comes back soon enough to make a difference, and maybe not. But no matter who is under center, Miami’s line needs to play better, open up running lanes and give the QB a chance to make plays. If not, it could be a long year for the Hurricanes' offense.

Now, a few links to kick off Week 2 ...

Clemson’s offense struggled in the second half against Georgia, but Chad Morris expects to get things jump started in Week 2, writes The State.

Deshaun Watson was calm, cool and collected after his Clemson debut, writes The Post and Courier.

No surprises here, but Marquise Williams is North Carolina’s starting QB for the foreseeable future, writes the Charlotte Observer.

Boston College is replacing Andre Williams with a committee approach in the backfield, writes the Boston Herald.

It was a perfect debut to the 2014 season for NC State’s Jarvis Byrd, writes the Raleigh News & Observer.

Virginia has some QB questions this week, as the Washington Times notes, and in a bit of perfect timing, the Hoos will get a visit from one of their former starters in Richmond QB Michael Rocco, writes the Richmond Times Dispatch.

Georgia Tech has a decision to make with freshman B-back C.J. Leggett, writes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

And finally, the Orlando Sentinel highlights the triumphant return of Red Lightning.

ACC helmet stickers: Week 1

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
11:40
PM ET
It was a fun-filled opening weekend of ACC football. Here are the players who made the biggest first impressions.

NC State safety Jarvis Byrd. Three tackles and a pass break-up on their own are not usually enough to earn recognition here. But Byrd playing and making an impact is certainly noteworthy, and it could be one of the early feel-good stories of the college football season. He considered giving up the game after suffering a third ACL tear last season. The NCAA granted him a sixth year of eligibility this season, but he barely practiced in camp and, as our David Hale noted last week, was hardly expected to play in the opener against Georgia Southern, let alone make an impact. Byrd ended up sealing the Wolfpack's 24-23 win with a fourth-down hit on the Eagles' BJ Johnson, forcing an incomplete pass that clinched the game with 1:02 left.

Virginia linebacker Henry Coley. If you told anyone before Saturday that alleged national-title contender UCLA would manage just one offensive touchdown against the reigning ACC cellar-dwellars, you'd probably think Virginia escaped with a victory. The Cavaliers' defense certainly deserved better in a 28-20 loss, as Coley led a charge that rendered the Bruins' offensive line rudderless, exposed just how difficult of a Heisman chase Brett Hundley will have and kept the Hoos alive all day. Coley matched a career high with 14 tackles, recorded a career-high two sacks and notched the second forced fumble of his career. UVa held UCLA to just 358 yards of total offense. The difference, of course, was Virginia's offense giving away 21 points through a pair of pick-sixes and a fumble recovery for a score. Still, this was a step in the right direction for a program that went 0-8 in league play last year, and the Hoos have to think they have the same chance everyone else does in a wide-open Coastal Division.

Pitt running back James Conner. At times it just looked flat-out unfair to see the 6-foot-2, 250-pound Conner barreling his way forward against an FCS team in Delaware. The sophomore finished the day with 153 rushing yards and four touchdowns on just 14 carries. The key words there may be "finished the day," as Conner's day rushing the ball was over at the 6:16 mark of the second quarter. The Panthers' 62-0 win over the Blue Hens marked their highest scoring game since Sept. 9, 1995, when they beat Eastern Michigan 66-30. Their 409 rushing yards marked their highest total since the Tony Dorsett era, when Pitt tallied 444 yards on the ground against Army in 1976.

Florida State wide receiver Rashad Greene. Greene was, expectedly, Jameis Winston's favorite target during FSU's 37-31 win over Oklahoma State. The senior had 11 receptions for 203 yards and a touchdown, a nifty 50-yarder with 3:58 left in the contest that proved to be the game-winner. It may be alarming that the Seminoles' other five pass-catchers combined for just 14 catches and 167 yards, but with FSU locked in a Week 1 dogfight, it only made sense that it turned to its most reliable pair of hands. Greene is also the Noles' punt returner, and though he returned just one for 2 yards against the Cowboys, his workload could be something worth monitoring as the season progresses.

Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy. The Florida transfer made his presence felt in the Eagles' 30-7 rout of in-state rival UMass, showing a dimension that simply wasn't there for BC offensively a year ago. Murphy completed 17 of 24 passes for 173 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He carried the ball 13 times for a career-best 118 rushing yards and another score. He was never sacked. He hit six different receivers, including three for at least three catches apiece. BC totaled 511 yards of offense and dominated time of possession, holding the ball for 42:11. Friday night's home tilt with ACC foe Pitt should be a great litmus test for both teams after dominant opening-weekend performances.

Jesus 'Bobo' Wilson's ban lifted

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
3:04
PM ET
video

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher announced Monday that receiver Jesus "Bobo" Wilson's indefinite suspension, which stemmed from a June theft of a scooter, has been lifted.

Wilson missed the Seminoles' season-opening 37-31 victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday, although he traveled with the team and dressed for the game.

The sophomore was originally charged with a third-degree grand motor theft, a felony, in connection with stealing a scooter. Wilson admitted to police he took the scooter when he saw the keys in the ignition and crashed it while driving.

In July, Wilson pleaded down to two misdemeanors, his attorney Tim Jansen told ESPN.com. Jansen said Wilson had the initial felony charge reduced to misdemeanor petty theft and misdemeanor criminal mischief. Wilson already has paid $1,074 in restitution to the scooter owner and was sentenced to spend 30 days on a jail work camp and two years' probation. The probation can be reduced to one year if he completes the work camp.

Florida State policy states that any player charged with a felony is immediately suspended from representing the school in any games, but Wilson was able to continue practicing. Throughout preseason camp, Fisher praised Wilson's maturity since the incident.

Wilson could be immediately inserted into the starting lineup for the Seminoles' next game, 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday against The Citadel. As a freshman, the 5-foot-9, 177-pound Miami native had three receptions for 23 yards in limited action.


(Read full post)


video

With lackluster performances in Week 1, no one is quite sure what to make of Alabama and Florida State. And the reigning Heisman winner didn't look like himself. Adam Rittenberg and Cary Chow discuss.
For all the warts Florida State displayed on Saturday, there is something to be said that the top-ranked Seminoles still managed to win. The opener against a tougher-than-advertised opponent at a neutral site is in the rearview mirror, and now the Seminoles essentially have three weeks -- sorry to The Citadel -- to shore up any lapses in the armor before division rival Clemson visits Sept. 20.

Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said last week that opening games are always cause for concern as he truly never knows how his team will react in game situations. The opening week of the season naturally over-stimulates the reactionary portion of the brain, but it’s vital to remember that while 12 games does not sound like a lot, it is a long season and the Florida State team we saw Aug. 30 will look much different on Nov. 30.

But now that we have had 24 hours to digest the Seminoles’ 37-31 win and look ahead to Week 2, we will try to break down fact from fiction as to where the real concerns are for Florida State.

1. FICTION: Florida State is overrated.

With all Florida State returns, there is little reason to believe this team is overrated at this point. The Seminoles might be overhyped, but that is through no fault of their own. Collectively, we -- fans, media, Vegas -- expected perfection from a team that is rebuilding in some vital areas and hadn’t played a football game in nearly eight months. The Seminoles still might be the most talented team in the country, and the Oklahoma State challenge did nothing to change the roster outlook. Maybe the biggest positive to come from Saturday for Florida State is they still had the look of a team that understands what it takes to win a game, even when they’re not clicking on all cylinders.

“We still made critical plays when we had to make critical plays,” Fisher said, “and there is something to that.”

What Florida State did do was buy into their own hype a little bit and, when momentum flipped, didn’t handle the expectations as the preseason No. 1, as well as Fisher, would have liked. From the outside, it looks like an obvious wake-up call, and Florida State players are referring to it as such, with Jameis Winston calling it an “eye opener.” But it is only a wake-up call if it results in a change, and we’ll have to wait another few weeks to see any.

“This year it hit us right off the bat,” cornerback P.J. Williams said, “and that’s a good thing.”

2. FICTION: Winston’s performance is indicative of a Heisman hangover.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesJameis Winston had a dazzling run, but made a few mistakes in the season opener.
At least not yet. Winston was equal parts brilliant and baffling at times, but the mistakes seemingly are correctable. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner forced a few passes into tight coverage at critical times in the game -- in the red zone and before halftime -- but if those drives had resulted in points instead of turnovers, Winston acknowledged after the game that the victory might have been sealed at halftime. Winston still has the type of arm that NFL teams will covet, and he put that on display. Few quarterbacks in the country can make the throws Winston can, and even fewer defensive backs can defend them. And when his team needed him most, Winston again rose to the occasion, sprinting 28 yards on a touchdown run that will be replayed dozens of time this week.

The real issue for the passing game is who is going to emerge opposite Rashad Greene?

3. FACT: Florida State needs a No. 2 receiver to emerge.

There is a very good chance Greene will leave Florida State as the most prolific receiver in school history, and he showed why Saturday. But the passing game was out of sorts for stretches, and that is due in part to the lack of a playmaker other than Greene.

“They were … forcing us to throw the football,” Fisher said.

How many teams would have dared Florida State do that last season with Greene, Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw? Fisher said Winston kept relying on Greene, who had 11 catches for 203 yards, because Fisher called for plays to Greene. There just isn’t the same confidence in the other receiving options at this point, and maybe that changes once Jesus Wilson returns from suspension, which is still labeled as indefinite but figures to end sooner rather than later. The freshman receivers that earned so much attention during preseason camp didn’t catch a single pass. The trio of Ja’Vonn Harrison, Ermon Lane and Travis Rudolph still figures to be a great one in Tallahassee, but expectations from fans were far too high early on. Levonte Whitfield had some nice plays, but he is limited to a slot role.

The offensive line protected Winston extremely well, however, which in the future should give him enough time to start finding those No. 2 candidates. If defenses start fearing the pass it again, it should open up more holes for running back Karlos Williams.

4. (PARTIAL) FACT: The defensive tackles need to play better.

I watched Oklahoma State’s offensive drives beginning from the second quarter, and the Seminoles’ defensive tackles played well at times and looked shaky at times. If anything, the interior needs to play more consistently, and that could happen if Fisher elects to rotate more bodies in the future. Much of the burden was on Eddie Goldman, Nile Lawrence-Stample and Derrick Mitchell.

There was a mix of good and bad from the tackles on just about every defensive drive. The interior would get penetration one play and then get pushed a few yards off the ball on the next. A lot of it was simply Oklahoma State’s speed, too. A few times the defensive tackles were in position to make a tackle behind the line of scrimmage, but Tyreek Hill just took away the angle. Goldman played well for much of the game, I thought, and if the linemen make those tackles for loss, their play might not be as widely discussed.
video

Trevor Matich discusses his top storylines from Week 1, including the most impressive player and team.
video

PREGAME WARMUP

What did we learn from Week 1 of the season?

Everything ... and nothing.

We learned that Florida State isn't immune to the same disease that commonly infects defending national champions: Acute Pressur-itis.

FSU coach Jimbo Fisher admitted as much after the Seminoles' semi-joyless 37-31 win against 18-point underdog Oklahoma State at JerryWorld. He said his team felt the pressure of being ranked No. 1 -- and all that comes with trying to win elusive back-to-back national titles.

"Now I think we can relax and go play football," Fisher said.

That's nice. It's also wishful thinking.

Sure, Florida State will be able to relax at home this Saturday against FCS member The Citadel. Quarterback Jameis Winston can get a mani/pedi while the third-stringers dispose of the Bulldogs. And after the blowout win, everybody can kid themselves into thinking FSU is good to go for the remainder of the season.

But truth is, as the regular season stretches its legs and the Seminoles face Clemson, Notre Dame, travel to Louisville and Miami, and finish with Florida, the Seminoles' nerve will be tested again and again. They will get every opponent's best shot -- just like the solid punches Oklahoma State landed a couple of nights ago.

The Cowboys could have beaten FSU. They didn't, which speaks to the Seminoles' resolve, but they could have. And that reality has to be an unnerving thought for Fisher and Florida State fans.

Fisher knows how hard it's going to be to win consecutive championships. He saw what happened to Alabama (and his coaching buddy Nick Saban) last season as the Crimson Tide were undone by complacency and expectations. If it can happen to a Saban-coached team, it can happen to anybody.


(Read full post)


SPONSORED HEADLINES

Florida State Still No. 1 In AP Poll
Florida State's close win over Oklahoma State cost the Seminoles some first-place votes, but not enough to knock them from the No. 1 spot in the AP poll.
VIDEO PLAYLIST video