Five questions for the ACC Football Kickoff

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The SEC had its fun with a four-day event, but the fun continues in the coming weeks. The ACC is the second conference on the summer media day schedule, and it gets started Sunday with players from each ACC school going through the circuit of interviews.

1. Who challenges Florida State in 2014?

The obvious answer would be Clemson, although the Tigers have some work to do after losing some explosive offensive leaders like Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins, and we all remember how close Clemson was to Florida State a year ago. Clemson looks to have the best overall roster after Florida State, but the Tigers will have to make a trip to Tallahassee this season in what should be the game of the year in the ACC. The question is whether or not there is anyone aside from Clemson that can rise up and give Florida State a tussle.

Miami? Virginia Tech? More on those in a bit.

2. How will Louisville’s first season in the ACC go?

This is an interesting time of transition for the Louisville program. Charlie Strong built the football program up to compete at this level but is now looking to restore the pride in the Texas football program. Watching Teddy Bridgewater go up against Florida State and Clemson would have been great to see, but now the Cardinals have to replace him as well. Bobby Petrino has returned to the program and is already changing things up with all-black alternate uniforms for the season opener and ACC-debut against Miami. Petrino is also looking to prove his wild hog days are behind him and to prove he can keep Louisville among the leaders in the new conference. The future looks bright for Louisville athletics, and the Cardinals could be in the top half of their division. How they stack up against Florida State and Clemson will be just the right measuring stick needed.

3. What about the other Big East alums?

This will be year two in the ACC for Pittsburgh and Syracuse. Despite a good amount of skepticism (myself included), the ACC debuts for both schools went much better than anticipated. Both represented the conference well with postseason wins. This season there could be more coming together as well. Pittsburgh could make a legitimate run in the Coastal Division the way the schedule lines up.

As for the older Big East alums, Miami has still yet to play in an ACC Championship Game since joining the conference. Nobody would have predicted that when the Hurricanes joined the ACC a decade ago. Could this finally be the year? Virginia Tech has been much more successful, but the Hokies are looking to bounce back as well after finishing out of the AP Top 25 each of the past two seasons. The last time that happened was 1992. How do the Hokies and Hurricanes help raise the ACC’s profile? Wins in Big Ten stadiums would be a good start. Miami visits Nebraska and Virginia Tech travels to Ohio State. Boston College also gets to play USC at home after a tough bout in Los Angeles last fall.

4. Will people finally start respecting Duke, or is the magical ride over?

Duke will forever be a basketball school, at least according to Randy Edsall (probably), but the Blue Devils have been one of the more positive stories the past two years. David Cutcliffe has certainly had his work cut out for him, but despite reaching the ACC Championship Game last season there are still some doubts the success will be sustained. Duke has taken advantage of down years or roller coaster seasons at Miami, Virginia Tech and North Carolina (throw NC State into the mix if you wish), through no fault of its own, but another solid season would go a long way to erasing some doubts about the stability of the program.

5. Where does the ACC fit in the new era of college football?

Expect ACC commissioner John Swofford to discuss the looming age of autonomy, but will he echo the statements made by SEC commissioner Mike Slive threatening to leave the current NCAA structure entirely in favor of a new Division IV? What about potential talk about an ACC Network, using a similar model to the SEC Network? Changes are coming to college football with the new College Football Playoff. All of this will be brought up over the course of the media day festivities.

What do you want to see answered at the ACC Football Kickoff?

Report: Akron to hire Chattanooga’s Tom Arth as next head coach

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The coaching carousel is, for now, all wrapped up.

According to the plugged-in folks at FootballScoop.com, Akron has filled the final FBS head coaching vacancy this offseason by plucking Chattanooga’s Tom Arth to be the Zips’ newest head coach.

The Ohio native is a former star quarterback for John Carroll University and most famously served as Peyton Manning’s backup with the Indianapolis Colts from 2003-2005.

Arth began his coaching career as an assistant at his alma mater back in 2010 and was elevated to head coach in 2013, going 40-8 with the Blue Streaks. He moved up to the FCS level with Chattanooga and doubled the Mocs’ win total in just two seasons at the school.

The move up to the MAC means Arth will replace Terry Bowden at Akron, who was fired earlier this month after going 35–52 over seven seasons with the program.

Arth won’t have much time to get acclimated to his new gig in Northeast Ohio with the early signing period just around the corner next week.

2017 starting LT Josh Ball, suspended after being accused of dating violence, won’t return to Florida State

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It appears Josh Ball‘s playing career at Florida State has come to an end.

In November of last year, reports surfaced that Sandra Sellers, an FSU student who dated Seminoles football player Josh Ball for a year and a half, had accused the offensive lineman of dating violence, including allegations that he physically attacked her on at least three occasions.  In mid-May, in connection to those allegations, Ball was suspended by the university after a ruling by the school’s judicial panel and led him to play at the junior college level in 2018.

While there was speculation earlier this month that Ball would attempt to rejoin the Seminoles football team, the lineman posted on Twitter Thursday evening that his time in Tallahassee is over.  Ball did, though, state that he is leaving the university “in good standing.”

“I have made the determination to stay closer to family and not return to Florida State even though I have been cleared and [am] in good standing to do so by the Florida State administration,” Ball wrote.

Ball started the last nine games of the 2017 season at left tackle for the Seminoles.  Exiting spring practice this year, and with last year’s starter Rick Leonard no longer around due to expired eligibility, the redshirt sophomore was penciled in as FSU’s starting right tackle.

A Fredericksburg, Va., native, the 6-8, 335-pound Ball spent the 2018 football season at a Kansas junior college.

Minnesota again extends P.J. Fleck’s contract

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In November of last year, not even all the way through his first season with the Golden Gophers, P.J. Fleck was given a contract extension.  A year and a month later, it’s lather, rinse and repeat on the contractual front.

Early Friday afternoon, Minnesota announced that the university and its head football coach had agreed to another contract extension.  The extended deal was formally approved by the university’s Board of Regents earlier in the day.

With the tweaked contract, Fleck, whose original five-year contract was agreed to in January of 2017, is now signed through the 2023 season and on into 2024.  Fleck made $3.35 million in 2018; there was no word on what if any financial adjustments were included in the extension.

“It is a tremendous honor to have the opportunity to lead this team and represent the University of Minnesota and our great state,” a statement from Fleck began. “Our family loves living in Minnesota, and I look forward to leading our football program into the future. Through the academic, athletic, social and spiritual development of our student-athletes, and through recruiting, we are building a championship culture that our fans can be proud of.

“Heather and I are so thankful to our staff, [athletic director] Mark Coyle, President Kaler and the Board of Regents for seeing the vision we have for our football program. We are so excited and humbled with the contract extension!”

Taking over a program that won nine games in 2016, Fleck has guided the Gophers to records of 5-7 and 6-6 his first two seasons at the school.  This year, Minnesota beat rival Wisconsin for the first time since 2003 and, in the process, became bowl-eligible for the first time under Fleck.

Pitt mourns death of College Football Hall of Famer Bill Fralic

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The extended Pitt football family is mourning the loss of one of the greatest Panthers ever.

Following a battle with cancer, Bill Fralic passed away Thursday, the football program announced in a press release Friday.  The former Pitt All-American was 56 years old.

“Bill is truly one of the iconic figures in the history of Pitt Athletics,” athletic director Heather Lyke said in a statement. “He set a tremendous standard for our current generation of student-athletes, not only as an athlete but also for what he went on to accomplish once his playing days concluded. Bill’s reputation for giving back might even transcend his Hall of Fame football career. He was a passionate supporter of Pitt and Penn Hills. Our deepest sympathies to his wife, Susan, and his many loved ones and friends.

Fralic, whose No. 79 jersey was retired more than three decades ago, was a three-time first-team All-American at Pitt, earning unanimous honors his last two seasons with the Panthers.  Twice Fralic finished in the Top 10 of the Heisman Trophy voting, the first-ever offensive lineman to do so.

Fralic’s prowess on the gridiron also led to a word that’s still a part of the football lexicon.

Fralic’s collegiate career led to the phrase “Pancake Block” being added to the football lexicon. Pitt publicists used “Pancakes” as a statistical barometer for each time Fralic put an opposing defensive lineman on his back.

The passing of Fralic comes less than a week after he paid for the hotel rooms for all of the players and coaches at Penn Hills High School, his alma mater which played for the PIAA Class 5A championship last Friday night.