Wake Forest Demon Deacons

BLOOMINGTON, IN - SEPTEMBER 24: Jessie Bates #3 of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons reaches for and makes the interception against the Indiana Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Wake Forest starts 4-0 for first time in a decade

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In 2006, Wake Forest began the season 4-0 en route to an improbable bid to the Orange Bowl.  A decade later, could it be deja vu all over again?

Unbelievably, the answer to that is, well, yeah.  Well, it’s at least technically possible — although glancing at the latest box score that would’ve been the furthest thing from your mind.

In Saturday’s game against Indiana, the Demon Deacons were outgained 611-352 in total offense.  Hoosiers quarterback Richard Lagow strafed Wake’s defense for 496 yards and three touchdowns.  But then you catch a glimpse of the category that reads “Turnovers.”

The Demon Deacon defense intercepted Lagow a whopping five times.  Not only did the defense return one of those for a touchdown, the offense converted another two picks into 10 points.

The final score?  Wake 33, Indiana 28.

With the win, Wake improved to 4-0 on the season for the first time since that 2006 campaign mentioned in the lede.  Before you go out and bet your house on an ACC Coastal title for the Deacons, however, keep this in mind: Wake still has games left against No. 13 Florida State (10/15), No. 3 Louisville (11/12) and No. 5 Clemson (11/19), with the first two games on the road.

If you’re a Wake fan, though, it’s fun to dream — especially when your team’s six-game losing streak to close out the 2015 season is factored in.

Wake Forest QB Kendall Hinton out 2-4 weeks

WINSTON-SALEM, NC - SEPTEMBER 26: Kendall Hinton #2 of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons drops back to pass against the Indiana Hoosiers at BB&T Field on September 26, 2015 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
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Wake Forest’s quarterback depth will be a tad more shallow the next few weeks. Quarterback Kendall Hinton will be out of action for anywhere between two and four weeks, according to the school on Monday. Hinton suffered a sprained ligament in his left knee over the weekend against Delaware. It was his second start for Wake Forest.

With the announced timeline for his injury recovery, Wake Forest will be without Hinton for games against Indiana and North Carolina State at a minimum. Additional lost time could cost Hinton a chance to play against Syracuse and Florida State in the weeks to follow. With Hinton out of action, Wake Forest will run the offense with John Wolford, who previously lost the starting job to Hinton.

Hinton completed 11 of 19 pass attempts in his appearances in three games so far this season, accounting for 174 passing yards and one interception. While his passing numbers may not be great, what he brought to the running game is what stood out.Hinton rushed for 390 yards and seven touchdowns last season and was off and running this year with 125 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Last season, Hinton appeared in 10 games for the Demon Deacons and passed for 929 yards and four touchdowns with five interceptions, while Wolford led the passing offense.

As a result of HB2, ACC yanking football title game from Charlotte

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 1: The Virginia Tech Hokies celebrate a trip to the Orange Bowl after play against the Boston College Eagles in the ACC Championship Game at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium on December 1, 2007 in Jacksonville, Florida.  The Hokies won the title 30 - 16.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
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Well that certainly didn’t take long.

The NCAA announced Monday night that it is pulling seven of its championships from the state of North Carolina because of the controversial House Bill 2 (HB2), a law which some claim fosters discrimination against members of the LGBT communities.  While president Mark Emmert stated that The Association would not push for the ACC to move its football championship game from Charlotte, the conference’s commissioner, John Swofford, heavily intimated that a move could happen.

Wednesday afternoon, that move became official as the ACC announced that  the league “will relocate all neutral site championships for the 2016-17 academic year.”  Included in that number is the football title game, which had been scheduled to be played at Bank of America Stadium through the 2019 season.

The other sports impacted are:

Women’s Soccer
Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving
Women’s Basketball
Men’s and Women’s Tennis
Women’s Golf
Men’s Golf
Baseball

This year’s football title game at the site that’s been its home for six years had been scheduled for Dec. 3 at the home of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.  Tampa (the Buccaneers are on the road that weekend) and Miami (same for Dolphins) have already been mentioned as possibilities for this year’s game.  Orlando would have been an obvious choice, but the Citrus Bowl is hosting a pair of high school football championship games that same day.  Another potential temporary home, Jacksonville, likely won’t be in play this year as the NFL’s Jaguars have a home game the first weekend of December.

FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, could be a consideration as well as the Redskins play away from their home.  The NFL stadium has played host to a number of college football games the past few years, although whether the weather that time of year would be a concern to the ACC remains to be seen.

Charlotte has played host to the ACC football championship game since 2010. Prior to 2010, the first three were played in Jacksonville and the next two in Tampa.

Below are the statements on the relocation by league officials.

Statement from the ACC Council of Presidents:
“As members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the ACC Council of Presidents reaffirmed our collective commitment to uphold the values of equality, diversity, inclusion and non-discrimination. Every one of our 15 universities is strongly committed to these values and therefore, we will continue to host ACC Championships at campus sites. We believe North Carolina House Bill 2 is inconsistent with these values, and as a result, we will relocate all neutral site championships for the 2016-17 academic year. All locations will be announced in the future from the conference office.”

Statement from Clemson University President James P. Clements, chair of the ACC Council of Presidents:
“The ACC presidents engaged in a constructive, wide-ranging and vigorous discussion of this complex issue over the past two days. The decision to move the neutral site championships out of North Carolina while HB 2 remains the law was not an easy one but it is consistent with the shared values of inclusion and non-discrimination at all of our institutions.”

Statement from ACC Commissioner John Swofford:
“The ACC Council of Presidents made it clear that the core values of this league are of the utmost importance, and the opposition to any form of discrimination is paramount. Today’s decision is one of principle, and while this decision is the right one, we recognize there will be individuals and communities that are supportive of our values as well as our championship sites that will be negatively affected. Hopefully, there will be opportunities beyond 2016-17 for North Carolina neutral sites to be awarded championships.

 

NCAA won’t push ACC to move football title game from Charlotte

NCAA Men's Final Four - Practice
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Charlotte may end up losing the ACC championship game, but it won’t be at the behest of the NCAA.

The NCAA announced Monday night that it is pulling seven of its championships from the state of North Carolina because of the controversial House Bill 2 (HB2), a law which some claim fosters discrimination against members of the LGBT communities.  The highest-profile events to be moved out of the state are the men’s basketball first- and second-round games that had been scheduled to be played next March in Greensboro.

When it comes to comes to the ACC’s football championship game held annually in Charlotte, that will be left up to the conference’s discretion.

Based on a strongly-worded statement from the league’s commissioner last night, however, the title game might not be long for the North Carolina city as long as HB2 remains in effect.

“The decision by the NCAA Board of Governors to relocate all current, and not award any future, NCAA Championship sites in the state of North Carolina continues to build upon the negative impact this bill has already had on the state,” John Swofford’s statement began. “HB2 was previously scheduled to be thoroughly discussed at this week’s ACC Council of Presidents meeting, so it would be premature to make any decisions or announcements regarding ACC Championships until our membership is able to discuss. The league’s longstanding commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion will continue to be a central theme to our discussions.

“On a personal note, it’s time for this bill to be repealed as it’s counter to basic human rights.”

Charlotte has played host to the ACC football championship game since 2010, and is contractually tied to the conference through the 2019 season. Prior to 2010, the first three were played in Jacksonville and the next two in Tampa.

Orlando and Atlanta were also considered as options to host the title game.

CFT 2016 Preseason Previews: the ACC

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 05:  Deshaun Watson #4 of the Clemson Tigers holds the ACC Championship trophy after defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels 45-37 at the Atlantic Coast Conference Football Championship at Bank of America Stadium on December 5, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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As the 2016 season draws near, we will peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the East Coast’s Power Five entrant.

The first two years of the College Football Playoff, the ACC, along with the Big Ten and SEC, sent a team to the semifinals each postseason go ’round.  Florida State was knocked out of the semifinals by Oregon in 2014, while Clemson made it to the national championship game last year before being bested by Alabama.

During that span, and really for a couple of years prior, FSU and Clemson were essentially the only football things the conference had to crow about nationally.  Could this be the year when other teams in the league join them?  That remains to be seen, although North Carolina and Louisville both have the talent and potential to be labeled as playoff darkhorses entering the 2016 season.

So, without any further ado, let’s see how this little corner of the college football world sees the ACC race shaking out.

ACC ATLANTIC

1. Clemson (14-1 in 2015; lost to Alabama in College Football Playoff title game)
This is damn-near flip-a-coin territory as you really couldn’t go wrong in the top spot with two of the best teams not only in the division but in the country.  In the end, I went with the team with the more experienced — and, for now, talented and productive — quarterback.  Deshaun Watson is not only the most heralded and decorated quarterback at the FBS level, he’s one of the most gifted players at any position in the game and is earmarked for the Top Three of next year’s NFL draft.  In the sport of college football, one player — see: Newton, Cam — can indeed make a team better than the roster would suggest they should be.  Fortunately for Watson, he’s not in that category as he’s surrounded by talented playmakers, although there could be some concern in replacing experience lost on the defensive side of the ball.

2. Florida State (10-3 in 2015, lost to Houston in Peach Bowl)
Last year was a quote-unquote “rebuilding year” at FSU, and the Seminoles still managed a 10-win season and a spot in one of the New Year’s Six bowl games.  They return nine starters on offense — one of those starters, quarterback Sean Maguire, will begin the season on the sidelines due to injury, replaced by redshirt freshman Deondre Francois — and six on the defensive side of the ball.  Since winning the national championship in 2013, Jimbo Fisher has pulled in recruiting classes ranked second (2016), third (2015) and fourth (2014).  So yes, there is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to talent.  And, perhaps most importantly, they get Clemson at home in Tallahassee this season.

3. Louisville (8-5 in 2015, beat Texas A&M in Music City Bowl)
After winning six of their last seven games last season, Louisville is poised to provide Clemson and Florida State with a challenge in the ACC Atlantic — whether that statement should end with an exclamation point or question mark remains to be seen.  The Cardinals nearly derailed the Tigers’ early-season title hopes last season in coming three points shy of an upset.  That was followed a month later by a 20-point loss to the Seminoles.  With 16 returning starters, including superb dual-threat quarterback Lamar Jackson, the talent is certainly there for the U of L to, potentially, compete with the big boys of the division.  Whether they can turn that competing potential into reality will be known within the first month of the season as they will face their divisional nemeses in Weeks 3 (FSU) and 5 (at Clemson).

4. North Carolina State (7-6 in 2015, lost to Mississippi State in Belk Bowl)
The following stat is highly illuminating, and a fairly good summation of the state of the Wolfpack under Dave Doeren: in the last two seasons, NC State went 0-10 vs. bowl-eligible teams in the regular season, 13-1 vs. teams that weren’t.  In other words, the Wolfpack is just good enough to qualify for a middle-of-the-road bowl, but don’t appear even remotely ready to compete against the best the division has to offer let alone the conference elite.  The loss of do-everything quarterback Jacoby Brissett won’t help get to the next level, and neither will a schedule that features road tests against Clemson, Louisville and North Carolina as well as home dates with Notre Dame, Florida State and Miami.

5. Boston College (3-9 in 2015)
Coming off a combined six wins the previous two seasons, BC went 7-6 in each of the first two years of the Steve Addazio era on Chestnut Hill.  Year 3 brought a slide back to 3-9, a mark that included zero wins in conference play, again renewing concerns about the future of the Eagles football program.  The Eagles careened to the end 2015 on an eight-game losing streak and will enter 2016 with a third offensive coordinator in four seasons.  The defense being above-average is a given; if Scot Loeffler can resurrect a moribund offense, BC could be headed back to a bowl game after a one-year sabbatical.

6. Wake Forest (3-9 in 2015)
Hired to replace the resigning Jim Grobe, Dave Clawson was viewed as a head coach who could help breathe some life into a flailing football program.  Instead, Clawson has put a pair of three-win seasons on the board — the worst two-year stretch for the Demon Deacons since four wins in 1995-96 — that have left his seat at least a little bit on the warm side.  Wake hasn’t played in a bowl since 2011, and Clawson hasn’t shied away from publicly stating the postseason is his goal this season.  The schedule sets up somewhat favorably for a bowl run as Wake plays seven homes games this year, with six of those coming against sub-.500 teams.  If a bowl is not in the picture? Place Clawson squarely on the hot seat entering 2017.

7. Syracuse (4-8 in 2015)
If nothing more, first-year head coach Dino Babers and his fast-paced offense will add some on-field electricity to a Carrier Dome that could certainly use it.  Whether that translates into immediate success in the won/loss column seems unlikely as Babers will likely need 2-3 years to procure the personnel that will fit his system.  Well, that and the fact that Babers inherited a program that won a combined seven games the past two seasons.  And a 2016 schedule that includes games against Louisville, Notre Dame, Clemson and Florida State.

ACC COASTAL

1. North Carolina (11-3 in 2015, lost to Baylor in Russell Athletic Bowl)
North Carolina allowed two touchdowns fewer per game last season than the year before, and they return six defensive starters from that much-improved squad.  While they return seven starters on the other side of the ball, one of those that has to be replaced is record-setting quarterback Marquise Williams.  The good news is that Williams’ replacement, redshirt junior Mitch Trubisky, has plenty of experience, having thrown for 1,000-plus yards in 19 games as a career backup.  The schedule could prove problematic in getting back to double-digit wins as UNC opens the season on a neutral field against Georgia, then travel to Florida State, Miami and Duke the rest of the year.  Still, the Tar Heels should be the team to beat in the Coastal.

2. Miami (8-5 in 2015, lost to Washington State in Sun Bowl)
Let’s get this out of the way upfront: Mark Richt is a significant upgrade over Al Golden on the sidelines, and it’s not really close.  Richt’s parting of the ways with Georgia paved the way for The U to find its best hope for a return to national prominence since the days of Butch Davis.  With 15 returning starters, a number that includes ACC passing-yards-per-game leader Brad Kaaya, the talent is there for Richt to make an immediate impact.  In fact, it should surprise no one if it’s the Hurricanes representing the Coastal in a conference championship game — an appearance that would mark Miami’s first-ever appearance in the title tilt since joining the league in 2004.  And that little factoid, in a nutshell, sums up the pre-Richt State of The U.

3. Pittsburgh (8-5 in 2015, lost to Navy in Military Bowl)
James Conner and his kicking cancer’s ass — while also rehabbing a bum MCL — is one of the feel-good stories of the entire 2016 offseason.  Combine a healthy Connor with reigning ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year Qadree Ollison, and the Panthers would possess one of the most talented backfield tandems in the conference if not the nation.  Coming off the program’s best season in five years under first-year head coach Pat Narduzzi and returning 16 starters, there’s a cautious optimism permeating the Steel City.   Whether that optimism remains after league road trips to North Carolina, Miami and Clemson — not to mention a date with Oklahoma State in Stillwater — is to be determined.

4. Virginia Tech (7-6 in 2015, beat Tulsa in Independence Bowl)
For the first time in nearly three decades, Frank Beamer won’t be patrolling the sidelines when Tech opens the 2016 season.  40-year-old Justin Fuente is Beamer’s replacement, and arguably the best move he made since his hiring was retaining long-time defensive coordinator Bud Foster.  With Foster in place, Fuente can turn his attention to installing his up-temp offense in Blacksburg.  It may take a year or two — and a recruiting class or two — for Fuente’s offensive ways to take root and blossom, but he should prove to be one of the three best hires of the 2015 coaching carousel.

5. Georgia Tech (3-9 in 2015)
From the opener in 2014 through the first two games of last season, Tech won 13 of 16 games.  After that, the Yellow Jackets went 1-9 the last 10 games to stagger to the end of 2015.  The lone win in that stretch?  A 22-16 shocker over Florida State.  The good news, if you can call it that, is that six of those nine losses were by eight points or less, with three of those coming by four or fewer.  Still, Tech’s streak of 18 straight bowl appearances came to an end; if the running game gets back to its previous levels — they averaged nearly 90 yards fewer on the ground than the year before — and Justin Thomas reverts to his sophomore form under center, there’s no reason the Yellow Jackets can’t start a new one.

6. Duke (8-5 in 2015, beat Indiana in Pinstripe Bowl)
In the first iteration of this preview, I slotted Duke at No. 4 in the Coastal, in very large part because of the guarded (misguided?) optimism that starting quarterback Thomas Sirk would, coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon, return at some point early on in the 2016 season.  Whoops?  With Sirk out for the season, the task of maintaining Duke football’s lofty levels of recent success has gotten exponentially more difficult.  The Blue Devils won 27 games the past three seasons, five more than the program won, combined, in the 13 seasons before David Cutcliffe‘s arrival in 2008.  What people tend to forget is that, prior to win totals of 10 (2013), nine (2014) and eight (2015) the past three seasons, Cutcliffe’s squads posted win totals of four, five, three, three and six from 2008-12; here’s to guessing there’s a dip back toward the latter in 2016 before rising back to the former.

7. Virginia (4-8 in 2015)
Bronco Mendenhall was one of the best — and most surprising — hires of the most recent spinning of the coaching carousel, but the former BYU head coach has his work cut out for him in Charlottesville.  The past four seasons under Mike London, the Cavaliers won a total of 15 games.  UVa. also, naturally, struggled in conference play, winning just eight of 32 ACC games in that span.  If anyone can get the program turned around it’s Mendenhall, although it’ll take time.  Fortunately for all involved, the new coach should get plenty of that.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTION
Clemson over North Carolina