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Georgia AD confirms Saints interest in Grantham

Todd Grantham AP

The will he/won’t he saga when it comes to Todd Grantham and the NFL is apparently far from over.

One day after playing coy with reporters at a signing day event, athletic director Greg McGarity has confirmed that the Georgia defensive coordinator has informed him the New Orleans Saints have an interest in interviewing for the same position he currently holds.  Grantham’s UGA contract stipulates that the coach must notify the athletic department when he enters into talks on another job.

While McGarity did not specifically state Grantham will interview, it’s believed that the coordinator will interview at some point Thursday.

Grantham has also been connected to the defensive coordinator job with the Philadelphia Eagles.  As Chip Kelly has yet to make a hire there, it’s believed that may still be a possibility for Grantham as well.

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NCAA denies Dorial Green-Beckham’s appeal

Dorial Green-Beckham

The fate of wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham has been decided by the NCAA.

Green-Beckham transferred to Oklahoma in July after Missouri dismissed the talented receiver due to multiple off-the-field incidents. Oklahoma filed an appeal on Green-Beckham’s behalf last week. The NCAA officially denied the appeal Friday.

Oklahoma released a statement after the NCAA announced its decision:

“The University of Oklahoma has learned that the waiver request it entered on behalf of Dorial Green-Beckham has been denied by the NCAA. The University accepts that decision and will continue to provide the appropriate assistance to Dorial, just as it does with other students, in helping him grow personally from the many opportunities available to him at OU.”

Of course the University “accepts that decision.” It shouldn’t even be surprised by the outcome due to recent incidents with other members of its football team.

The tipping point for Green-Beckham at Missouri was an incident where he allegedly pushed a woman down a flight of stairs.

It’s the type of incident the University of Oklahoma publicly stated “takes very seriously its obligation in cases like this…”

The school suspended its leading tackler, Frank Shannon, for the season after sexual assault allegations.  The school did the same to running back Joe Mixon after he allegedly punched a woman in the face and caused four broken bones.

If the Sooners found a loophole — in this case, the run off rule — to allow Green-Beckham to play this season, the school’s actions would have been seen as highly hypocritical. Instead, all three players won’t be allowed to play during the upcoming campaign.

Make no mistake about it — the Sooners were hopeful Green-Beckham could play this season. He’s mega-talent at wide receiver. Instead, the team will have to rely heavily on Sterling Shepard, Durron Neal and Derrick Woods.

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Maryland’s leading receiver, senior linebacker arrested

Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman - Marshall v Maryland

The Maryland Terrapins may be without the team’s leading receiver from last season and a major contributor on special teams for an undetermined amount of time.

Junior wide receiver Levern Jacobs and senior linebacker Alex Twine were arrested Thursday on charges of second-degree assault. The original charges stem from an April 19 incident.

“We are aware of the situation and are in the process of gathering more information” Maryland head coach Randy Edsall told the Baltimore Sun‘s Matt Zentiz. “We take these matters very seriously. We will have no further comment at this time.”

Last season, Jacobs led the team with 47 receptions for 640 yards. Although, Jacobs wasn’t expected to start for the Terrapins this season due to Maryland’s depth at wide receiver.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do at the receiver position,” Edsall told InsideMDSports.com’s Josh Stirn at the start of fall camp. “We’ve got to step it up a bit. We’re not looking for receivers that can just catch the ball around here. This isn’t flag football. This isn’t a 7 on 7. We’ve got to have complete receivers. We’ve got to get our receivers to do that and our receivers have got to make sure that they listen to Keenan [McCardell] and do exactly what they ask them to do. If they do that with the talent they have, they can be very good. But we’re not there yet and we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Jacobs current predicament will create more opportunities for his younger brother, Tavion Jacobs, who impressed the coaching staff this summer.

Twine, meanwhile, made 12 starts and played in 34 games since becoming a member of the Terrapins. Twine provides critical depth at linebacker while serving as Maryland’s special teams ace.

Due to Edsall’s reaction to the their arrests, both will likely face suspensions from the team.

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Five-star RB plans to stay at Oklahoma

Photo credit: Rivals

Joe Mixon isn’t leaving the University of Oklahoma.

Mixon was suspended from all football activities for a year Monday after the Cleveland County (Oklahoma) District Attorney’s office charged him with one misdemeanor count of an act resulting in gross injury.

The running back maintains his innocence in the matter, and the automatic question asked was whether or not he would remain at the school after its decision.

Mixon emphatically answered the question via twitter.

As part of the suspension, Mixon will not be allowed to participate in team activities and he will be excluded from the team’s roster. But Mixon can remain a student at the university and eligible for financial aid under the “appropriate conditions.”

Mixon’s presence would have been a boost to this year’s backfield. The Sooners, however, are not devoid of talent at running back. Sophomores Keith Ford and Alex Ross will be relied upon this fall, and Mixon will join the team’s stable of running backs in 2015.

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Ohio State’s plan to replace QB Braxton Miller

Urban Meyer

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly is the answer to nearly every football question posed in today’s game.

Who did New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick consult to make his team more efficient during practice? Chip Kelly. How did the Oregon Ducks go from a unique team with flashy uniforms to a national title contender? Chip Kelly. Who is turning the NFL upside down with how he approaches every aspect of the game? Chip Kelly.

We could go on and on, but we won’t.

When Ohio State lost Heisman hopeful Braxton Miller for the season after re-injuring his throwing shoulder, head coach Urban Meyer was forced to reconsider his options on offense. The answer was simple. Chip Kelly.

Meyer has always been at the forefront of offensive innovation with his spread offense, but his goal is to be more like Kelly this season.

According to SI.com, the Buckeyes’ staff and players are often overheard saying, “We want to be the Philadelphia Eagles of college football.”

When asked directly whether or not Meyer will increase the team’s offensive tempo, the coach remained noncommittal.

“That’s a good question,” Meyer told SI.com. “That’s also to be determined. We’re prepared more than in the last two years. It’s the third year in the system.”

Traditional thinking says playing fast means an athlete is not thinking about what he’s doing. He’s just reacting. The Buckeyes operating at a faster pace with redshirt freshmen J.T. Barrett at quarterback instead of Miller would seem to be counterintuitive. That’s not actually the case.

While a faster tempo requires quicker decisions from the quarterback position, it also simplifies his reads and wears down defenses that can’t substitute and forces them into basic schemes.

Barrett has yet to be officially named the team’s starter, but he worked his way to No. 2 on the depth chart prior to Miller re-injuring his shoulder. Barrett he may be the perfect quarterback to play in this style of offense even if he’s not as physically talented as Miller.

“The best quarterbacks are great distributors, and I watch Peyton Manning and I’m in awe of the way he distributes the ball,” Meyer told ESPN.com‘s Austin Ward. “I thought (former Ohio State quarterback) Kenny Guiton was one of the best I’ve been around as far as getting the ball out quickly and distributing to playmakers and letting them run with the ball, let them make plays. That’s what my initial evaluation of J.T. is, he’s very good at that.”

Meyer should be able to devise an offense to get the ball out of Barrett’s hand quickly and allow the play makers around the quarterback to take over the game.

“In my 10 years here, this is the most explosive offensive talent, depth wise, that we’ve ever had,” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told SI.com. “The 2006 team had a lot of offensive weapons. But depth wise, you just have to get the ball to the players and get out of the way.”

Kelly would certainly approve of this approach.

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ACC coach: Half league’s teams don’t have player that can start for FSU

Jimbo Fisher

How talented is Florida State’s team?

It’s talented enough to help build an inferiority complex around the rest of the ACC.

“According to one ACC coach, FSU is so stocked with talent across its depth chart that he believes about half the league’s teams do not have one player who would start for Florida State this year based on what he’s seen on film,” Bruce Feldman and Pete Thamel of FoxSports.com reported.

The Seminoles are absolutely loaded on both sides of the football. Last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, quarterback Jameis Winston, is back for his redshirt sophomore season. The team also returns eight players named to one of the All-ACC teams in 2013. And the 11 starters Florida State has to replace from last year’s squad will be filled with former highly-touted recruits that simply need an opportunity to showcase their talent.

The unnamed coach was right about half the league. A quick look at the preseason All-ACC team proves his point. Players from seven teams other than Florida State were bestowed with the honor.

Teams that didn’t have a representative were the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Carolina State Wolfpack, Pittsburgh Panthers, Virginia Cavaliers and Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

Arguments could be made for Pitt wide receiver Tyler Boyd, North Carolina linebacker Norkeithus Otis, Virginia safety Anthony Harris and Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson but the coach’s point still stands.

The underlying theme of the comment is simple. Florida State will be favored to win every game it plays this season, and only one or two teams in the ACC even have a chance to upset the Seminoles as they attempt a second run to the national championship game.

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Brady Hoke: ‘I feel terrible for Braxton Miller’

Ohio State v Michigan Getty Images

I don’t know that I’ve ever done this before — well, maybe once or twice — but I’m going to utilize a reader’s comment in a post.  Specifically, an unnamed reader’s comment in the post from yesterday on Mark Dantonio‘s reaction to Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller‘s season-ending shoulder injury:

The real question would be Hoke’s reaction to this. I’m sure he wouldn’t take the high road about the injury.

Of course, that was, even for one of our readers, an absurd assumption to make. Head coaches simply don’t and wouldn’t do that, especially publicly.  In fact, in my experience, the vast majority of coaches care about players and their well-being whether they’re on their own team or on the opposing sideline.

Case in point? The object of the commenter’s attempted barb, Brady Hoke.

“I feel terrible for Braxton Miller and his family,” the Michigan head coach said during a radio interview Friday morning by way of mlive.com. “He’s been a class act any time I’ve been around him.

You never want a kid to get hurt.”

In other words, Hoke is a human being and reacted the exact way everyone — well, most everyone — thought he would: with class and genuine empathy.  One of the greatest rivalries on the field, The Game more times than not gives way to humanity off of it.

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Syracuse’s starting TE out for up to a month

Syracuse v Maryland

At least now there’s some sort of timeline for the return of a key piece of Syracuse’s offensive puzzle, even if it is a little vague.

Earlier this week, head coach Scott Shafer confirmed that starting tight end Josh Parris will be sidelined for a period of 2-4 weeks.  Parris underwent surgery Wednesday to repair what was only described as a lower-body injury.

At bare minimum, Parris will miss the opener against Villanova (Aug. 29).  The earliest Parris will return is the next game against Central Michigan (Sept. 13), although that falls within the long end of the timeline.  The Sept. 20 game against Maryland would appear to be a safe bet for a return if he hasn’t already.

Parris caught 13 passes for 90 yards and a pair of touchdowns in 2013. The 6-2, 252-pound redshirt sophomore would’ve entered the 2014 season as the Orange’s starting tight end.

Instead, some combination of sophomore Kendall Moore, freshman Jamal Custis and redshirt freshman Tyler Provo will attempt to hold down the job during Parris’ absence.

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UW Huskies to go with Jeff Lindquist at QB in opener

Boise State v Washington Getty Images

With Cyler Miles suspended for the opener, Washington knew it would go with someone other than the offseason favorite for the job in the first game of the year.  Now, we officially know the identity of that someone.

According to head coach Chris Petersen, sophomore Jeff Lindquist will get the nod at quarterback for the Aug. 30 season opener against Hawaii.  Petersen opted for Lindquist over redshirt freshman Troy Williams.

According to Petersen, fewer mistakes from Lindquist compared to his compatriot was the biggest factor in the decision.  Neither of the two main players for what’s expected to be a temporary assignment has thrown a pass at the collegiate level.

Petersen did add that Miles will be a factor for the job once he serves the suspension.

Miles was allegedly involved in a pair of assaults in early February, suspended from the team but never charged.  He was reinstated in mid-May, prior to his one-game suspension being announced two months later.

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Report: McEvoy, not Stave, to start for Badgers vs. LSU

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This one probably qualifies as the biggest surprise in all of the quarterback competitions waged throughout various summer camps this month.

Citing three sources, Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that Tanner McEvoy will start at quarterback in Wisconsin’s season opener against LSU in Houston.  McEvoy and the incumbent, Joel Stave, have been fighting for the starting job throughout spring practice and on into camp.

Stave started all 13 games for the Badgers last season, while the 6-6, 222-pound McEvoy was moved to safety — played in 10 games, started three — before returning to quarterback in the spring.  Stave is the dictionary-definition of a pocket-passer, while McEvoy possess the ability to beat a team with both his arm and his legs.  It was likely that dual-threat ability that played a significant role in the reported decision.

If the report comes to fruition — UW coaches have been very tight-lipped about the starter and don’t plan on announcing one prior to the opener — it would continue what’s been a very strange football odyssey for McEvoy.

In early August of 2012, South Carolina announced that McEvoy had decided to transfer from the Gamecocks.  The announcement came a week or so after the player was arrested on alcohol-related charges.

After spending the 2012 season at the JUCO level, McEvoy signed with Wisconsin in February of 2013.  Prior to being moved to the other side of the ball, McEvoy was the victim of an on-campus mugging last July.

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CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 7 South Carolina

Steve Spurrier

2013 record: 11-2 overall, 6-2 in SEC (2nd in SEC East)
2013 postseason: Capital One Bowl vs. Wisconsin (34-24 win)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 4/No. 4
Head coach: Steve Spurrier (219-79-2 overall; 77-39 in nine years at South Carolina)
Offensive coordinator: Steve Spurrier Jr. (third season as co-coordinator); Shawn Elliott (third season as co-coordinator)
2013 offensive rankings: 32nd rushing offense (198.5 ypg); 40th passing offense (253.8 ypg); 36th total offense (452.3 ypg); 32nd scoring offense (34.1 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: Eight
Defensive coordinator: Lorenzo Ward (third season)
2013 defensive rankings: 50th rushing defense (153.8 ypg); 12th passing defense (196.2 ypg); 19th total defense (350 ypg); 12th scoring defense (20.3 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: Six
Location: Columbia, SC
Stadium: Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250; Grass)
Last conference title: 1969 (ACC)

THE GOOD
Sure, there were a couple of key departures on one of the best defenses in the conference, and the starting quarterback, the winningest of all-time at the school, needs replaced.  That said, this should still be arguably the most talented and deepest squad Spurrier & Company have put on the field since the OBC came to Columbia a decade ago.    Returning are two of the best skill position players in the passing game in the SEC to go along with four starting offensive lineman.  The former will help the new starter under center, while the latter will greatly aid said starter as well as the underrated Mike Davis in the backfield.  The schedule also sets up nicely, with just a pair of what could even remotely be considered formidable road trips: at Auburn and at in-state rival Clemson.  The Gamecocks have owned the ACC Tigers — won five straight — of late, with CU needing to reload at several important positions, so calling that game formidable might be a stretch at this early juncture.

THE BAD
The cornerbacks.  And, actually, that’s way too harsh and not even remotely accurate; the corners aren’t “bad.”  Rather, they’re extremely raw and very inexperienced — only one player at the position has played in a game at the collegiate level.  The good news for the Gamecocks is that they have significant returning experience at both safety positions, which should help as at least two, possibly three, true freshmen will be needed to contribute immediately.  Another negative from the same unit that somewhat relates to the secondary?  USC’s top two pass rushers left for the NFL, meaning any help the young corners could get from a significant pass rush during their transition is somewhat mitigated.  Certainly there’s talent to replace what was lost, but it may take some time..

THE UNKNOWN
With Connor Shaw gone, USC will be breaking in a new first-time full-time starting quarterback.  Dylan Thompson‘s different than a lot of first-time starters, however, as he at least has some experience in that capacity — he’s 3-0 in his career as a starter replacing an injured Shaw and has thrown passes in 20 of the games in which he’s played the past three years.  Still, there’s additional pressure being the everyday, every-down man under center, although Thompson appears to have the kind of poise and personality where the stage won’t even remotely be too big for him.  He won’t have time to ease into that role, either, as USC’s first three games are against Texas A&M, East Carolina (a 10-3 team in 2013) and Georgia.  The good news is that all three of those games are in Columbia, with the first road test coming Sept. 20 against Vanderbilt.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: vs, Georgia, Sept. 13
As I stated in No. 12 Georgia’s preview, and as both Georgia and South Carolina are expected to be the cream of the crop in the SEC East, it would stand to reason that this game, played the third weekend of the season, could prove to be the SEC title game ticket-puncher for the winning side.  While UGA won last year’s game, USC has owned the series of late by winning the previous three by a combined 42 points.  The fact that the game is in Columbia bodes well for the Gamecocks.  Well, that and the fact that, at least on paper, they’ll be the more talented of the two teams.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: running back Mike Davis
One of the most underrated players in the country at any position, Davis will get the opportunity, especially early on, to carry more of the offensive workload as Thompson establishes his footing as the Gamecocks’ full-time starter for the first time.  While Davis — very quietly — rushed for nearly 1,200 yards last season, his work in the passing game (34-352) is an ofttimes overlooked facet that provides an extra dimension for his offense — and another consideration for voters.  If the Gamecocks can have the type of team success they had in 2013 and Davis can increase his production — especially in high-profile games — then come late November and early December he could very well be in the midst of the discussion.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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Tulsa hoops player denied opportunity to play football

Pat Swilling Jr., Zach Hanson, Devin Brooks, D'Andre Wright AP

So much for that plan.

In mid-June, Pat Swilling Jr., the son of Georgia Tech and NFL standout Pat Swilling, revealed that he planned to walk-on to the Tulsa football team.  Swilling was no ordinary walk-on, though, as he had recently completed his four years of eligibility as a Golden Hurricane basketball player.  There was the also the suspension that cost him the final 11 games of his collegiate career, a suspension born out of allegations of rape.

Earlier this week, Swilling took to Twitter to explain that the NCAA denied his appeal for a waiver that would’ve permitted him to play football in 2014.

Under normal circumstances, a player in one sport who has not used his redshirt season can use a loophole in NCAA bylaws to play an “extra” season in another sport.  However, Swilling had incomplete grades for the spring semester that have been attributed to the rape investigation.

No charges were ever filed against Swilling, and a protective order that had been issued against him was dropped in April.  However, on Monday, the alleged victim filed a federal lawsuit against the university, with Tulsa World writing that the suit states “TU was negligent and failed to protect a female student’s rights under federal Title IX laws by not properly investigating multiple rape allegations against Swilling.”

Swilling fired back at his accuser in a letter, calling her a “cleat chaser” and denying any type of sexual assault took place.

“I have been verbally abused, harassed, constantly sent harsh things on social media and even received death threats on multiple occasions. While I understand the backlash, your opinions of myself have been created by reading material that portrays me in a negative light. Nothing written has been in my favor and nothing negating my accuser’s stories has been written either.”

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USC RB Tre Madden iffy for opener

Washington State v USC Getty Images

Last year it was a hamstring issue that limited Tre Madden for the last half of the season.  Heading into the 2014 season, it’s an issue a couple of feet south that could limit the running back.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Madden has been dealing with a toe injury he suffered earlier in summer camp.  The Times writes that the injury could make him questionable for the opener against Fresno State a week from Saturday.

Head coach Steve Sarkisian wasn’t prepared to go that far, at least not yet.

“We’re taking every precautionary action we can to make sure that Tre is great and ready to go when his time is called again,” Sarkisian said.

During the first five games last season, Madden rushed for 583 yards and three touchdowns.  The last eight, three of which he didn’t record a carry, Madden totaled just 120 yards and didn’t find the end zone.  His 703 yards were second on the team to the 785 yards for Javorius Allen, who figures to be the Trojans’ bell cow in the running game this year.

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Report: Braxton Miller surgery tentatively slated for Tuesday

Braxton Miller AP

Braxton Miller‘s road to recovery appears to have a semi-official start date.

Citing a source close to the Ohio State quarterback, the Columbus Dispatch is reporting that Miller is tentatively scheduled to undergo surgery next Tuesday.  The procedure will be performed by world-renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla.

Initial reports had the injury labeled as a dislocated shoulder, which later morphed into a torn labrum.  Instead, the Dispatch reports, Miller suffered a partially torn labrum in his right (throwing) shoulder.

The injury, similar to the one he suffered during the Orange Bowl and for which he underwent February surgery, occurred during practice Monday as Miller was making a short throw to the sidelines.  There was no contact on the play.

Head coach Urban Meyer said earlier in the week that a timeline for a return would be 9-12 months, which means Miller could return as early as summer workouts in 2015 or as late as the end of summer camp.  Or, obviously, somewhere in between.

In a statement confirming his injury, Miller stated his intentions are to return to Ohio State next season and play for the Buckeyes.

With Miller out for the season, the Buckeyes are expected to turn to redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett under center.  At the very least, Barrett will get the start in the opener against Navy, although backup Cardale Jones is expected to see some action as well.

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Neal Burcham holds off A&M transfer, named SMU’s starter

Central Florida v SMU

The official successor to Garrett Gilbert has been anointed, and it’s just who most expected it to be.

Following practice Thursday, June Jones announced that Neal Burcham has been tapped as SMU’s starting quarterback.  The Mustangs’ quarterback competition technically involved multiple players, but it essentially came down to Burcham and Texas A&M transfer Matt Davis.

“He has been waiting his turn to get in there,” Jones said. “I have been impressed watching him the last couple of years. He’s prepared himself, he’s worked hard. It’s just getting familiar with the offense and knowing where to go with the ball quickly and knowing your reads.”

The redshirt sophomore started the last two games in place of an injured Gilbert last season and went through spring practice, which Davis didn’t take part in, as the No. 1 quarterback. Jones cited Burcham’s experience in the offense as the deciding factor.

Burcham, a three-star member of the Mustangs’ 2012 recruiting class, completed 64-of-106 passes for 556 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions in 2013.  Davis isn’t going away anytime soon, however, as the four-star 2012 signee still has three years of eligibility remaining counting this season.

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CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: ACC Predictions

Navy v Duke

As the 2014 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the ACC. 

And while we’re at it, check out our CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository for our team’s looks at the upcoming season.

ATLANTIC DIVISION

1. Florida State (Last year: 14-0; beat Auburn in BCS Championship Game)
It is easy to make the Seminoles the chalk favorite when evaluating the rest of the ACC. Despite losing some key players from a national championship roster, Florida State returns Heisman Trophy winning Jameis Winston and a deep roster that has benefitted and prepared for this moment since the day Jimbo Fisher took over as head coach. The depth is there with loads of quality all around. Karlos Williams should have a big year at running back and Winston’s top targets in the open field will be Rashad Greene and tight end Nick O’Leary. The defense has a few holes to plug, but that should not be of much concern. Florida State looks to have the top unit or second-best unit in the entire ACC at every position on the field. There is not one game on the 2014 schedule Florida State should not be the favorite in, and they could keep this winning streak going into the playoffs. This team is clearly in College Football Playoff or bust mode with this amount of talent and the level of expectations in Tallahassee. Of all teams around the country, Florida State looks to be the most likely to be able to afford a blip in the loss column and still be invited to the playoff. But who can beat them? Anybody?

2. Clemson (Last year: 11-2; beat Ohio State in Orange Bowl)
The distance between Clemson and Florida State at the top of the Atlantic Division is not as widespread as last season’s meeting might suggest, but it did widen a bit heading into 2014 with the loss of Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins. Having Vic Beasley back on defense is rather nice. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris could have his work cut out for him in 2014 and Clemson could fall behind early if adjustments are not made. Getting to October with a winning record is not exactly a given with road trips to Georgia and Florida State lined up. Clemson should be a better team by the end of the season once they go through some growing pains early on.

3. Louisville (Last year: 12-1; beat Miami in Russell Athletic Bowl as member of AAC)
This Louisville team may be a far cry from the team we saw a year ago, but they could have a better debut season lined up compared to last year’s ACC rookies at Syracuse and Pittsburgh (and they both went to a bowl game and returned home with a win). The question is what does Bobby Petrino to get the Cardinals off on the right foot and can he continue to work some quarterback magic as the Cardinals enter the post-Teddy Bridgewater era? For starters, he feeds Dominique Brown and Michael Dyer on the ground and gets the ball to DeVante Parker through the air. Will Gardner will be the likely heir to Bridgewater’s throne under center, with just 12 pass attempts last season. The defense should be prepared for an adjustment period after returning juts four starters from last season.

4. Syracuse (Last year: 7-6; beat Minnesota in Texas Bowl)
Syracuse turned out to be a nice little surprise last season, but running back Terrell Hunt is no longer a secret. The Orange will let him carry the offense with his legs and his arm once again. If he can cut down on the interceptions and tack on a few more touchdowns through the air he will give defenses a little something extra to think about. With 15 starters back, the Orange look to have a good amount of experience on both sides of the football. They are not at a level ready to compete for a top spot in the division, but Syracuse could make a push for a third place finish if some pieces come together. The Orange have a schedule that could set up for a great start, but a challenging October will see Syracuse go through some rough spots. How they play through it will tell how their season will end.

5. Boston College (Last year: 7-6; lost to Arizona in Advocare V100 Bowl)
Steve Addazio has already breathed new life into this program, but what happens this season could be crucial. Boston College only brings back a handful of players from last season’s 7-6 squad, and they must find a way to replace 2,000-yard rusher and Heisman Trophy finalist Andre Williams. The primary running duties will likely be handed off to Myles Willis, and quarterback transfer Tyler Murphy from Florida should embrace a fresh opportunity with a head coach who knows all about him. The spring showed Boston College will once again be likely to rely on the running game, but help could be on the way in the passing game with some receivers getting into the mix.

6. North Carolina State (Last year: 3-9)
The 2013 season was a painful one for the Wolfpack, somewhat literally. With a rash of injuries across the roster, NC State hardly got a chance to see what it could do with new head coach Dave Doeren on the sideline. With any luck that should change this season, with 14 starters due to return this season. There is plenty of work to be done on offense and defense in Raleigh, but having a steady quarterback situation with the transfer of Jacoby Brisset from Florida could help.

7. Wake Forest (Last year: 4-8)
New head coach Dave Clawson will have to be patient as he takes over a Wake Forest team in need of improvement across the field. The offense has averaged fewer than 19 points per game each of the past two seasons. Can that possibly go one more year? Competing in this division does not make anything easier for the Demon Deacons. They could jump out to a promising start (3-1 is not completely unrealistic), but once ACC play opens it could be a long fall.

COASTAL DIVISION

1. North Carolina (Last year: 7-6; beat Cincinnati in Belk Bowl)
The biggest thing going for North Carolina is momentum. After getting off to a rough start in 2013 (1-5), the Tar Heels kicked things in gear and ended the season winning six of the final seven games of the year, including a bowl victory. Larry Fedora finally seems to have things in order for a potential run to a division title, and he does so with 15 starters coming back this season. Marquise Williams will keep the dual-threat going for the Tar Heels after leading the team in rushing in 2013 and second to Bryn Renner in passing, but getting running back TJ Logan more involved should be in the plans. North Carolina may be a little in development on the defensive line, but the linebackers and secondary are in really good shape this fall.

2. Miami (Last year: 9-4; lost to Louisville in Russell Athletic Bowl)

It is hard to believe but Miami is entering its 11th season as a member of the ACC and is still searching for a trip to the ACC Championship Game. Could this finally be the year for the Hurricanes? Al Golden certainly has a running back to lead his offense there with Duke Johnson and the defense did put up some better numbers in 2013 compared to 2012 by knocking off roughly four points and 60 yards per game. And for the first time in a while Miami posted back-to-back seasons with a positive turnover margin. Want more? The offense has increased its average scoring each season Golden has been in Miami. Yet, they can’t seem to take a firm grasp on the Coastal Division. Why? Inconsistent play. Miami will be challenged early with road games at Louisville and Nebraska and a home date against Arkansas State is no guarantee. Miami also catches Florida State on the schedule, which could hurt their chances in the division race when other possible contenders skip FSU (and Clemson).

3. Virginia Tech (Last year: 8-5; lost to UCLA in Sun Bowl)
Virginia Tech returns nine starters on offense, but the Hokies break in a new starting quarterback. Fortunately, transfer Michael Brewer is not without experience and could be ready to step right into action in Blacksburg. The offensive line has just one hold to fill as well, so stability and uniformity should not be a concern. Virginia Tech’s biggest concern will just be scoring points after averaging just 22.5 points per game last season. And that’s the catch. Virginia Tech only allowed 19.3 points per game last season, so the Hokies probably should have won more than eight games. There is a chance to get off to a good start too, because the road trip at Ohio State looks much more manageable now with Braxton Miller out for the season.

4. Pittsburgh (Last year: 7-6; beat Bowling Green in Little Caesars Pizza Bowl)
Pittsburgh loses a monster on the defensive line with Aaron Donald now in the NFL, and the secondary is extremely thin in light of some offseason news, so to say the defense is a concern is putting it nicely for the Panthers. The Panthers also allowed more points per game than they scored, which tends to be a rarity for a team with a winning record.  If the defense can clamp down just a bit more, Pittsburgh could easily play their way to a Coastal title, although they will win ugly at times. Pittsburgh has young receiver Tyler Boyd, already one of the top receivers in the ACC, and a steady running stable of James Conner and Isaac Bennett. The schedule is also extremely favorable for Pittsburgh, with no Florida State or Clemson and home games against Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Duke.

5. Duke (Last year: 10-4; lost to Texas A&M in Chick-fil-A Bowl)
Let us not attempt to take anything away from the great work done in Durham by David Cutcliffe and his Blue Devils the last two seasons. Duke going to back-to-back bowl games was something that could once only be dreamed of. Can they get back to the postseason for a third straight year? Absolutely, but will the rest of the division and the typical football powers rebound a little to block a return trip to the ACC Championship? Duke was set to return 14 starters, but injuries have already taken a toll with an ACL tear to All-ACC linebacker Kelby Brown and another to tight end Braxton Deaver. On top of that, Duke lost quarterback Brandon Connette to a transfer to Fresno State. All is not lost though. Duke still has receiver Jamison Crowder, one of the best in the ACC, and the schedule avoids Florida State and Clemson once again. No school in the country will have an easier October either.

6. Georgia Tech (Last year: 7-6; lost to Mississippi in Music City Bowl)
Georgia Tech’s strategy will be the same as it has always been under head coach Paul Johnson; Run, run, option run. Will the Yellow Jackets be able to use that offensive style effectively enough to take the heat off of Johnson? The depth on offense is not great, although six starters return from 2013. One starter not back this season is quarterback Vad Lee, who decided to transfer this offseason. That opens the door for sophomore Justin Thomas under center, and he played sparingly last season. The big concern will be the defense. Georgia Tech allowed just 22.8 points per game last season, the lowest average since 2008, but just four starters return for the new year. Georgia Tech may still have enough to make a run at the wide-open Coastal Division (avoiding Florida State on the schedule helps, and they get Clemson at home).

7. Virginia (Last year: 2-10)
If there is one coach that is latched into the hot seat in the ACC, it may just be Virginia’s Mike London. The head coach of the Cavaliers. Virginia lost their top offensive player in tight end Jake McGee (he went to Florida), so the need for returning players to step up in 2014 cannot be overstated. Virginia does return eight starters on offense, with a handful of young players scattered throughout. Running back Kevin Parks should be the focus of the offense after a 1,000-yard season with 11 touchdowns. The defense returns nine starters from 2013, and the hope is playing experience last season will help slow down a trend in allowing more points per game each of the past three seasons. The defense was gashed for 404 yards per game last season, the highest per-game average dating back to 2007. One positive might be the number of sacks (28) was the highest sack total for Virginia since recording 29 in 2008. But Virginia has a long way to go to improve on two wins from last season.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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