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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Louisville at Virginia
Second-ranked Virginia looks to maintain a perfect ACC record and extend its winning streak to 13 overall when surging Louisville pays a visit Wednesday night for another big league showdown. The balanced Cavaliers knocked off fourth-ranked Duke 65-63 on Saturday, improving to 9-0 in the ACC for the first time since 1980-81 when Ralph Sampson patrolled the middle.
“Different guys at different times,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett told reporters after the first win at Duke in 18 tries. “They’re a team that’s a joy to coach, because they’re pretty clear on who they are, and it doesn’t matter who’s getting shots or who’s doing what, and I hope that will remain.” The Cavaliers lead the nation in scoring defense (52.1) and take on a Louisville team that scored 96 last time out in a 19-point victory over Wake Forest. The Cardinals have won five of their last six contests, losing only to Miami (Fla.) in overtime, to climb into second place in the ACC and hope to end a four-game losing streak against Virginia. “They’ve obviously been our kryptonite in this league for the last three years,” Louisville interim coach David Padgett told reporters of his team, which is second in the nation in blocked shots per game (7.3).
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2
ABOUT LOUISVILLE (16-5, 6-2 ACC): The Cardinals, who are seventh in the nation in field-goal percentage defense (38.9), forced 20 turnovers and recorded a season-high 12 steals against Wake Forest. Junior forward Deng Adel leads the team in scoring (15.6) and has posted at least nine in every game this season while senior guard Quentin Snider (13.1 points, 4.0 assists) has scored 16.2 per game in the last five. Junior forward Ray Spalding is the third double-figure scorer (11.0) for the Cardinals, despite averaging 6.7 over the last three, and tops the team in rebounding (9.3).
ABOUT VIRGINIA (20-1, 9-0): The Cavaliers shot only 39.4 percent from the field at Duke, but forced 16 turnovers and coughed up the ball just five times with no one registering more than one. Sophomore guard Kyle Guy led the way with 17 points and tops the team in scoring (15.2, 57 made 3-pointers) while senior guard Devon Hall (12.7) has been in double figures eight straight games, averaging 14.6 in that span. Freshman guard De’Andre Hunter (8.1 points), who is day-to-day with a sprained ankle, is scoring 13 per game over the last four contests and sophomore backcourt mate Ty Jerome (9.5 points, 3.4 assists) is also contributing.
1. Louisville senior F Anas Mahmoud averaged 13 points in the last two games and sits third in the nation in blocked shots per contest (3.5).
2. Virginia senior F Isaiah Wilkins tops the team in rebounding (6.6) and boasts 126 career blocks, one from moving into fourth alone all-time for the Cavaliers.
3. Cardinals sophomore F Dwayne Sutton recorded a season-high 13 points last time out against Wake Forest.
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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 Coastal Division Preview
Miami won the coastal division last year and there is little doubt that they won’t repeat that success this year. Virginia Tech are their closest competition for top spot. Georgia Tech and Pitt are the dark horses of this division. Anything can happen this year in the division. The new season of fantasy college football kicks off Saturday August 26 at FanPicks.
If Miami finds a quarterback and the secondary settles down, this could be a special year. The Hurricanes have a favorable schedule that includes a tough test early — Florida State in Week 3 — and home/road balance the rest of the way. With the rest of the ACC Coastal rebuilding, the Hurricanes should be able to compete for the division title with an outstanding defense and an offense that does just enough. If QB N’Kosi Perry arrives early — some inside the program compare him to Deshaun Watson or Lamar Jackson — expectations in South Florida will skyrocket.
Virginia Tech Hokies
Coach Justin Fuente had plenty of success after succeeding the legendary Frank Beamer as Virginia Tech’s coach, returning the school to its 10-win standard, claiming the Coastal Division title for the first time since 2011 and giving Clemson all it could handle in the ACC title game. Now comes the harder part: restoring the Hokies to their former mantle as ACC champions. The offensive exodus will challenge this team, particularly early, but Hokies fans hope a full year in the new system, several key returning pieces and Fuente’s offensive acumen can offset some of the loss of talent. It helps to have associate coach Bud Foster’s always-trusty defense. In a Coastal Division that doesn’t figure to have a clear-cut frontrunner, there are plenty of reasons to believe Virginia Tech has as good a chance as anybody.
Pitt made headlines by defeating national champion Clemson and Big Ten champ Penn State last season. The question is: What can it do for an encore?
Despite the loss of 12 starters, and a schedule that features back-to-back games with Penn State and Oklahoma State, head coach Pat Narduzzi believes the wins will keep coming. Based on his first two seasons and a couple of strong recruiting classes, there is reason to believe Narduzzi can produce another solid year for the Panthers.
North Carolina Tar Heels
Hopes were high a year ago, but the Tar Heels fell short in their quest to reach the ACC Championship Game for the second year in a row. While the Coastal Division race remains as unpredictable as ever, UNC probably has too much uncertainty to be considered a legitimate threat. Are there enough playmakers on offense? Can the graduate transfers provide a big lift immediately? Can the defense become an asset instead of a liability? And is it possible that the team hold its own on special teams? The Tar Heels have enough talent to earn a fifth consecutive postseason berth, but doing so probably won’t be easy.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Something clicked midway through 2016. The Yellow Jackets finished strong, posting a 9–4 season including a win at Georgia that should give them momentum in a division in which the top programs are all losing multiple key players. With eight returning defensive starters and nine on offense, there are some proven, experienced ingredients. But replacing Justin Thomas, a highly productive three-year starter at quarterback, may not be that simple. And on defense, the front six has some intriguing young players but no clear-cut difference makers or vocal leaders. How Georgia Tech fills those personnel holes will likely determine whether it wins the Coastal for a fifth time in head coach Paul Johnson’s decade on the flats or has to sweat reaching bowl eligibility.
With a track record of success at BYU, a reputation for instilling order and accountability, and methods and metrics straight out of a business management text, head coach Bronco Mendenhall seemed to have an answer for every contingency when he arrived at Virginia, playfully warning fans not to make travel plans during bowl season.
Reality hit home when the season started, however, and by the end of a 2–10 campaign, Mendenhall admitted he’d underestimated the scope of the rebuilding project. Expectations have been re-calibrated, with Mendenhall cautioning that a turnaround could take a while. After laying the cultural foundation last season, he’s turning his attention to improving the execution that was so woefully lacking.
With a tighter on-field operation and a fair amount of talent returning, Virginia could be better, but fans likely won’t need to alter their bowl season travel plans just yet.
Duke Blue Devils
For an example of how far Duke football has come, one needs look no further than last season. In the decade since he arrived in Durham, head coach David Cutcliffe turned what had been a football wasteland into a program that reached four straight bowl games, briefly cracked the top 25 and made great strides in recruiting, facilities and visibility. So when the 2016 squad stumbled through a season defined by injuries, bad breaks and head-scratching losses, oddly enough, it felt out of character.
This season, the Blue Devils should have a chance to get back to a more familiar Cutcliffe-era script. Quarterback Daniel Jones should give the offense a dynamic leader and, if the defense can find answers, the Blue Devils have every reason to believe they can make strides and compete for a bowl bid in a Coastal Division that lacks a clear hierarchy.
ACC (22-10, 11-7)
by Joel Welser
Virginia was the last team to fall victim to Syracuse’s amazing run in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. The Cavaliers cruised past Hampton, Butler and Iowa State before falling 68-62 to the Orange with a trip to the Final Four on the line. Coach Tony Bennett has built a program that can continuously make deep tournament runs and this year should be no different.
Big Wins: 12/28 at Louisville (61-53), 1/24 at Notre Dame (71-54), 2/27 North Carolina (53-43)
Bad Losses: 1/4 at Pittsburgh (76-88), 2/4 at Syracuse (62-66), 2/20 Miami FL (48-54)
Coach: Tony Bennett
Why They Can Surprise:
Virginia will always be in games due to their stellar defense. The Cavaliers allow a mere 54.9 points per game, which is the best in the nation. This is a team that will slow things down to a crawl and they have thrived in that system. The Cavaliers do not allow the opposition to get any easy shots. And they make the most of their possessions by not turning the ball over and making the opposition work hard defensively on every possession. That usually results in a smart shot by UVA and they have the players who can knock down those shots. London Perrantes is the team’s only double digit scorer and will take most of the big shots for this team. However, Marial Shayok, Devon Hall, Isiah Wilkins, Kyle Guy and Darius Thompson are all capable of having quality scoring outputs.
Why They Can Disappoint:
The key to beating Virginia is to get them to hurry on offense. That is not easy to do with Perrantes running the point. He dished out 3.8 assists per game and is a huge reason why Virginia rarely turns the ball over. But if the team does start pressing and forcing passes and forcing shots, they are beatable. There is a lot of depth and talent on this team, but they cannot score quickly. Fortunately, it is very rare for Virginia to need to come from behind.
London Perrantes, Senior, Guard, 12.5 ppg, 3.8 apg
Devon Hall, Junior, Guard, 8.7 ppg, 1.9 apg, 4.4 rpg
Marial Shayok, Junior, Guard, 8.6 ppg, 1.0 apg
Isaiah Wilkins, Junior, Forward, 7.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.3 bpg
Jack Salt, Sophomore, Center, 3.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg
Key Role Players:
Kyle Guy, Freshman, Guard, 7.8 ppg, 1.4 apg
Darius Thompson, Junior, Guard, 6.1 ppg, 2.2 apg
Jarred Reuter, Sophomore, Forward, 3.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg
Mamadi Diakite, Freshman, Forward, 3.7 ppg, 2.5 rpg
Ty Jerome, Freshman, Guard, 4.4 ppg, 1.5 apg
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 66.6 (308th in nation, 15th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 54.9 (1, 1)
Field-Goal Percentage: 46.6 (68, 7)
Field-Goal Defense: 39.1 (11, 1)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.9 (222, 13)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 38.9 (29, 2)
Free-Throw Percentage: 70.6 (160, 9)
Rebound Margin: 3.5 (75, 5)
Assists Per Game: 14.3 (128, 11)
Turnovers Per Game: 9.6 (2, 1)
Recent Postseason Appearances:
2016 NCAA Round of 64 win over Hampton
2016 NCAA Round of 32 win over Butler
2016 NCAA Regional Semifinal win over Iowa State
2016 NCAA Regional Final loss to Syracuse
2015 NCAA Round of 64 win over Belmont
2015 NCAA Round of 32 loss to Michigan State
2014 NCAA Round of 64 win over Coastal Carolina
2014 NCAA Round of 32 win over Memphis
2014 NCAA Regional Semifinal loss to Michigan State
2013 NIT First Round win over Norfolk State
2013 NIT Second Round win over St. John’s
2013 NIT Quarterfinal loss to Iowa
2012 NCAA Round of 64 loss to Florida
2008 CBI First Round win over Richmond
2008 CBI Second Round win over Old Dominion
2008 CBI Semifinal loss to Bradley
2007 NCAA Round of 64 win over Albany
2007 NCAA Round of 32 loss Tennessee
2006 NIT First Round loss to Stanford
2004 NIT First Round win over George Washington
2004 NIT Second Round loss to Villanova
2003 NIT First Round win over Brown
2003 NIT Second Round loss to St. Johns
*all team stats through 3/5
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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.
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.
March Madness Scores
Round of 32
Another exciting day of March Madness has come and gone, so we’re here to catch you up on all the action. Twelve games were played on Saturday, and as usual there was an abundance of excitement, drama, baskets, blocks and jams.
The tournament gets real fast once you hit the second round. Surprises like Yale, who made it through the first round with a heck of an effort now have to face top seeded powerhouses such as Duke for example.
They almost pulled it off too, as Yale dropped 39 points on Duke in the second off, trying to rally for the miraculous comeback. But allowing 48 opening half points was just too much to overcome against Coach K and his Blue Devil crew.
Some favorites like Duke won, while some couldn’t find the inspiration to pull through. Or maybe, the fighting spirit of the underdog is just too strong. That’s why the games are actually played out on the court, and not decided on paper.
The round of 32 continues tomorrow, meanwhile some teams already punched their tickets to the Sweet 16.
Here are all the results from yesterday’s action.
Saturday, March 19, 2016
The big squads like Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Virginia advanced, while Kentucky joined Michigan State looking from the outside in.
Intriguing games on the schedule tomorrow include Middle Tennessee facing Syracuse, and Stephen F. Austin versus Notre-Dame.
Stephen F. Austin could be a bad matchup for Notre Dame, as the Fighting Irish will need some of that fighting spirit I mentioned to slow down SFA leading scorer Giddy Potts. Widely considered the nations top three-point shooter. We’ve seen the Steph Curry affect in the NBA, and the swing on the game it causes in college ball is even more dramatic. If Potts gets hot, Notre-Dame will be another big school on the wrong end of a headline.
ACC Tournament Final Fantasy Basketball Preview
Virginia Cavaliers (4) vs North Carolina Tar Heels (7)
A day after 4 games were decided in overtime, the ACC tournament winds down to its top 2 seeds, the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Virginia Cavaliers battling at the Verizon Center Saturday night. FanPicks is proud to bring you this exciting ACC Tournament final fantasy basketball preview ahead of the big NCAA tournament.
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This will be the Tar Heels 2nd straight ACC tournament final game and 5th in the last 6 seasons. They’re in tremendous form right now after their convincing Thursday victory over Pittsburgh 88 to 71 followed by their route of Notre Dame, the ACC defending champions by the largest margin ever in an ACC semi final 78 to 47. They lead the ACC in pts per game but their offense will be under extreme pressure from the best defense in the conference.
North Carolina will count as usual on their big man Marcus Paige to step up and get out of his slump as well as their forward Brice Johnson. Johnson leads the Tar Heels in scoring and rebounds averaging a staggering 16.7 pts per game and 10.6 boards. His streak of double doubles ended Friday because of the fouls despite a great 12 pts performance. UNC is also on an 8 year ACC title drought.
The Cavaliers are one of the most efficient teams at both ends in the nation. They not only easily lead the ACC in many departments but are feared nationwide for their defense who ranks 2nd in the NCAA allowing only 59.6 pts per game. They also rank in the top 10 nationally in FG percentage and 3 point shooting. ACC player of the year, Malcom Brogdon averages 18.8 pts per game and shoots 47.8 % from the field. The Cavaliers have been shooting over 50% in their last 3 games.
Virginia has won 3 of their last 4 games against the Tar Heels including the latest home victory 2 weeks ago at home by the score of 79 to 74. Brogdon scored 26 pts in the game with 19 of them coming in the first half.
They will have to convert the turnovers they create into points as they did in the previous game to run away with the title.
With March Madness fast approaching, College Basketball’s Top 25 is under the spotlight. Villanova is the clear collegiate powerhouse, with the rest of the class jockeying for position behind them.
Fanpicks has a daily fantasy version of “bracketology” coming for the much anticipated event, so make sure you know all there is to know. Here’s a look at the entire Associated Press Top 25 Poll.
Kansas – the only other school to receive first place votes – comes in second, followed by Oklahoma, Iowa and North Carolina.
Maryland, Virginia, Xavier, Michigan State and West Virginia round out the top 10. In fact, all top 10 schools held a position in the top 10 in last week’s polls as well. Something to remember when putting together your March Madness Brackets.