ACC morning links

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
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We start Thursday with the fallout of the Wainstein Report, which stated Wednesday that North Carolina academic advisers pushed athletes toward sham classes from 1993-2011.

You can read all about it here, and even though no head coaches were directly implicated, the report is not favorable for a once-proud academic institution that has been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons in recent years.

As the (Raleigh) News & Observer's Luke DeCock says, UNC finally got some real answers, revealing an ugly truth and an apology from chancellor Carol Folt.

What's next, though? FoxSports' Stewart Mandel looks at how the NCAA Committee on Infractions came down on Minnesota's men's basketball program in 2000. What happened with the Tar Heels certainly looks worse, and it cuts right to the heart of what the NCAA says it is about.

The NCAA announced in June that it was re-opening the UNC case. Has or will it make the same kind of progress and/or conclusions that the Wainstein Report did? When? Does it use the Wainstein Report to take matters into its own hands, as it did with the Freeh Report on Penn State -- a move that probably cost the NCAA credibility after reducing Penn State's sanctions on two different occasions. Maybe UNC takes the initiative and self-sanctions?

So much is up in the air right now, but Wednesday appeared to be at least a start for UNC in escaping this cloud of controversy.

Here are the rest of your ACC morning links ...
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- This season is uncharted waters for college football. With the inaugural playoff looming and the first committee rankings being released Tuesday, nobody is quite entirely sure how to accurately size up each team’s résumé.

“But you got to fill the airwaves,” said Jimbo Fisher, coach of No. 2 Florida State, with a laugh. “You got to have something to talk about.”

Outside of whether the SEC will land two teams in the College Football Playoff, no topic has been as hotly discussed as whether Florida State, the preseason No. 1 and still undefeated, could survive a loss and still manage to earn a bid. The consensus is the Seminoles have little margin for error, but opinions differ on how slim Florida State's margin is.

Florida State’s body of work has been held up to the light and examined for flaws more than other team. It’s part of the double-edged sword that accompanies the title of reigning national champion and offseason favorite. While the Seminoles aren’t perfect, their record still remains without a blemish, and there is something to be said for that.

[+] EnlargeJimbo Fisher
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesJimbo Fisher has seen plenty of improvement in his team as the weeks pass.
“Culture is so important because you find excuses to win and you do things in big moments, and this team does and is able to do that,” he said.

That culture can’t be quantified in numbers or accurately measured by computations, though, and several of those metrics have not produced favorable results. The Seminoles are No. 21 in game control, which measures how dominant a team is in each game; Mississippi State (1) and Ole Miss (4) are both in the top five. The Seminoles also rank seventh in the Football Power Index, behind one-loss teams Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and Ohio State. While the Seminoles have a 31 percent chance to finish undefeated, it’s more of a reflection of their remaining schedule in an ACC bereft of playoff contenders. It should be noted they have already defeated Oklahoma State in a neutral-site game, Clemson without Jameis Winston and No. 7 Notre Dame.

“I don’t listen to it. I don’t want to lose, either,” Fisher said. “This is a marathon. What you think of one team, what they thought a couple weeks ago they don’t think now and maybe [in] three weeks they won’t think what they think now. We’re trying to put them in [the playoff] now, but let things sort itself out.

“There’s a lot of ball to be played.”

Whether Florida State begins No. 1 in the committee’s rankings or somewhere below, Fisher likes where his team stands. It has not measured up to the 2013 team statistically, but Fisher harped all season that 2014 would be a different squad even if many of the players, including a Heisman Trophy winner, returned. He implored the public to throw away recent history when judging this team.

After the first four games, Fisher said he saw a team improving even if the rest of the country did not. Now, more than halfway through the season, he still sees a team poised to play its best football.

“I love our team. I really do. I like to coach it,” he said. “It competes hard, plays well, gets better every week. We’re continuing to get better and I think we’ll continue to grow but I like where we’re at.”

Seemingly the two biggest concerns for the Seminoles, who enter their final bye this weekend, are the defense and the running game. Last season, the defense ranked first nationally in scoring and third in total defense. This season, under new coordinator Charles Kelly, the unit ranks 34th and 52nd, respectively, albeit without several of the star players that highlighted the defense in 2013.

In the fourth quarter against Notre Dame, though, the defense held the Irish to just 109 yards. They had eight sacks entering the game, but sacked Everett Golson three times.

The Seminoles have not run the ball effectively for much of the season, as the stable of running backs has struggled to replicate the productivity void left behind by 1,000-yard rusher Devonta Freeman. Against FBS competition, the Seminoles have yet to top 171 yards rushing.

With Winston at quarterback and the passing game clicking, Fisher believes he just needs a rushing attack that can complement the aerial assault and pick up yards in the game’s tensest moments -- third downs, goal line and fourth quarters.

“We ran the ball very effectively when we had to run it in the second half, and I was proud of that, Fisher said. “… But we've got to get better. The balance as far as yards aren’t [there], but we’re making enough big plays in the passing game and we’re running enough to [keep defenses] honest. But we’re going to continue to run the football and we’ll keep working on that.”

UA jersey tour: Josh Sweat

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
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ESPN 300 defensive end Josh Sweat received his Under Armour All-America jersey on Wednesday. The No. 5 ranked prospect received the honor in front of his classmates, teammates and family and spoke about his accomplishments on and off the field.

A short video played on a projector before the ceremony, giving everyone in attendance a better look at who Sweat really is as a person.

Sweat took some time to answer a few questions to help expand on who he is, where he has been and what makes him tick.

What one player are you looking forward to competing against?: Yeah, probably the biggest person I was looking for was Martez Ivey. Great guy, I played against him at a camp and I believe that's the person I would have been going against anyway. That would be a good matchup.

If you could start a team with any other player in your class who would it be?: Give me the best corners, defensive backs and linebackers. Everybody who can cover the best so I can get to the quarterback. That's a defensive end's best friend is the secondary.

What was your earliest football memory?: Probably knocking off Oscar Smith middle school in the city championship. The middle school I went to never won a game two years before and then I came out there and we won everything in every other sport for this one year. We beat them in the city championship and now I'm at Oscar Smith high school. So I played against a lot of the guys that are my teammates now. That’s a good thing to brag about. When they bring it up, I had to brag.

Which football player did you idolize or want to be like when you were a kid?: Honestly, no one. Other than my two older brothers. I watch it more now that I'm heavy into football.

If you could take on any pro player in their sport who would it be?: I would like to race Usain Bolt. I would challenge LeBron James to try to dunk on me. I would challenge him to try to. I would also swim against Michael Phelps.

Why do you wear your number?: I wear No. 9. The person that previously wore it was a real good guy, a tight end and linebacker. But, my favorite number is 2. I always wanted to wear that number.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?: I used to video game heavily. I mostly played "Call of Duty." I play a little bit now, but not as much as I used to. I used to sit in the house and play before I was heavy on football.

ACC playoff watch: Week 9

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
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We’re down to two playoff contenders left in the ACC, and as top teams around the country continue to tumble, the urgency of each upcoming matchup is magnified more than ever. Here’s how things stack up for the ACC after eight weeks.

Where the ACC stands: From now until the end of the season, it’s not about profile or reputation for the ACC. It’s simply about wins and, more specifically, wins for Florida State. The league continues to have just two ranked teams and now has just two officially alive for the playoff. That would be FSU, which beat Notre Dame in controversial fashion, and Duke, the defending Coastal champs that continue to chug along.

[+] EnlargeShaun Wilson
Grant Halverson/Getty ImagesShaun Wilson and Duke have quietly put together a 6-1 record and are still a College Football Playoff contender.
Top playoff contenders: Florida State (No. 2 AP, No. 7 FPI), Duke (NR AP, No. 38 FPI)

Nonconference record: 36-14 (1-0 last week), 22-14 vs. FBS, 5-7 vs. Power 5 and Notre Dame

Week 8 recap: Let’s start with Duke, perhaps the most overlooked playoff contender in America. There are 23 teams yet to be plucked from the ranks of playoff possibilities according to our Eliminator, and only two -- Duke and Minnesota -- remain unranked in the AP poll.

But if any team is used to being overlooked, it’s Duke. The Blue Devils don’t seem to care. They just keep winning. One week after ending Georgia Tech’s time atop the division, they pulled the same trick with Virginia, and suddenly the chances of Duke finishing out the regular season at 11-1 seem somewhat realistic.

If that happens, it will almost certainly be Florida State that awaits the Blue Devils in Charlotte. More and more, the narrative around the Seminoles is that they’re a flawed team teetering on the brink of a loss.

FSU reinforced that storyline against Notre Dame, struggling throughout the first half and requiring a controversial penalty that overturned what would’ve been a game-winning TD for the Fighting Irish with just seconds to play.

If irrelevance is Duke’s burden, lofty standards are Florida State’s. When Auburn pulled off one miracle after another last year, it was hailed as a team of destiny and marched into the BCS title game at 12-1 riding two of the more unlikely wins of all time against Georgia and Alabama. Florida State has fought back to win games against Clemson, NC State and Notre Dame, but the storyline seems to be much different. The Seminoles are no team of destiny. They’re a team that keeps narrowly scraping by. Chalk it up to the high standard set by last year's national championship crew. It might not be fair, but it’s reality.

What's that mean for FSU? Well, just look at the FPI rankings. Despite beating a top-5 team, FSU tumbled from No. 4 to No. 7 -- now trailing five SEC teams and an Ohio State squad that lost at home to Virginia Tech in Week 2. Again, FSU belongs in the playoff, but it still can't afford a loss in spite of clearing its biggest obstacle of the season.

Paradoxically, Notre Dame's loss appears to have only burnished its playoff pedigree, which might also be a good thing for the ACC. Given that the league plays four games against the Irish this year, and that they’ll likely be the highest-ranked team FSU plays all season, respect for Notre Dame is respect for the ACC.

That loss, however, did knock another team from the ranks of the undefeated, as did Baylor’s stumble against West Virginia. Florida State is now one of just four teams in the nation without a loss.

Also of note, Georgia Tech fell to North Carolina in the final minute Saturday, thus officially eliminating the Yellow Jackets from playoff contention.

Week 9 preview: The slate in the ACC is ugly, with both of the remaining playoff contenders enjoying a bye. FSU has a particularly daunting task against Louisville the following week, and Duke has a showdown with Pittsburgh that could decide the leader of the Coastal Division. For Week 9, however, it’ll be a little bit of scoreboard watching for the league’s contenders.

Oregon, Alabama, Mississippi State and Ole Miss -- all ranked in the top 10 -- go on the road for conference games this week, which could set up for some more chaos in what’s already been a chaotic season. While the first three teams are favored by at least two touchdowns, Ole Miss heads to LSU for a night game in Baton Rouge -- always a tough place to win. At this point, chaos is good for Florida State, assuming the Seminoles can avoid the absurdity. The more top contenders that have a loss on their resume, the better Florida State’s winning streak looks -- even if those wins came in close calls.

Drawing Conclusions: Week 8

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
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video

A look at the aftermath in the wake of all of the week 8 college football action.

Top trap games remaining for contenders 

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
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Oregon didn't see Arizona coming. Baylor was blindsided by West Virginia. Now those teams' playoff hopes are damaged, if not totaled.

It's often the surprising losses -- the trap games -- that derail promising seasons. Just ask Oklahoma State (Iowa State) in 2011 or USC (Oregon State) in 2008.

As for 2014, here are the most perilous traps remaining down the stretch for the top six in the AP poll. That includes Mississippi State, FSU and Ole Miss, the three remaining undefeated Power 5 teams.

1. Ole Miss
Trap game: at Arkansas (Nov. 22)
When they go to Fayetteville, the Rebels will essentially be coming off two open dates (they play Presbyterian on Nov. 8). But Arkansas still presents a classic look-ahead scenario, because Ole Miss has the Egg Bowl against Mississippi State the following week. The "biggest Egg Bowl ever" chatter is buzzing now; just imagine what it will be like a week before the game. If the Rebels' focus is waning, Arkansas is good enough to punish them for it. Mark it down: The Razorbacks are going to end their 16-game SEC losing streak this season, and it wouldn't surprise me if it happened in an impactful game. Mississippi State (Nov. 1) also should be on high alert. Arkansas will slow down the game. Even if Ole Miss isn't running as much up-tempo this season, pace is still something the Rebs want to dictate. The timing and matchup are as dangerous as it gets.

ACC Show: Week 9 (2 ET)

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
10:00
AM ET
Join ESPN.com ACC reporters Andrea Adelson, Matt Fortuna and Jared Shanker as they discuss the Week 9 slate and answer your questions live on screen.

ACC morning links

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
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It's rarely a good sign when a defensive coordinator is imploring a fanbase to respect the job his defense has done, but that's what Miami assistant Mark D'Onofrio was doing this week.

"Give the guys some credit," D'Onofrio said in this article from Matt Porter of The Palm Beach (Florida) Post.

The truth is the Miami defense has played well this season. The problem is the defense is not stepping up in the games the Miami program needs it to.

Against Nebraska, the Hurricanes were torched on the ground and allowed the Cornhuskers to convert 70 percent of their third-down attempts. In the Hurricanes' three losses, all on the road, they are allowing opponents to convert nearly 60 percent of their third-down attempts. With the Miami offense improving each week, the defense needs to do a much better job of giving quarterback Brad Kaaya the ball.

There have also been two games already in which Miami allowed more than 300 rushing yards, and if the Hurricanes were able to get a few stops against Georgia Tech, there was a good chance they could have won the game.

But D'Onofrio is right in that the defense is seemingly taking steps in the right direction. The unit played well in the first half against Cincinnati, and it put the clamps on Duke at the end of September.

The problem is the Georgia Tech loss was sandwiched between those games, and that inconsistency is causing Canes fans to pull their hair out.

With a date against Virginia Tech on Thursday, the odds are the defense will limit the Hokies, who rank 83rd nationally in total offense. But what will happen the next two games against North Carolina and Florida State?
  • Virginia Tech's defense needs to be prepared on Thursday night, too.
  • Once North Carolina began racking up the points, the Georgia Tech defense began playing without discipline by trying to make the big play instead executing the called play.
  • For the Tar Heels to truly turn this season around, the defense will need to begin making strides.
  • Clemson is right where most people expected them to be at 5-2, but Dabo Swinney still sees greatness for this team.
  • Syracuse still expects its indoor facility to be ready in December.
  • Florida State linebacker Matthew Thomas, who was suspended the first six games, saw quite a bit of action in his first game back.
  • Miles Gooch was a productive high school quarterback, but like so many star athletes at the position, a change was needed in college. Now Gooch is Virginia's leading receiver.
  • Louisville will wear alternate uniforms for next week's game against Florida State. Do you like them? More importantly: does it matter? I don't buy the theory that alternate uniforms -- black, gray, turquoise -- have any impact on a game.
  • If you like Pittsburgh football and like math, here's a breakdown of James Conner's bounce back from a drop off. While Conner was better against Virginia Tech, he still wasn't the dominating runner Pitt fans saw the first few weeks.
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Real Money takes a look at BCS Championship, NBA Finals and World Series ticket prices.

Playoff Field: Week 9

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
12:27
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video

Cary Chow, Heather Dinich, and Adam Rittenberg take a look at where things stand after week 8 of the college football season, and what the playoff selection committee will have to do when sorting out all of the one-loss teams.

Playoff Top 4: Week 9

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
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video

Heather Dinich gives her weekly look at the College Football Playoff picture and picks the four teams she would put in the playoff if the season ended today.

Heisman Watch: Week 9

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
12:14
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video

After a pair of solid performances in their head-to-head matchup, Cary Chow and Adam Rittenberg wonder where Jameis Winston and Everett Golson should be ranked in the Heisman race.

Weekend recruiting wrap: ACC 

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
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The weekend has come and gone without a single commitment to an ACC program. With that said, there is plenty to talk about within the conference including huge official visitors for Florida State, a key offer by Louisville and a look at some players that could flip.


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video

Adam Rittenberg discusses the comment made by NCAA president Mark Emmert about the concept of allowing players to receive compensation for autographs.

ACC morning links

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
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It appears as if Virginia Tech will lose its second defensive starter to a medical redshirt this season.

Starting defensive tackle Luther Maddy said Monday night on Twitter that he needs a second surgery on his knee and will sit out the rest of the season.
Maddy initially tore the meniscus in his right knee against East Carolina in Week 3, but played 48 snaps with the injury against Georgia Tech. He underwent surgery last month, and the timetable for his return was listed as two-to-four weeks. Though he was listed as probable to play against Pitt, Maddy did not and was not scheduled to play against Miami on Thursday night.

His loss is a big one for the Hokies, who have had to make do without him for the last three games. Nigel Williams replaced him in the lineup, but it's tough to make up for Maddy's experience and skill-set. The four-year starter was a preseason All-ACC team selection after he had 6.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hurries a season ago. In four games this season, Maddy had seven hurries.

Virginia Tech also plans on redshirting Brandon Facyson, who started the season at cornerback opposite Kendall Fuller. Facyson has been slow to heal from a stress fracture to his shin and has not played since Week 3.

In one other Virginia Tech injury note, running back Marshawn Williams is expected to play against the Hurricanes after missing last week with a sprained ankle.

Over at Georgia Tech, the Jackets got some tough injury news of their own when coach Paul Johnson said that starting B-back Zach Laskey probably won't play at Pitt on Saturday. Laskey hurt his shoulder late against North Carolina last week and was in a sling Monday. Laskey has been terrific this season, with a team-high 120 carries for 595 yards and five touchdowns.

He gained 70 or more yards in each game this season.

Now let's see what else is making headlines in the ACC:

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Drawing Conclusions: Week 8
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