NCAA Preview 2016
THE ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE (COASTAL)
We are almost there, the NCAA 2016 Football season is going to start in less than 2 month. FanPicks will cover all of the conferences and their teams changes in the blog. If you’ve missed the AAC Atlantic NCAA preview, click here. The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) is viewed as one of the best conference in NCAA division 1 football. Bringing 14 program into their fold. The Tar Heel led in the coastal division, clinching top spot and staying undefeated within the conference. They went on to lose both championship game. The ACC final ended 45-37 against Clemson and the Citrus Bowl 49-38 against Baylor. Duke finished strong with a 44-41 OT win in the Pinstripe Bowl against Indiana. Last ACC champions from coastal were Virginia Tech back in 2010.
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With QB Thomas Sirk out indefinitely (ruptured left Achilles), the Blue Devils will expect greater contributions from their running backs, giving ample opportunity for Shaun Wilson to break big gains. The Pinstripe Bowl co-MVP had Duke’s longest run of the season and averaged 5.9 ypc. The junior showed he’s capable of scoring from anywhere on the field in the Blue Devils’ 2015 finale, with an 85-yard rushing TD in the first quarter and a 98-yard kickoff TD return near game’s end.
QB Justin Thomas was a Heisman Trophy dark horse after an impressive 2014 in which he was the third-best rushing quarterback in the FBS. But last year Thomas finished the season with 972 fewer total yards than he accumulated in 2014. That’s in large part due to reduced production rushing the ball: His 488 yards last year was less than half of his 2014 total on just 45 fewer attempts. Georgia Tech can’t win the ACC without Thomas re-emerging as one of the conference’s best players and nearing 1,000 rushing yards again.
Miami running back Mark Walton was arrested in April on suspicion of driving under the influence and driving with a suspended license, leading the Hurricanes to suspend him from the team indefinitely. Coach Mark Richt needs to turn in some good news this year, and he should do it with the help of QB Brad Kaaya. The junior has started for the Hurricanes since his freshman season and is one of the ACC’s best players. He could even be one of the country’s best quarterbacks. Last year he threw for 16 TDs and just 5 INTs (tied for third best in the ACC), and he should excel under Richt, who uses more traditional pocket passers.
The Tar Heels’ offense should be even more powerful than last year’s 11-win team. QB Mitch Trubisky has experience and a lot of help from centerpiece RB Elijah Hood, backfield mate T.J. Logan and WRs Ryan Switzer and Mack Hollins. Bowl game excluded, coordinator Gene Chizik’s defense showed significant improvement in 2015 but needs to improve considerably against the run.
In his first season at Pitt as a graduate transfer from Tennessee, QB Nathan Peterman was solid but unspectacular. He threw for 20 TDs, but his yards per attempt and yards per completion were both in the bottom half of ACC QBs. Peterman will have more pressure on him with top receiver Tyler Boyd (926 yards in 12 games) off to the NFL, so he’ll need to find ways to make plays downfield to complement Pitt’s top rushing attack.
RB Taquan Mizzell led FBS backs with 75 catches and 721 yards. His catching ability maybe top notch, but new coach Bronco Mendenhall like to hand the ball off. The teams he has coached are almost always in the top half of the FBS in rush attempts. So this fall, the 5-foot-10, 195-pound senior will need to prove he can increase his workload. (He’s never averaged more than 14 carries per game in a season.) He’ll have the benefit of an experienced offensive line, so expect him to improve on last season’s 671 rushing yards (12th in the ACC) and 4.1 yards per carry (19th).
Who will emerge as the teams starting quarterback is anyone’s guess, but at least the Hokies have one constant in the backfield with Travon McMillian. Though the running back averaged only 8.4 carries through the first seven games in 2015, he caught fire over the final six contests, getting the ball 23.5 times per game and becoming the first Hokie since 2011 to gain 96 yards or more in five straight games.