Joe Giglio's ACC predictions: Clemson, FSU, then questions

jgiglio@newsobserver.comAugust 24, 2013 

Clemson and Florida State will be good in 2013 but who else in the ACC? How many teams are there in the ACC now? Will UNC, N.C. State and Duke all make a bowl in the same season for the first time in almost 20 years?

Everything you need to know about the ACC this football season from our college football writer Joe Giglio.

Five games to watch

1. Georgia at Clemson (Aug. 31): The Tigers have won 13 of 14 at Death Valley but their last home game was a loss to a top 10 SEC team (South Carolina). The Bulldogs enter the game ranked No. 5.

2. Florida State at Clemson (Oct. 19): The “real” ACC championship, if you will. The home team has won six in a row in the series, including FSU’s 49-37 decision last September.

3. UNC at N.C. State (Nov. 2): Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora has never lost to the Wolfpack. No one on the UNC roster has ever won at Carter-Finley Stadium.

4. Virginia Tech at Miami (Nov. 9): Miami blasted the Hokies at home last year 30-12, and due to a scheduling quirk, they get them in a key Coastal Division game in south Florida again.

5. Duke at UNC (Nov. 30): The Blue Devils’ 33-30 “Victory Bell” win – their second since 1989 – was so big on Oct. 20, they haven’t won a game since.

We’ll miss

1. Tom O’Brien: No one could deliver a zinger like the Icy Commander. He won big games at N.C. State but he did not win big enough to keep his job after six seasons.

2. Gio Bernard: “The Punt Return” would be enough to make this list but his career – 33 TDs in 23 games – was so much more than just one play.

3. Maryland: This is the minority opinion, but the Terps – with their test-pattern uniforms, vulgar fans and “OG” ACC status – eventually will be missed in these parts. Even if no one wants to come out and admit it yet.

4. Andre Ellington: No one seems to have noticed that the Clemson running back, who ran for 2,259 yards the past two seasons, is gone and the Tigers don’t have an obvious replacement for him.

5. Mike O’Cain: One of the best quarterback tutors anywhere, O’Cain spent the past 25 years in the ACC in various roles at N.C. State, UNC, Clemson and Virginia Tech. James Madison’s gain is the ACC’s loss.

Five newcomers to watch

1. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State: “Very Famous” Jameis is an Alabama kid who picked FSU over the Crimson Tide. That doesn’t happen every day, nor does a talent like this redshirt freshman come around often.

2. Taquan Mizzell, RB, Virginia: They don’t call him “Smoke” for nothing. The five-star recruiting prize from Virginia Beach will get a chance to burn in Virginia’s backfield. (And at the very least, it will be a good year for nicknames in the ACC.)

3. Ryan Switzer, WR, UNC: Quinshad Davis and Eric Ebron deserve all the preseason praise they’re getting, but there’s plenty of catches to go around in Larry Fedora’s offense and the freshman slot will get his share.

4. Matt Dayes, RB, N.C. State: Unprompted by the media, Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren has praised the freshman runner from south Florida. Coaches don’t do that with true freshmen unless they’re good.

5. Deon Long, WR, Maryland: The Terps’ offense last season consisted of Stefon Diggs, Stefon Diggs, Stefon Diggs and a boatload of quarterback injuries. If QB C.J. Brown can stay healthy, he’ll have a complement to Diggs in Long, a junior college transfer.

Welcome

1. Syracuse: Doug Marrone pulled the Orange out of its mid-2000s doldrums, then left for the NFL. Scott Shafer, Marrone’s former defensive coordinator, is in charge of leading the transition from the Big East to ACC.

2. Pittsburgh: The Panthers will have the benefit of the conference switch with the same coach, second-year man Paul Chryst. Given their recent history – four coaches in three years – that’s a bonus.

3. Dave Doeren, N.C. State: Alabama’s Nick Saban is the only active FBS coach who has won more games than Doeren the past two seasons. Doeren went 23-4 at Northern Illinois and won a pair of Mid-American Conference titles before taking the Wolfpack job in December.

4. Ted Roof, Georgia Tech: Teddy Football has been busy since leaving Duke in 2007. He has taken gigs at Louisville, Minnesota, Auburn, Central Florida and Penn State. His latest undertaking is running Georgia Tech’s perennially shaky defense for Paul Johnson.

5. Steve Addazio, Boston College: Addazio followed Al Golden at Temple, going 13-11 in two seasons, and now joins Golden in the ACC as the Eagles’ head coach.

Shoes to fill

1. Brandon Mitchell, QB, N.C. State: The Arkansas transfer is in the unenviable position of being compared to both of his predecessors, Mike Glennon (who threw for 4,031 yards last year) and Russell Wilson, one of the NFL’s best young quarterbacks.

2. Adam Humphries, WR, Clemson: DeAndre Hopkins, not Sammy Watkins, put up PlayStation numbers (82 catches, 1,405 yards, 18 TDs) last season for the Tigers.

3. Max McCaffrey, WR, Duke: All Conner Vernon did for Duke was set the ACC career records for catches (283) and receiving yards (3,749).

4. Mario Edwards, DE, FSU: Edwards was a major recruiting coup for Jimbo Fisher two years ago. Now he’ll have to pick up the slack for Bjoern Werner, who led the ACC with 14 sacks in 2012.

5. Caleb Peterson, G, UNC: The redshirt freshman got to watch and learn from one of the best last season, All-American Jonathan Cooper. Now he has to take his spot on the Heels’ rebuilt line.

Players of the year

Offense: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

Defense: Christian Jones, LB, FSU

ACC title game: Clemson over Miami

Atlantic Division

1. Clemson (8-0 ACC, 10-2 overall)

Offensive coordinator Chad Morris might not make it to Year 4, but with one more crack at the league with quarterback Tajh Boyd (36 TDs), the Tigers will make Morris’ last shot count.

2. Florida State (7-1, 10-2)

The second-best team in the ACC deserves more than a ticket to watch the ACC title game, but that’s not how the system is set up.

3. Maryland (4-4, 7-5)

The parts are there on offense – WR Stefon Diggs, RB Brandon Ross, QB C.J. Brown – and the motivation is there for the Terps to leave the ACC on a winning note.

4. Boston College (4-4, 7-5)

Of the Atlantic Division’s “Other Five,” the Eagles have the best quarterback (Chase Rettig), but their issues on defense (111th nationally in rushing) were not solved with a coaching change.

5. N.C. State (3-5, 7-5)

New coach and new quarterback for the Wolfpack, whose flaws will be disguised by a forgiving schedule. Running the table out of the ACC will be a must for Dave Doeren’s first team.

6. Syracuse (2-6, 5-7)

Syracuse has made progress recently but it brings in a new coach and a new quarterback to face a mostly unknown group of opponents. That’s a bad combo.

7. Wake Forest (2-6, 5-7)

As much as I love Michael Campanaro, with so many of the same parts on offense (which averaged just 18.5 points per game), why would Wake be appreciably better this year?

Coastal Division

1. Miami (6-2 ACC, 9-3 overall)

The NCAA could shut down Miami tomorrow but as long as Al Golden’s got a chance, the young Canes have the talent to put it all together.

2. UNC (5-3, 8-4)

Talent was never Carolina’s problem under Butch Davis, it was motivation. Larry Fedora already has proven he can provide the latter, which with the right breaks, would put the Tar Heels in the ACC title game.

3. Georgia Tech (5-3, 7-5)

Durham’s Vad Lee is an upgrade at quarterback, but the defense is still the main concern and the schedule – at Clemson, at Miami, at BYU and Georgia – is an uphill climb.

4. Virginia Tech (4-4, 7-5)

Don’t know why the rest of the world expects the Hokies to magically be better after an extremely mediocre 2012.

5. Virginia (3-5, 6-6)

Smart hires in new assistants Tom O’Brien and Jon Tenuta, but the schedule is a bear. A bowl trip would be an accomplishment against this formidable slate (Oregon, Clemson, BYU, UNC, Miami).

6. Pittsburgh (2-6, 5-7)

There’s not as much give in this year’s schedule compared to last year’s in the Big East, when Paul Chryst was able to coax six wins out of a hard-nosed group.

7. Duke (1-7, 4-8)

Flip N.C. State and Georgia Tech on the schedule and the Devils might have two more ACC wins. As it is, there’s reason to believe the offense won’t be as good as last year and the defense won’t make significant improvement.

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