NCF Nation: Lamar Miller

Clemson running back Andre Ellington will return for his senior year, the school announced Tuesday night. Ellington was Clemson’s leading rusher in 2011 with 1,178 yards, the eighth-best single-season total in school history. Ellington told his teammates his decision at a team meeting on Tuesday night.

“Last year’s success has me excited to enter the 2012 season as a Clemson Tiger,” Ellington said in a prepared statement.

And his return should have Clemson fans excited about 2012. Here's why:

Ellington’s return will give the Tigers a returning 1000-yard rusher, a returning 1000-yard receiver and a returning 3000-yard passer for the first time in school history. Sammy Watkins led the Tigers in receiving last year with 1,219 receiving yards. Quarterback Tajh Boyd threw for a school record 3,828 yards this past season and had a school record 33 touchdown passes. Receiver DeAndre Hopkins also returns after catching 72 passes for 978 yards.

Yes, Clemson has work to do on defense if it wants to repeat as ACC champs, but guess what? The Tigers won the ACC title with that defense. With David Wilson and Lamar Miller leaving school early for the NFL, this is a chance for Ellington to really make a name for himself.
This is a punch in the gut to Miami's offense.

Running back Lamar Miller, the second-leading rusher in the ACC, has decided to forgo his final two seasons of eligibility and enter the NFL draft. Miller is ranked No. 30 in Todd McShay's latest top 32 draft-eligible players, and McShay writes that Miller appears "ready for the NFL."

Apparently he agrees. Miller's decision shouldn't come as a huge surprise, considering how highly he is regarded by many draft experts, but that doesn't lessen the blow to Miami's offense.

It's not like the Canes won't have any depth at the position -- they've still got Mike James and Eduardo Clements, redshirt sophomore Darion Hall, and any incoming recruits who could contribute immediately. The opportunity for immediate playing time could also be a selling point on the recruiting trail. There's no question the Canes will be missing their primary ball carrier, though, next year, and the ACC will be missing a potential Heisman candidate.

Too-early ACC Heisman look

December, 12, 2011
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There was a point this year when the ACC had a legitimate contender for Heisman Trophy. Clemson was 8-0, and quarterback Tajh Boyd had played his way into ESPN.com's weekly Heisman watch. If he did it in his first season as a starter, there's no reason to think he can't do it in his second season. The good news for the ACC? Boyd shouldn't be the only one. Here's a way-too-early look at the ACC's top Heisman hopefuls heading into 2012:

[+] EnlargeDavid Wilson
AP Photo/Bob LeveroneDavid Wilson will be a top Heisman candidate next season is he doesn't declare for the NFL draft.
1. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd: With so much young talent surrounding him and offensive coordinator Chad Morris getting a recent contract extension, the Tigers should continue to put up some impressive numbers. Boyd obviously has to stay healthy, but when he was at his best this year, so was Clemson. Boyd has established Clemson records for passing yards (3,578), total offense (3,764), touchdown passes (31) and touchdown responsibility (36) this year.

2. Virginia Tech running back David Wilson: This, of course, depends on whether Wilson sticks around or decides to leave early for the NFL draft. Wilson said he wants to come back, but in the same breath didn't sound so sure. Wilson was the ACC Player of the Year, as voted on by the media, and has rushed for 1,627 yards and nine touchdowns heading into the Allstate Sugar Bowl. He is No. 7 in the country with 125.15 rushing yards per game. He is No. 24 on Todd McShay's latest top 32.

3. Miami running back Lamar Miller: Here's another one who might jump early to the NFL draft. If he does, it will be devastating to Miami's offense. Miller finished second in the ACC in rushing with 106 yards per game, 1,272 yards and nine touchdowns. He is No. 30 on McShay's top 32. Both Miller and Wilson are listed among NFL.com's top 10 running backs.

Don't forget about: Clemson WR Sammy Watkins, Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel, Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas.

Predictions: Big East Week 12

November, 17, 2011
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I went into this week thinking I would go with all underdogs. Then I looked at the odds. The combined lines for all three Big East games on Saturday: 4.5. USF and Connecticut are each favored to win by 1; Cincinnati by 2.5. I really, really think all three teams are going to win. Do I dare go with favorites again, after going 1-3 last week? The overall record has slipped now to 39-20.

Cincinnati at Rutgers, noon, ESPNU. There is really only one question going into this game -- Can the Bearcats win without Zach Collaros? If you saw my bowl picks, then I clearly think the answer is yes. Asking backup quarterback Munchie Legaux to go on the road in his first college start and win is a tall order to be sure. But he has a terrific running back in Isaiah Pead, a solid offensive line and a good defense with him as well. I think Rutgers has a chance to take advantage of matchup problems with Mohamed Sanu against a secondary that gives up big plays. But Chas Dodd has an affinity for taking sacks, and Cincinnati has been terrific in that department. Derek Wolfe has the potential for a huge day. Home teams have not exactly dominated in Big East play this season (all three lost last week). The Bearcats might be favored, but who expects them to win? Me. Cincinnati 27, Rutgers 23.

Lousiville at UConn, noon, Big East Network. The Cardinals had a big problem stopping the run against Pitt last week. Most disturbing is that the Panthers are without leading rusher Ray Graham, and have one of the shakiest offensive lines in the Big East. Now they play a team that has found its groove in the run game. Lyle McCombs has three straight 100-yard games, and Scott McCummings is coming off a career day, with 59 yards and two touchdowns against Syracuse. Neither of these teams moves the needle much when it comes to offensive fireworks. It's all going to come down to the run game -- whoever is most effective wins. UConn has not lost a Big East home game yet, but the Huskies will on Saturday. Coach Charlie Strong has stomped those video games to the ground. Louisville 21, UConn 20.

Miami at USF, 3:30 p.m., ESPNU. USF fans have directed me to never pick the Bulls again. What if I pick them right here? The Bulls got a much needed win over Syracuse last week, and as has been the case throughout their history, they "get up" for the big nonconference games. Big East games, not so much. Miami might be down, but it would not diminish the impact of a win here any less. Both teams are fighting for their bowl lives. The big key is going to be whether or not USF continues its stellar play against the run. Lamar Miller is an explosive back who averages 5.7 yards a carry and has more than 1,000 yards this season. I really do think USF is going to win, so I am picking Miami. Hope that makes you happy, USF fans. Miami 30, USF 28.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 11

November, 10, 2011
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Here’s a look at 10 things to keep an eye on in Week 11, in no particular order:

1. Virginia Tech’s defensive changes. Coordinator Bud Foster has revamped his starting lineup in preparation for Georgia Tech’s spread option offense. Jack Tyler will get his first start of the season at middle linebacker, and defensive end J.R. Collins will move to defensive tackle. Tyrel Wilson will take Collins’s spot at defensive end, and for the second straight year, cornerback Kyle Fuller will play linebacker. There are a lot of redshirt sophomores in the lineup who will get their first look at the Jackets’ unique offense. How they handle that -- some in new positions -- will be critical.

[+] EnlargeDavid Wilson
AP Photo/Bob LeveroneVirginia Tech's David Wilson is looking for his ninth 100-yard rushing game of the season.
2. Georgia Tech’s rushing defense. The Yellow Jackets have allowed four different 100 yard ACC rushers this season, and Virginia Tech’s David Wilson is looking for his ninth 100-yard game of the season. The Jackets played well in their upset win over Clemson, but can they make the stops against the nation’s leading rusher and get the Hokies off the field?

3. The ACC standings. This is a critical week for the conference race. Clemson can clinch the Atlantic Division with a win over Wake Forest, Virginia Tech can eliminate Georgia Tech and Miami with a win in Atlanta, and Georgia Tech can move into a tie for first place with Virginia with a win.

4. Clemson running back Andre Ellington: He missed the Georgia Tech game with an ankle injury, and Clemson in turn missed him. Ellington is not only the team’s top rusher, but his ability to block and hang onto the ball should be a noticeable upgrade to Clemson’s offense against Wake Forest.

5. Standout receivers in Death Valley. The ACC’s top two receivers in receptions/per game will highlight Saturday’s matchup. Wake Forest junior wide receiver Chris Givens is 68 receiving yards away from tying Ricky Proehl’s single-season record of 1,053 which he set during the 1989 season. Clemson’s Sammy Watkins is No. 2 in the ACC at 108 receiving yards per game, while Givens leads with 109.4.

6. Miami running back Lamar Miller against the nation’s No. 3 rushing defense. Florida State is holding opponents to just 78.89 rushing yards per game, but Miller is coming off a 147-yard performance against Duke and became the program’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2002.

7. Florida State’s receivers against Miami’s secondary. A total of 10 Seminoles with at least five receptions are averaging more than 10.5 yards per catch. No team in the nation has more receivers averaging 10.5 yards per reception with a minimum of five catches. Miami’s defense can’t key in on one player, and the Canes rank No. 95 in pass efficiency defense.

8. Duke’s passing game against Virginia’s defense. The Hoos are No. 20 in the country in pass efficiency defense, and Duke has the No. 3 passing offense in the ACC. Virginia safety Rodney McLeod had three interceptions last weekend against Maryland, but Duke receivers Conner Vernon and Donovan Varner are two of the best in the league.

9. NC State receiver T.J. Graham. He needs 55 yards to break the ACC career kickoff return mark. Earlier this season, Graham became the first Wolfpack receiver with three consecutive games with more than 100 yards since Jerricho Cotchery had five straight at the end of 2003.

10. Maryland’s red zone defense. Over the past four games, Notre Dame has converted 17 red zone trips into 15 touchdowns. That is the highest touchdown percentage on red zone visits for the Irish over any four-game stretch since 2000. As much as Maryland’s defense has struggled this year, the Terps have fared well in the red zone, and are tied for No. 20 in the country in red zone efficiency defense.

Weekend rewind: ACC

November, 7, 2011
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Here’s your look back at Week 10 and fast-forward to Week 11:

[+] EnlargeTBD
Liz Condo/US PresswireRedshirt freshman Giovani Bernard is North Carolina's first 1,000-yard rusher in 14 years.
The good: Long-awaited 1,000-yard rushers. Welcome to the club, Lamar Miller and Giovani Bernard. If there was one highlight for UNC in Saturday’s 13-0 loss to rival NC State, it was that the program produced its first 1,000-yard rusher in 14 years. Bernard needed just 34 yards in the game to reach the milestone, and he barely got it with 47 yards on 18 carries. At Miami, Miller became the program’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Willis McGahee in 2002. Miller had 147 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.

The bad: UNC’s offense. Three rushing yards. Four sacks. Three turnovers. And 4-of-14 third down conversions. (smh).

The ugly: Maryland’s rushing defense. For the fifth straight game, Maryland allowed an opponent to run for at least 200 yards. The Terps allowed Virginia 220 rushing yards, and Perry Jones ran for 139 of them, along with two touchdowns. Against BC, the Terps allowed 372 rushing yards, including 243 by Rolandan Finch. FSU had 218 yards on the ground, and Clemson had 306, Georgia Tech 272.

The streaks: Streak I: NC State is 5-0 against UNC under Tom O’Brien, and the winning streak ties as the longest in the 101-year history of the series. Dick Sheridan led his State teams to victories over the Tar Heels five straight times from 1988-1992. Streak II: In the Coastal Division, Miami is now 7-0 against Duke since joining the ACC. Streak III: BC linebacker Luke Kuechly had 20 tackles against FSU, his 31st straight game with 10 or more. Streak IV: BC’s streak of 12 consecutive bowl games came to an end, while FSU extended its bowl streak to 30 games, the longest active streak in the country.

Top three games of Week 11:

1. No. 10 Virginia Tech at No. 21 Georgia Tech: This matchup continues to carry some of the heaviest weight in the Coastal Division standings. If the Hokies win this one, the Yellow Jackets are eliminated from the ACC race. Both have had bye weeks to prepare, and Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster needed it, as he revamped his injury-laden defense to better prepare for Georgia Tech’s spread option offense.

2. Wake Forest at No. 9 Clemson: The Tigers have had a bye week to rest and regroup after their loss to Georgia Tech, while Wake Forest put together an impressive effort in a respectable loss to Notre Dame. Now the Deacs have a chance to play spoiler in the Atlantic Division race, but they have to win the next two games to get to the ACC championship game.

3. Miami at Florida State: There was a time when this used to be the No. 1 game. Period. Now it’s not even the best game in the ACC. It is, however, still Florida State and Miami, and the history and tradition of these two programs remains among the best in the nation. Both teams are playing at a high level right now and coming off of wins. Neither team is out of its respective division race, though both of them need a lot of help to actually win it, and neither can afford another league loss.

ACC helmet stickers: Week 10

November, 5, 2011
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Here's a look at your top five performers for Week 10:

Virginia S Rodney McLeod: His three interceptions in the 31-13 win over Maryland tied a school record for a game. He became first player since Anthony Poindexter in 1996 against NC State to have three picks in a game and the seventh player overall. He also had a team-high seven tackles. Two of his interceptions were on fourth down in the fourth quarter. His first set up Virginia's second touchdown drive of the third quarter, increasing the Hoos' lead to 15 points, 28-13.

NC State's defense: The Wolfpack held North Carolina to just 3 yards rushing and finished with four sacks in the 13-0 shutout of their rival. NC State held UNC to just 165 total yards in the first shutout of the Tar Heels since 1960. UNC was held to just 32 yards in the first half, and had three turnovers.

NC State coach Tom O'Brien: Five times. With the 13-0 win over rival North Carolina, NC State won five in a row in the series for the first time since 1988-92. O'Brien kept his team on track following an embarrassing 34-0 loss at Florida State, and in a game that some said would define the direction of his career in Raleigh, O'Brien came out on top.

Miami running back Lamar Miller: He ran for 147 yards and two touchdowns in the Canes' 49-14 win over Duke, becoming the first 1,000-yard rusher at Miami since Willis McGahee in 2002. Miller now has 1,016 yards this season. Miller surpassed the 1,000-yard mark with a 22-yard touchdown run with 8:56 left in the game. He also had a 3-yard touchdown run in the third quarter for the 35-14 lead.

Florida State's defense: The Noles had four takeaways and held BC to just 94 yards rushing and 5-of-15 third-down conversion attempts in a 38-7 win on Thursday. Telvin Smith had a fumble recovery and an interception, and linebacker Nigel Bradham had 2.5 tackles for loss in the first half and led the team with seven tackles.

Final: Miami 49, Duke 14

November, 5, 2011
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It's time to start talking about Florida State.

Miami quickly put its home loss to Virginia in the rearview mirror with a 49-14 drubbing of Duke, but the test now is if Miami can play that well two weeks in a row. Miami's offense was unstoppable against Duke, racking up 467 yards, 265 on the ground. Lamar Miller scored twice. Mike James scored twice. And Jacory Harris threw three touchdown passes to three different players.

Can the Canes keep that pace against Florida State's dominant defense? In Tallahassee?

One of Miami's biggest problems this year (much like the rest of the league) is playing with any consistency. Coach Al Golden will be the first to tell you his team has yet to get the same effort in back-to-back games. Bowl eligibility shouldn't be a problem for Miami at this point, as the Canes have three more chances to hit the six-win mark with games against FSU, South Florida and BC remaining, but the Noles will be their biggest obstacle.

For Duke, a team devastated by close losses in recent weeks, this was a reality check. Those within the program were so sure that they were on the brink of turning the corner. And now this. To become bowl eligible, Duke must now win out at Virginia, against Georgia Tech, and on the road at North Carolina. It's not impossible, but it will be if the Blue Devils don't play more like they did against Virginia Tech and less like they did against Miami. Duke has returned to its familiar place at the bottom of the Coastal Division standings, but Duke still has a chance to finish strong. How the Blue Devils handle this loss will determine whether or not they stand a chance on the road at Virginia.

ACC Heisman Watch: Week 10

November, 1, 2011
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For the past few weeks, this space has been dedicated to the ACC's Heisman hopefuls. Long shots, dark-horse candidates, and the most legitimate name -- quarterback Tajh Boyd -- have all been mentioned.

Now, it's time to say goodbye.

Goodbye, Heisman update post. Farewell, New York. Adios national spotlight.

It's a two-player race between Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck and Alabama running back Trent Richardson, who are both still playing for undefeated teams. Without a national title contender, the ACC's chances of producing a Heisman candidate decrease significantly. That's not to say the Heisman winner and finalists won't come from a one-loss team, or a team on the outside looking in, but after throwing one touchdown and two interceptions in a loss at Georgia Tech, it's probably not going to be Boyd. Can Boyd play his way back into the conversation? Absolutely, but his biggest obstacle isn't his stat line at this point, it's Andrew Luck, who is widely regarded as the best quarterback in the country right now.

The good news for the ACC? Boyd, receiver Sammy Watkins, Virginia Tech running back David Wilson, Miami running back Lamar Miller -- they're still some of the best players in the country, and they're all young. Just because it doesn't happen this year doesn't mean it won't happen.

Predictions: ACC Week 8

October, 20, 2011
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I fumbled last week. Big time. With a 2-3 record, my first losing week of the season, even my own mother suggested I wear a bag over my head during videos this week. I may or may not be wearing one now as I type this. My overall record stands at 46-13 heading into Week 8, a winning percentage of 77.9 percent. I’m like BC and NC State, though. Comebacks in the second half of the season are my specialty.

Just not this week …

Virginia Tech 35, Boston College 14: The Eagles’ turnaround isn’t going to start in Lane Stadium. Not against a Hokies’ offense that continues to make strides each week under quarterback Logan Thomas and running back David Wilson. Virginia Tech has outscored the Eagles 97-26 in winning the past three games, and this week will continue that trend.

Virginia 28, NC State 24: It won’t be easy, but Virginia will build upon last week’s upset win against Georgia Tech by running the ball against a depleted NC State defense. The bye week helped the Wolfpack’s younger players get better, but it didn’t do much for the players on the injured list. Virginia ran for a season-high 272 yards against Georgia Tech, and will again rely on the running backs to move the chains.

Clemson 38, North Carolina 21: Clemson’s defense doesn’t have as many holes as it might have seemed against Maryland last week. UNC tailback Giovani Bernard will get his yards, but the Tigers will pressure quarterback Bryn Renner into at least one turnover and Clemson will improve to 8-0.

Florida State 48, Maryland 21: Terps’ quarterback C.J. Brown isn’t a secret anymore, and the Seminoles will be prepared for him to run. Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel will take advantage of a defense that has been riddled with injuries and overcome by youth.

Wake Forest 38, Duke 35 (OT): The Demon Deacons have won 11 straight games in this series, and they’ve shown more consistency and improvement than Duke this year. If history repeats itself, though, it should be another close, high-scoring game. Duke has scored 30 or more points in each of the past four meetings. Scoring won’t be the problem. Allowing big plays again will.

Miami 35, Georgia Tech 28: Things were going well for the Hurricanes until the announced suspension of starting defensive tackle Micanor Regis, who punched UNC receiver Dwight Jones in the groin last weekend. The loss of Regis will impact the game, as he was the team’s healthiest and most experienced defensive tackle, but it won’t lose it for them. Miami will get its offense going with Lamar Miller, and Georgia Tech’s run defense will struggle more than Miami’s.

Final: Miami 30, UNC 24

October, 15, 2011
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It was too little, too late for North Carolina, which dropped to 1-2 in the ACC race, with both losses coming to Coastal Division opponents.

Miami, meanwhile, has a new found relentlessness and earned its first ACC win because of it. It was a quiet game for running back Lamar Miller, but the Canes won without him thanks to an impressive game by Jacory Harris. Miami set the tone in the first half and never let down. Miami was outgained in first downs, total yards, rushing yards, and third-down efficiency, but the Canes won the turnover battle and the defense made the stops when it needed to most.

It was a much-needed win for the Hurricanes, and with Georgia Tech currently down 14-0 to Virginia in the first quarter, this ACC race is still open.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 7

October, 13, 2011
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There are only five games in the ACC this week as Boston College and NC State are off, and it's an all-conference lineup. Here are two things worth watching in each game, in no particular order:

1. Quarterbacks in College Park. Maryland starter Danny O'Brien was benched in favor of backup C.J. Brown last week at Georgia Tech. Neither of them passed very well, but Brown gave the offense the spark coach Randy Edsall was looking for with his 77-yard touchdown run. Who will start for the Terps? For Clemson, quarterback Tajh Boyd is expected to play after a hip injury knocked him out of last week’s Boston College game. Will his hip be a factor against the Terps?

2. Maryland defensive tackle Joe Vellano. If you haven’t seen him yet, now is a good time to tune in. He had 20 tackles last week in the loss to Georgia Tech. That’s almost unheard of for a defensive tackle. It was the most by a defensive lineman in the FBS since 2005. The Terps will need him to continue to be disruptive against Clemson’s offense.

3. Miami’s red zone defense. The Hurricanes’ defense has been a weak link this season, but they’ve been pretty stingy in the red zone, holding opponents to just 10 touchdowns in 23 drives. North Carolina, though, has flourished inside the 20-yard line and has scored 16 touchdowns in 19 red zone possessions.

Lamar Miller
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesLamar Miller has racked up 677 rushing yards and a 7.2 yards-per-carry average this season.
4. Running backs in Chapel Hill. This game will feature two of the ACC’s best in Miami’s Lamar Miller and UNC’s Giovani Bernard. Miller has had 100 yards or more in all five games, and Bernard leads all FBS freshmen in rushing yards (109.50 a game) and rushing touchdowns (eight). Miller leads the ACC in rushing (135.4/game) and Bernard is third.

5. Wake Forest running back Josh Harris. Will he play? If he does, will he have another record-setting performance like he did last year against the Hokies with 241 rushing yards and two touchdowns? Harris has been bothered by a hamstring injury this week, but his chances of playing look good.

6. Virginia Tech’s replacements. This defense is banged up. Last week, true freshman Corey Marshall started for the first time in place of defensive tackle Antoine Hopkins and he had trouble lining up properly. Defensive end James Gayle’s status is still uncertain (sprained left ankle). The defensive line has been hit the hardest, but the Hokies also have concerns about linebacker Jeron Gouveia-Winslow (sprained left foot). How will their backups and depleted rotation fare against the nation’s No. 18 passing game?

7. Time of possession at Virginia. You would think that Georgia Tech’s offense has had an overwhelming advantage in time of possession, but the Jackets have scored quickly this year, so it’s a bit deceiving. There is only a 22-second difference between Georgia Tech and Virginia’s time of possession this year -- with the advantage going to the Hoos. Virginia’s best defense will be to continue that trend and keep the offense on the field as long as possible.

8. Third downs in Charlottesville: Georgia Tech leads the nation in third-down conversions (62.2 percent). Virginia is tied for third in the ACC in third-down defense (33.3 percent). Can the Hoos make the stops?

9. Turnovers in Durham. Florida State turned it over five times in its loss to Wake Forest last week, with four interceptions and one fumble. The Seminoles are 114th in the country in turnover margin (-1.40). Duke did not have a turnover in its road win over FIU. The Blue Devils have lost six turnovers this year. FSU has lost 11.

10. Pass defenses in Durham. Neither of these teams is running the ball very well this year, but both Duke and Florida State have passing games that rank among the top 16 in the country. How well the defenses fare against quarterbacks EJ Manuel and Sean Renfree will go a long way in determining the winner.

Predictions: ACC Week 7

October, 13, 2011
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I was close to picking Wake Forest to win last weekend. Really, really close. But I didn’t, and it was the lone missed pick of Week 6. My 5-1 record last week put me at 44-10 on the season for an 81.5 winning percentage this year. I’m not going to make the same mistake again, though, this week.

Florida State, you’re on upset alert:

Duke 35, Florida State 34: Duke will do exactly what Wake Forest did, and beat the Seminoles with their passing game and their discipline. Duke didn’t allow a turnover or a sack in its come-from-behind road win over FIU. Florida State has made a habit out of untimely penalties, and had five turnovers in the loss to Wake Forest. Duke has a chance to catch the Noles when they’re down, and David Cutcliffe will make sure they do.

Clemson 31, Maryland 21: Tajh Boyd is expected to start, but will his hip injury be any factor? Maryland’s defense will be gunning for him, and its performance against Georgia Tech should have given the Terps some confidence. It won’t be enough, though, to stop Clemson’s offense. If Boyd can stay on his feet, he’ll be the difference. Maryland’s quarterback situation is in flux, as either Danny O’Brien or C.J. Brown will start.

Virginia Tech 28, Wake Forest 21: Florida State probably underestimated Wake Forest. Frank Beamer will not. The Hokies, even with their injury-laden defense, will rattle quarterback Tanner Price into a costly turnover, and they will win the ground game with David Wilson.

Georgia Tech 45, Virginia 21: The Cavaliers’ defense won’t be able to stop Georgia Tech. It’s that simple. Yes, they had a bye week to prepare, but game speed is a different story. The Yellow Jackets will catch Virginia snoozing and continue to break away for more big plays. Quarterback Tevin Washington will have the edge at quarterback.

North Carolina 21, Miami 17: How many more heartbreakers can Miami stand? The Tar Heels’ defense will be the cause of this one. Miami running back Lamar Miller will get his yards, and so will UNC tailback Giovani Bernard, but North Carolina’s stingy defense will pressure Jacory Harris into his first turnover in three games.

ACC Heisman watch: Week 7

October, 11, 2011
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It’s unfortunate the players on losing and/or struggling teams don’t really get much consideration for college football’s most prestigious individual award, because there are some fantastic players who aren’t on Clemson’s roster who are deserving of consideration. All of them have been mentioned in this space before, but I’m thinking specifically this week of Virginia Tech’s David Wilson and Miami’s Lamar Miller. Those two running backs put on a wildly entertaining show last weekend, but Miller’s Miami team is the only one in the Coastal Division with a losing record, and Virginia Tech still needs Georgia Tech to lose if the Hokies are going to defend their division title.

The one player in the league right now, though, who stands the best chance at representing the ACC in the Heisman race is Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd. The Tigers and their fans got a huge scare this past weekend when Boyd was assisted off the field because of a hip injury and did not return to the game. All indications are that he will play Saturday against Maryland, though, which not only upgrades Clemson’s chances of remaining undefeated, but also keeps Boyd in the Heisman conversation. Here’s a quick look at his updated résumé:
  • Ranks 14th in nation in total offense (310.3).
  • Ranks 16th in nation in pass efficiency (160.2).
  • Ranks ninth in the nation in touchdown passes with 15.
  • He ranks first in the ACC in passing yards per game (290), total offense (310.3) and is second in touchdown passes (15).
  • He has completed 119 of 194 passes for 15 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

ACC power rankings: Week 7

October, 10, 2011
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» Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Virginia Tech made this more complicated. Why? Because if you rank the teams based on the way they played Saturday, the Hokies looked better than Georgia Tech. The Jackets, though, are still undefeated and bowl-eligible. Again, this one needs to be settled on the field, much like Georgia Tech and Clemson. Until it is, though, Georgia Tech gets the credit for its undefeated run. The Hokies, despite their impressive performance in the win over Miami, are still in catch-up mode.

Here are your updated rankings heading into Week 7:

1. Clemson (6-0, 3-0 ACC; LW: No. 1): The Tigers won the game against Boston College, but lost starting quarterback Tajh Boyd to a hip injury. He is listed as questionable heading into Saturday’s game at College Park, and his status could be the key to Clemson’s chances of remaining undefeated this season. The good news for Clemson is that it didn't collapse without him against BC.

2. Georgia Tech (6-0, 3-0; LW: No. 2): Georgia Tech held off a gritty effort by Maryland and backup quarterback C.J. Brown on Saturday to remain undefeated, but it wasn’t one of the Yellow Jackets’ better performances this season. They’ll have to be sharper on the road against a Virginia team this week that has had the bye week to prepare.

3. Virginia Tech (5-1, 1-1; LW: No. 3): Where has THIS offense been? It was a breakout performance for quarterback Logan Thomas in the win over Miami, and the Hokies kept their hopes alive in the Coastal Division race. They’ve got a tough road trip looming, though, against a Wake Forest team that has caught the ACC by surprise with its 3-0 start. Speaking of the Deacs …

4. Wake Forest (4-1, 3-0; LW: No. 6): Welcome back to the top half of the ACC, Wake Forest. It’s been a while. It was an historic win for the Deacs over Florida State -- not because they haven’t done it before, but because it gave them their first 3-0 start in conference play in school history. Wake had the advantage at quarterback over the Noles and the defense forced five turnovers. Can they keep it up against the defending ACC champs?

5. North Carolina (5-1, 1-1; LW: No. 4): It was a lackluster 14-7 win over Louisville, one of the worst teams in the Big East, and it took the Tar Heels until the second half before scoring any points. Louisville outgained UNC in total yards, first downs and rushing yards, but the Tar Heels went 4-0 in conference play and will be catching Miami after the Canes’ tough loss to Virginia Tech.

6. Miami (2-3, 0-2; LW: No. 7): The Canes are now the only team in the Coastal Division with a losing overall record. Not Duke. Not Virginia. Miami. Against Virginia Tech, though, we saw what Miami’s offense is capable of when quarterback Jacory Harris is at the top of his game. Lamar Miller had another 100-yard performance, but Miami’s offense wasn’t able to get within field goal range on its final possession, and the Canes’ hopes at winning the Coastal Division took a huge hit.

7. Florida State (2-3, 0-2; LW: No. 5): Don’t look now, but FSU is closer to BC in the Atlantic Division standings than it is Clemson. FSU’s quarterbacks combined for four interceptions in a five-turnover game, and the defense couldn’t slow down Wake Forest’s offense. The odds of FSU repeating as division champs shrunk significantly on Saturday. The difference between FSU and Miami right now? The Canes at least beat a ranked Ohio State team. FSU's best wins are against Louisiana-Monroe and Charleston Southern.

8. Maryland (2-3, 1-1; LW: No. 8): Status quo for the Terps, who seem to get younger on defense every week and now have a quarterback controversy between starter Danny O'Brien and backup Brown. Maryland didn’t quit against Georgia Tech, and the young defense was impressive on the road against one of the nation’s top offenses, but the hole could get deeper in the next few weeks.

9. Duke (3-2, 1-0; LW: No. 9): You could definitely make the argument that Duke should be higher after winning three straight, but the loss to FCS Richmond in the season opener is weighing them down, as is the lack of a quality win. Miami and FSU have both lost to two ranked opponents and haven’t been full strength. Duke, though, could give Florida State’s defense some problems this weekend.

10. Virginia (3-2, 0-1; LW: No. 10): The Wahoos had a bye week to heal and prepare for Georgia Tech’s spread option offense, and they’ll have home field advantage this weekend. The inconsistency at quarterback has been a problem for UVA, and Georgia Tech will have the edge there, but the defenses could be the difference.

11. NC State (3-3, 0-2; LW: No. 11): The Wolfpack beat Central Michigan, and it was supposed to. NC State still needs to dig out of its poor start in conference play and win four of the final six games to reach the postseason. They’ve got a bye week to get better, and they need every minute of it.

12. Boston College (1-5, 0-3; LW: No. 12): The Eagles sunk even lower after their Atlantic Division loss to Clemson, and have now lost two games to backup quarterbacks. BC deserves credit, though, for its effort at Clemson. There is no quit in these players, and they’ve got the bye week to regroup before heading to Virginia Tech.

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