Complete ACC preview for the 2018 season.
Clemson is once again the pick to win the ACC title for the 2018 college football season, but the conference has continued to improve its depth in recent years. Miami took a step forward under coach Mark Richt last season by winning its first Coastal Division title and are the pick to win the division once again in 2018. Virginia Tech isn’t far behind, with Georgia Tech and Pitt next in line as contenders. Clemson should be picked No. 1 or No. 2 nationally by most this preseason and holds a significant edge over the rest of the Atlantic. New coach Willie Taggart should have Florida State in the mix for a New Year’s Six bowl and is the top threat to the Tigers in the Atlantic. Behind projected first-team All-ACC quarterback Ryan Finley, NC State ranks just outside the top 25 and headlines the next tier of teams in the division. It’s a close call behind the Wolfpack, as Boston College, Wake Forest and Louisville each finished 4-4 in the league last fall and not much separates this trio once again in 2018.
This should be one of coach Steve Addazio’s best teams, even though it may not show up in the record, as the Eagles draw both Miami and Virginia Tech out of the ACC Coastal Division and travel to an improved Purdue in the non-conference slate. Still, RB AJ Dillon should have a big year, and the defense has enough returning firepower to keep games close. If either Anthony Brown or EJ Perry provides a real threat in the passing game, the Eagles can win more than seven games under Addazio for the first time in his six years at the Heights.
Upsets happen, as Clemson knows after losing to Syracuse last year and Pitt in 2016. But this team is just so much more talented than almost everyone it will play. A fourth consecutive playoff appearance seems like the baseline for this team. Clemson-Bama Part 4 sounds fun.
After Jimbo Fisher bolted for Texas A&M, FSU’s administration wanted a head coach who could take the football program in a completely new direction. Willie Taggart checked every box. The biggest change, of course, is the swapping of Fisher’s plodding pro-style offense for the up-tempo, spread attack Taggart employed at Oregon and USF. FSU’s defense also will take a more aggressive stance under former Michigan State co-coordinator Harlon Barnett. Judging by the excitement during spring drills and offseason workouts, FSU’s players are fully on board. That alone should help the Seminoles improve upon their dismal 7–6 campaign from a year ago. How much they improve will depend largely on how quickly they can execute their new schemes at a high level.
The Cardinals have more questions in 2018 than they’ve had during any season of Bobby Petrino’s second tour of duty at the school. Louisville must solve significant issues on defense and replace a former Heisman-winning quarterback. And they must do so against a schedule that begins with Alabama in Orlando and includes a road trip to Clemson. Another season in the middle of the ACC Atlantic pack looms.
NC State got a preview of life without DE Bradley Chubb in the Sun Bowl. The offense did the heavy lifting behind QB Ryan Finley and the receivers and put up 52 points in a win over Arizona State. With so many personnel changes on defense, the same formula will have to work in 2018 for the Wolfpack to avoid a step back after their first top-25 finish under Dave Doeren and only third in the past 20 years.
Syracuse enters Year 3 of the Dino Babers era with reason to believe that a four-year bowl drought could end this fall. The Orange bring back experienced lines, have quality quarterback depth and feature an experienced secondary. The schedule is slightly less of a gauntlet, too.
There are questions, though, on both sides of the ball. How will SU replace its linebackers, including three-time captain Zaire Franklin? Can the receiving corps pick up the production that graduated with Steve Ishmael and Erv Philips?
This projects to be a season in which Babers’ reputation begins to take shape. A postseason appearance would invite talk of a contract extension. But another disappointing finish would hurt much more than the last two seasons.
The building blocks are there for a third straight bowl appearance. That starts on both lines, where Wake finally boasts talent and experience. Depth is always a concern, and a couple key injuries could eliminate a small margin for error. Coach Dave Clawson has rebuilt the facilities and the culture, and this is now a program that expects to win.
There’s reason to believe Duke will once again be stout on defense. It could be up to the offense — which averaged only 19.8 points in ACC games — to determine whether the Blue Devils will be a borderline bowl team or emerge as a contender in the Coastal Division. The schedule certainly gets tougher, with non-conference road games at Baylor and Northwestern and a crossover game at Clemson.
Coach David Cutcliffe likes what he sees from his group. “We know this team can run,” he says. “[This] was the most physical Duke football that has been out here in quite some time. This is something we’ve got to build on; I’m anxious to see.”
Coach Paul Johnson’s teams traditionally outperform expectations, but last year’s 5-6 record was disappointing because a play here or there in games they led late against Tennessee, Miami or Virginia cost them a bowl berth. With nearly the entire offense returning and a defensive philosophy that should better fit the personnel, it’s easy to envision those games going their way in 2018. There’s never a huge margin for error at Tech, but with even small improvements in TaQuon Marshall’s passing, offensive line play and the kicking game, Tech should return to the postseason and factor into the ACC Coastal race.
Last year was a rude awakening for the Hurricanes, who elbowed their way into the College Football Playoff discussion in November only to get thrashed by Clemson in the ACC title game. No one in Coral Gables will forget that feeling, and confidence is high on campus that Miami is building the type of team that can compete with the top dogs in any conference. They’re not playing at a championship level consistently, but they’re showing flashes, and Mark Richt’s last two recruiting classes have been excellent. The former Miami quarterback has restored the shine to his alma mater.
The Tar Heels have plenty of room for improvement after limping to a 3-9 record in 2017, but it remains to be seen whether they have enough talent to make much progress. Top priorities on offense are patching together a passable offensive line and getting consistent play at quarterback. On defense, UNC must avoid major breakdowns after allowing five runs of more than 50 yards and five TD passes longer than 65 yards a year ago. With a non-conference schedule that includes two road games and a matchup against UCF, a bowl game would be a good accomplishment.
In the past two seasons, Pittsburgh has pulled off major upsets against Miami, Clemson and Penn State. But at what point do the Panthers advance past the occasional stunning win and start to develop more consistency across the board? Coach Pat Narduzzi’s program took a step back in 2017. It finished 5-7 (3-5 in the ACC) after posting 8-5 records in each of his first two seasons. The mission in 2018 is to prove the program is trending upward, as was the case in 2015 and ’16.
In Year 2 at Virginia, coach Bronco Mendenhall took the team from two wins to six and helped the Cavaliers reach their first bowl game since 2011. He may be hard pressed to continue that upward trajectory this season, at least in terms of wins and losses. The team lost key seniors in key spots, robbing the lineup not only of production but also of leadership.
The offensive and defensive lines are being largely rebuilt, and the entire offense figures to have a different feel as Virginia moves to a dual-threat quarterback and a scheme more reminiscent of what Mendenhall and his staff employed at BYU. There’s enough depth on defense to be optimistic, and if Bryce Perkins shines at quarterback, the offense could be interesting.
Virginia Tech fans couldn’t have asked for much more from coach Justin Fuente in his first two years in Blacksburg, where he’s gone 19–8, won a division title and seamlessly handled the transition from legend Frank Beamer. It’s possible that 2018 might be his greatest challenge so far, however, with three-quarters of the roster being sophomores or younger. Fuente and his staff have recruited well, but those classes are just now starting to hit a turning point in their development.
The schedule’s manageable, with Clemson rotating off, Miami at home and the Coastal Division not overwhelming, but the Hokies will need to do a lot of growing up at key positions if they’re going to make a run at the division title again.
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March Madness First Four Preview
Syracuse vs. Arizona State
Arizona State defeated four eventual NCAA Tournament teams en route to a school-record 12-0 start, but Pac-12 play proved to be a different animal. The Sun Devils hope to resume their dominant play in non-conference action when they meet fellow Midwest Region No. 11 seed Syracuse in a First Four matchup Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio.
The last team in the country to suffer its first loss, Arizona State defeated two eventual No. 1 seeds in the Big Dance – Kansas and Xavier – as well as NCAA Tournament teams San Diego State and Kansas State. The Sun Devils dropped their first game at Arizona on Dec. 30 and were unable to recapture their earlier success, never winning more than three in a row before finishing with an 8-10 conference record and losses in five of their last six. The Orange, who were tabbed by NCAA Tournament committee chair Bruce Rasmussen as the last at-large team into the field, endured a similar path with an 8-10 mark in the ACC after rolling to an 11-2 record during the non-league portion of their schedule. Despite finishing in a tie for 10th in its conference, Syracuse proved itself in the eyes of the committee with a top-20 strength of schedule (14th entering Sunday) and four wins against top-50 RPI teams.
TV: 9:10 p.m. ET, truTV
ABOUT SYRACUSE (20-13): The success of the Orange depends greatly on the success of Tyus Battle (19.8 points), Frank Howard (15.0) and Oshae Brissett (14.7), who rank first, second and sixth in the country in minutes per game and account for 73.3 percent of the team’s scoring. Battle has reached double figures in all but one game this season but has failed to shoot 40 percent from the floor in seven of the last eight contests, including a 14-for-50 showing over the last three games. Howard is also slumping of late, failing to shoot over 30 percent from the field in four of his last five outings – including a 10-for-38 stretch beyond the arc over that span.
ABOUT ARIZONA STATE (20-11): The Sun Devils averaged 91.8 points on 50.8 percent shooting from the field and 42.4 beyond the arc during their season-opening winning streak before cooling off the tune of 78.3, 43.7 and 32.9, respectively, over the last 19 contests. Part of the falloff can be attributed to the decline of leading scorer Tra Holder (18.4 points), who averaged 21.4 points during their undefeated start – including a career-high 40 points against Xavier and 29 against Kansas – and only 16.6 the rest of the way. Fellow senior guards Shannon Evans II (16.6) knocked down a conference-high 91 3-pointers, while Kodi Justice (12.6) went over 1,000 career points last weekend and has buried multiple triples in six of his last seven outings.
1. The winner will meet No. 6 seed TCU in the first round in Detroit.
2. Battle is only the fifth player in school history to reach 1,000 career points by the end of his sophomore year, and his 38.9 minutes per game is on pace to break Billy Owens’ program record of 38.0.
3. In seven games against NCAA Tournament teams, Holder averaged 25.3 points.
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ACC Games of the Week
Saturday lives for College Football and FanPicks has your fantasy football fix. If you are a fan of the ACC conference, then you’re in luck because we got the ACC Games of the Weeks contest. Only ACC games are allowed.With 6 games on tap, there will be no shortage of draft picks. Check out all of the ACC Saturday games preview below and join the action for cash prize!!! >>>Click here to join the game<<<
Louisville Cardinals vs Florida State Seminoles
Louisville announced its presence as a national championship contender in 2016 by annihilating then-No. 2 Florida State, but both teams find themselves struggling just to stay relevant in the Atlantic Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference just over 13 months later. A pair of recent powers hovering around the .500 mark hope to improve their recent fortunes Saturday when the Cardinals visit the Seminoles (Noon Et on ESPN).
Eventual Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson accounted for five touchdowns as Louisville throttled Florida State 63-20 last September – a victory that marked the third of four straight games in which the Cardinals scored at least 59 points. While the offense has more than held up its end of the bargain this season despite not maintaining the same pace as last season’s team, the defense has not after giving up at least 520 total yards for the third time in 2017 in last weekend’s 45-42 home loss to Boston College.
The Seminoles avoided their first 1-4 start to a season since 1975 with a 17-10 triumph at Duke – their fourth consecutive contest decided by seven points or fewer. The Seminoles have yet to win outside the state of North Carolina, however, losing in Atlanta to No. 1 Alabama in the opener as well as at home versus North Carolina State and Miami (Fla.).
ABOUT LOUISVILLE (4-3, 1-3 ACC)
Jackson (3,221 career rushing yards) continues to set school records by the week, breaking Walter Peacock’s mark (3,204; 1972-75) for the most ever by a Cardinal; he also scored his 42nd career rushing touchdown, breaking Lenny Lyles’ mark of 41 from 1954-57. For only the second time in school history, the Cardinals had a pair of 100-yard receivers and 100-yard rushers in the same game last week, as Dez Fitzpatrick (127) and Jaylen Smith (118) each topped 100 yards receiving while Jackson (180) and Reggie Bonnafon (107) surpassed the century mark on the ground. Fitzpatrick’s seventh touchdown catch moved him into a tie with Arnold Jackson (1997) and Mario Urrutia (2005) for most receiving touchdowns in a season by a freshman.
ABOUT FLORIDA STATE (2-3, 2-2 ACC)
The Seminoles rank 121st in the country in scoring offense (18.2 points) and 110th in total offense (346.6 yards), but a new offensive line tweak seemed to spark them against Duke as left tackle Derrick Kelly moved to left guard while freshman Josh Ball took over at Kelly’s old spot. Florida State allowed a season-low two sacks while its 84th-ranked rushing attack (144.8) churned out a season-high 228 yards on the ground, including 115 from freshman Cam Akers. Auden Tate paces the team with 19 receptions, 312 yards and five touchdowns despite finishing with only three catches for 30 yards against Duke; he has scored one touchdown in every game this season – tied for the longest active streak in the nation.
Pittsburgh Panthers vs Duke Blue Devils
Teams in search of a much-needed win and better quarterback play meet Saturday when Pittsburgh meets Duke in an ACC Coastal Division matchup (12:20 p.m. ET on ACC Network). The Panthers have dropped five of six since an opening-week victory over FCS foe Youngstown State, while the Blue Devils have dropped three straight conference games after opening the season with four wins by a combined 101 points.
Pittsburgh routed Duke 56-14 last season behind 237 yards passing and three touchdowns from current Buffalo Bills backup quarterback Nathan Peterman, but the Panthers have not received consistent play from either injured Max Browne or sophomore Ben DiNucci this season. The two have combined for just eight touchdown passes and 1,609 yards passing, opening the door for freshman Kenny Pickett to play in the second half of last week’s 35-17 loss to North Carolina State. During the Blue Devils’ season-opening four-game winning streak, sophomore Daniel Jones completed 62 percent of his passes for an average of 226 yards per game with five touchdowns against two interceptions. In the last three contests, the 6-5 signal-caller has completed just 48.3 percent of his passes for an average of 165 yards per game with one TD against three picks.
ABOUT PITTSBURGH (2-5, 0-3 ACC)
With Browne out for the season with a shoulder injury, DiNucci (55-of-97, 612 yards, three TDs, three interceptions) will remain the starter against the Blue Devils. The Panthers have rushed for a combined total of 433 yards in their last five games after breaking out for 363 yards in the first two games of the season.
ABOUT DUKE (4-3, 1-3 ACC)
With Jones struggling, the Blue Devils may want to use senior running back Shaun Wilson more, as the senior has averaged 5.4 yards per rush during the losing skid but has toted the ball on average less than 10 times per game. Sophomore defensive back Mark Gilbert leads the team with four interceptions – tied for fifth in FBS – and the team’s total of 12 is two more than they registered in the entire 2016 campaign and tied for second in FBS. The defense ranks 19th in FBS in total defense (313 yards per game), including 16th against the run (108).
Boston College Eagles vs Virginia Cavaliers
Virginia aims for its first five-game winning streak in 10 years when it hosts Boston College and surging running back A.J. Dillon in an ACC clash Saturday afternoon (12:30 p.m. ET on RSN). Dillon erupted for 272 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Eagles to a surprise 45-42 win at Louisville last week, posting the third-highest single-game total in program history and the most ever for a freshman.
He will take aim at a defense that is allowing 312.8 total yards per game – the third-fewest among ACC teams – and let up just 257 in last week’s 20-14 win at North Carolina. That result put the Cavaliers one win away from bowl eligibility for the first time since 2011. The Eagles are the only ACC team that Virginia has never beaten, having dropped each of the first five meetings, the last coming in 2010 at Boston College.
ABOUT BOSTON COLLEGE (3-4, 1-3 ACC)
Starting quarterback Anthony Brown completed 5-of-17 passes before being knocked out of the win at Louisville with a shoulder injury, and backup Darius Wade went 7-for-10 to help finish the upset. Dillon and junior Jon Hilliman have combined for 967 rushing yards and nine TDs for the league’s fifth-rated ground game.
ABOUT VIRGINIA (5-1, 2-0 ACC)
Benkert ranks second in the league behind Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson with 15 TD passes and he’s thrown just three interceptions in 248 attempts. He has plenty of targets, as three Cavaliers have at least 377 receiving yards and four TDs, led by junior running back Olamide Zaccheaus, who needs 32 yards to move into the top 20 all-time at Virginia. Safety Quin Blanding leads all active FBS players in career tackles (419) while Kiser ranks sixth (329) after the pair combined for 18 against North Carolina.
Syracuse Orange vs Miami Hurricanes
If Miami (Fla.) had any thoughts of looking past Syracuse, those surely disappeared last weekend. The seventh-ranked Hurricanes hope to avoid the upset at the hands of the visiting Orange when the ACC foes square off Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN).
Syracuse defeated No. 2 Clemson, the defending national champion, in its last outing behind three touchdown passes from Eric Dungey. Coach Dino Babers now hopes his team can re-focus in time to face the undefeated Hurricanes, who escaped last week’s date with Georgia Tech with a 25-24 triumph.
ABOUT SYRACUSE (4-3, 2-1 ACC)
The Orange are aiming to knock off consecutive top 10 opponents for the first time in school history behind Dungey, who ranks fifth in the nation in completions per game (26.9), and Steve Ishmael, who leads the nation in receptions (62). Ishmael has scored a touchdown in four straight games, although he is averaging 5.7 catches over the last three outings after averaging 11.3 catches in the first four contests. Dungey leads the team in rushing (386 yards) and has eight of the team’s 11 scores on the ground.
ABOUT MIAMI (5-0, 3-0 ACC)
The Hurricanes have won 10 games in a row dating back to last season, although last week’s win was a mini-miracle. Darrell Langham caught a fourth-down pass on a lucky bounce to keep the game alive before Michael Badgley kicked the decisive field goal with four seconds left. Travis Horner ran for a career-high 170 yards on 20 attempts and scored two touchdowns – one on the ground and one through the air.
North Carolina Tar Heels vs Virginia Tech Hogies
Teams heading in opposite directions meet Saturday when North Carolina visits No. 14 Virginia Tech during homecoming weekend (3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2). The Hokies are 5-1 with their lone loss against defending champion Clemson and coming off a bye week after dropping Boston College 23-10 on October 7, while the Tar Heels are trying to avoid a fifth consecutive loss in one season for the first time since 2006.
The Tar Heels have averaged just 12 points per outing during their skid after last week’s 20-14 defeat against Virginia, and their only win has come against FCS foe Old Dominion. Virginia Tech will have a decided advantage at the quarterback spot, as Josh Jackson leads all FBS freshmen with 1,700 passing yards and 13 touchdowns and is second in passer rating (158.2), while North Carolina will give LSU transfer Brandon Harris his second start of the season Saturday.
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (1-6, 0-4 ACC)
Harris replaced Chazz Surratt last week and completed only 7-of-18 passes for 46 yards with three interceptions. The offensive highlight last week was 5-9 freshman Michael Carter, who ran for a season-high 157 yards and two touchdowns, including 127 yards and both of his scores in the third quarter as the Tar Heels came back from a 10-0 halftime deficit. Jackson, whose TD passes are the most ever by a Virginia Tech freshman, needs 141 yards to overtake Michael Vick’s freshman record for passing yards (1,840 in 1999) and is looking forward to attacking a defense that is surrendering 31 points and 461 yards per contest.
ABOUT VIRGINIA TECH (5-1, 1-1 ACC)
Jackson leads the ACC in passer rating (158.17), which is 13th in FBS, is third in the conference in total offense (309 yards per game) and fifth in passing yards per game (283.3). Wide receiver Cam Phillips, who ranks second in Tech history with 207 catches and third in receiving yards with 2,671, is hopeful to return after leaving the Boston College game with a foot sprain. Led by defensive backs Brandon Facyson, Greg Stroman and Adonis Alexander, opponents are completing just 44 percent of its passes for 387 yards with only one TD in three home games this season, and the defense is second in the ACC and seventh in FBS in scoring defense (13.7 points).
Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Georgia Tech is two one-point losses away from being undefeated on the season, but the Yellow Jackets enter Saturday’s home contest with Wake Forest (7:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU) with no time to wonder what could have been. The Yellow Jackets face a Wake Forest team that threw a scare into Clemson before having its bye last week, and Georgia Tech’s remaining schedule features matchups with the No. 8-ranked Tigers, No. 14 Virginia Tech, Virginia and No. 3 Georgia.
The Demon Deacons started the season 4-0 before suffering a pair of losses to Clemson and Florida State, and begin a pivotal stretch in which Wake Forest plays three of its next four games on the road. Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford, who missed the Clemson game with a shoulder injury, and running back Cade Carney (rib) are expected back for Saturday.
ABOUT WAKE FOREST (4-2, 1-2 ACC)
Wolford has completed 63.2 percent of his passes this season with eight touchdowns and only one interception, while rushing for four touchdowns and 6.3 yards per carry. Redshirt freshman receiver Greg Dortch ranks second in the ACC and 19th nationally with 136 all-purpose yards per game, finishing with 156 yards against the Tigers. Wake Forest’s defense is surrendering only 16.7 points per game, third the conference and 12th in the country.
ABOUT GEORGIA TECH (3-2, 2-1 ACC)
The Yellow Jackets scored fewer than 28 points last week for the first time in nine games, but still lead the ACC and rank third in the nation in rushing yards per game (362). Quarterback TaQuon Marshall has combined for 14 touchdowns (nine rushing, five passing) and leads the team in rushing, but was held to just 18 yards against the Hurricanes. Georgia Tech has allowed opponents to convert third downs just 22.4 percent of the time, ranking second in the nation.
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NCAA Football 2017 Season
ACC Atlantic Division Preview
The ACC Atlantic division stuffed the trophy case last season. Clemson defeated Alabama for the national title, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson won the Heisman Trophy, Florida State defeated Michigan in the Orange Bowl, and six out of the seven teams finished with a winning record. The new season of fantasy college football kicks off Saturday August 26 at FanPicks.
After climbing as high as third nationally in mid-September and ranking fifth in the College Football Playoff poll after Week 12, the Cardinals wobbled down the stretch. Too many sacks and fumbles. Too many missed tackles and blown assignments.
The defensive issues have been assigned to Peter Sirmon, who has only one season of experience as a coordinator. Associate coach Mike Summers built solid offensive lines for head coach Bobby Petrino at Arkansas and during his first run at Louisville. Petrino has drilled his team over the 22 fumbles lost last season. Odds are the Cards are looking at another third-place Atlantic Division finish behind Florida State and Clemson.
Clemson reached college football’s pinnacle with its win over Alabama, but staying there won’t be easy. Over the last 25 years, only two teams (Alabama and Nebraska) have repeated as consensus national champions.
The Tigers must overcome significant offensive skill position losses as well as the graduation of linebacker Ben Boulware, the emotional leader of the defense. The schedule sets up well, with Auburn and Florida State at home, but given the offensive uncertainty, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a very slight step back this fall.
Florida St. Seminoles
Despite a somewhat disappointing 10–3 campaign in 2016, the Seminoles again will begin the season with sky-high aspirations. They bring back nearly everyone from a defense that ranked in the top 25 nationally, as well as a talented quarterback in Deondre Francois and some dynamic skill players.
If the offensive line can jell in time for a season-opening clash with Alabama in Atlanta, the Seminoles could be a legitimate national championship contender. A loss there wouldn’t knock them out of the race, but the remaining schedule is daunting with road trips to Clemson and Florida in a span of 14 days in November.
NC State Wolfpack
Head coach Dave Doeren hopes that experience translates into a breakthrough after a season of “almosts” in 2016. NC State almost beat national champion Clemson. NC State almost beat perennial power Florida State. Including those two heartbreakers, four of the Wolfpack’s six losses were by seven points or fewer.
The Wolfpack return 22 seniors, half of whom start, from a team that finished the 2016 season with a flourish. There is a sense among Wolfpack fans that this could be Doeren’s best team, but it also could be his last chance, if things don’t go right.
With so many of the same parts back from last year, led by DE Bradley Chubb and slot receive Jaylen Samuels, the Wolfpack have a chance break out of the seven- and eight-win rut and be a legitimate factor in the ACC.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
The Deacons had only seven seniors play more than 100 plays last year, and every player who scored is back. Still, this team is young, with only nine scholarship seniors. Head coach Clawson faces a much more difficult schedule, has four new assistants and questions about depth everywhere. Wake Forest has little margin for error, and injuries could wreak havoc. The Deacons are 6–24 in November over eight seasons, and they could need two late wins to go bowling. Clawson could field a better team but end up worse off in the standings.
Boston College Eagles
Coach Steve Addazio was squarely on the hot seat after his team dropped to 4–6 last year and suffered back-to-back losses to Louisville and Florida State by a combined 97–14 margin. But the Eagles earned wins over Wake Forest, UConn and Maryland, and Addazio had his third bowl trip in four seasons, a feat that is well within reach this season as well.
New athletic director Martin Jarmond will certainly give his own assessment of the state of the program, but right now Addazio seems to have the Eagles in that second tier of the Atlantic Division.
Is that BC’s ceiling under Addazio? It could be. As experienced as the Eagles are this season, don’t expect them to break that barrier just yet.
Head coach Dino Babers hopes to replicate the second-season growth he experienced with Eastern Illinois (five more wins) and Bowling Green (two) at Syracuse in 2017. But after achieving a 4–8 mark in Year 1, he faces one of the toughest schedules in the nation. In addition to games with Atlantic Division foes Florida State, Clemson and Louisville, SU travels to Miami and LSU. The plan is for Babers’ offense to reach peak performance around Weeks 4-6. The team will need to maintain that production while making significant strides on defense if it wants to make its first bowl game since 2013.
ACC Games of the Week Preview
Be part of the new conference bundle Games of the Week. The ACC gets into hyper drive with three games on slate for Wednesday’s action. Here’s a look at what’s up before jump ball (Enter Contest).
No 11 Duke Blue Devils (22-5) vs Syracuse Orange (16-12)
Two of the most successful coaches in college basketball history will go head-to-head. Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski holds a slim 4-3 edge against Jim Boeheim and the Orange. Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils have won seven straight to climb within one game of conference-leading North Carolina, but none of the victories have come by more than 10 points, which has provided an opportunity for Krzyzewski. Syracuse has dropped three in a row since posting a five-game winning streak, putting it on the dreaded bubble in the NCAA Tournament conversation. The Orange don’t have any easy wins left on the schedule, either, with a trip to No. 6 Louisville on Saturday coming before they close the regular season against a Georgia Tech team that defeated them 71-65 on Sunday in Atlanta.
Pittsburgh Panthers (15-12) vs Wake Forrest Demon Deacons (15-12)
Pittsburgh has featured the most prolific scoring duo in the ACC this season, and are finally stringing victories together. The Panthers have won three of their past four, including an upset of No. 20 Florida State on Saturday, and features the top scorer in the league in Michael Young and the third-highest scorer in Jamel Artis. Young’s 20.2 points per game and Artis’ 19.6 average account for 52.3 percent of the Panthers’ offensive output this season.
While Pittsburgh’s recent surge has moved it from the bottom of the league into a tie for 12th, the Demon Deacons have lost two in a row and five out of eight to drop to 11th in the standings. A victory Wednesday would give Wake Forest a seventh win in league play for the first time since 2009-10. John Collins nearly lifted the Demon Deacons to a massive upset of No. 11 Duke Saturday, scoring a career-high 31 points with 15 rebounds in a five-point loss to the Blue Devils.
No 6 Louisville Cardinals (22-5) vs No 8 North Carolina Tar Heels (23-5)
This ACC showdown that will likely be decided at the defensive end. The first-place Tar Heels, who lead Louisville by one game, are coming off their best defensive performance statistically in the Roy Williams era while the Cardinals must face the highest scoring team in the league after uncharacteristically surrendering 90 points last time out. Solid work at that end of the court will be key if the Tar Heels are going to make another run at a national championship with an offense that averages 86.9 points and the best rebounding margin in the country (plus-13.4). Louisville has won three straight contests and six of seven, including Saturday’s 94-90 victory over Virginia Tech at home despite allowing the Hokies to shoot almost 60 percent from the field. It’s way above its average of 39.4, which was 14th in the nation entering Tuesday.
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NCAA Fantasy Football Preview
The Atlantic Coast Conference (Atlantic)
The NCAA 2016 season is less then two month away, with kickoff happening in Sidney mate! FanPicks will preview all of the conferences before season starts. If you missed the AAC 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, including last years CFP national championship finalist Clemson, the ACC is one of three conferences to have one of their schools winning the BCS title at least twice. It was Florida State who won it twice for the Atlantic Coast Conference back in 1999 and 2013. With new season comes new changes, here’s a look at what to look for the 2016 season in the Atlantic side of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
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The Eagles brought in Scot Loeffler, who coordinated offenses at Virginia Tech, Auburn and Temple, to run an offense that averaged just 275 yards and 17 points last season. Boston College will count on a solid defense, which includes the return of seven of their impressive starters.
2015 Heisman trophy nominee Deshaun Watson has amassed 5,209 yards of total offense (becoming the first player in FBS history with 4,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing in a season) just a year after an ACL injury. Late in the season, he showed how effective he can be in the run game, finishing with three 100-yard rushing performances in his final four games. He also had a hand in 478 of Clemson’s 550 yards in the national championship game, carrying the then-undefeated Tigers to within points of a title.
QB Sean Maguire will be out for the spring with a broken ankle. The Seminoles have groomed eventual replacements for Maguire, with redshirt freshman Deondre Francois and freshman Malik Henry showing promise. RB Dalvin Cook accomplishments in his sophomore season makes him a lethal weapon for Florida State’s offense, this year.
For his bowl performance against Texas A&M, Lamar Jackson threw for 227 yards and ran for 226 more in the 27-21 win. Coach Bobby Petrino said Jackson, a dual-threat QB who rushed for 186 or more yards in each of the last two games last season, showed improvement in his decision-making and in his throwing accuracy.
The Wolfpack wanted to grasp the fundamentals of coach Eli Drinkwitz’s offense. Drinkwitz came from Boise State to replace the fired Matt Canada. Jalan McClendon and Jakobi Meyers are competing to replace Jacoby Brissett as the starting QB. This will likely gives RB Matthew Dayes even more carries this year, assuming he stays healthy.
Due to injuries, Syracuse has used six different quarterbacks over the past two seasons. The Orange brought in coach Dino Babers to revive a program that went a combined 7-17 the past two years. Eric Dungey is the favorite to win the quarterback competition and orchestrate Babers’ desired offensive transformation. In eight games as a true freshman last fall, he was responsible for 16 touchdowns and 1,649 yards of offense.
Wake Forest’s offense was among the worst in the nation in 2015, ranking 119th in points (17.4) and 113th in yards per game (333.4). Though both were improvements from 2014. QB John Wolford has never thrown more touchdowns than interceptions in a season, and his nine passing TDs last year ranked just 15th among ACC QBs. But now is the time for that to change, with sophomore Kendall Hinton pushing him for the starting job. Whoever is under center will be aided by receiver Cortez Lewis, who had 611 yards and four touchdowns as a redshirt freshman last year.
CFB 2016 Other Previews
The Final Four is over and done with for another year, and the championship game is nearly upon us.
It may not have been as frantic as some of the Elite Eight games we had earlier this week, but Syracuse was a scrappy team that gave it their all. Some may have thought the Orange had a shot at an upset, but #1 North Carolina entered March Madness as a top seed for a reason.
UNC is the 24th preseason #1 team to reach the title game. 14 of the previous 23 teams have gone on to win the March Madness championship.
A late run had Syracuse within single digits, but ultimately the Tar Heels proved to be too much down low. NC shot 4-of-17 for three, but 31-for-48 from the field.
At one point, NC superstar forward Brice Johnson was on the bench after a second foul, but that didn’t slow down the boys in blue. UNC went on to outscore Syracuse by a score of 32-12 over that nine minute span and stretch their lead from two to 11.
Sryacuse’s Trevor Cooney lead all scorers with 22 points, while every North Carolina starter other than guard Joel Berry scored in double-digits. Johnson and Justin Jackson had 16 points each, with Johnson adding nine rebounds to boot.
March Madness Results
The Elite 8 is now history for 2016, as only four teams remain in the battle to be named March Madness champion.
The quarter-final round began on Saturday, March 26, when Buddy Hield led #2 Oklahoma to a 80-68 win over top ranked Oregon.
Later that day another #2 seed, Villanova had a strong start and held on to beat the top ranked and heavily favorited Jay Hawks. # 1 Kansas exits the tournament two rounds earlier than they would’ve liked to.
The round concluded on Sunday night with an expected result, as #1 North Carolina got their dabb on and defeated #6 Notre-Dame by a fair 88-74 margin. The game was close in the first half, but the Tar Heels grinded it out for the entire 40 minutes and held off any hopes of an ND comeback.
Sunday started with a pretty big upset when the highest remaining seed #10 Syracuse topped #1 Virginia 68-62.
They are the heavy favorite over Syracuse heading into the Final 4, with a projected winning percentage of 80%, while the other two candidates (Villanova, Oklahoma) equally have a 50%-50% chance of advancing to the championship round.
All teams are off until April 2, when the Final 4 tip-off.
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Syrcause used a 29-8 run to rally from a 16-point deficit and stun Virginia in the regional final. Syracuse is now the first #10 seed to ever reach the Final Four, and the first double-digit seed since VCU accomplished the feat in 2011.
Don’t be confused though, the Orange are no stranger to the Final Four. They were there in 2013, and 2016 will mark the sixth time they reach the Final Four.
Guard Malachi Richardson hit three 3-pointers and shot 8-of-9 from the line to lead all scorers in this game with 23 points. He also tallied seven rebounds and a couple of steals. Perhaps the most impressive stat line though, is that 14 of Richardson’s points came in the game’s final nine minutes of the game. Very impressive for a freshman. Talk about clutch.
London Perrantes made a valiant effort as he went 6-for-10 for three, and led Virginia with 18 points in what ended up being their last game of the tournament.