NCF Nation: Rashard Smith

Three things ACC must do in 2012

August, 21, 2012
8/21/12
3:00
PM ET
A new season is upon us, so this is the perfect time for new beginnings. That means forgetting about that crummy BCS record and looking ahead to what could be a very, very good year for the ACC.

Here is a look at three things the ACC must do in 2012 to turn a good season into a great one.

[+] EnlargeEJ Manuel
G Fiume/Getty ImagesEJ Manuel leads an FSU team that seemingly has all the ingredients necessary to be a title contender.
1. FSU must live up to expectations. Let us flash back to a year ago, when FSU started the season ranked No. 6. A three-game losing streak dropped the Seminoles to 2-3, and they ended the season 9-4. Expectations are high once again with a No. 7 preseason ranking to start the year.

Coach Jimbo Fisher has embraced the high ranking, saying Saturday, “I love being up there. I think it helps. The higher up you are the easier it is to climb. … I think it’s a good thing. Hopefully we’ll deal with it very well. I think we will. We’ve just got to play ball and quit worrying about that. They’ve got us there and now we’ve got to take care of our business."

The entire nation has been waiting for Florida State to get back to its heyday. If it can do that, the ACC will get an automatic credibility boost. The one thing that is a constant in college football is this -- when the more traditional teams in your conference have success, your league is perceived to be better. Florida State has everything in place to compete for a championship this year -- a veteran quarterback, a top-notch front seven and an established coaching staff. Now the Seminoles have to put everything together.

2. Sweep the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff. The ACC only has a few games a year in which it has the opportunity to prove itself on the national stage in meaningful regular-season games. The potential is there to strike right at the beginning of the season with a sweep of the SEC in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. NC State plays Tennessee on Friday night, while Clemson plays Auburn on Saturday night. While neither SEC team is considered to be among the best in their league this year, both schools are name brands that have traditionally been solid programs.

Neither may have had the success they wanted last year, but anytime you can beat some of the better SEC programs to start the season, you get a pat on the helmet and help set a strong tone for the season.

"We are so excited to get ready for this game," NC State receiver Rashard Smith said. "Since the end of the bowl game last year against Louisville, we've had this game circled on the calendar. We've worked hard all winter and summer to be ready for this game."

Perhaps the momentum from wins in those games carries over to the end of the year, when the ACC must try to sweep its rivalry contests (Florida State-Florida, Clemson-South Carolina, Georgia Tech-Georgia).

3. Have a Heisman contender. Whatever you think about the popularity contest that is the Heisman Trophy, there is no question that having a contender for the bronze statue bumps up league cred and pub. Naming contenders for the Heisman has become a sport unto itself, and criticism has followed because players from the most popular schools seem to be the ones who get showered with national love.

But ACC fans saw for themselves last season what a huge difference it makes when folks outside the conference are paying attention to the league's players. Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins got a few Heisman head nods during Clemson's hot start and before you knew it, the two players were being spotlighted on a regular basis. None of that hurts a league that is eager to get as much positive publicity as possible.

Ryan Williams out for Saturday's game

September, 30, 2010
9/30/10
5:16
PM ET
Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams will miss Saturday's game at NC State with a hamstring injury, according to the team's injury report released on Thursday. The Hokies will obviously need all of the help they can get to match NC State's offense, but if there's one team that can afford to miss a starting running back, it's Virginia Tech. With Darren Evans and David Wilson, the Hokies were able to beat Boston College 19-0. It doesn't matter who is running the ball, though, if they don't get the blocks and into the end zone. Here's the full report, along with NC State's injury report:

VIRGINIA TECH

Out

Kwamaine Battle (knee)
Eric Martin (knee)
Barquell Rivers (quad)
Lorenzo Williams (foot)
Ryan Williams (hamstring)

Probable

Josh Oglesby (ankle)
Eddie Whitley (stinger)

NC STATE

PROBABLE
James Washington, HB - hamstring
Markus Kuhn, DT - knee

QUESTIONABLE - None listed

DOUBTFUL - None listed

OUT
Brandon Barnes, RB - ankle
Jarvis Byrd, CB - knee
Sylvester Crawford, DE - knee
Mikel Overgaard, OT - elbow
*Jesse Riley, DB - knee
*Rashard Smith, DB - knee
* - out for the season

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich


Here are a few things worth keeping an eye on in the ACC this week (by the way, these are never ranked in order of interest, just generally 10 things to watch):

1. Clemson running back C.J. Spiller. He’s on the verge of becoming the first player in ACC history with 2,500 rushing yards, 1,000 receiving yards and 1,500 kickoff return yards. And, he just might accomplish all three on Saturday against Boston College. Spiller enters the game with 2,434 rushing yards, 986 receiving yards and 1,471 kickoff return yards. Last year, he gained a career high 242 all-purpose running yards in Clemson’s 27-21 win over BC.

2. BC’s quarterback surprise. Boston College coach Frank Spaziani has been quiet about which quarterback he’s leaning toward for Saturday’s game against Clemson, as both Justin Tuggle and Dave Shinskie have had success against lesser opponents. It’s go-time now, though, and one will have to emerge against better competition.

3. Duke’s non-quarterback controversy. So Thaddeus Lewis is the starter, coach David Cutcliffe has made that clear. But Sean Renfree has also proven he’s worth talking about, and can come off the bench to direct a come-from-behind win. Definitely worth watching.

4. Miami’s run defense against Georgia Tech’s spread-option offense. It’s the key to this game, and it was the cause of the Canes’ demise last year. If Clemson could figure out a way to limit Jonathan Dwyer to 66 yards and seven three-and-outs, then Miami should figure out a way to slow it down, too, especially considering it had a bye week to prepare for it. This will be an interesting test for first-year coordinator John Lovett.

5. The trenches in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech’s offensive line will face a talented defensive front in Nebraska, and how it blocks will determine whether Ryan Williams and David Wilson can continue the fancy footwork they had against Marshall last week.

6. Florida State’s improvement level. It’s not just the secondary that will be tested by BYU quarterback Max Hall. The Cougars will challenge the Noles in every phase of the game, and they’ll have to get better blocking from their offensive line, get the running game going, tackle better and make fewer mistakes. Bottom line: They can’t play like they did last Saturday and win.

7. North Carolina’s replacements. The Tar Heels have to hold it together after losing starting center Lowell Dyer and tight end Zack Pianalto for the next three to four weeks. Ed Barham or Christian Wilson will take over for Pianalto and Cam Holland will fill in again for Dyer. The Tar Heels will need to pave the way for Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston, and give T.J. Yates some time to play like he did in the fourth quarter against Connecticut.

8. Upset watch in College Park -- again. James Madison almost did it last week before losing in overtime. Middle Tennessee did it last year. The Terps’ defense has struggled mightily in its first two games, and now will be without its top cornerback, Nolan Carroll, for the rest of the season. Can Maryland avoid an embarrassing home loss?

9. NC State cornerback Rashard Smith. He’s a true freshman who earned the starting job against Murray State and is slated to start again against Gardner-Webb. He is the first true freshman to start for NC State in the secondary since 2001, when Marcus Hudson (now with the San Francisco 49ers) started four games. Smith played just 24 snaps last week, but made three tackles and a tackle for loss. He now has two tackles for loss this season.

10. Number of sacks Virginia allows. The Cavaliers returned four starters to their offensive line, and it was supposed to be the one dependable aspect of the offense early in the season. Last week against TCU, though, Virginia allowed eight sacks, the most since giving up nine to Florida State in 1997. Virginia allowed just 16 sacks all of last year. Southern Miss has five so far this season. The Golden Eagles are in the midst of a seven-game winning streak and have not allowed more than 100 yards rushing during that span.

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