NCF Nation: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

First-year Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson isn’t entirely a stranger to his peers on Tobacco Road.

There was a transition period at Tennessee during which Clawson went to the same church as the family of current Duke coach David Cutcliffe. He’d speak with Cutcliffe occasionally, and he also knows NC State coach Dave Doeren from their time together at Mid-American Conference meetings.

Now Clawson is getting to know them all as opponents -- and he has some catching up to do.

Cutcliffe is heading into his seventh season at Duke. He's by far the veteran of the ACC’s North Carolina coaches, and it’s beginning to show in the win-loss column. Duke, which is coming off a school-record 10-win season and an appearance in the ACC title game, is now the team to beat in the state. The balance of power has shifted, as the Blue Devils are 5-0 against their in-state ACC opponents in the past two seasons, having defeated both Wake Forest and North Carolina twice, and crossover opponent NC State in 2013. With 17 starters returning, Duke should be a favorite to win the Coastal Division -- a long leap from being picked to finish last in 2013.

[+] EnlargeCutcliffe/Krzyzewski
Chuck Liddy/Getty ImagesDuke coach David Cutcliffe is building a football power at a "basketball school."
Stability is a major factor, as Doeren, Clawson and North Carolina’s Larry Fedora haven’t even combined for seven seasons at their respective schools. Doeren just put together his first full recruiting class. Duke’s relative staff stability (there has been some turnover at the assistant level) has lent itself to more success on the field and on the recruiting trail.

“We know a lot of people, and a lot of young prospects know a lot about us,” Cutcliffe said. “They’re very comfortable we’re here. At first when we came in, people wondered why we were here. Not only did they wonder if we were going to be able to get this done, they thought, ‘Well, as soon as they start showing better, they’re going to be gone.’ None of that has happened. I think that’s opened a lot of people’s eyes, honestly.”

Clawson replaced Jim Grobe and inherits a program that has had five consecutive losing seasons, including last year’s 4-8 finish. He had to piece together his first recruiting class on a shortened calendar, but said that he can draw inspiration from what Cutcliffe has managed to do at Duke.

“I think we’re similar schools with similar institutional missions, but you look nationally at the schools that are like us -- Stanford, Vanderbilt, Northwestern -- those are all schools that have had success on the football field and institutionally they’re very similar to us,” Clawson said. “You can certainly win. Jim Grobe proved that. Certainly it’s our job to get back to that level.”

Fedora has gotten measurably closer in his first two seasons, with back-to-back winning records in spite of taking over a program that was plagued by a two-year NCAA investigation.

In fact, the rivalry game between UNC and Duke now carries more weight than just bragging rights. Last year, Duke’s victory over North Carolina ensured the Blue Devils their first appearance in the ACC title game. This fall, it could determine the division winner. It’s quite a reversal of roles for two “basketball schools.”

“It’s something we embrace, that our basketball team has helped build the national brand we have,” Fedora said. “That enables us to walk into any school, any home, and those people immediately know who the University of North Carolina is. We embrace that. Coach [Roy] Williams is just an awesome guy and such a great sport about our program. We’re trying to raise the level of the success of the football program, and eventually we’ll get there.”

[+] EnlargeLarry Fedora
Rob Kinnan/USA TODAY SportsLarry Fedora and North Carolina should be a factor again in the ACC Coastal Division in 2014.
They’re a step ahead of the Wolfpack, who struggled through a 3-9 season in Doeren’s first season that included a winless run against ACC opponents. Still, Doeren and his staff had much better results in their first full recruiting class, which included 18 players from within the state.

“It’s very competitive, and you have all of the SEC schools who come up here as well,” Doeren said of recruiting against his in-state peers. “North Carolina football is very strong. It’s very diverse, a lot of good players who play at every position group, so we have a battle with Clemson on every kid, it seems like as well. Tennessee is strong here. There’s always competition for these guys, and I’m sure there will continue to be. That’s just how it is. But being one of the larger in-state schools, we have a lot of alumni in this state, there’s a lot of kids who grow up Wolfpack fans, and there’s a lot of areas in this state that are very red. We try to maximize those connections and networks that are out there to help us.”

Duke arguably had its best recruiting class since Cutcliffe was hired, but the Blue Devils only added three players from within the state.

“We would’ve liked to have more,” Cutcliffe said. “We got beat on some, but we got the ones we wanted. We’re going to start everything in-state, always. We’re going to know a lot about our state. We know it’s going to be competitive, and you throw East Carolina in there, you’ve got another school, and Appalachian State is playing at the FBS level, and you’ve got Clemson that comes and recruits it as an in-state area. It’s a war in here, but I like that. That gets your juices flowing. It lets you, as a coach, compete.”

These days, Cutcliffe is winning more than just the state.
Setting up spring in the ACC Atlantic.

Boston College

Spring start: March 12

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • Big shoes to fill: Steve Addazio helped BC make huge strides in 2013, but the task of keeping the momentum going gets much harder without star running back and Heisman finalist Andre Williams, who rushed for an NCAA-best 2,177 yards and 18 touchdowns. Tyler Rouse and Myles Willis will attempt to fill the vacancy this spring, and both have potential. Willis averaged nearly 6 yards per carry as Williams’ primary backup last year. The real intrigue might wait until fall, however, when four freshmen running backs arrive on campus.
  • Murphy makes the move: It’s an open competition at quarterback after Chase Rettig’s departure, but there’s no question the most intriguing player in the race is Florida transfer Tyler Murphy. The fifth-year senior worked with Addazio at Florida, and he’ll open the spring competing with redshirt freshman James Walsh and early enrollee Darius Wade. That’s a deep enough bench that BC didn’t worry about moving Josh Bordner, last year’s backup, to tight end. With both of last year’s starting tackles gone, too, Murphy’s experience could be even more important in determining the outcome of the QB battle.
  • Restocking the LBs: Even at its low points in recent years, Boston College managed to churn out plenty of talented linebackers, but the position gets a massive overhaul this year. First-team All-ACC star Kevin Pierre-Louis (108 tackles in 2013) is gone, as is Steele Divitto (112 tackles). That leaves junior Steven Daniels (88 tackles, 5 sacks) as the lone returning starter. Josh Keyes adds some experience, but it’ll be a group in transition this spring.
Clemson

Spring start: March 5

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • Replacing Boyd: The talk of Clemson’s spring camp will no doubt surround the quarterbacks, as senior Cole Stoudt, sophomore Chad Kelly and early enrollee Deshaun Watson vie for the job. Stoudt’s experience makes him the early favorite, but it’s Watson, a dual-threat QB with immense talent, who could steal the show. Coach Dabo Swinney has already lauded Watson as perhaps the most talented quarterback Clemson has signed, so all eyes will be on the freshman to see if he can back up all that hype with a strong spring.
  • Skill-position shuffling: If the QB battle is the headliner, there are plenty of significant sideshows on offense this spring. Clemson waved goodbye to receivers Sammy Watkins (1,464 yards, 12 TDs) and Martavis Bryant (828 yards, 7 TDs) and tailback Roderick McDowell (1,025 yards, 5 TDs). That means a massive overhaul on offense, where there’s no clear-cut bell cow at running back (Zac Brooks and D.J. Howard return as potential options) and the receiving corps will be looking for some new top targets.
  • Dominance up front: On offense for Clemson, there’s plenty of concern for what the Tigers lost. On defense, however, the excitement is all about what they’re bringing back. Clemson’s defensive line, in particular, could be one of the nation’s best. When All-American Vic Beasley announced his return for his senior season, the Tigers knew they could have something special. Add sophomore lineman Shaq Lawson and senior Stephone Anthony at linebacker and Clemson has all the makings of a dominant pass rush.
Florida State

Spring start: March 19

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • The running backs: After leading FSU in rushing three straight years, Devonta Freeman is gone. So, too, is James Wilder Jr. But the Seminoles enter spring with a quartet of intriguing options to replace their departed stars, led by Karlos Williams (730 yards, 11 TDs in 2013) and Dalvin Cook (No. 21 on the 2013 ESPN300). Mario Pender, who missed last year with academic issues, also figures to be in the mix.
  • The defensive front: There are a wealth of question marks here, both in terms of personnel and scheme. With Timmy Jernigan, Telvin Smith and Christian Jones gone, there are plenty of jobs up for grabs. The development of Mario Edwards Jr., Eddie Goldman and Terrance Smith will be key, but with Charles Kelly taking over the defense, it’s also still a bit unclear how much the scheme will deviate from what Jeremy Pruitt ran with so much success in 2013.
  • Jameis Winston’s swing: A year ago, the big question was who would win the QB battle. Now, Winston’s got a Heisman Trophy and will be a favorite to win it again in 2014. So the intrigue surrounding the FSU star QB is more on the baseball field, where once again, he’ll be splitting time this spring. Perhaps the bigger question is how the rest of the QB depth chart shakes out, with Sean Maguire the elder statesman and John Franklin III looking to make his move.
Louisville

Spring start: March 18

Spring game: April 11

What to watch:
  • Bobby’s back: After a seven-year hiatus that included an abrupt departure from the Atlanta Falcons and a damaging scandal at Arkansas, Bobby Petrino is back in charge at Louisville insisting he’s a changed man. Fans will be watching closely to see if he has changed his stripes away from the field, but also whether he can rekindle the same offensive fireworks he delivered in his first stint with the Cardinals.
  • Replacing Bridgewater: It’s an open QB battle, and for Petrino, it’s among the first chances he’ll have to see the players vying to replace departed star Teddy Bridgewater in action. Sophomore Will Gardner is perhaps the favorite, but he has just 12 career pass attempts. Redshirt freshman Kyle Bolin is close behind, while Reggie Bonnafon is set to arrive in the fall.
  • New look on D: Louisville finished the 2013 season ranked second nationally in scoring defense, trailing only national champion Florida State. But this spring, things will look a bit different for the Cardinals, as Todd Grantham takes over as the new defensive coordinator after being lured from Georgia. Grantham figures to bring a 3-4 scheme to Louisville, which will certainly shake things up a bit. Defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin missing the spring with a shoulder injury only clouds the situation further.
NC State

Spring start: March 4

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • Brissett takes the reins: The sting of last year’s winless ACC season was barely in the rearview mirror before coach Dave Doeren named Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett his new starting quarterback. Brissett spent last year on the sideline, but apparently Doeren saw enough during practice to comfortably wave goodbye to Pete Thomas, who announced his transfer. There will be ample spotlight on Brissett this spring as he tries to revive the underperforming NC State passing game.
  • The new faces: If 2013 was about cleaning house, this spring begins the far more difficult project of rebuilding. For NC State, that means plenty of new faces, including a whopping seven early enrollees headlined by safety Germain Pratt. While there are ample holes for Doeren to fill in Year 2, these incoming freshmen could certainly push for starting jobs and bring an influx of depth that the Wolfpack sorely missed last year.
  • Shoring up the lines: NC State’s 2014 signing class included 11 offensive and defensive linemen, and that’s just the start of the overhaul at the line of scrimmage. Last season, the Wolfpack allowed the second most sacks in the ACC (35) on offense while its defensive front recorded the fewest sacks in the conference (20). That’s a formula for disaster, and Doeren understands NC State must get much better in the trenches. Brissett’s arrival at QB could help, but the bottom line is NC State needs to see improvement on both sides of the line, and it needs to start this spring.
Syracuse

Spring start: March 18

Spring game: April 19

What to watch:
  • Hunt’s next step: 2013 was a roller coaster season for Terrel Hunt. He lost the QB battle in fall camp, stepped in as starter after two weeks and was dominant, struggled badly through the midsection of the season, then closed strong with back-to-back come-from-behind wins. Now that he has experience, it will be interesting this spring to see how much he’s progressed. The talent is there, and spring practice should give Hunt a chance to refine it a bit more.
  • The defensive front: Syracuse finished its first ACC season ranked fourth in rushing defense and third in sacks despite myriad personnel issues entering the year, but more questions remain as the Orange look toward 2014. With star lineman Jay Bromley and veteran linebacker Marquis Spruill gone, the Orange are looking to fill sizable holes. Robert Welsh figures to be the anchor of the Syracuse pass rush, and the Orange could benefit from the return of Donnie Simmons, who missed 2013 with a knee injury.
  • Secondary concerns: Syracuse got a chance to learn what life was like without top cover corner Keon Lyn after the senior fractured his kneecap late last year, but while Brandon Reddish did an admirable job as his replacement, a whole new set of questions crops up in the secondary this spring. Syracuse figures to have openings at both corner and safety, and while Julian Whigham, Darius Kelly and Ritchy Desir offer options, there’s a lot to be decided on the practice field this spring.
Wake Forest

Spring start: March 25

Spring game: April 26

What to watch:
  • Clawson’s early impact: It’s been 14 years since Wake Forest opened a spring camp with someone other than Jim Grobe calling the shots, so there’s no question this will be an intriguing few weeks in Winston-Salem. Dave Clawson takes over after leading Bowling Green to a MAC championship, and he inherits a major rebuilding job. First up for the coach will likely be creating an offensive identity -- something Grobe couldn’t do in 2013.
  • Identifying some offense: If 2013 was an offensive slog for Wake Forest, 2014 threatens to be much, much worse. As bad as things got at times last year, the Deacons at least had veterans to rely on. This season, Wake’s leading passer (Tanner Price), rusher (Josh Harris), receiver (Michael Campanaro) and top tight end (Spencer Bishop) are all gone. On the plus side, plenty of younger players saw action in 2013. The job this spring is to figure out who can take a big step forward entering the 2014 campaign.
  • The defensive scheme: Wake appears to be moving away from the 3-4 that was a hallmark of recent seasons, as new coordinator Mike Elko tries to maximize the talent remaining on the roster. Without veteran lineman Nikita Whitlock, Wake’s defensive front will have a far different look in 2014, and this spring will largely be about Elko identifying playmakers and tweaking his system to fit their skill sets.
Virginia Tech quarterback Mark Leal looked around his position meeting room this winter and realized just how empty it was. True freshman Andrew Ford, who enrolled early, and redshirt freshman Brenden Motley were his only company.

None of them has ever started a game.

“This is probably the most slim it’s been since I’ve been here,” said Leal, a fifth-year senior. “We’ve always had at least five or six guys, but right now it’s only three.”

[+] EnlargeJacoby Brissett, Garrett Leatham
Lance King/Getty ImagesJacoby Brissett (12) is one of several transfers who could move into starting roles in the ACC in 2014.
Sounds like the entire ACC, where six schools have absolutely zero quarterbacks returning with any starting experience, and four schools brought in transfers to help.

As spring practices begin throughout the conference, the ACC kicks off its 2014 season with a complete overhaul at the quarterback position. It was only a year ago that Florida State’s Jameis Winston was an unproven rookie who had yet to start a game. Now, the 20-year-old reigning Heisman Trophy winner is the veteran of the league, as nine of the 14 schools will have a first-year starting quarterback, and the competition is open at 11 programs. Florida State, Duke and NC State are the only programs that have definitively named starters, and even NC State doesn’t know what to expect out of first-year starter and Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett.

Brissett, though, knows what’s expected.

“Go make sure it was earned,” he said, “not given.”

Count on that to be a trend in the conference this spring.

Clemson, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest are all starting from scratch, without any starting experience at the quarterback position. Some of the league’s most recognizable names have to be replaced, including Tajh Boyd, Logan Thomas and Teddy Bridgewater. Coaches at North Carolina, Syracuse and Virginia have deemed their competitions open, in spite of experienced starters returning.

“I looked at that and was kind of surprised,” said Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas, the frontrunner to take over the job after Vad Lee’s decision to transfer. “It should even the playing field out a little bit, but at the same time, we all have to go through our parts.”

Not to mention spring and summer auditions.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said it’s likely the competition between Chad Kelly, Cole Stoudt and Deshaun Watson will extend beyond this spring -- and possibly into the season.

“Going in, Cole starts out as No. 1 simply because of where we finished the season -- basically by default, if you will,” Swinney said. “He’s the senior. It’s basically his to lose going in, but it’s incredibly close. You’re talking about -- in my opinion -- three guys who are going to play in the NFL. I believe with all my heart that Cole Stoudt is going to play in the NFL. And the same thing with Chad Kelly, and the same thing with Deshaun Watson, if they stay healthy. So you’ve got three NFL players competing to be the guy, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Some people say, well, if you don’t have one quarterback then you have none. But that’s not the case here.”

It could be the case elsewhere, though.

Virginia Tech (Michael Brewer), Boston College (Tyler Murphy), Miami (Ryan Williams) and NC State (Brissett) are all hoping that transfers can give the position an immediate boost, but former Texas Tech quarterback Brewer won’t join the Hokies until this summer. While none of them has started a game at their current schools, all but Brewer have started at least three games at their previous programs.

Williams started 10 games while he was at Memphis, and he’s the leading candidate to replace Stephen Morris, but “it is wide open,” according to offensive coordinator James Coley. And Williams knows it.

"You have to earn it, you have to earn everything,” Williams told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “I don't want anything given to me. If it's given to me, I didn't work hard enough.”

Brissett started three games at Florida, and Murphy started six games for the Gators after starter Jeff Driskel was lost for the season. Murphy went 2-4 with 1,216 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions before missing the final three games of the season with a shoulder injury.

Nothing is guaranteed in Chestnut Hill this spring, either, as the Eagles also have Darius Wade, a true freshman who enrolled early, and James Walsh, who will be a redshirt freshman.

[+] EnlargeTeddy Bridgewater
David Manning/USA TODAY SportsThe Cardinals are about to embark on life without Teddy Bridgewater.
“They’re all real green,” offensive coordinator Ryan Day said of the Eagles’ quarterbacks. “It’s obviously an open competition. I’m looking forward to getting out there and seeing them throw and run the offense. We’ll see. All three of these guys are mobile, they can run. They’re dual threats. We’re going to use that as a weapon for us. We’re not going to totally change what we do, but we’ll add that component to it.”

All eyes will be on Louisville’s quarterback competition, as the Cardinals enter their first season in the ACC without Bridgewater, who left early to enter the NFL draft. Will Gardner and Kyle Bolin will be the top two candidates this spring, and they’ll be joined by incoming freshman Reggie Bonnafon this summer.

“It’s wide open,” first-year coach Bobby Petrino said. “We’ll go through spring and see who comes out 1-2-3 and then obviously we’ll give Reggie an opportunity in the fall to compete with those guys.”

With the addition of Louisville, the ACC enters this season perceived by many to be the strongest it has ever been.

Now it just needs to find a few quarterbacks to help prove it.
There are plenty of intriguing matchups throughout the ACC in 2014, and there are also a few fluff schedules that should make for some sleepy September lineups. Andrea Adelson and Heather Dinich factored in opponent records, home and away games, and level of competition when trying to determine who had the toughest nonconference schedule in the ACC this year -- and who had the weakest.

Here's our lineup, starting with the most difficult (*denotes FCS opponents):

FLORIDA STATE: Oklahoma State (10-3), *The Citadel (5-7), Notre Dame (9-4), Florida (4-8)
  • Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: 56.0
  • Toughest opponent: Notre Dame
  • Weakest opponent: The Citadel
  • 2013 bowl teams: 2
  • Quick take: This schedule is more difficult than it was a year ago, when the Noles won the national title. Oklahoma State is a neutral site game in Arlington, Texas, but the Cowboys might not even be a preseason Top 25 team, and Florida still has something to prove. Having three games against quality opponents puts this one at the top and none of the other nonconference schedules are as tough. Still, the Noles should go 4-0 against these guys, with a home win over the Irish.
CLEMSON: At Georgia (8-5), *South Carolina State (9-4), Georgia State (0-12), South Carolina (11-2)
  • Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: 54.9
  • Toughest opponent: South Carolina
  • Weakest opponent: Georgia State
  • 2013 bowl teams: 2
  • Quick take: Playing Georgia and South Carolina again makes this one of the ACC's most difficult nonconference schedules, especially starting the season on the road against Georgia with a new quarterback. And will Clemson fans ever forgive Dabo Swinney if he loses to South Carolina at home, this time for a sixth straight loss against the in-state rivals?
NORTH CAROLINA: *Liberty (8-4), San Diego State (8-5), at East Carolina (10-3), at Notre Dame (9-4)
  • Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: .686
  • Toughest opponent: Notre Dame
  • Weakest opponent: Liberty
  • 2012 bowl teams: 3
  • Quick take: The Tar Heels have a big challenge ahead of them in nonconference play. Nobody needs to be reminded that East Carolina beat this team in Chapel Hill a year ago; traveling to South Bend is always a difficult proposition and Notre Dame figures to be good once again; and San Diego State finished second in its division in the Mountain West last year. Sweeping nonconference is possible, but is it probable? Going 3-1 is most likely.
VIRGINIA TECH: *William & Mary (7-5), At Ohio State (12-2), East Carolina (10-3), Western Michigan (1-11)
  • Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: .588
  • Toughest opponent: Ohio State
  • Weakest opponent: Western Michigan
  • 2013 bowl teams: 2
  • Quick take: The Hokies have two difficult nonconference games against Ohio State and East Carolina and a tricky FCS opponent in William & Mary, which has thrown its share of scares into teams over the last four seasons (including an upset of UVa in 2009). They barely survived the Pirates last year, and that game has a tricky placement on the schedule -- the week after the game at Columbus and the week before a big ACC opener against Georgia Tech. Virginia Tech should go 3-1 but a victory over East Carolina cannot be considered automatic.
MIAMI: *Florida A&M (3-9), Arkansas State (8-5), at Nebraska (9-4), Cincinnati (9-4)
  • Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: .569
  • Toughest opponent: Nebraska
  • Weakest opponent: Florida A&M
  • 2013 bowl teams: 3
  • Quick take: Miami has another daunting nonconference schedule this year. Traveling to Lincoln, Neb., will be difficult, while Arkansas State and Cincinnati have been bowl teams for years now. Arkansas State presents a high-powered spread offense that is always difficult to defend, and new coach Blake Anderson has a familiarity with the Canes from his days as North Carolina offensive coordinator. Cincinnati got blown out in the bowl game, but the Bearcats are not going to be a cakewalk. It would be unrealistic to expect a sweep of all these games. Going 3-1 would be a big win.
VIRGINIA: UCLA (10-3), *Richmond (6-6), at BYU (8-5), Kent State (4-8)
  • Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: .560
  • Toughest opponent: UCLA
  • Weakest opponent: Richmond
  • 2013 bowl teams: 2
  • Quick take: The Hoos do not have an easy go of it in nonconference play once again. Though we have Richmond as the weakest opponent, the Spiders have played tough against FBS competition. Last year, they nearly upset NC State and back in 2011, they beat Duke. The BYU game is in Provo, Utah, this year and comes the week after playing Louisville. Kent State is not a gimme, either, the Golden Flashes won 11 games in 2012. Still, going 2-2 has to be the worst case scenario here.
SYRACUSE: *Villanova (6-5), At Central Michigan (6-6), Maryland (7-6), Notre Dame (9-4)
  • Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: 57.1
  • Toughest opponent: Notre Dame
  • Weakest opponent: Villanova
  • 2013 bowl teams: 2
  • Quick take: The matchup against Maryland will be interesting because it will be the Terps' first season in the Big Ten, and Maryland will be looking to avenge last year's home Atlantic Division loss to the Orange. Maryland will be a much better team than last year, though, and Notre Dame should be a Top 25 preseason team. Overall, Cuse fans should expect a 2-2 finish, if not 3-1 with the lone loss to Notre Dame.
BOSTON COLLEGE: At UMass (1-11), USC (10-4), *Maine (10-3), Colorado State (8-6)
  • Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: 54.7
  • Toughest opponent: USC
  • Weakest opponent: UMass
  • 2013 bowl teams: 2
  • Quick take: This is a tricky schedule, but three of the games are at home. Obviously USC will be a tough task, and Colorado State proved it's no pushover in its bowl game. The Eagles should expect at least a 2-2 finish.
GEORGIA TECH: *Wofford (5-6), at Tulane (7-6), Georgia Southern (7-4), At Georgia (8-5)
  • Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: .563
  • Toughest opponent: Georgia
  • Weakest opponent: Wofford
  • 2013 bowl teams: 2
  • Quick take: This nonconference schedule is more manageable than it was a year ago, when BYU was on the slate in addition to Georgia. Though Tulane is improved and that game is on the road, the Jackets should be able to go 3-1 at worst against the teams they will face in 2014.
LOUISVILLE: *Murray State (6-6), At FIU (1-11), At Notre Dame (9-4), Kentucky (2-10)
  • Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: 36.7
  • Toughest opponent: at Notre Dame
  • Weakest opponent: FIU
  • 2013 bowl teams: 1
  • Quick take: This is a schedule Louisville should cruise through, with the exception of the road trip to Notre Dame. Last year, Louisville beat FIU 72-0, and beat Kentucky on the road. It's definitely a good setup for a team trying to break it a new coaching staff and quarterback.
WAKE FOREST: At Louisiana-Monroe (6-6), *Gardner-Webb (7-5), At Utah State (9-5), Army (3-9)
  • Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: 50.0
  • Toughest opponent: Utah State
  • Weakest opponent: Army
  • 2013 bowl teams: 1
  • Quick take: This is a very kind schedule for first-year coach Dave Clawson, and one that on paper, an ACC program should theoretically bulldoze. Don't forget, though, that the Deacs lost to Louisiana-Monroe last year. Nothing is a given for this team in transition.
PITT: *Delaware (7-5), At FIU (1-11), Iowa (8-5), Akron (5-7)
  • Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: .429
  • Toughest opponent: Iowa
  • Weakest opponent: Delaware
  • 2013 bowl teams: 1
  • Quick take: The Panthers have a much easier nonconference schedule, now that Notre Dame is no longer on the slate every year. Iowa is a solid team, but that game at home should be very winnable for the Panthers. FIU was abysmal a season ago, while Akron has made some strides under coach Terry Bowden. Still, Pitt has a realistic shot at going unbeaten in nonconference play for the first time since it began playing a conference schedule in 1993.
DUKE: *Elon (2-10), at Troy (6-6), Kansas (3-9), Tulane (7-6)
  • Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: .367
  • Toughest opponent: Tulane
  • Weakest opponent: Elon
  • 2013 bowl teams: 1
  • Quick take: Duke has one of the easiest nonconference schedules in the league, setting up the Blue Devils to go unbeaten in nonconference play for the second straight year. In fact, you could make the case that the nonconference schedule this year is easier than it was a year ago, even with a power five opponent in Kansas on the slate. Tulane is much improved, but anything other than 4-0 with this schedule would be a disappointment.
NC STATE: Georgia Southern (7-4), Old Dominion (8-4), At South Florida (2-10), *Presbyterian (3-8)
  • Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: 43.4
  • Toughest opponent: At South Florida
  • Weakest opponent: Presbyterian
  • 2013 bowl teams: 0
  • Quick take: Dave Doeren should be 4-0 heading into the Florida State game on Sept. 27. If a road trip to a 2-10 program is going to be his toughest challenge of the nonconference season, there's no reason the Wolfpack shouldn't exceed last year's win total in the nonconference schedule alone. Rival UNC beat ODU 80-20.
Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson’s first recruiting class was put together in a matter of weeks -- a timetable cut unenviably short, much like the task of Penn State coach James Franklin.

Their approaches, though, were vastly different.

When Clawson left Bowling Green, he also left his recruiting class. Franklin, however, continued to pursue some of the recruits he had committed to Vanderbilt, and was praised for flipping five pledges from his former school. For some of those teenagers, the relationship with the head coach overrides the actual school. They commit to the coach, not the program.

[+] EnlargeDave Clawson
Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images/AP ImagesWake Forest coach Dave Clawson didn't believe it was right to try to recruit players who were committed to Bowling Green, his former school.
"It's not about the buildings; it's about the people inside the buildings," Franklin told ESPN.com Big Ten reporter Adam Rittenberg. "That comes down to relationships and trust and all those things. We've had guys we've been recruiting across the country for two years, and we were going to stick with those guys. The same thing with the recruits and families. They were comfortable with us and who we are as men and how we conduct ourselves. It also helped that we went from one school to another that has similar philosophies when it comes to academics."

Clawson, who was hired in December, used the recruiting dead period to hire his staff and called it a “three-week sprint” to start from scratch on the recruiting trail. He didn't consider Bowling Green’s targets much of an option, for several reasons.

“I didn’t think it was right to do that,” Clawson said. “We didn’t want to recruit anybody who had committed to us at our previous school. There were a handful of guys we had recruited there that had not committed there, and part of the reason they didn’t commit there is they were probably above us. Some of those players were able to get on [at Wake Forest], and I think those were some of our better commits.”

Ironically, so was a former Vanderbilt pledge.

Once Franklin left Vandy, that opened the door for Wake Forest to recruit some of those pledges, too. The Deacs’ top recruit, receiver Kameron Uter, was once a Vanderbilt commit. Head coaching changes open the door for last-minute decisions and late pushes by rival coaches. Clawson said the Wake staff was careful, though, to respect solid commitments.

“What we did, quite honestly, was, if that relationship was intact -- probably not too many kids were going to switch if they had committed to a place that had the same head coach, same coordinator, same recruiting coach, all those relationships,” he said. “If there were instances that that relationship had changed because of a head coaching change, we certainly approached those players and asked if they were still committed. If they told us no, that became our opportunity to get guys we felt were ACC-level players that we weren’t now at a relationship disadvantage.”

Clawson and his staff did the best they could under the circumstances -- just as Franklin did at Penn State. They just had a different philosophy in how to get it done.

Final ACC Power Rankings

January, 15, 2014
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The final power rankings of 2013 are in, and Florida State owns No. 1 after winning its first national title since 1999. There was some movement after an ACC-record 11 teams played their bowl games, but not much. Here’s the final verdict for the ACC’s 2013 pecking order:

1. Florida State (14-0, 8-0 ACC; Previous ranking: No. 1): The Noles’ 34-31 win over No. 2 Auburn in the VIZIO BCS National Championship was one of the most thrilling of the 16-year BCS era, which came to an end with FSU on top once again. Trailing by four with 79 seconds left, Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston orchestrated the game-winning drive and helped snap the SEC’s streak of seven straight national titles.

2. Clemson (11-2, 7-1; PR: No. 2): The Tigers’ thrilling 40-35 win over Ohio State in the Discover Orange Bowl gave the ACC a 2-0 record in BCS bowls, and Clemson finished with an 11-win season for the second straight year. Clemson became the only team in the nation to beat a top-10 team in a bowl game in each of the past two seasons.

3. Duke (10-4, 6-2; PR: No. 3): Duke gave Texas A&M everything it had in the Chick-fil-A Bowl before losing 52-48 to the Aggies and Johnny Manziel. The Blue Devils represented the ACC well, taking a 41-31 lead into the fourth quarter, but are still looking for their first bowl win since 1961.

4. North Carolina (7-6, 4-4; PR: No. 7): The Tar Heels made a jump in the ranking thanks to their convincing 39-17 win over Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl. Ryan Switzer returned a punt 86 yards for a touchdown to help the Heels win their first Belk Bowl in four tries. It was his fifth punt return for a touchdown this season, tying an NCAA record.

5. Virginia Tech (8-5, 5-3; PR: No. 4): This is where the rankings started to get particularly difficult, as the Hokies, Miami and Georgia Tech all lost their respective bowl games. We gave the nod to Virginia Tech, though, in spite of the 42-12 drubbing by UCLA because it was a respectable game until quarterback Logan Thomas was injured early in the second quarter.

6. Miami (9-4, 5-3; PR: No. 5): The Canes had no excuse for another porous defensive performance, this time in a 36-9 loss to incoming ACC member Louisville and standout quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Miami’s offense, meanwhile, was equally inept. The Canes were 0-for-11 on third downs in what was the final game for quarterback Stephen Morris.

7. Georgia Tech (7-6, 5-3; PR: No. 6): The Jackets ended the season with back-to-back losses to SEC opponents, including the 25-17 loss to Ole Miss. An interception in the final minute sealed the Rebels’ win, and Georgia Tech has now lost eight of nine bowls.

8. Pittsburgh (7-6, 3-5; PR: No. 11). The Panthers posted their first winning season since 2010, thanks in large part to the highly decorated Aaron Donald. The defensive tackle won every major defensive award he was nominated for after setting up camp in offensive backfields. Pitt was largely inconsistent for most of the season, but the Panthers did notch wins over Duke, Notre Dame and MAC champions Bowling Green in the Little Caesars Bowl.

9. Syracuse (7-6, 4-4; PR: No. 8). Give the Orange credit for the way they closed their first ACC season; consecutive last-second wins allowed them to finish above .500, a major victory considering the conference transition and new coaching staff. There were some ugly blowout losses, but Syracuse kept plugging away. Terrel Hunt showed major strides at the end of the year.

10. Boston College (7-6, 4-4; PR: No. 9). Not many expected the Eagles to make a bowl game or finish with a winning record. But maybe even more unbelievable was watching Andre Williams rush for 2,177 yards and finish fourth in Heisman voting. The Eagles had a wonderful turnaround season, but their bowl performance drops them here among the 7-6 teams.

11. Maryland (7-6, 3-5; PR: No. 10). On the plus side, the Terps made it to a bowl game and had a winning record for the first time under Randy Edsall, even without Stefon Diggs. On the minus side, they lost to Marshall in the bowl game. By double digits. Maryland only beat one ACC team with a winning record all season as injuries piled up once again. Good luck in the Big Ten!

12. Wake Forest (4-8, 2-6; PR: No. 12). Given all the returning seniors, coach Jim Grobe thought he had a bowl team on his hands. But offensive issues plagued this team once again, and were magnified when Michael Campanaro got hurt in November and missed the rest of the season. Grobe resigned in December after 13 years in charge.

13. NC State (3-9, 0-8; PR: No. 13). Safe to say Year 1 did not go the way anybody planned in Raleigh, the first winless ACC season since 1959. Injuries piled up, but quarterback problems were the biggest issue that could not be overcome. Dave Doeren hopes transfer Jacoby Brissett is the answer in 2014.

14. Virginia (2-10, 0-8; PR No. 14). Mike London has now posted consecutive losing seasons, turning up the heat in Charlottesville. The revamped staff remains largely in place, so the expectation is to see much improvement with another year in the scheme and contributions from some of the freshmen in the top 25 recruiting class London is projected to sign.

ACC all-BCS-era team

January, 13, 2014
Jan 13
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Now that the BCS era has finally come to a close, and we move into the first season of the College Football Playoff, ESPN.com is looking back at the best of the BCS (1998-2014). This was not an easy task, but Andrea Adelson and I did our best to compile an all-star cast of the ACC's BCS era:

OFFENSE

QB: Chris Weinke, Florida State: Weinke led the Seminoles to three straight national championship games as he complied a 32-3 record at Florida State as the starting quarterback. During his Heisman-winning season, Weinke led the nation in passing with 4,167 yards during the regular season -- an average of 347.3 yards per game.

RB: C.J. Spiller, Clemson: Spiller accounted for an ACC-record 191.4 yards per game and scored a touchdown in every game. Over his four-year career, he racked up more than 3,000 yards rushing, 2,000 yards in kickoff returns, 1,000 yards receiving and 500 yards in punt returns.

RB: Andre Williams, Boston College: He recorded an ACC-record 2,102 rushing yards on 329 carries in 2013, marking the ninth-best rushing season in the history of college football. He finished the regular season ranked first among all FBS running backs in the country in rushing yards per game (175.2) and broke Boston College's single-season rushing record formerly held by Mike Cloud (1,726, 1998) in 10 games.

WR: Sammy Watkins, Clemson: In just three years, Watkins set 23 school records, including receptions and reception yards for a game, season and career. Watkins finished his career with 240 receptions for 3,391 yards and 27 touchdowns. He finished his career with 5,129 all-purpose yards, second in Clemson history to Spiller’s 7,588.

[+] EnlargePeter Warrick, Anthony Midget
Matthew Stockman/AllsportPeter Warrick was a dynamic force for Florida State, helping lead the Seminoles to the BCS championship after the 1999 season.
WR: Peter Warrick, Florida State: He had more touchdown receptions (32) than any player in FSU history, and he finished his career as the ACC’s all-time receiving yardage leader with 3,517 yards. He averaged 13.2 yards per reception in 1999, ran for 96 yards on 16 carries with three touchdowns and averaged 12.6 yards on 18 punt returns.

WR: Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech: The two-time All-America wide receiver and Biletnikoff Award winner set school records with 2,927 yards receiving and 28 touchdown receptions. He caught 178 passes to rank second in Tech history in career receptions. He finished with a career average of 16.4 yards per catch and had a school-record 13 100-yard games.

TE: Vernon Davis, Maryland: Davis was a consensus All-American in 2005, first-team all-ACC selection, and finalist for the Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end. He started every game, leading the team with 51 receptions and the conference with 871 receiving yards (17.1 average). He was also one of the top blockers at his position.

OL: Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina: He was a consensus All-American as a senior in 2012 and a finalist for the Outland Trophy. During his senior season, as the lead blocker for Giovani Bernard, Cooper won the ACC’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy and was first-team all-conference.

OL -- Rodney Hudson, FSU: The four-year starter capped off his career as the most decorated offensive lineman in Atlantic Coast Conference history, earning consensus first-team All-American honors. He played 904 snaps as a senior in 2010 and led the team with 48 knockdown blocks while being penalized just once.

OL -- D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Virginia: He finished his Virginia career as the most decorated offensive lineman in school history. He was named a first-team All-American as a senior in 2005 and was an All-ACC pick as both a junior and senior. He started all 49 games in which he played, the most by an offensive lineman in school history. His 49 career starts are the second most by an offensive lineman in ACC history and a figure topped by only 13 offensive linemen in FBS history at the time his career ended.

C -- Jake Grove, Virginia Tech: He was a unanimous All-American, winner of the Rimington Trophy, and a second-round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders in 2004. He moved to center, where he flourished as a junior and senior, and had his jersey retired in 2006.

OL -- Alex Barron, Florida State: He was the only Seminoles offensive lineman in school history to earn two-time consensus All-America honors and have his locker sealed. He started 24 of 25 games at tackle over the final two seasons of his career in 2004 and 2005. He was regarded as the nation’s top pass-blocker as a junior and senior.

DEFENSE

DL -- Julius Peppers, North Carolina: Peppers was an absolute beast for the Tar Heels, winning the Lombardi and Bednarik awards in 2001, along with unanimous All-America honors. In three years, he compiled 30.5 sacks (including 15 in 2000).

DL -- Mario Williams, NC State: Williams was a force throughout his entire career, but most especially his junior season, when he set single-season school records with 14.5 sacks and 27.5 tackles for loss en route to All-ACC honors. He became the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft in 2006.

[+] EnlargeAaron Donald
Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY SportsAaron Donald's one ACC season was a great one, as he cleaned up on the postseason awards circuit.
DL -- Aaron Donald, Pitt: Donald spent one season in the ACC but put together an outstanding overall career. In his senior year, he won the Nagurski and Outland trophies, and the Lombardi, Bednarik and ACC Defensive Player of the Year awards after compiling 28.5 tackles for loss, 11 sacks and 16 hurries.

DL -- Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson: Bowers set the Clemson record with 15.5 sacks in 2010, ranking No. 6 on the ACC single-season list. He won the Nagurski Trophy as the top defensive player in the nation that season, along with the Ted Hendricks Defensive End of the Year award, ACC Defensive Player of the Year and unanimous All-America honors.

LB -- Luke Kuechly, Boston College: Kuechly left Boston College ranking No. 2 in NCAA history in career total tackles (532). He recorded at least 10 tackles in 34 of 38 career games and was a three-time All-ACC and All-America selection. In 2011, he won the Butkus, Lombardi and Nagurski awards and was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

LB -- E.J. Henderson, Maryland: Henderson was an All-American in 2001 and 2002, setting a single-season school record with 26 tackles for loss in 2001, winning the ACC Player of the Year honor that season. He was selected ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2002 and also won the Bednarik and Butkus awards.

LB -- Aaron Curry, Wake Forest: Curry started virtually every game of his career. He returned three interceptions for touchdowns in 2007 and added 105 tackles in 2008, earning him the Butkus Award and first-team All-ACC status.

CB -- Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest: Smith is one of the most decorated players in school history, earning first-team All-America honors in 2008. Smith finished his career with a school-record 61 passes defended and an ACC-record 21 interceptions and was an All-ACC selection in 2007 and 2008.

CB -- Jimmy Williams, Virginia Tech: Williams was a two-time All-ACC selection in 2004 and 2005. In 2004, he led the ACC with five interceptions and 19 passes defended. He was a consensus All-American in 2005.

S -- Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State: Joyner had an outstanding career as both a safety and cornerback, becoming an All-ACC selection at both positions. Joyner was a finalist for the Thorpe Award in 2013 and a unanimous All-American.

S -- Antrel Rolle, Miami: Like Donald, Rolle spent only one season playing in the ACC, but it was an incredible one. Rolle was a unanimous All-American and became the eighth overall pick in the 2005 draft.

SPECIAL TEAMS

PK -- Sebastian Janikowski, Florida State: Janikowski won the Lou Groza Award twice (1998, 1999) and remains the ACC leader in career scoring for field goal kickers with 1.94 field goals per game.

P -- Ryan Plackemeier, Wake Forest: Plackemeier was a three-time All-ACC selection from 2003 to 2005 and ranks No. 2 in league history with his 45.26-yard average. He won the Ray Guy Award in 2005 and was a consensus All-American.

RS -- Spiller: One of the best return men of all time, Spiller set an ACC single-season record with four kickoff returns for touchdowns in 2009. He led the league in all-purpose yards in 2008 and 2009 and holds the ACC career mark in the category.

ACC Power Rankings: Week 15

December, 11, 2013
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For the first time all season, the power rankings remained unchanged. That’s because the only game last week was the ACC championship game, which went as many had expected it would. Not only is FSU still the No. 1 team in the ACC, it’s still tops in the BCS standings. Here’s how the ACC’s pecking order looks heading into bowl season:

1. Florida State (13-0, 8-0 ACC; LW: No. 1): The Seminoles started slow in the first quarter, but eventually cruised to a 45-7 win over Coastal Division champ Duke. Quarterback Jameis Winston won the game’s MVP award and was named a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. The next challenge for FSU will be stopping Auburn’s run game in the Vizio BCS National Championship.

2. Clemson (10-2, 7-1; LW: No. 2): The Tigers will play Ohio State in the Discover Orange Bowl, not a bad consolation prize for the No. 2 team in the ACC this year. Clemson could use a win to help its fans forget its last appearance in the Orange Bowl as well as a dreadful performance in a fifth straight loss to SEC rival South Carolina.

3. Duke (10-3, 6-2; LW: No. 3): The Blue Devils have nothing to be ashamed of after the loss to Florida State, as they held the Noles scoreless for a quarter and were simply overmatched like every other team on FSU’s schedule. Duke still earned a spot in the prestigious Chick-fil-A Bowl and will have a chance at another marquee win in a matchup against Texas A&M.

4. Virginia Tech (8-4, 5-3; LW: No. 4): The Hokies had a respectable season, but it was still far below their expectations and those of their fans. With losses to Boston College, Duke and Maryland, Virginia Tech’s hopes of returning to the ACC title game were out of its control. The program will get another shot to finish the season on an impressive note, as it will face a tough UCLA team in the Sun Bowl.

5. Miami (9-3, 5-3; LW: No. 5): The Hurricanes were a tough team to judge this year, but they remain a work in progress and drew one of the league’s most interesting bowl matchups, facing Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Quarterbacks Stephen Morris and Teddy Bridgewater will be the main storyline as the Canes aim for a 10-win season.

6. Georgia Tech (7-5, 5-3; LW: No. 6): The Yellow Jackets squandered a 20-point lead in a loss to rival Georgia, but will get another chance at the SEC when they face Ole Miss in the Music City Bowl. The Rebels’ offense has struggled in the past two games, while Georgia Tech is looking to build on its bowl success after last year’s win over USC snapped a seven-game bowl losing streak.

7. North Carolina (6-6, 4-4; LW: No. 7): The Tar Heels are thrilled at their opportunity to return to a bowl game after serving a one-year postseason ban last year because of NCAA sanctions. They’ll face Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl, a great chance for coach Larry Fedora to showcase the program to in-state recruits. This will be UNC’s fourth appearance in the Belk Bowl, but the program is looking for its first win there.

8. Syracuse (6-6, 4-4; LW: No. 8): The Orange beat Boston College 34-31 in the regular-season finale to become bowl eligible in the first year under coach Scott Shafer, but Syracuse has already struck out twice against the Big Ten and Minnesota is playing well. Generating offense isn’t going to get any easier against the Golden Gophers’ stingy defense.

9. Boston College (7-5, 4-4; LW: No. 9): Despite his injury in the Syracuse game, running back Andre Williams was named a finalist for the prestigious Heisman Trophy. Williams is the second player in school history to travel to New York for the Heisman Trophy announcement, joining former Eagles quarterback Doug Flutie. Williams and the Eagles will get an interesting matchup against Arizona in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl.

10. Maryland (7-5, 3-5; LW: No. 10): The Terps get a virtual home game against Marshall, as they will travel to nearby Annapolis for the Military Bowl -- their final game as members of the ACC before moving to the Big Ten. It’s going to be a good test for Maryland, as Marshall won the C-USA East title and seven of its last eight regular-season games.

11. Pitt (6-6, 3-5; LW: No. 11): Pitt lost four of its final six games and barely snuck past Syracuse to become bowl eligible with just one game remaining. The Panthers will face a successful 10-win Bowling Green team that just won its first MAC championship in 21 years and has the nation’s No. 5 scoring defense at 14.8 points per game. Bowling Green is in transition, however, as coach Dave Clawson is leaving to take the Wake Forest job. Speaking of the Deacs …

12. Wake Forest (4-8, 2-6; LW: No. 12): After five straight losing seasons, coach Jim Grobe has resigned. The Deacs ended the season with five straight losses, and ahead of only NC State in the Atlantic Division standings. On Monday afternoon, the university officially announced Clawson as its next head coach.

13. NC State (3-9, 0-8; LW: No. 13): First-year coach Dave Doeren knew it would be a bumpy ride, but not even he could foresee the amount of injuries to key players that would contribute to a winless record in the ACC. Doeren said there are plenty of positives to look forward to, and the team is ready to move forward with transfer Jacoby Brissett as its new starting quarterback.

14. Virginia (2-10, 0-8; LW: No. 14): Coach Mike London is hitting the recruiting trail hard, as he should after a winless season in ACC play. The quarterback position continues to be an issue, and the staff overhaul that was made last offseason didn’t translate in the win column.

ACC weekend rewind: Week 14

December, 2, 2013
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That does it for the ACC regular season, which has left us with Duke and Florida State to play for the league's crown Saturday in Charlotte, N.C. Before we get there, however, we will take one look back at the week that was in our weekend rewind.

[+] EnlargeBenjamin
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsOnly Duke stands in the way of Kelvin Benjamin and FSU playing for the national title.
The good. There is a new No. 1 in town, as Florida State tops the latest BCS standings after taking care of business in Gainesville, Fla., before watching previously top-ranked Alabama fall at Auburn. While the politicking between the now-No. 3 Tigers and No. 2 Ohio State will wage over the next week (and likely beyond), the Seminoles are now left with a simple formula: Beat Duke on Saturday, and they will close their season in Pasadena, Calif., playing for all the marbles. (Oh, and Kelvin Benjamin had himself a pretty nice day for the Noles, too.)

The bad. It was a weekend of blown opportunities for the ACC against the SEC, which got the upper hand in three of four matchups. After FSU beat Florida -- as it should have -- Georgia Tech blew a 20-0 first-half lead and fell at home in double overtime to an Aaron Murray-less Georgia 41-34. Wake Forest let a four-point lead late get away at Vanderbilt, which kicked a pair of fourth-quarter field goals to escape with the victory. And then, for the cherry on top, Clemson turned the ball over six times to drop its fifth straight to rival South Carolina.

The ugly. Virginia fell to Virginia Tech 16-6, a fitting margin of defeat for a team that has now dropped 10 straight to the rival Hokies in the Commonwealth Cup, and one that has now ended the season on a 10-game slide. NC State did not fare much better, as Maryland beat the Wolfpack 41-21, in the Terrapins' final ACC game, meaning NC State also finishes winless in conference play under first-year coach Dave Doeren, losing its last eight and nine of its final 10. Kudos to Florida State for carrying the ACC flag to the top overall ranking this year, but the bottom of the league was as ugly as ever in 2013.

Now what? These last few years are tough to put in perspective for Clemson. Dabo Swinney and Tajh Boyd have, in some ways, taken the Tigers to new heights, amassing great recruiting classes and breaking records. At 10-2, Clemson has its third straight season with double-digit wins; it had not posted consecutive 10-win seasons since 1989-90. At No. 13 in the BCS standings, a second Orange Bowl berth in three years remains a real possibility. Yet Swinney and Boyd are 0-5 against rival South Carolina, and just 2-3 against top ACC competitor Florida State -- including an 0-4 mark against those teams in the last two years while going 21-0 against everyone else. The Tigers deserve credit for taking a sledgehammer to the word "Clemsoning" and erasing it from everyone's vernacular in recent years, but knowing that it still came up short against its toughest foes during a historic run has to be a tough pill to swallow, especially with no sign of the Seminoles slowing down.

Happy Thanksgiving. Pitt might have had a Black Friday to forget, as it lost at home to Miami,41-31. But the Panthers can be forgiven if they were in an extra-festive mood Thanksgiving night. That's because Mississippi State topped Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl, assuring the SEC of 10 bowl-eligible teams and, more importantly, eliminating the potential vacant spot in the BBVA Compass Bowl, where Pitt has closed its last three seasons in Birmingham, Ala. Happy Thanksgiving, indeed.

[+] EnlargeTerrel Hunt
Kellen Micah/Icon SMITerrel Hunt came up big to get Syracuse bowl eligible with a win over Boston College.
Bowl-bound. Syracuse extended its season by the slimmest of margins, as Terrel Hunt hit Josh Parris for an 8-yard touchdown pass with six seconds remaining to deliver a 34-31 win over Boston College for victory No. 6. Hunt played his best ACC game yet, completing 29 of 43 passes for 270 yards with two touchdowns and one pick. He also ran for 90 yards and another score. And now both newcomers, Syracuse and Pitt, are bowl-eligible in their first seasons in the ACC. Not too shabby.

Heisman hopes hurting. While it was a day of celebration for the Orange, it might have also been a blow to Boston College's hopes of getting its first Heisman Trophy winner since Doug Flutie. Andre Williams left the game with an injury in the third quarter, meaning his final impression on the voters was a line of nine carries for 29 yards and a touchdown. Syracuse and Ohio State now remain the only teams in the nation not to allow a 100-yard rusher this season. Williams still has a solid chance of making it to New York for the Heisman ceremony, but you have to think his chances of winning the trophy now are slim.

DeVon, again. DeVon Edwards can change a game in an instant, as evidenced by his consecutive pick-sixes -- and kickoff returns for a touchdown -- in Duke's win over NC State earlier this month. But the versatile 5-foot-9 redshirt freshman was not done for the month, as he made it a November to remember by returning a kickoff 99 yards for a score and then coming up with the game-sealing interception in the Blue Devils' 27-25 win at North Carolina to clinch a spot in the ACC title game. Coach David Cutcliffe was carried off the field after the win, Duke's record 10th of the season. It will now take aim at the Seminoles as it goes for its first ACC title since 1989.

ACC Power Rankings: Week 14

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
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Not much movement in the latest installment of the Power Rankings. As has been the case this season, there is a clear top and a clear bottom. The others can duke it out in the middle.

1. Florida State (12-0, 8-0; last week: No. 1). The Noles are the new No. 1 team in the nation after they completed their regular season unbeaten and Alabama lost. All that is left to secure a spot in the BCS title game is a win over Duke in the ACC championship game Saturday. This FSU team has been utterly dominant all season long, beating its opponents by an average of 42 points per game.

2. Clemson (10-2, 7-1; LW: No. 2). The same old problems plagued the Tigers in their fifth straight loss to rival South Carolina: turnovers. Six of them, to be exact, in a 31-17 loss. Though this team ends the regular season with 10 wins for just the fifth time in school history, losing to both Florida State and South Carolina has to be utterly disappointing for a group that went into the season with national championship aspirations.

3. Duke (10-2, 6-2; LW: No. 3). The history-making season continues. Duke beat in-state rival North Carolina 27-25 to post the first 10-win season in school history and win the Coastal Division outright. The challenge grows steeper now against Florida State in the ACC title game. Winning the Coastal is one thing. But now Duke will see how it measures up against the best team in the nation.

4. Virginia Tech (8-4, 5-3; LW: No. 4). It was not pretty, but Virginia Tech beat Virginia yet again to close the season on a high note. There will be plenty of "what could have beens" spoken among Hokies fans, considering some of the ugly losses that ended up costing them dearly. Still, this season was an improvement over last even if it didn't feel that way at times.

5. Miami (9-3, 5-3; LW: No. 5). Give the Hurricanes credit for finishing the season out the right way after a three-game losing streak threatened to derail them. Miami soundly beat Pittsburgh on the road and has won nine games for the first time since 2009. A win in the bowl game would give Miami at least 10 wins for the first time since going 11-2 in 2003. There is no doubt progress is being made.

6. Georgia Tech (7-5, 5-3; LW: No. 6). What a heartbreaking way to end the season for the Jackets, who blew a 20-0 lead on in-state rival Georgia and lost in double overtime. This team can take pride in its effort, though it is little consolation today. Still, Georgia Tech did beat Duke soundly in September. It could not get out of its own way in losses to Virginia Tech and Miami, and that ended up costing it a spot in Charlotte.

7. North Carolina (6-6, 4-4; LW: No. 7). The Tar Heels saw their five-game winning streak come to an end in a loss to Duke, but that should not take away from what this team accomplished in the second half of the season. There is not much doubt this team is playing some of the best football in the ACC right now and has rising stars on its roster in Marquise Williams, Ryan Switzer, Bug Howard, Quinshad Davis and T.J. Logan.

8. Syracuse (6-6, 4-4; LW: No. 11). The Orange could not have waited any longer to become bowl eligible, running out all but six seconds on the season before beating Boston College with a last-second scoring pass. Though this was not as successful a season as last season, give the Orange props for standing on the verge of making consecutive bowl games for the first time since 1998-99.

9. Boston College (7-5, 4-4; LW: No. 8). One week after winning a heart-stopper over Maryland, the Eagles lost a heart-stopper to Syracuse. Still, there is no way to look at this season as anything other than a rousing success. Boston College is going back to a bowl game and has instilled a toughness on this team that will be a signature as long as Steve Addazio is the coach.

10. Maryland (7-5, 3-5; LW: No. 10). The Terps closed out their final ACC season with a 41-21 win over NC State in another outstanding performance for quarterback C.J. Brown. Definite progress was made after two miserable losing seasons, but the Terps are headed into the unknown as they switch over to the Big Ten.

11. Pitt (6-6, 3-5; LW: No. 9). The Panthers closed the season 2-4 and are lucky to be bowl eligible given the way they have played for a majority of the season. Special teams did them in again in a 41-31 loss to Miami to end the year. Among the myriad issues this team dealt with, it was an inability to run the ball that probably vexed it most. Tom Savage was simply asked to do too much.

12. Wake Forest (4-8, 2-6; LW: No. 12). The Deacs closed another tough season with a heartbreaking loss to Vanderbilt. On the season, they lost four games by a touchdown or less. Wins in two of those would have gotten them to bowl eligibility again. Instead, coach Jim Grobe is facing another long offseason full of questions.

13. NC State (3-9, 0-8; LW: No. 13). Nobody anticipated the Wolfpack would go from a bowl team to one of the worst teams in the ACC under new coach Dave Doeren. But injuries, scheme changes on offense and defense and instability at quarterback sent this team spiraling. The Wolfpack lost eight of their nine games by double digits.

14. Virginia (2-10, 0-8; LW: No. 14). The Hoos completed their worst season since 1982 with a 10th straight loss to in-state rival Virginia Tech. Athletic director Craig Littlepage has given coach Mike London a vote of confidence headed into next season, but there cannot be any margin for error in 2014. London must win to save his job.

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 14

November, 27, 2013
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Andrea and Heather each went 7-2 last week, so AA retains her one-game lead in the standings with a 78-21 overall record. We disagree on a few games this week.

Now on to the picks!

Friday

Miami (8-3, 4-3) at Pitt (6-5, 3-4), 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC. #MIAvsPITT. The Canes need a victory for their first nine-win season since 2009 and to keep their slim Coastal Division hopes alive. But they are banged up in the secondary and continue to have problems stopping the run. That could end up being what cures the ailing Pitt offense, which did just enough to beat Syracuse last week and clinch bowl eligibility. Aaron Donald plays his final game at home, too, and will help the Panthers stuff the Miami run, which has been mostly ineffective since losing Duke Johnson for the season.

Andrea Adelson picks: Pitt 24, Miami 21

Heather Dinich picks: Pitt 24, Miami 21

Saturday

No. 2 Florida State (11-0) at Florida (4-7), noon ET, ESPN. #FSUvsUF. The only question heading into this game is how badly the Seminoles are going to beat the sliding Gators, who lost to FCS Georgia Southern a week ago. Injuries have taken a toll at Florida at just about every position on the field, including quarterback, where Tyler Murphy remains questionable. It seems a near certainty that Florida State will set a record with 40-plus points scored for the 12th consecutive game.

AA picks: Florida State 40, Florida 10

HD picks: Florida State 52, Florida 3

No. 24 Duke (9-2, 5-2) at North Carolina (6-5, 4-3), noon ET, ESPN2. #DUKEvsUNC. This is one of the toughest games to call on the weekend. Duke has proven itself to be worthy of a Coastal Division championship with seven straight wins -- including victories over Miami and Virginia Tech. North Carolina is surging, too, with five straight wins to clinch bowl eligibility.

AA picks: Duke 31, North Carolina 28: This game is going to come down to the fourth quarter, where the Duke defense has been stellar, allowing 34 total points all season. The Duke D will be the difference, getting the Blue Devils to the ACC championship game.

HD picks: North Carolina 28, Duke 24: Duke has been a fourth-quarter team, but a slow start this Saturday will be the difference. The Tar Heels, energized by their winning streak, Senior Day and what will be the final home game for standout tight end Eric Ebron, will jump out to an early lead and be too much for another heroic comeback by the Blue Devils. Marquise Williams will have the edge at quarterback, Ebron will close his career in Chapel Hill with a bang and the Coastal Division title will fall into the hands of Virginia Tech.

Wake Forest (4-7, 2-6) at Vanderbilt (7-4, 4-4), 12:21 p.m. ET, GamePlan. #WAKEvsVANDY. The Deacs have lost four games in a row and will not be going to a bowl game for the fourth time in five seasons. Wake Forest's defense has played well enough to win in a majority of its games this year, but the offense has not been able to get out of its own way. Vanderbilt has a clear edge in this game at just about every position and should not have any problems getting the win.

AA picks: Vanderbilt 35, Wake Forest 17

HD picks: Vanderbilt 28, Wake Forest 17

Maryland (6-5, 2-5) at NC State (3-8, 0-7), 12:30 p.m. ET, GamePlan. #MDvsNCST. AA picked NC State on a flyer last week to beat East Carolina, then watched the Wolfpack confirm their status as one of the worst teams in the ACC. We have no doubt NC State is going to be supremely motivated to avoid a winless season in ACC play, on Senior Day no less. But the Wolfpack have been unable to overcome their major issues at quarterback, while Maryland is much more stable with C.J. Brown under center.

AA picks: Maryland 31, NC State 20

HD picks: Maryland 28, NC State 21

Georgia (7-4, 5-3 SEC) at Georgia Tech (7-4, 5-3), 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC. #UGAvsGT. The Bulldogs have dealt with injury issues all season, and now they have to go up against Georgia Tech without starting quarterback Aaron Murray, who is out for the season with a torn ACL.

AA picks: Georgia 35, Georgia Tech 31: But it might not be as dire as it seems. Backup quarterback Hutson Mason helped the Georgia offense gain 309 yards on 37 plays in a lopsided win over Kentucky last week after Murray's injury. Mason had two scores himself. Todd Gurley also is in the backfield, which is huge for Mason and the entire offense. Georgia Tech is much better than Kentucky, but the Jackets have only beaten one team with seven or more victories this season (Duke, back in September).

HD picks: Georgia Tech 31, Georgia 28: Yes, Georgia has Gurley, but it doesn’t have its quarterback. Mason, who has 82 career passing attempts, is the next man up, and he’ll be facing a Georgia Tech defense that has made significant strides under Ted Roof and is led by Jeremiah Attaochu, whose 27 career sacks are the third-most by any active FBS player. The Jackets’ answer to Gurley will be Robert Godhigh, who leads all FBS running backs with 13 yards per play. Paul Johnson is 1-5 all-time against Georgia, including one loss as coach at Georgia Southern. With Murray out, this is the game in which Johnson starts to improve that record.

Boston College (7-4, 4-3) at Syracuse (5-6, 3-4), 3:30 p.m. ET, GamePlan. #BCvsCUSE. The teams revive their Big East rivalry as ACC teams in the same division. Syracuse needs a victory to become the 11th bowl-eligible team in the ACC, but faces a formidable task of trying to slow down Andre Williams, the top rusher in the nation with 2,073 yards. What makes the Eagles' running game so effective is their ability to wear down teams in the fourth quarter. Williams also has broken more tackles than any back from an automatic-qualifying conference, despite typically facing a loaded box. Expect more of the same this week.

AA picks: Boston College 28, Syracuse 21

HD picks: Boston College 27, Syracuse 21

Virginia Tech (7-4, 4-3) at Virginia (2-9, 0-7), 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU. #VTvsUVA. The Hokies had a bye week, after their tough loss to Maryland, to prepare for their in-state rivals. They need a victory in this game and a Duke loss to keep ACC Coastal Division hopes alive. Virginia, meanwhile, needs a victory to avoid its worst season since 1982, when the Cavaliers finished 2-9 under first-year coach George Welsh. Virginia Tech has won nine in a row in the series and has the clear edge on defense.

AA picks: Virginia Tech 30, Virginia 7

HD picks: Virginia Tech 28, Virginia 24

No. 6 Clemson (10-1, 7-1) at No. 10 South Carolina (9-2, 6-2 SEC), 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2. #CLEMvsSC. Tajh Boyd and his teammates do not need anybody to tell them what is on the line. They need a victory, and they need it badly. South Carolina has looked beatable for most of the season, but Connor Shaw is one of the guttiest quarterbacks in America and a healthy Mike Davis is one of the toughest runners the Tigers will face this season.

AA picks: South Carolina 30, Clemson 28: I give the edge to Jadeveon Clowney and his linemates against the Clemson offensive line, and they will be the difference in the game.

HD picks: Clemson 31, South Carolina 28. For the first time in four games, Clemson will not lose the turnover battle. (South Carolina overall has won in that key statistic 9-3 in the past four meetings.) For the first time in three games, Boyd will have the upper hand – and the pass protection he needs to do it (he’s been sacked 14 times for minus-15 yards). The one thing that won’t change too much is that Clemson will continue to struggle to run the ball against the Gamecocks. But Boyd will stay on his feet long enough to sustain drives and snap a four-game losing streak in the series.

ACC weekend rewind: Week 13

November, 25, 2013
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The final regular-season weekend is on deck. Time sure flies. So here's one last look at all that went down in the ACC this past weekend.

The good: The ACC seemingly survived JV week without incident, with Florida State and North Carolina each putting up 80 points, Georgia Tech crushing Alabama A&M 66-7, and Clemson taking care of business against the Citadel with a 56-7 win. Two teams, UNC and Pitt, got to bowl-eligibility, setting up for some great showdowns this coming rivalry weekend.

The bad: Well, there is always Virginia, which lost by 19 at Miami and remains winless in ACC play. And there is NC State, also winless in ACC play after a 14-point home loss to East Carolina -- which, to add insult to injury, further declared its place in the Triangle in a season in which it beat both NC State and North Carolina.

The ugly: North Carolina's 80-20 win over Old Dominion featured a shortened fourth quarter, from 15 minutes to 10. And none of the Tar Heels' 80 points ended up coming in the final frame. Funny enough, this was actually a 14-13 game after the first quarter. I was at Notre Dame on Saturday, and when the out-of-town scores were announced in the press box, this game was announced: "North Carolina 80, Old Dominion 20. That's football, not basketball."

[+] EnlargeDaniel Rodriguez
AP Photo/Rainier EhrhardtClemson walk-on WR Daniel Rodriguez, a Purple Heart recipient, caught a TD pass Saturday, providing a heart-warming moment.
The awesome moment: It came at the 14:10 mark of the fourth quarter, with Clemson already holding a 45-3 lead over the Citadel. Then, Daniel Rodriguez caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Cole Stoudt, for his first career touchdown. On Military Appreciation Day, no less. If you're not already familiar with Rodriguez's story, become so. Simply amazing.

The icers: Paul Chryst, bravo. Randy Edsall, not so much. Up 17-16 with 1:03 left and Syracuse facing a fourth-and-8 from the Pitt 36, Chryst called a timeout right as the Orange were about to attempt a game-winning field goal, which was then revealed to be a fake, a fake that looked destined to be good. Terrel Hunt then threw an incomplete pass out of the timeout, sealing bowl-eligibility for the Panthers and leaving Syracuse with no other choice but to beat Boston College this Saturday in order to make the postseason. Edsall, meanwhile, called a timeout to ice BC kicker Nate Freese's 52-yard game-winning attempt, which hooked left. With new life from Edsall's timeout, however, Freese drilled it, giving the Eagles a 29-26 win at Maryland, their fourth straight victory.

The unconventional two-pointer: Speaking of BC-Maryland, how about the wild extra-point sequence in the fourth quarter? Alex Amidon hauled in a 74-yard touchdown pass for BC with 5:02 left to take a 26-24 lead. But the extra point was blocked, and Anthony Nixon ran it back the other way to tie the game at 26. You don't see that every day.

The Heisman hopefuls: In making your case for why you should win college football's highest individual honor, you can do a lot worse than what Andre Williams and Aaron Donald did on Saturday. Williams rushed for 263 yards, eclipsing the 200-yard mark for the third straight game. He also got to 2,073 yards on the season, becoming just the 16th player in college football history to reach the 2,000-yard plateau. His 36-yard run set up the game-winning field goal for Boston College. Donald, meanwhile, was named the Walter Camp defensive player of the week award, as the Pitt defensive tackle tallied nine tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and a blocked extra-point attempt that provided the winning margin in a 17-16 win at Syracuse.

The three-headed attack: Here's another box-score oddity you don't see every day: Florida State had three different players average better than 11 yards per carry. Devonta Freeman carried it 11 times for 129 yards and a touchdown (11.7 yards per carry), Karlos Williams ran it 10 times for 114 yards and two touchdowns (11.4 ypc) and James Wilder Jr. rushed four times for 85 yards and a score (21.3). The Seminoles had 336 rushing yards on the day, averaging 8.4 yards per attempt.

The Blue Devils: Where do we start this time? Duke is in the BCS standings for the first time, at No. 24, after getting picked to finish last in the Coastal Division by the media in July. The Blue Devils have now clinched a tie of the division title after beating Wake Forest 28-21, and can win it outright by winning this Saturday at North Carolina. They have tied a school record with nine wins, something they have not done since 1941. And they have won seven straight games for the first time since 1994.

ACC Power Rankings: Week 13

November, 25, 2013
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Sorting out the ACC after Week 13:

1. Florida State (10-0, 8-0 ACC; LW: No. 1): The Seminoles were their usual dominant selves in an 80-14 dismantling of Idaho, leaving little doubt their on-field performance this season makes them worthy of playing for a national championship. They will try to close their first unbeaten regular season since 1999 against sinking in-state rival Florida.

2. Clemson (10-1, 7-1; LW: No. 2): As expected, the Tigers had no problems against The Citadel. This week will not be so easy as they try to end a four-game losing streak to South Carolina. Tajh Boyd has thrown 12 touchdown passes to two interceptions in his past three games, and is completing 78.3 percent of his passes in that span.

3. Duke (9-2, 5-2; LW: No. 3): We could be on the verge of witnessing history. After beating Wake Forest 28-21 on Saturday, Duke wins the Coastal with a victory over North Carolina on Saturday. Anthony Boone had his best game since returning from a collarbone injury, and the defense had another stellar fourth-quarter performance. Duke has won nine games for the first time since 1941.

4. Virginia Tech (7-4, 4-3; LW: No. 4): While it is true the Hokies have not looked so hot recently, they are the best positioned after Duke to make the ACC championship game. If the Blue Devils lose to the Tar Heels and the Hokies beat Virginia, there are several scenarios that favor Virginia Tech for a spot in the ACC title game. Plus, they own a 4-1 record in the Coastal and victories over Miami and Georgia Tech.

5. Miami (8-3, 4-3; LW: No. 5): The Canes ended their three-game losing streak with a much-needed win over Virginia thanks to their maligned defense, which came through with four turnovers -- two returned for scores. Concerns remain about an inconsistent offense and a struggling Stephen Morris, who was off once again in the win over the Hoos.

6. Georgia Tech (7-4; 5-3; LW: No. 6): No surprise at how soundly the Jackets dispatched Alabama A&M for a second win over an FCS opponent this year. Now comes the best opportunity in years to beat in-state rival Georgia, heavily handicapped because of injuries. Coach Paul Johnson has beaten Georgia only once in five meetings, and that came in his first season as head coach.

7. North Carolina (6-5, 4-3; LW: No. 7): The surging Tar Heels have won five straight and are playing some of the best football in the ACC. You could make an argument they deserve to be ranked higher. But they did lose to the three teams ahead of them in the power rankings, and their victories have come against UVa, NC State, Pitt and Old Dominion. Not exactly heavyweights there.

8. Boston College (7-4, 4-3; LW: No. 8): A bit of fortune helped Boston College beat Maryland on Saturday, along with a lot of Andre Williams. The senior running back has now topped 2,000 yards on the season, and folks across the nation are taking notice. Expect him to earn a few more votes in the ESPN.com Heisman Watch on Tuesday. BC now has a chance to win eight games for the first time since 2009.

9. Pitt (6-5, 3-4; LW: No. 11): The Panthers secured bowl eligibility following a 17-16 win over Syracuse, despite being outgained, losing the turnover battle and falling short in time of possession. Special teams was the reason. Aaron Donald came up with a blocked extra point, and a timeout call just as Syracuse was about to fake a field goal were the two big turning points.

10. Maryland (6-5, 2-5; LW: No. 10): There is no way around it. Maryland lost a heartbreaker to Boston College on senior day. Coach Randy Edsall decided to call timeout to ice kicker Nate Freese, who ended up missing the 52-yard attempt. When he got his second shot, Freese nailed the kick to win the game. The Terps did lose head-to-head to Syracuse but they are bowl eligible, so that gives them the spot ahead.

11. Syracuse (5-6, 3-4; LW: No. 9): Talk about losing a heartbreaker. Syracuse did, too, and now the Orange's bowl hopes are on life support with a game against former Big East rival Boston College to close the season. Terrel Hunt played better, but injuries have really taken a toll on this team defensively.

12. Wake Forest (4-7, 2-6; LW: No. 12): The Deacs put forth a great effort in a loss to Duke, jumping out to a 14-0 lead before ultimately coming up short. They will not make a bowl game for the fourth time in five seasons, putting a damper on a season that began with postseason expectations.

13. NC State (3-8, 0-7; LW: No. 13): Hard to say what the low point has been this season for new coach Dave Doeren. Losing to East Carolina certainly did not seem like a certainty when the season began. But everything has unraveled for the Wolfpack, who went 0-4 against teams from North Carolina this season. They will try to avoid their first winless season in ACC play since 1959 against Maryland this weekend.

14. Virginia (2-9, 0-7; LW: No. 14): The Hoos have lost eight straight, and have only one win over an FBS program this season. Virginia has now allowed 35 or more points in seven losses this season, and Greyson Lambert has come in to finish the last three games.

What we learned in the ACC: Week 13

November, 24, 2013
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Here's a look back at the lessons learned in the ACC in Week 13, in no particular order:

1. The Coastal is Duke's division to lose, but there are still no definitive answers yet. Duke beat Wake Forest 28-21 to reach the nine-win mark for the first time since 1941 and is just one win away from playing in the ACC championship game, but there's still no clear-cut division winner. That will come down to the final week of the regular season. Duke's win tied a school record for victories and earned the program at least a share of the division title, but the door is still open for Miami, Georgia Tech or Virginia Tech to sneak in. Miami needs to win and have Virginia Tech and Duke lose. Georgia Tech needs Virginia Tech, Miami and Duke to lose. Virginia Tech might actually have the best shot if Duke loses. Regardless, we only learned one thing about the race: Duke is guaranteed at least a share of the division title.

2. The ACC is ready for the SEC, Take 2. Florida State, Georgia Tech and Clemson combined to score 198 points against unheralded teams with losing records, but those are exactly the kind of cupcake games -- and dominating performances -- they needed before heading into their SEC rivalry games this week. And Florida?! The Gators were flat-out embarrassed in a 26-20 home loss to Georgia Southern and have been lapped by Florida State's progress. The ACC began the season with a 2-2 record against the SEC, with wins over Florida and Georgia, and now has a chance to improve upon that -- with some momentum in its favor.

[+] EnlargeAndre Williams
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyAndre Williams posted his third straight 200-yard rushing game and topped 2,000 yards on the season.
3. East Carolina is one of the best teams in the state. With a 42-28 win at NC State, and a 55-31 win at North Carolina earlier this year -- emphasis on the fact they were both road games -- there's no denying that the Pirates are one of the better programs in the state this year. According to The Associated Press and pictures on Twitter, there were more ECU fans in the stands at Carter-Finley in the fourth quarter than there were Wolfpack fans. It was ECU's first win there since 2006 and the first time in program history that it had defeated both UNC and NC State in the same season. NC State now has lost seven straight games, including three straight by double digits, and has gone backwards in the first season under coach Dave Doeren. ECU, meanwhile, reached nine wins for the third time in six years and finished the year 2-1 against the ACC, its lone loss to Virginia Tech.

4. #Andre2000 reaches 2,000. It was another Heisman-worthy performance for Boston College running back Andre Williams, who passed the 2,000-yard rushing mark in the Eagles' wild 29-26 win at Maryland. Williams finished with 263 yards -- his third straight game with more than 200 rushing yards -- to become the 16th player in NCAA history to top 2,000 in a single season. Williams scored two touchdowns against the Terps and now has 2,073 yards on the ground this year. On third down, with the game tied at 26 in the final seconds, Williams cut to the outside for a 36-yard run that set up the game-winning field goal. It was his second game-changing play of the day, as his 72-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter closed the gap to 24-20. That play also put him over the 2,000 yd mark.

5. Pitt and North Carolina are bowl-eligible, Wake Forest is not. It's official: Every team in the Coastal Division is now bowl-eligible with the exception of Virginia. North Carolina reached the six-win mark in an 80-20 dismantling of Old Dominion, the program's fifth straight win after losing four straight and starting the season 1-5. Pitt reached the milestone with its 17-16 win over Syracuse. Syracuse is the only team in the ACC that still has its bowl hopes hanging in the balance, as the Orange still can become bowl eligible with a win over Boston College in the regular-season finale. Wake Forest had to win out to reach the six-win mark but squandered a 14-point lead at home against Duke.

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