CFT predicts: the ACC

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Like the Big East, the ACC’s reputation in football has taken a dive in recent years. The conference has an insulting BCS bowl record and traditional powers (i.e, Florida State and Miami) can’t get back into the national championship picture.

That has an opportunity to change this season. Florida State is one of those preseason media darlings getting the “Watch out, this team’s back!” treatment. The Seminoles have fallen flat in the face of high expectations, though. Will this year be any different?

Looking ahead to the 2012 season, here’s how the ACC should shake out:

(Let it be known that I reserve the right to change my mind at any time without notice.)

Atlantic Division

1. Florida State (last season: 9-4; won Champs Sports Bowl) 
I know, I know. This is the year the Seminoles finally get back in the BCS championship picture, right? Eh, I’ve heard that musical number before. Florida State should be good this season, but that good? The defense, though? Holy cow. One of the best in the nation last year in points allowed should be equally stout this time around. My concern continues to be the FSU offense. The ‘Noles couldn’t run the ball at all last year and the offensive line was downright awful at times. While the O-line should be more cohesive this season, the emphasis is currently on “should.”

2. Clemson (last season: 10-4; lost Orange Bowl) 
Clemson returns practically all its offensive weapons from a year ago, minus tight end Dwayne Allen and backup running back Mike Bellamy. The real loss for the Tigers is in the trenches along the offensive and defensive line — not to mention receiver Sammy Watkins for the first two games of the season due to a drug-related suspension. That could end up being problematic, and to me, that’s the difference between the Tigers and the ‘Noles. Tajh Boyd put up good numbers last year, but he can’t be under pressure the whole year. New defensive coordinator Brent Venables will try to turn the defense around.

3. North Carolina State (last season: 8-5; won Belk Bowl) 
The Wolfpack has one of the best players in the secondary in all of college football in David Amerson … who somehow was not a unanimous preseason All-ACC first-team selection. Anyway, N.C. State also has one of the better, yet under-the-radar quarterbacks in Mike Glennon. The Wolfpack return most of their starters from a year ago and get the benefit of skipping Virginia Tech on this season’s schedule.

4. Wake Forest (last season: 6-7; lost Music City Bowl) 
Jim Grobe enters his 12th season as the head coach of Wake Forest with an overall record of 68-67. The Demon Deacons were trending down for a few years after their 2007 Orange Bowl appearance, but this program seems to have regained some of its mojo last season. There’s some heavy turnover on the offense, especially along the O-line, but conference slate is manageable enough that Wake can manage a middle-of-the-pack finish.

5. Maryland (last season: 2-10) 
Things couldn’t have gone much worse for Randy Edsall in his first season with Maryland. As much as I don’t think Edsall is the right fit for the Terps, he’s too good a coach — yes, he is; he took UConn (UConn!) to a BCS bowl — to have another season as disastrous as his first. In fact, Maryland can get off to a good start with an easy non-conference schedule (save West Virginia) to give the Terps some confidence heading into their Oct. 6 game against Wake Forest. Once November rolls around, though, things get tough with games against Georgia Tech, Clemson, Florida State and North Carolina.

6. Boston College (last season: 4-8)
Boston College lost its two best players on either side of the ball — running back Montel Harris (rushed for 3,735 career yards) and linebacker Luke Kuechly — and Frank Spaziani has a grueling year ahead of him to try to save his job. BC’s program has tanked fast.

Coastal Division

1. Virginia Tech (last season: 11-3; lost Sugar Bowl) 
The Hokies are almost always the favorite to win the Coastal, and this year is no exception. Logan Thomas is gaining a lot of offseason whispers as a potential high-round NFL draft pick because of his size, but keep in mind this will only be his second full year as a starter. Tech is just one of those teams that always knows who they are, which is why Frank Beamer enjoys annual success. The back-end of the schedule features two big games for the Hokies: at Clemson on Oct. 20 — the Tigers swept Va. Tech in two games last year — and at home against Florida State Nov. 8. According to these projections, and I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this, it could be the first of two games between the Hokies and the Seminoles.

2. North Carolina (last season: 7-6; lost Independence Bowl)
Larry Fedora takes over a program that was firmly in the crosshairs of NCAA — the Tar Heels aren’t eligible to go to a bowl this season. The offense has playmakers in quarterback Bryn Renner and running back Giovani Bernard, so the scoring potential for Fedora’s spread offense is certainly there. Protecting Renner will be an offensive line featuring two all-conference selections in James Hurst and Jonathan Cooper.

3. Georgia Tech (last season: 8-5; lost Sun Bowl) 
The ACC Coastal field levels off and fast here. Georgia Tech returns 17 starters from a year ago, including quarterback Tevin Washington. Who Washington will throw to — when the Yellow Jackets throw — remains a question mark. For a team that runs the triple option, Ga. Tech has had some good receivers come out of the program in recent years, most recently Stephen Hill. The defense is a veteran group led by linebacker Julian Burnett.

4. Virginia (last season: 8-5; lost Chick-fil-A Bowl)
The Cavaliers upgrade their quarterback spot with Alabama transfer Phillip Sims. Linebacker Steve Greer returns after earning all-conference honors last year. I like the direction Mike London has Virginia headed and the schedule this season sets up well. No Florida State. No Clemson.

5. Miami (last season: 6-6)
The Hurricanes are dealing with a lot of turnover on offense and losing Ray-Ray Armstrong due to off-the-field issues hurts this team’s secondary. There really aren’t any guaranteed wins between mid-September and the season-ending game against Duke, either. Al Golden has one year under his belt in Miami, but this could shape up to be a rough one.

6. Duke (last season: 3-9)
The Blue Devils have 16 returning starters. Unfortunately, this team will be playing with wide receiver Blair Holliday on its mind. Holliday was involved in an offseason jet ski accident that put him temporarily in a coma. Coach David Cutcliffe will use it as a rallying point for his team, but it looks like another tough season for the Blue Devils. The final six games for this team (at VT, UNC, at FSU, Clemson, at GT, Miami) are brutal.

ACC champion: Virginia Tech

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Interested in our other 10 conference projections along with Division 1-A (FBS) Independents? View ’em all below by clicking the individual links or our projections landing page HERE. And don’t forget to check out CFT’s preseason Top 25.

Big East
Big Ten
Big 12
Conference USA
MAC
Mountain West
Pac-12
SEC
Sun Belt
WAC
Independents

Indiana QB Michael Penix could be a game-time decision again this week

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A week after being a game-time decision against Ohio State, Indiana quarterback Michael Penix appears to be heading to a similar fate this week. Only this time, the Hoosiers are hoping to get their starting quarterback on the field this week.

Indiana head coach Tom Allen the likely plan this week will be to leave a decision on whether or not to play Penix as a game-time decision, similar to last week. Just before the Hoosiers kicked off at home against the buckeyes, Penix was ruled out for the game. Peyton Ramsey took over the offense for the game. Ramsey would likely get the starting nod if Penix is ruled out for this weekend’s game against UConn. Jack Tuttle also played for Indiana against Ohio State and could be used as well.

“I don’t foresee it, hopefully, not being a day-to-day thing the rest of the season, but at the same time, for this Saturday’s game, we definitely aren’t going to know for several more days,” Allen said to reporters on Monday. “He probably will eventually be a game-time decision with him, but I don’t expect that to keep being the case every single week.”

The nature of the injury that has sidelined Penix has not been confirmed by Allen. Penix started the first two games of the season.

Texas Tech announces QB Alan Bowman to miss “several weeks” due to shoulder injury

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As reports were swirling around about a possible injury to their starting quarterback, Texas Tech has announced Alan Bowan will be out for “several weeks” as a result of a shoulder injury. The injury occurred during Texas Tech’s road game at Arizona this past weekend.

Bowman was examined briefly on the Texas Tech sideline during a road trip to Arizona last weekend (which resulted in a loss to the Arizona Wildcats). Bowman did not miss any playing time, so news of a potentially lengthy injury comes as a bit of a surprise. Bowman was taken to the ground by a defender. No penalty was called on the play.

The Red Raiders will now likely go with Jett Duffey to lead the offense at the position. Texas Tech is off this week. While Texas Tech has not shared an expected timeline for Bowman’s return, prior rumors surrounding the injury were suggesting it could be anywhere from six to eight weeks before Bowman returns to the field.

If Bowman is out for six weeks, he would potentially miss games against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Iowa State, and Kansas. If absent for eight weeks, tack on a game at West Virginia to the mix (Texas Tech has another bye week between road games at Kansas and West Virginia. That would be quite a tough stretch for Texas Tech to be without its starting quarterback, whether for six or eight weeks.

Bowman has thrown for 1,020 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions in three games this season.

FSU loses linebacker Kaindoh to season-ending ankle injury

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As if losing a game to Virginia was not bad enough for the Florida State Seminoles, head coach Willie Taggart announce don Monday linebacker Joshua Kaindoh will miss the remainder of the season. Kaindoh, a former five-star recruit and a starter for the Seminole defense, is out for the year due to a lower-body ankle injury, according to Taggart.

Kaindoh suffered the injury in the second quarter of Saturday’s loss at Virginia. He was carted off the field. Kaindoh has appeared in every game since his arrival at Florida State in 2017. Because he has only appeared in three games this season, he is eligible to use a redshirt season this year to preserve two more years of eligibility beginning in 2020. The NCAA modified the redshirt rule last season to allow players to save a redshirt season as long as they appear in four games or fewer during the season.

With Kaindoh out of action, that will likely lead to Florida State using Janarius Robinson on more plays, as the two had been splitting playing time this season. But depth on the defensive line has become a growing concern for Florida State, who has been dealing with all sorts of issues on defense to start the season.

Kaindoh’s season comes to an abrupt end with nine tackles and a sack.

Taggart also made note that left tackle Jauan Williams is now “week-to-week” while he bounces back from an ankle injury form Week 2, the severity of which is far less troublesome than the injury to Kaindoh.

LSU safety Todd Harris to miss rest of season with injury

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LSU safety Todd Harris will miss the rest of the 2019 season, head coach Ed Orgeron announced on Monday. Orgeron did not go into specifics regarding the injury to his junior safety. Harris was injured in the first half of Saturday night’s home win against Northwestern State, and he later returned to the field on crutches.

Orgeron only confirmed the injury was a season-ending injury, but he also explained Harris will be able to preserve a year of eligibility.

“We will use this year as a redshirt,” Orgeron said, according to The Advocate.

Because Harris did not appear in more than four games this season, he is allowed by the NCAA to use the 2019 season as a redshirt season, thus giving him two remaining years of eligibility beginning in 2020. The NCAA changed the redshirt rule last year to allow players to appear in up to four games without burning a year of their eligibility just for merely stepping foot on the field.

“It’s unfortunate. It was an unfortunate accident,” Orgeron said. “He just landed on the ground wrong.”

As for who replaces Harris on the depth chart, that job appears to be heading to junior safety JaCoby Stevens, who Orgeron noted was going to be used to fill the void.