ACC Atlantic Division Mid-season Review and 2nd Half Predictions

                                     Acc_logo-e1275667045676_medium

Here we are in the 3rd week of October, and the regular football season is approximately halfway through. Things haven't necessarily gone the way that a lot of us have wanted, but it was to be expected. This year is a rebuilding year for Wake Forest. We have looked alright at times, but we have really looked terrible at times too, especially on defense.

Enough about Wake Forest for now though. This article is going to focus on the "2nd half" of the ACC season and is the first of a two part series on ACC football throughout the rest of the year. The second part will come out tomorrow or Friday on...you guessed it, the Coastal Division.

I will take a look at remaining schedules, and stats that jump out to not only predict who will win the divisions, but also who will be playing in a bowl game come December and January.

Click through the jump to see a brief breakdown of the Atlantic teams and my predictions for the remainder of the year.

First of all let's take a look at the Atlantic Division standings as they are right now.

ATLANTIC CONF OVR
#17 Florida State 4-0 6-1
North Carolina State 2-1 5-2
Maryland 1-1 4-2
Clemson 1-2 3-3
Wake Forest 1-3 2-5
Boston College 0-3 2-4

Florida State has really stepped up to the plate this year and taken the Atlantic Division by the reigns. Honestly, it is theirs to lose, especially if they defeat N.C State in Raleigh next week. The rest of the conference is a little backwards from how many expected it to be. State and Maryland were thought to be rebuilding this year and some people (mainly myself) thought Boston College and Clemson would be doing much better. Since FSU is in first place, let's look at them first.

Florida State (6-1, 4-0)

Date Opponent Result Game Time Attendance
09/04/10 Samford W 59-6 3:15 68,438
09/11/10 @ 3 Oklahoma L 17-47 3:43 85,630
09/18/10 Brigham Young W 34-10 3:13 68,795
09/25/10 Wake Forest W 31-0 3:44 61,647
10/02/10 Virginia W 34-14 3:13 47,096
10/09/10 @ 25 Miami (Fla.) W 45-17 3:34 75,115
10/16/10 Boston College W 24-19 3:17 75,301
10/28/10 North Carolina St.
11/06/10 North Carolina
11/13/10 Clemson
11/20/10 Maryland
11/27/10 Florida

 

The Noles have taken care of business so far and won every game that was expected, including a very impressive victory @ Miami a couple of weeks ago. Their hard work has gotten them to 4-0 and is a win away from essentially clinching the division. They do have a bit of a difficult schedule the rest of the way and no "gimme" games.

Christian Ponder has fell short of many of the "experts" predictions that were proclaiming him a Heisman hopeful, but he has done a great job of managing the team (with the exception of the BC game this past weekend). Throwing for 12 TDs/7 INTS for 1187 yards isn't too bad at all. 

The two-headed rushing attack of Chris Thompson and Jermaine Thomas has been nice for FSU too. Here is a look at their stats on the year.

1 Chris Thompson SO RB 7 57 carries 446 yds 7.82 ypc 4 TD's 8.14 63.71 ypg
2 Jermaine Thomas JR RB 7 70 carries 430 yds 6.14 ypc 6 TD's 10.00 61.43 ypg

That is an attack that is pretty difficult to stop. 

The defense has been even better in my opinion. Obviously pitching a shutout against Wake Forest was a great performance, but they haven't allowed a big game except for Oklahoma, and they are the #1 team in the BCS. FSU's front 7 has been very good and they lead the nation in sacks with over 30. The 16.1 ppg is good enough for 15th in the nation as well. 

They have the 17th best rush defense at 104 YPG, and rank a pedestrian 51st at 203 YPG. With a defense this stingy, combined with a balanced passing and rushing attack, Jimbo Fisher has set up the Seminoles to succeed, which they are doing.

Predictions: 3-1...Final Record- 10-2 (7-1) ACCCG 

Wins- UNC, Clemson, Florida

Loss- @NCSU

 I think the Noles will lose one more game from here on out. I bet the FSU faithful would gladly take that as long as it isn't in Raleigh next week or to Florida in the last game of the regular season. Unfortunately, I think it will be one of those. I will say they drop the State game next week which would put them at (10-2, 7-1) and a berth in Charlotte the following week. This would be a great first year for Fisher, and at least half the credit should go to Mark Stoops for revamping the FSU defense and restoring them to where they used to be (or at least getting to that point.

 

North Carolina State (5-2, 2-1)

Team Schedule
Date Opponent Result Game Time Attendance
09/04/10 Western Caro. W 48-7 3:03 56,417
09/11/10 UCF W 28-21 3:26 43,020
09/16/10 Cincinnati W 30-19 3:40 55,934
09/25/10 Georgia Tech W 45-28 3:21 48,825
10/02/10 23 Virginia Tech L 30-41 3:25 58,083
10/09/10 Boston College W 44-17 3:20 56,859
10/16/10 East Caro. L 27-33 3:59 50,410
10/28/10 16 Florida St.
11/06/10 Clemson
11/13/10 Wake Forest
11/20/10 North Carolina
11/27/10 Maryland

NC State has been pretty impressive this year, but they are prone to let leads slip away. They also just got plain beat by ECU this past weekend. Russell Wilson has done well so far this year, especially early on, but he can't play like he did against ECU if the Pack wants to have any chance of going to the ACC Championship Game.

Russell Wilson is the heart and soul of the Wolfpack team. He has thrown for 18 touchdowns on the year to only 9 interceptions for 2100+ yards and a passer rating of 132. He does exactly what Tom O'Brien wants him to do in not turning the ball over too much. He is very good at throwing the ball away and evading the rush, which he does frequently. A vastly underrated part of Wilson's game is his throwing power. In the 2-3 games I have watched of him this year, he has made some very impressive throws, even on the run.

The running game has struggled at times, ranking 78th in the country in YPG at 136. Mustafa Greene and Dean Haynes are two freshmen who have had a big impact on the offense. Along with Wilson, they have rushed for the majority of State's yards.

Name Yr Pos G Att Yards Avg. TD Att/G Yards/G
1 Mustafa Greene FR RB 7 85 419 4.93 4 12.14 59.86
2 Dean Haynes FR RB 7 72 290 4.03 3 10.29 41.43
3 Russell Wilson JR QB 7 69 200 2.90 2 9.86 28.57

On the defensive side of the ball, the Wolfpack has benefited tremendously from getting Nate Irving back after the car accident that caused him to miss the entire 2009 season. N.C State allows 23.7 ppg (58th), which isn't excellent, but is good enough to win games with the way the offense has played. 

Their rush defense is a little better than the pass defense, but both are around 50th-60th in the country. The defense is going to have to step up next Thursday against Ponder and the Seminoles though. I think Russell Wilson may struggle a bit against the Seminoles new and improved defense, but believe he will settle down enough and get the job done.

Predictions: 3-2...Final Record- 8-4 (5-3)

Wins- WFU, FSU, @Maryland

Losses- @UNC, @Clemson

I really do believe that N.C State will win the battle of the states and knock off FSU next week in Raleigh. The crowd will be absolutely electric, and Russell Wilson will have one of the better days of his career (all things considered) en route to a hard fought, close win. The schedule is pretty difficult from there on out though. With the exception of the home game against Wake Forest, there are no "gimme" games left. Death Valley will be a difficult game and I don't expect them to win, same with UNC because the Heels really want revenge for the beatdowns of late. I think their 5-3 record should be good enough to get 2nd in the ACC.

 

Maryland (4-2, 1-1)

Date Opponent Result Game Time Attendance
09/06/10 Navy W 17-14 3:10 69,348
09/11/10 Morgan St. W 62-3 3:08 40,099
09/18/10 @ 20 West Virginia L 17-31 3:26 60,122
09/25/10 Florida Int'l W 42-28 3:47 33,254
10/02/10 Duke W 21-16 3:09 39,106
10/16/10 Clemson L 7-31 3:12 71,000
10/23/10 Boston College
10/30/10 Wake Forest
11/06/10 @ 25 Miami (Fla.)
11/13/10 Virginia
11/20/10 16 Florida St.
11/27/10 North Carolina St.

 

Maryland opened up their campaign this year with a big win over Navy. Not only was it big because the Terps moved to 1-0, it moved them farther away from last year's abomination of a year in which they went 2-10. After that they have won the games they were expected to win and lost the ones they should have lost. Due to this, it is difficult to tell where the Terps stand. It should be made a lot clearer after this weekend in Boston College and a home game on Halloween weekend against Wake Forest.

Jamarr Robinson started the year as the QB for the Terps and looked pretty good, rushing for 92 yards on 12 carries. His passing in the first 3 games left a lot to be desired though. An injury in the West Virginia game propelled Danny O'Brien, an East Forsyth High School product, into the starting role for Friedgen's team, and he has not looked back since. O'Brien has proved to be the better passer of the two, but Friedgen said today that he wants Robinson to get some snaps and make the defenses they play focus on something else.

Here is the sharp contrast between O'Brien's passing and rushing numbers.

Passing
G Att Comp Pct. Yards Yards/Att Int TD Rating Att/G Yards/G
6 108 56 51.9 801 7.4 3 6 126.92 18.0 133.5
Rushing
G Att Yards Avg. TD Att/G Yards/G
6 14 -14 -1.00 0 2.33 -2.33

 

If they can get Robinson's rushing productivity from the Navy game then they will be in good shape.

In Maryland, we once again have a team that relies heavily on two rushers to lessen the burden on one guy. Da'Rel Scott and Davin Meggett have both been pretty productive on the year, but they don't have a lot of carries. When you have two guys that are rushing for over 5 yards a carry (and Meggett over 6), they should be getting more than 9 touches a game.

Maryland allows 20.5 ppg (37th), which is 5th in the ACC. I am pretty interested to see how Maryland is going to do when they start playing better teams. I think we got a glimpse of this on Saturday when they ran into a buzzsaw in Death Valley. The Terps are 6th in the ACC in rush and pass defense, but don't really seem to have a strength right now to push opponents towards.

Predictions:  2-4...Final Record-6-6 (3-5)

Wins- WFU, @UVA

Losses-@BC, @Miami, FSU, State

Maryland has the record that they do right now because of an easy schedule. The Navy game is really the only game that could have gone either way, and they won it. Otherwise they would be at 3-3. With a fairly difficult schedule the rest of the year, the Terps are going to be hard pressed to get more than 6 wins in my opinion. I think BC will expose Maryland this weekend with their outstanding defense. I think we will play a competitive game up there and may even pull of the "shocker". The UVA game should go Maryland's way a little easier, but after that I think they have 3 sure losses in Miami, FSU and State. I could definitely be wrong because of what little we have to actually judge Maryland by this year, but I really think I am feeling this one correctly.

 

Clemson- 3-3 (1-2)

Team Schedule
Date Opponent Result Game Time Attendance
09/04/10 North Texas W 35-10 3:19 75,000
09/11/10 Presbyterian W 58-21 3:05 70,500
09/18/10 @ 5 Auburn L 24-27 3:52 87,451
10/02/10 25 Miami (Fla.) L 21-30 3:54 81,500
10/09/10 North Carolina L 16-21 3:21 60,000
10/16/10 Maryland W 31-7 3:12 71,000
10/23/10 Georgia Tech
10/30/10 Boston College
11/06/10 North Carolina St.
11/13/10 @ 16 Florida St.
11/20/10 Wake Forest
11/27/10 19 South Carolina
@ : Away, + : Neutral Site

In what seems to be the norm for Clemson, they have a ton of talent, but continue to underachieve at an alarming rate. Last year the Tigers had what many would consider a breakthrough under Dabo Swinney in reaching the ACC title game. After starting off the year with two solid wins over pretty bad teams, the Tigers have lost 3 in a row to Auburn, Miami and UNC. To be fair to Clemson, these losses are all to pretty good teams and they were pretty competitive as well. The schedule has been hard for the Tigers but it doesn't get much easier the rest of the way. 

Swinney gave another one of his "it's our fault as coaches" speeches that worked last year and led to the big turnaround to make it to Charlotte. 

Clemson is quarterbacked by Kyle Parker, who has one foot out the door to play MLB for the Rockies after the season. Many Tiger fans feel that for what he is bringing he may as well go ahead and leave. His numbers have gone down in every category from last year. 7 touchdowns to 4 interceptions for 163 yards is not exactly what the Tigers faithful were hoping for. If Clemson is going to go on a run like they did last year then Parker must step up to the plate.

What the Tigers do need to do is get the ball to Andre Ellington more. This kid should be a better runningback than Spiller when he is done (assuming he stays all 4 years), yet they are only getting him the ball 14 times a game. He should get at least 20-25 a game without a problem, especially when Parker is struggling at the QB position. It is hard to understand why a guy who has 476 yards on 5.8 ypc and 8 touches is only getting 14 a game. This kid also has ELITE speed as well and can beat the defense in so many different ways.

Name Yr Pos G Att Yards Avg. TD Att/G Yards/G
1 Andre Ellington SO RB 6 82 476 5.80 8 13.67 79.33

Clemson ranks 4th in the ACC and 55th overall in rush defense, allowing 143 ypg. They have been very good against the run as of late, especially considering who they have been going against, but they need to man up a little more if they want to contend for the ACC. The pass defense has not been that good. The Tigers rank 9th in the ACC, and 66th nationally at a shade over 214 yards per game through the air. They have played a number of solid QB's, but that isn't good enough either.

Predictions: 4-2...Final Record 7-5 (5-3)

Wins- GT,  @BC, NCSU ,@WFU

Losses-@FSU, South Carolina

The Tigers should be able to finish up strong this year. Swinney will realize that he has a stud at RB who needs to get more carries. That will alleviate the pressure from Parker, as well as the mediocre defense. With more time of possession, the game will play more into the Tigers hands and they will start to get rolling offensively. It all starts this weekend against GT. If they lose this then all the momentum they garnered against Maryland is down the drain. They should handily take care of BC and Wake, which leave the 3 other games as toss-ups. I figure they will win at least one of those, which puts them at 7-5. They may be able to sneak out a win against the Gamecocks, but who knows how Spurrier will have his boys playing.

 

Wake Forest- 2-5 (1-3)

Team Schedule
Date Opponent Result Game Time Attendance
09/02/10 Presbyterian W 53-13 3:08 28,205
09/11/10 Duke W 54-48 3:30 31,673
09/18/10 @ 12 Stanford L 24-68 3:12 39,061
09/25/10 @ 16 Florida St. L 0-31 3:44 61,647
10/02/10 Georgia Tech L 20-24 3:17 30,263
10/09/10 Navy L 27-28 3:09 31,454
10/16/10 @ 23 Virginia Tech L 21-52 3:10 66,233
10/30/10 Maryland
11/06/10 Boston College
11/13/10 North Carolina St.
11/20/10 Clemson
11/27/10 Vanderbilt
@ : Away, + : Neutral Site

We all know how this tune goes. The only thing that you can call Wake Forest right now is a bad football team. If you looked at the defensive numbers then you would think we are at best 1-6, yet we are 2 drives away from being 4-2. We have had a very hard schedule, and the combination of introducing new players into the mix obviously has not helped us at all. 

Tanner Price finally is settled in as the starter. As good a game as he had against Navy on Homecoming weekend, he had an even worse one against Virginia Tech this past weekend. I understand that he is a freshman starting in a very loud environment, but he wasn't even close on Saturday. I have been impressed with Price's poise and stand by my lofty expectations that I wrote on earlier in the year.

Just as we have found a starter of the future in Tanner Price at QB, Josh Harris has emerged as the stud runningback of the future. In his first start in college, Harris amassed an amazing 241 yards on just 20 carries. That is a phenomenal performance against anybody, much less Bud Foster's defense in Blacksburg. If this kid can keep running like he did this past weekend he could find himself in elite historical company at Wake Forest (if not the ACC). The best news about Harris is that the more he learns of the playbook (he had trouble learning and remembering it earlier in the year), the better he will get. With a talented offensive line for the 2nd half of this year, as well as the years to come, he will be very exciting to watch.

Now we will a quick eye to the defense. I have gone over much of what I feel is wrong in the VT film analysis, as well as the defense by the numbers. Bottom line is that we have to get better. I think we will be very strong on defense, not only next year, but by the end of this year if a couple of things change and begin to click. The only thing that I really feel is critically wrong right now is the space that we are giving the wide receivers on the outside. That said, I have untrained eyes, and there must be more wrong for us to be doing as poorly as we are. I love the trial by fire though, and as long as our guys are willing to work hard, they will be on the field and continue to improve. There is nowhere to go but up!

Predictions: 2-3...Final Record- 4-8 (2-6)

Wins- BC, @ Vandy

Losses-@Maryland, Clemson, @NCSU

I said it before the year and I am sticking to it: Wake Forest will end the year 4-8. It may not be how we all wanted it to look, but it will be 4-8 nonetheless, and a very good learning experience at that. I think it gets started in 2 weeks in College Park. I expect Wake Forest to be in it until the end, and maybe even pull off a mild upset. We then get back home to Winston for the first time in a month and get a big win over BC. The Clemson and State games could get ugly if we haven't gotten better defensively because of their ability to hit the home run ball (get it??? Parker and Wilson are both MLB talents!!!) . Then we end the year in style in Nashville with a convincing win over Vanderbilt and momentum for next year. You may think I am crazy to say we will get to 4 wins, but we have a lot of talent and potential on this team.

 

Boston College- 2-4 (0-3)

Date Opponent Result Game Time Attendance
09/04/10 Weber St. W 38-20 3:07 34,168
09/11/10 Kent St. W 26-13 3:05 35,122
09/25/10 23 Virginia Tech L 0-19 3:02 42,317
10/02/10 Notre Dame L 13-31 3:24 44,500
10/09/10 North Carolina St. L 17-44 3:20 56,859
10/16/10 @ 16 Florida St. L 19-24 3:17 75,301
10/23/10 Maryland
10/30/10 Clemson
11/06/10 Wake Forest
11/13/10 Duke
11/20/10 Virginia
11/27/10 Syracuse

What I am about to say may shock some readers, but I would not be surprised to see Boston College make a bowl. Yes, that's right, 2-4 (0-3) Boston College could play in a bowl this year. When you have a defense that is as stingy as Boston College's you are never, ever out of a game. As we saw last week in Tallahassee, anything can happen when you keep it close in the 2nd half.

The offense this year has pretty much been a nightmare for the Golden Eagles. They are still playing musical quarterbacks, but pretty much pulled the plug on the Dave Shinskie experiment. Chase Rettig seems to be the guy that Frank Spaziani wants to see, but he has had the injury bug the past couple of games, so it has been So. Mike Marscovetra getting the nod. None of the three candidates has done anything even remotely good to be honest as BC ranks 80th in pass offense at 193 ypg.

Name Yr Pos G Att Comp Pct. Yards Yards/Att Int TD Rating Att/G Yards/G
1 Dave Shinskie SO QB 4 96 46 47.9 618 6.4 6 5 106.69 24.0 154.5
2 Mike Marscovetra SO QB 5 58 34 58.6 369 6.4 4 2 109.65 11.6 73.8
3 Chase Rettig FR QB 2 34 14 41.2 167 4.9 0 1 92.15 17.0 83.5
Total 6 188 94 50.0 1154 6.1 10 8 104.96 31.3 192.3
Opponents 6 237 152 64.1 1435 6.1 11 9 118.25 39.5 239.2

The most underrated player in the conference plays for Boston College, and odds are you probably haven't even really heard of him. Despite being the ACC's leading active rusher, Montel Harris receives very little name recognition outside of the faithful Superfans. After rushing for 1457 yards last year and 900 yards the year before (with 19 total TDs in those two years), Harris has accumulated 578 yards this year with only 1 TD. It is a little bit baffling that with a strong defense and a horrid QB situation, that Spaziani has not gone to the run game more. If Boston College can start to ride Harris and trust him to do big things, they will be in great shape.

Boston College is now known for their defense more than anything. Despite having a very successful year so far, they don't come close to matching up to their counterparts of years past. They are still very good (see forcing Ponder into many turnovers last game), and are the only reason that the Eagles are not already at 6 losses.

Predictions: 4-2...Final Record 6-6 (3-5)

Wins- Maryland, @Duke, @Cuse, Virginia

Losses- Clemson, @ Wake

Boston College has an extremely backend of their schedule, and they should pay immense dividends throughout the 2nd half of the year. If they can beat Maryland this weekend, all they have to do to become bowl eligible is defeat 3 of the following teams: Duke, Virginia, Wake, Syracuse. While 3 of those games are on the road, I fully expect them to come away with a win against Virginia and Syracuse. Getting the 3rd win out of Duke and Wake should not be a huge problem because they are bound to get one win in North Carolina this year. So despite having no quarterback and starting 0-3 in conference, I am predicting the Boston College to go to the Eagle Bank Bowl in December.

Final Predicted Atlantic Standings

1. FSU- 10-2 (7-1)   (1st currently)

2. Clemson 7-5 (5-3)*     (4th)

3. N.C State 8-4 (5-3)      (2nd)

4. Boston College 6-6 (3-5)     (6th)

5. Maryland 6-6 (3-5)     (3rd)

6. Wake Forest 4-8 (2-6)    (5th)

*Clemson wins tiebreaker due to their win against State in the regular season.

 

Whew, that was longer and more time consuming than I thought it would be. I am sure I messed something up (as in I pick 2 teams to each beat each other in my records), but if it is in fact correct, I think this is how things will play out in the Atlantic Division. 

As always the 3 C's are welcome (and in no particular order):

  1. Comments
  2. Critiques
  3. Corrections
So fire away guys, I'm eager to hear your thoughts on the 2nd half of the division race too!

 

***All stats are courtesy of www.CFBstats.com, a must have website for all CFB stat junkies***


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