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2013-14 ACC Football Preview 

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Most people look at the ACC as a step above whatever they are calling the Big East this year. While it may be a top heavy conference there are a few nice sleepers and actually some legit national championship contenders.

Players to watch:

Tajh Boyd QB, Clemson (Sr.)

Sammy Watkins WR, Clemson (Jr.)

These two go hand in hand. They are without a doubt the most talented duo in the ACC this year. They will provide numerous incredible plays worth seeing live. These two guys could nearly single handedly win this conference for the Clemson Tigers.

Christian Jones LB, FSU (Sr.)

The leader of a defense that allowed the nations second fewest yards one year ago. Now this year he will make the move from weakside to the middle and will have every quarterbacks attention. He may end up being one of the most dynamic defensive players in the country this season.

Timmy Jernigan DT, FSU (Jr.)

You probably haven’t heard of him just yet but that’s because he has been part of a very deep unit down in Tallahassee. Thanks to graduations Jernigan will be featured on this stout defensive line. You will see just how big of a beast he can be.

Jameis Winston QB, FSU (RS Fr.)

The ‘Noles will go as far as this kid takes them. There is talk about him not having a ceiling. There is a lot of Cam Newton type of talk surrounding him. He has the build and the brain to do what Cam did, hopefully without the NCAA investigation.

Deon Bush S, Miami (So.)

A lone bright spot for The U in the secondary a year ago. Now this year Bush has a years worth of experience under his belt and seems to have an incredibly high football IQ. He should thrust himself into the leadership role for his hometown team’s defensive unit.

Michael Campanaro WR, WF (Sr.)

If Wake Forest is going to be good like I think they will they are going to need Campanaro to carry a heavy portion of the offensive load. He should be up to the task after catching 70+ balls in each of the past two seasons. Look for nearly 100 catches and 1,000 yards this year for a team on the rise.

How they’ll finish:

Atlantic Division

7. Syracuse (25-1)

New head coach Scott Shafer will take over an Orange team with a ton of question marks. After losing arguably the best player in team history in Ryan Nassib, there is no telling what this offense can do. Being that Shafer is a defense first type of coach their very poor defense from a year ago should be a bit better but the offense might be all time bad this year.

6. Boston College (33-1)

After an awful 2012 season the Eagles couldn’t have fired coach Frank Spaziani fast enough. New head coach Steve Addazio appears to be fiery enough to change the losing culture at Boston College. He will whip this team into shape enough for them to overperform. However they lack the talent to really compete for the conference this year.

5. Maryland (25-1)

This Maryland team is not very good. But they have some young players that received a lot of big time game day experience last year. If coach Randy Edsall is any good he should be able to get these kids to play well enough to be decent. Otherwise he will be looking for a new job for next year.

4. NC State (20-1)

The Wolfpack were far from good last year and now this year they have lost their leader in quarterback Mike Glennon. They also lost three key defensive backs leading to a 2013 squad that lacks experience and leadership. Fortunately for NC State this division/conference is so top heavy they actually drew a pretty nice schedule and they should finish 4th in this division at worst.

3. Wake Forest (50-1)

The Demon Deacons are a bit of a sleeper this year. This team is senior laden and returns 19 starters from a year ago. Their defense can’t possibly be any worse than it was a year ago and the offense has some possible stars in Sr. Michael Campanaro and Jr. Orville Reynolds to catch passes and make plays. If they can avoid injuries and convert on 3rd downs they could be a really dangerous team.

2. Clemson (10/11)

The Tigers seem to be the unanimous winner of this conference in most peoples eyes. Thanks to the returning Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins give them two recognizable stars amidst a potentially loaded offense. Even though they draw Florida State at home people seem to forget just how bad that defense is. Sure they should score with the best of them, but if they get slowed down by a good defense they are going to look really bad.

1. Florida State (Ev)

Obviously it is going to be difficult to overcome losing 11 players to the NFL Draft last season but coach Jimbo Fisher has found a way to be successful every year. Their defense should be right up there with the best in the nation, but to be an elite team they will need to win the turnover battle. A redshirt freshman quarterback typically doesn’t help that but Jameis Winston is not your average freshman. At 6’4 225lbs he possesses an NFL ready body already. He also has some returning talent at WR and RB to help keep him keep his head.

Coastal Division

7. Virginia (14-1)

Last season the Cavaliers finished with the least takeaways in the ACC and 8th in giveaways. The way to fix that probably isn’t by starting a true freshman QB. However Taquan Mizzell has star potential. His inexperience mixed with Virginia still searching for a an identity won’t help them this season. The future does however look bright.

6. Duke (40-1)

The Blue Devils are really underrated. They had a great first half of the 2012 season before backing their way into their first bowl game since 1994. Duke is returning a very talented and very deep defensive line. They should be able to slow down even the best of ACC offenses, it just becomes an issue when they get blocked correctly and the ball gets thrown over their heads. Losing record breaking wide receiver Conner Vernon on offense doesn’t help them either. But they have Jamison Crowder who looks like he will be a stud for years to come, as well as 6’5 240lb TE Braxton Deaver. If Deaver can take a leap forward and the Blue Devils D can hold their own this team has a legit shot and should be competitive almost every week.

5. Pittsburgh (12-1)

How much do you trust in massive overhauls? As if moving from the Big East wasn’t a big enough change the Panthers had to do something about that atrocious offensive line. Two of their guards from last year are now tackles. Their center is a converted guard. They will also be playing a redshirt freshman at tackle and another guy that will contribute to the Panthers, swing for the fences mentality, on the offensive line was a defensive end a year ago. They were able to move him from DE because of their depth at the position. They have some really nice talent on the defensive line, more so the interior, but look for additional pressure coming from the outside this year. If the Panthers can protect their quarterback they should be competitive in nearly every game. Of course that is if their ACC opener at home against FSU doesn’t destroy any possible confidence moving forward.

4. North Carolina (4-1)

The only thing keeping the Tar Heels from competing for this conference is their linebacking core. Their offense was almost never stopped last year. Their Sr. QB and depth at RB this year will help them continue that. On defense they have an outstanding secondary and Kareem Martin at DE provides some excellent pressure on opposing quarterbacks, making passing against the Tar Heels that much more difficult. But most teams won’t even bother trying. The key to beating UNC is to run it down their throat and slow the game down. Keep their offense off the field just move the chains. They will be in just about every game this season but I’m not sure they will be able to overcome their poor rush defense, or Virginia Tech and Miami in back to back games.

3. Georgia Tech (+350)

You may agree or disagree with the triple-option offense that the Yellow Jackets possess but you can’t blame their struggles on that. Their defense has been piss poor the past few years, making the run game all that much more difficult to stick with. However you could argue that their six best players on the team will be lining up on the defensive side of the ball. If they can get more pressure from their defensive line and really start winning the line of scrimmage battle, on both sides, they could end up winning this conference.

2. Virginia Tech (+325)

Last year this offense stalled far too often. They kicked way too many field goals and I blame that a lot on the fact that they have had troubles at running back. They need someone to step up and carry the load. Right now they don’t seem to have anything more than a committee of guys. One could certainly jump out and take this team to another level but I can’t put them ahead of the U with an if that big.

1. Miami (+160)

The U comes into this year with high hopes. After imposing a 2nd straight postseason ban upon themselves, in 2012, they will look to do big things. In all honesty there is a legit shot you could see these Hurricanes playing for the national title. Not that they would really have any business in that game but when you look at their talent and their schedule there is definitely a chance. To do so they will need to figure out their problems in the run game that led to them allowing a disgusting five yards per carry. That led to a tired defensive crew and an offense with weapons that couldn’t find the field. If they can sure that up even a little bit their offense should help them out. Senior QB Stephen Morris is their leader and he has a legit seven targets to throw to throughout the year. Of course they will need their run offense to be more effective to buy the defense some extra rest but this team has what it takes to do big things in 2013. If they can knock off rival Florida at home in Week 2 they will only have to knock off Florida State and UNC on the road and Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech at home to accomplish a potential undefeated season, before meeting with either Clemson or FSU again in an ACC title game in which anything can happen. I’m not saying it will happen but it is certainly possible that these Hurricanes are playing in the final game of the 2013-14 season.

Best Bets to win the ACC:

Florida State +250

Miami +350

These are the two best teams in their divisions in my opinion. We should see a rematch of their matchup on 11/2 at Florida State, in the ACC title game. There could be big time implications that go along with that game as both of these teams have bigger dreams than just another ACC championship.

Best Value Bets:

Duke 100-1

Wake Forest 100-1

The best sleepers in the conference and the longest odds. Neither will probably win but you are getting last place odds for two competitive teams.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

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