CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: ACC Predictions

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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)

Updated conference title odds see usual suspects remain heavy favorites

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Until we’re told otherwise, college football will play a 2020 season, and so the sports books are still offering odds on the upcoming season.

One one offshore sports book release its updated conference-by-conference odds on Monday, which saw the usual suspects atop most conferences. Clemson in particular is a massive favorite to win a sixth straight ACC title, with bettors required to place $600 down to win $100 on the Tigers.

Oklahoma is again favored to win the Big 12, Ohio State to win the Big Ten, Boise State to win the Mountain West, Oregon to win the Pac-12 and Appalachian State to win the Sun Belt. Alabama is listed as a slight favorite to win the SEC once again, as is UCF in the American.

American

Central Florida              5/4
Memphis                       9/4
Cincinnati                      3/1
Navy                             14/1
SMU                             14/1
Houston                        16/1
Temple                         25/1
Tulane                           28/1
South Florida                50/1
Tulsa                            80/1
East Carolina                 100/1

ACC

Clemson                       1/6
Miami (FL)                     15/2
North Carolina               10/1
Virginia Tech                 12/1
Florida State                 16/1
Virginia                         20/1
Louisville                      28/1
Pittsburgh                     28/1
Wake Forest                 40/1
NC State                       50/1
Duke                            66/1
Syracuse                      66/1
Boston College             80/1
Georgia Tech                250/1

Big Ten

Ohio State                    4/9
Michigan                       7/2
Wisconsin                     9/1
Penn State                    10/1
Iowa                             16/1
Nebraska                      16/1
Minnesota                     25/1
Michigan State              33/1
Indiana                          40/1
Illinois                           50/1
Maryland                       50/1
Northwestern                 50/1
Purdue                          50/1
Rutgers                         250/1

Big 12

Oklahoma                     4/5
Texas                           3/2
Oklahoma State            6/1
Iowa State                    12/1
Baylor                           16/1
West Virginia                 16/1
Kansas State                25/1
TCU                              28/1
Texas Tech                   40/1
Kansas                         100/1

Conference USA

Western Kentucky         2/1
Florida Atlantic              3/1
UAB                             4/1
Louisiana Tech              11/2
Marshall                        11/2
Southern Miss               6/1
Middle Tennessee          25/1
Charlotte                       28/1
Florida International       28/1
North Texas                  40/1
Rice                              66/1
Old Dominion                100/1
UTSA                            100/1
UTEP                            150/1    

MAC

Ohio                             13/4
Buffalo                         4/1
Central Michigan           4/1
Ball State                      6/1
Miami (OH)                    8/1
Toledo                          8/1
Western Michigan          8/1
Kent State                     12/1
Eastern Michigan          16/1
Northern Illinois             20/1
Akron                           100/1
Bowling Green               100/1   

Mountain West

Boise State                   1/2
San Diego State            13/4
Air Force                       9/2
Utah State                    12/1
Colorado State              14/1
Wyoming                      25/1
Fresno State                 28/1
Hawaii                           28/1
Nevada                         50/1
San Jose State              50/1
UNLV                            66/1
New Mexico                  150/1   

Pac-12

Oregon                         5/2
USC                             11/4
Washington                   3/1
UCLA                            4/1
Utah                             9/2
Arizona State                14/1
California                      20/1
Stanford                       20/1
Arizona                         25/1
Colorado                      80/1
Oregon State                80/1     

SEC

Alabama                       5/6
Louisiana State             11/4
Georgia                        3/1
Florida                          6/1
Auburn                          14/1
Texas A&M                   16/1
Tennessee                    66/1
Kentucky                      100/1
Mississippi State           100/1
Missouri                        100/1
Ole Miss                       100/1
South Carolina              100/1
Arkansas                      250/1
Vanderbilt                     250/1

Sun Belt

App State                     1/2
Louisiana-Lafayette       9/4
Arkansas State              14/1
Troy                              14/1
Georgia Southern          16/1
Georgia State                22/1
Coastal Carolina            25/1
UL-Monroe                    40/1
South Alabama             50/1
Texas State                  66/1

Sam Ehlinger raises over $40,000 for COVID-19 response

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Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger on Friday announced a fundraising campaign mimicking that of Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and his girlfriend, Marissa Mowry.

“I am dedicated to helping families who have been impacted by the current global crisis, and have created a GoFundMe to raise money to assist organizations that are doing incredible work in my community and nationally including the Boys & Girls Club of America, the Central Texas Food Bank, Austin Pets Alive and more,” Ehlinger said on his GoFundMe campaign’s page.

Ehlinger set a lofty goal of $1 million.

Ehlinger’s drive has raised over $40,000 for the cause. The page has been shared 3,200 times, and attracted 481 donors.

“I donated because my brother, who went to UT and is a San Antonio native living in LA, has a mild case of Covid-19. He’s on the road to recovery but he’s not out of the woods yet. I’m hoping this donation will help reach Sam Ehlinger’s goal,” one donor said. “He’s got a heart of gold and is officially my favorite QB of all time!!!”

“I donated because I want to help people in my area afflicted with this terrible virus,” said another. “Through no fault of their own they find themselves in this situation and hopefully I can help them recover. Thank you, Sam for doing this. On the field and off the field you are a special person. Best wishes for a great 2020 season! Hook ’em Horns!!”

Those wishing to join the effort can do so HERE.

Big 12 shuts down in-person activities through May, will allow virtual instruction

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We long ago passed the threshold where it became newsworthy when an upcoming event has not been shut down, but, still: the Big 12 has officially put the kibosh on any and all hopes to hold a spring football season in 2020.

As of Sunday night, all in-person team activities across all sports are hereby canceled through May 31 “or until additional guidance is provided.”

But that’s not the news here.

The conference’s coached had grumbled loudly that the Big 12 was barring them from holding online football-specific meetings, but that moratorium is officially over.

The league was spurred to action by a Friday announcement by the SEC, but the Big 12 actually cut in front of its eastern rival. Whereas SEC coaches can hold virtual football meetings at 1 p.m. ET, but the Big 12 actually lifted its ban effective 8 a.m. ET this morning. (The Big Ten and ACC placed no such prohibition on its coaches.)

Like the SEC, Big 12 coaches are not allowed to watch their players go through drills or workouts, but they can hold meetings and they can send their players supplements, team apparel and workout equipment. That last provision bars teams from buying equipment — e.g., Texas can’t ship its whole roster their own Pelotons — but they can send them “reasonable” supplies “such as stretching band/straps, foam rollers, etc.”

College Football in Coronavirus Quarantine: On this day in CFT history

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The sports world, including college football, has essentially screeched to a halt as countries around the world battle the coronavirus pandemic. As such, there’s a dearth of college football news as spring practices have all but been canceled at every level of the sport. And there’s even some concern that the health issue could have an impact on the 2020 college football campaign.

In that vein, we thought it might be fun to go back through the CollegeFootballTalk archives and take a peek at what transpired in the sport on this date.

So, without further ado — ok, one further ado — here’s what happened in college football on March 27, by way of our team of CFT writers both past and present.

(P.S.: If any of our readers have ideas on posts they’d like to read during this hiatus, leave your suggestions in the comments section.  Mailbag, maybe?)

2018

THE HEADLINE: Les Miles says he still wants to coach but is trying his hand at acting in the meantime
THE SYNOPSIS: Less than nine months after this headline ran, Mad Hatter the Actor became Mad Matter the Coach again as Miles took over the Kansas football program. In the first season under Miles, the Jayhawks went 3-9. One of those wins, over Texas Tech, was one of the most Mad Hatter wins ever. Miles was also the first KU coach to start a season 2-1 since 1997.

As an aside, the last time Kansas won more than three games in a season? 2009, when they won five.  Chew on that.

2017

THE HEADLINE: Penn State trustee says he’s ‘running out of patience’ with ‘so-called victims’ of Jerry Sandusky
THE SYNOPSIS: It takes a special level of douchiness to go here.  Yet that’s what Albert Lord did.  Or, as we wrote: “With Baylor seemingly running away with the title of most embarrassing university in collegiate athletics, a Penn State trustee has said ‘hold my beer.'”

THE HEADLINE: Suspended Mich. St. staffer receives one-month contract EXTENSION
THE SYNOPSIS: Three years later, and even with Mark Dantonio‘s retirement, Michigan State is still knee-deep in the Curtis Blackwell situation.  Whether they’ll be knee-deep in an NCAA situation is to be determined.

2016

THE HEADLINE: Mich. St. releases statement on four-star signee Auston Robertson
THE SYNOPSIS: This player was the genesis for the off-field issues still facing the Michigan State football program.

2015

THE HEADLINE: PHOTO: Ohio State has a Michigan fire hydrant near its vet school
THE SYNOPSIS: College football.  The sport’s rivalries.  Still the best.  Ever.

2013

THE HEADLINE: Longtime Alabama AD Mal Moore passes away at age 73
THE SYNOPSIS: The 73-year-old Moore’s passing came less than a month after he stepped down because of health issues.  Moore had been the AD since 1999.

2011

THE HEADLINE: Fickell to take over for Tressel during five-game suspension
THE SYNOPSIS: After Jim Tressel abruptly resigned in May of that year because of his NCAA issue, Luke Fickell took over for the 2011 season at Ohio State.  He was ultimately replaced as head coach by Urban Meyer.  Five years later, Fickell became the head coach at Cincinnati.

2009

THE HEADLINE: HAWKINS PREDICTS 10 WINS FOR COLORADO*
THE SYNOPSIS: In his third season at Colorado, Dan Hawkins went on to win three games post-prediction.  After five wins the following season, Hawkins was fired.

(*Yes, back in the day, we used to scream out our headlines at our readers in all-caps. The move to NBC a couple of months later mercifully ended that practice.)