ACC Championship - Virginia Tech v Clemson

CFT Predicts: the ACC

18 Comments

As the 2013 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we examine the ACC.  

While we’re at it, be sure to check out our other conference predictions: SECBig Ten, Pac-12

Atlantic Division

1. Clemson (Last year: 11-2; beat LSU in Chick-fil-A Bowl) 
What happened last season?
The Tigers shook their ‘Clemsoning’ curse and previous Orange Bowl loss to West Virginia by going 11-2 and beating LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

So why are they ranked here?
Offense, offense, offense. And some offense sprinkled in. Quarterback Tajh Boyd is a legitimate Heisman candidate and he’ll have Sammy Watkins to throw to for a third straight year. Watkins had a bit of a sophomore slump in 2012 — at least by his standards — because of a variety of issues, from a suspension to injuries, but he still finished second on the team in receiving yards. His touchdown production should rise again after getting in the end zone just four times.

Anything else?
The defense improved under first-year coordinator Brent Venables. With as good as the Tigers offense projects to be, there’s more wiggle room on that side of the ball. Also, can Clemson finally beat South Carolina after dropping four straight games?

2. Florida State (Last year: 12-2; beat NIU in Orange Bowl) 
What happened last season?
The ‘Noles won the ACC and beat NIU in the Orange Bowl. They also pulled their annual head-scratcher by losing to North Carolina State. The circle never ends, it seems.

So why are they ranked here?
Talent isn’t a question Tallahassee, but there are a lot of new faces. Redshirt freshman Jameis Winston has a ton of upside at the quarterback spot, it just remains to be seen at this point how he handles his first year as starter. Wide receiver depth is becoming an issue too. The defensive line loses two pass rushers in Tank Carradine and Bjoern Werner, but that’s an area stacked — almost unfairly — with capable players.

Anything else?
Florida State had a whopping 11 NFL draft picks in April, but Jimbo Fisher also had to replace roughly half his coaching staff. That’s a lot of turnover and it’ll be interesting to see how players and coaches jell this year.

3. Maryland (Last year: 4-8)
What happened last season?
Randy Edsall doubled his win total in year two with the Terps, but a linebacker was starting at quarterback by the end of the year because of injuries. Apparently, being a quarterback at Maryland can be equated to playing drums for Spinal Tap.

So why are they ranked here?
The quarterbacks are finally back with working knees and there is some talent on that side of the ball, namely wide receiver Sefon Diggs. Another running back will have to step up with Wes Brown being suspended for the year, though the running game in general needs to improve. The Terps also have to replace a sizable portion of their starting defensive front seven. Several of Maryland’s toughest games (Florida State, Virginia Tech) are on the road too.

Anything else?
It feels like wide receiver Deon Long has led the life of a traveled NFL veteran more than a college player, but he finally at Maryland. He was suspended this spring, but he should be a good addition to the passing game. He has the physical tools to make an impact, so he could be a player to watch.

4. Wake Forest (Last year: 5-7) 
What happened last season?
It was a tough season in hindsight for the Deacs when you consider they lost two games by an average of six points (against Maryland, Duke) that could have propelled them back into the postseason.

So why are they ranked here?
There’s some potential for this team, which returns a good portion of its starting 22 from a year ago. Tanner Price is a veteran quarterback and leading running back Josh Harris will be eligible to play in 2013. The problem is Wake Forest couldn’t find the end zone last year and were shut out twice. The defense wasn’t much better, but it does return eight guys from 2012.

Anything else?
There are plenty of manageable games on Wake’s schedule this year, including in the non-conference department. Getting back to a bowl is a realistic goal.

5. North Carolina State (Last year: 7-6; lost to Vanderbilt in Music City Bowl) 
What happened last season?
Though NC State hadn’t had a losing season since 2009, and despite upsetting Florida State, Tom O’Brien couldn’t keep his job. He’s replaced by former NIU coach Dave Doeren.

So why are they ranked here?
Turnover is rarely easy, and there’s a lot of it for the Wolfpack in 2013. In addition to a new coaching staff, this team loses quarterback Mike Glennon and, even though he had some disappointing moments in 2012, cornerback David Amerson. There’s plenty to be excited about with Doeren, but his first year could be rough.

Anything else?
If there’s one area of improvement to look for right away, it would be the ground game. NC State was among the worst rushing teams a year ago while NIU ranked 12th in the nation in that category. The offense does return its top two leading rushers from a year ago in Shadrach Thornton and Tony Creecy.

6. Syracuse (Last year: 8-5; beat West Virginia in Pinstripe Bowl) 
What happened last season?
The Orange got off to a bit of a bumpy start, but won six of their final seven games in 2012. Two of those wins came in convincing fashion against Louisville and West Virginia.

So why are they ranked here?
The ‘Cuse lose coach Doug Marrone to the NFL and in comes Scott Shafer. The Orange are also entering a new conference with some key departures, including quarterback Ryan Nassib, wide receiver Alec Lemon and defensive back Shamarko Thomas — all leaders in their respective positions.

Anything else?
If there is one person to watch, it’s Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen. Though Shafer doesn’t plan on announcing a QB until the last possible moment, Allen is believed to be in a position to win the starting job. He played sparingly for the Sooners, but could be a key member of the offense for the Orange.

7. Boston College (Last year: 2-10)
What happened last season?
The Eagles won two games and Frank Spaziani got the long-awaited boot.

So why are they ranked here?
Former Temple coach Steve Addazio takes over and has, by all accounts, injected some energy into a program that desperately needs some. Whether that energy will turn into wins remains to be seen. This was an offense that couldn’t run the ball or score a year ago, but the passing duo of quarterback Chase Rettig and wide receiver Alex Amidon do give experience and play making ability to the passing game.

Anything else?
The front part of BC’s schedule is brutal, but there’s some room for the Eagles to make some noise toward the end of the year and build some momentum heading into 2014. The final two games against Maryland and Syracuse are on the road, but those aren’t impossible games to win.

Coastal Division

1. Miami (Last year: 7-5)
What happened last season?
The Hurricanes actually won a share of the Coastal Division, but they also self-imposed a postseason ban for the second straight year because of the ongoing NCAA investigation of the program.

So why are they ranked here?
Miami figures to have one of the more potent offenses in the entire conference thanks to the return of quarterback Stephen Morris and running back Duke Johnson, with the latter considered to be among the most exciting players to watch in the game. It’s the defense that has all the question marks for the ‘Canes. This was a team that was simply pushed around up front and gave up at least 40 points four times last year.

Anything else?
Give Al Golden credit. He’s identified the weakness on defense (not that it was too difficult) and recruited some immediate help. David Gilbert and Justin Renfrow join the team from Wisconsin and Virginia, respectively, and add an immediate boost along the defensive line.

2. North Carolina (Last year: 8-4)
What happened last season?
Like Miami, North Carolina had to watch the postseason from home thanks to a postseason ban. Unlike the Hurricanes, this was NCAA-mandated. Still the Tar Heels won eight games under first-year coach Larry Fedora.

So why are they ranked here?
There are two major departures from last year’s team: running back Giovani Bernard and offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper. Bernard received a bulk of the carries in the run game and had over 1,200 yards. So whether it’s one player — perhaps A.J. Blue — or a committee, that production will have to be replaced. But there are plenty of other playmakers on offense, including veteran QB Bryn Renner. Defense returns its entire secondary and should be an overall improved unit that fared well enough in Year 1 under Fedora.

Anything else?
UNC’s key stretch comes in the middle of the season. It starts with a road game at divisional opponent Georgia Tech and ends with another road game at North Carolina State. Get through that and a bulk of the Coastal Divsion contenders should be behind them by that point.

3. Virginia Tech (Last year: 7-6; beat Rutgers in Russell Athletic Bowl) 
What happened last season?
2012 was a disappointment by Virginia Tech’s standards. The Hokies needed overtime three times to pull out wins and there were some tough losses to Pitt and Cincinnati mixed in.

So why are they ranked here?
Primarily because health and depth are already concerns for Virginia Tech before a single regular season snap has been taken. Star cornerback Antone Exum will miss the season opener against Alabama and perhaps longer. The knee injury he sustained early this year was serious and there are few guarantees when it comes to a timeline for return. There’s been some attrition on both sides of the ball with various injuries and departures. If this team can get healthy as the season goes on, maybe it can make a run for the divisional title late in the season.

Anything else?
Scot Loeffler takes over as offensive coordinator. Quarterback Logan Thomas was, to say the least, inconsistent last year with just over a 50 percent completion rate and 18 touchdowns to 16 interceptions. He’s shown at times he can make tremendous throws, but he needs to be able to do it without a handful of bad throws and decisions in between. With Loeffler calling the plays, Thomas doesn’t need to throw for 4,000 yards — he just needs to play smarter.

4. Georgia Tech (Last year: 7-7; beat USC in the Sun Bowl) 
What happened last season?
The Yellow Jackets backed their way into the ACC championship game, but embarrassed USC in the Sun Bowl. So, yeah. Georgia Tech came out ahead on that one.

So why are they ranked here?
Some key pieces of GT’s triple option are leaving, including Tevin Washington and Orwin Smith. But, Vad Lee moves in to take control of the offense, and he already saw plenty of game action last year. The defense ended up playing much better down the stretch last year after Al Groh was fired, so there’s definitely room to continue growing on that side of the ball.

Anything else?
Despite being a run-heavy offense, Georgia Tech has been known to have one big, physical receiver under Paul Johnson. Jeff Greene looked to be that guy until he left for Ohio State. Who will step up for the Yellow Jackets in that spot in 2013?

5. Pitt (Last year: 6-7; lost to Ole Miss in BBVA Compass Bowl) 
What happened last season?
Pitt got off to a tough start in Year 1 under Paul Chryst by losing to Youngstown State to start the season, but rebounded quickly by beating Virginia Tech in Week 3. The Panthers actually won and lost games in alternating pairs the entire way through the year before falling to Ole Miss in the BBVA Compass Bowl.

So why are they ranked here?
After 14 years, 10 head coaches and 500 sacks, the Tino Sunseri era is finally over. Tom Savage, the former Rutgers quarterback who is also a veteran of the college game, enters 2013 as the starter. But there are a lot of concerns on offense, namely the running game. Ray Graham is gone and Rushel Shell, the running back figured to take bulk of the carries going forward, has moved on to West Virginia. Defense should be the strength of the team with defensive tackle Aaron Donald coming back along with a solid secondary that has safety Jason Hendricks, who led the team in tackles a year ago.

Anything else?
Pitt has the opportunity to make a huge first impression in the ACC if it can beat Florida State at home in Week 1. There are some tough games for the Panthers this season, including a road trip to Virginia Tech, and the Panthers are an unknown heading into ACC play.

6. Duke (Last year: 6-7; lost to Cincinnati in Belk Bowl)
What happened last season?
Duke became bowl eligible for the first time since 1994 under coach David Cutcliffe. The Blue Devils ultimately lost a close game to Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl, but there was a lot to be happy with in 2012.

So why are they ranked here?
There’s little concern on offense. Even though quarterback Sean Renfree is gone, there’s a lot of buzz on Anthony Boone. Boone is a mobile guy who gives Cutcliffe another dimension to add to the offensive attack. If the ground game can improve, this is a team that could be tough to stop. Defense is a concern as it ranked among the worst in the country a year ago. The Blue Devils will probably find themselves in more than a couple shootouts this fall.

Anything else?
No matter where Duke finishes in the ACC this season, there’s something to be said for what Cutcliffe is building there. He’s had other opportunities to leave, and he’s chosen to stay. He’s one of the most well-regarded X’s and O’s coaches in the game and the Blue Devils should be in a position at the end of the year to possibly make it to a second straight bowl game.

7. Virginia (Last year: 4-8)
What happened last season?
Virginia got an early season win against Penn State when the Nittany Lions were struggling, and a late-season win over Miami. In between was when things were rough.

So why are they ranked here?
Mike London went with a coaching overhaul that brings in former North Carolina State coach Tom O’Brien and Jon Tenuta as defensive coordinator. Defense should be the greater strength for UVA this year with a seasoned secondary. It’s the offense that needs work. Two quarterbacks from 2012 — Phillip Sims and Michael Rocco — are gone, so this is a team that will probably have to rely on its run game.

Anything else?
It’ll be interesting to see if Virginia can make strides with a restructured coaching staff, but wins could still be hard to come by with a tough schedule. BYU, Oregon and even Ball State make up a difficult non-conference slate, and the last four games against Clemson, North Carolina, Miami and Virginia Tech is a rough way to end the year.

———————————————

John Taylor’s Prediction:

ATLANTIC
1. Clemson
2. Florida State
3. North Carolina State
4. Wake Forest
5. Maryland
6. Syracuse
7. Boston College

COASTAL
1. Miami
2. North Carolina
3. Georgia Tech
4. Virginia Tech
5. Pittsburgh
6. Virginia
7. Duke

Ben’s ACC champ: Clemson
John’s ACC champ: Clemson

Starting corner Brendon Clements reinstated by Navy

ANNAPOLIS, MD - NOVEMBER 09: Cornerback Brendon Clements #1 of the Navy Midshipmen tackles wide receiver Marcus Kemp #14 of the Hawaii Warriors during the second quarter at NavyMarine Corps Memorial Stadium on November 9, 2013 in Annapolis, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

A potentially significant blow to Navy’s secondary has been averted.

Back in February, Navy announced that Brendon Clements had been indefinitely removed from the football team’s roster for violating Naval Academy rules.  It was initially thought that the senior’s playing career had come to an end, although that could never be confirmed.

Nearly three months later, however, the service academy announced that the starting cornerback has been reinstated.

Over the past three seasons, Clements started 35 games for the Midshipmen. Those are easily the most of any returning Navy player.

Four-star recruits reign in first round of NFL draft

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  Joey Bosa of Ohio State holds up a jersey after being picked #3 overall by the San Diego Chargers during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

A wild and controversy-laden first night of the 2016 NFL draft has long since been put to bed — one college football program may have ongoing and lingering night terrors, though — with the second round set to kick off in less than an hour. Before that, though, it’s time to take a quick recruiting look back at that first round.

There were a total of 31 players selected in that first round, with just four coming from non-Power Five programs — quarterback Carson Wentz (North Dakota State, FCS) to the Philadelphia Eagles at No. 2, cornerback William Jackson III (Houston, AAC) to the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 24, quarterback Paxton Lynch (Memphis, AAC) to the Denver Broncos at No. 26, defensive tackle Vernon Butler (Louisiana Tech, Conference USA) to the Carolina Panthers at No. 30.  Wentz, as you may have learned during the run-up to the draft, wasn’t ranked in 247Sports.com‘s 2011 composite rankings and received zero scholarship offers from FBS programs, with Central Michigan the only school from that level showing more than mild interest.  The other three?  They were two-star prospects according to that recruiting service.

Those stars, or lack thereof, though, were the exception rather than the rule.

Of the remaining 27 first-round picks in the 2016 draft, more than half (17) were four-star prospects coming out of high school, again according to 247Sports.com’s composite rankings.  Of the players selected in the Top 10, seven of them were four-star recruits, with the lone exceptions being Wentz, Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey (2013 five-star) and Michigan State offensive tackle Jack Conklin (not rated, zero FBS scholarship offers, began career as walk-on).

Aside from Wentz, Conklin, Jackson III, Lynch and Butler, every other draft pick was at least a three-star recruit coming out of high school.  Interestingly, there were nearly as many three-star recruits picked (four) as there were five-stars (five).

Including the No. 1 overall pick from Cal, quarterback Jared Goff, four of the first five selections were four-star prospects.  The first five-star selected was Ramsey; the first three-star was Louisville’s Sheldon Rankins at No. 12 to the New Orleans Saints.

Below is the entire first round of the 2016 NFL draft, with the draftees corresponding recruiting ranking in parentheses.

  1. Los Angeles Rams — Jared Goff, Cal (4*)
  2. Philadelphia Eagles — Carson Wentz, North Dakota State (NR)
  3. San Diego Chargers — Joey Bosa, Ohio State (4*)
  4. Dallas Cowboys — Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State (4*)
  5. Jacksonville Jaguars — Jalen Ramsey, Florida State (5*)
  6. Baltimore Ravens — Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame (4*)
  7. San Francisco 49ers — DeForest Buckner, Oregon (4*)
  8. Tennessee Titans — Jack Conklin, Michigan State (NR)
  9. Chicago Bears — Leonard Floyd, Georgia (4*)
  10. New York Giants — Eli Apple, Ohio State (4*)
  11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida (5*)
  12. New Orleans Saints — Sheldon Rankins, Louisville (3*)
  13. Miami Dolphins — Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss (5*)
  14. Oakland Raiders — Karl Joseph, West Virginia (3*)
  15. Cleveland Browns — Corey Coleman, Baylor (4*)
  16. Detroit Lions — Taylor Decker, Ohio State (4*)
  17. Atlanta Falcons — Keanu Neal, Florida (4*)
  18. Indianapolis Colts — Ryan Kelly, Alabama (4*)
  19. Buffalo Bills — Shaq Lawson, Clemson (4*)
  20. New York Jets — Darron Lee, Ohio State (3*)
  21. Houston Texans — Will Fuller, Notre Dame (4*)
  22. Washington Redskins — Josh Doctson, TCU (3*)
  23. Minnesota Vikings — Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss (5*)
  24. Cincinnati Bengals — William Jackson III, Houston (2*)
  25. Pittsburgh Steelers — Artie Burns, Miami (4*)
  26. Denver Broncos — Paxton Lynch, Memphis (2*)
  27. Green Bay Packers — Kenny Clark, UCLA (4*)
  28. San Francisco 49ers — Joshua Garnett, Stanford (4*)
  29. Arizona Cardinals — Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss (5*)
  30. Carolina Panthers — Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech (2*)
  31. Seattle Seahawks — Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M (4*)

Laremy Tunsil: ‘I’m just here to talk about the Miami Dolphins’

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  (L-R) Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss holds up a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #13 overall by the Miami Dolphins during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
Getty Images
2 Comments

For those expecting Laremy Tunsil to expound on Thursday night’s revelation, you were sorely disappointed.

Friday evening, following a strange hiccup that involved a purported allergic reaction, Tunsil was introduced to the Miami media as the first-round pick of the Dolphins.  Not surprisingly, Tunsil was asked about the events of last night, from the gas-mask bong hit to the hacked Instagram account displaying damning text messages that could leave Ole Miss in further NCAA hot water to seemingly acknowledging in the affirmative during a post-draft press conference that he had received money from a Rebels staffer.

Not surprisingly, the sequel, Tunsil wasn’t touching last night’s developments.

“I’m just here to talk about the Miami Dolphins,” Tunsil responded in one variation or another when asked a handful of times about the video and potential NCAA issues.

In the aftermath of the allegations and admission, Ole Miss released a statement in which the university vowed to “aggressively investigate and fully cooperate with the NCAA and the SEC.”

UMass chancellor scoffs at talk of disbanding football

UMass football
Associated Press
Leave a comment

This month we’ve already seen Eastern Michigan emphatically push back against faculty-fueled talk of moving the football program down to the FCS level or disbanding it completely.  Now it’s a former MAC member doing some pushing of its own on a similar effort.

Thursday, the faculty senate at UMass urged officials at the university to vote on a resolution “to end Division I football (Football Bowl Subdivision) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and either move to a different division or discontinue NCAA football altogether.”  That blast served as the latest salvo in a nearly four-year effort by the senate to rid itself and its university of the sport.

As has been the case in previous efforts, they appear to have failed miserably as the motion was defeated by a 2-1 margin.  Saying “[t]his is now the third time in my four years that they have brought up a motion and have not succeeded,” chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy went on to praise the direction of a program that is now a football independent after leaving the MAC following the 2015 season.

I think the program is in good shape and (headed) in the right direction,” he said. “This was simply a small group of senators who have been carrying on this agenda for some time. And they’re not getting the support they need. …

“I can’t control what the Faculty Senate does. It’s a waste of this important body’s time, in my opinion, to keep bringing up this issue. We have lots of issues on the curriculum and we have lots of issues on our future planning and so forth. So I think the academic senate’s time should be more wisely spent than debating something over and over again.”

Like their former conference counterparts at EMU, UMass has struggled mightily of late.  Since becoming full-fledged members of the FBS in 2012, the Minutemen have posted just eight wins versus 40 losses.

Despite those struggles, “we have strong support from the alumni base and our own student body,” Subbaswamy said, “which we’re going to build even more once we start playing even more games on campus.”