With college football finally arriving, previews are all over the internet, but here are a dozen things you may not know about each of the ACC teams and the upcoming season.
Not More of the Same – Miami has suspended seven players for the season-opener against Charleston Southern, but unlike past coaches, Randy Shannon made these decisions, not the school administration. The most notable suspended player is redshirt freshman starting quarterback Robert Marve. Marve’s suspension results from an incident on October 31 of last year, where he broke a car mirror following a fight with his girlfriend. Charges were dropped in March. Coach Randy Shannon was clear about the suspensions, "When I took the job at the University of Miami, I was going to hold everyone to a higher standard than the rest of the country (in regards to) academically, curfew, study hall and doing the right things in the classroom. We have some guys who won’t be (playing in) the game because of those reasons, and then we move forward.” Shannon’s refreshing stance shows his commitment to changing the program. Bobby Bowden would point out it’s easy to suspend players when you’re playing Charleston Southern, but Shannon has been resolute since becoming the head coach.
Out of Matty Ice – Boston College senior Chris Crane gets to attempt to fill the shoes of ACC Player of the Year, Matt Ryan. Crane has attempted just 40 passes in three years, including 4 attempts last year. While lacking experience, Crane should have good protection, as 3/5 of the offensive line that gave up a conference-low 1.56 sacks/game will be back.
Thunder Rolls – Running back James “Thunder” Davis, one half of Clemson’s “Thunder and Lightning” (is there any other name for RB pairs?) rushing tandem, sits at 35 career rushing touchdowns. He could surpass ACC leader, NC State’s Ted Brown, who rushed for 49. To catch Brown, Davis will have to return to his 2006 form (17 rushing TDs), which also be required if Clemson is to finally meet expectations. In two of Clemson’s three losses last year, Davis was held to a combined 19 yards on 18 attempts.
You’re Gonna Pay for That – Georgia Tech has had six chances in the last five years to avenge a loss of 21 points or more. They’ve won every game, including last year’s 13-3 upset over Clemson. Last year, Virginia Tech was the only team to beat GT by 21 or more. New coach, Paul Johnson, will look to extend his team’s revenge streak on September 13, but the game will be in Blacksburg.
Good, but not Great – The only team in the ACC that has never been ranked in the top ten: Wake Forest. Ironically, no North Carolina school has been ranked in the top 25 since 2003, except Wake. They will also be looking to extend their first ever bowl-streak to three.
Golden Power – Notre Dame will meet North Carolina on October 11th. The two teams first met in Yankee Stadium, back in 1949. Notre Dame has reeled off a 16-1 record against the Tarheels. Their last meeting in Chapel Hill was in 1975, when Joe Montana connected on an 80-yard game-winning touchdown pass with just over a minute remaining. UNC’s lone win in the series was a 12-7 win in 1960.
Blessing or Curse – Duke returns ten of eleven defensive starters, the most of any school in the conference. The defense, however, was the worst in the ACC allowing over 5000 yards and 45 touchdowns, ten more than any other school in the conference.
Red (Zone) does not mean Stop – NC State converted on 29 of 41, or a conference worst 71.7%, of their red zone opportunities last season. With 6 red zone interceptions, they had twice as many as any other school.
31 and counting – Florida State has had a winning record for the last 31 seasons. Their last losing season was head coach Bobby Bowden’s first. In that year, 1976, the Seminoles had six losses, the same number of defeats they’ve had in both of the last two seasons. When FSU and Miami face off on October 4th, Bowden will coach in his 500th game, becoming just the third man to reach that milestone (Joe Paterno and Alonzo Stagg).
Bring a Sack Lunch – Virginia Tech’s offense needs a lunch pail. Last season they gave up 54 sacks, which amounted to 297 yards lost. When upright, QB Sean Glennon will be throwing to a receiving corps that has a combined zero career receptions. On the other side of the ball, VT loses seven starters, but they’ve got the lunch pail and special teams to lean on.
Poll Position – Virginia meets Southern Cal on Saturday, and it will be their first matchup against a non-conference opponent ranked in the top 5 since 1989, when they lost 36-13 to a #2 ranked Notre Dame. The highest ranked non-conference opponent the Cavaliers have beaten was ranked 12th, which they did twice, West Virginia in 1984 and Penn St. in ‘89. UVa’s only two wins against a top 5 team were both against Florida State, in 1995 and 2005. Both Florida State and Georgia Tech have the potential to face the number one team in the country in their last games of the season (Florida and Georgia, respectively). If either team does, it will the first time an ACC school has met the number one team since Virginia Tech lost to USC in 2004.
Never Heard of ‘Em – Last year football fans were impressed by the 22 touchdown receptions of Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree. Maryland WR Darrius Heyward-Bey had a whopping three. Both young men are 6’3” with blazing speed, and Heyward-Bey had a higher yards per catch average last season. Crabtree benefited from a system where his QB threw almost 50 TDs while Maryland had a conference-low nine passing TDs. Injuries plagued the Terrapins all season, and with a new offensive philosophy look for Heyward-Bey’s numbers to jump.
To explain the image way back at the top, I’m finally on board with the Clemson bandwagon. Two of their losses, last year, were directly due to special teams failures. Against Georgia Tech had a blocked punt and four field goals missed by Mark Buchholz, who converted on a conference worst 62% of his FG attempts last season. This season, Buchholz is back, but he’s on the list for the Lou Groza award, so he must’ve improved! Against Virginia Tech, Clemson allowed a punt and a kickoff return for a touchdown. The only loss where they didn’t have a special teams collapse was against Matt Ryan and the Boston College Eagles. I’m buying Clemson, but with their first game against Alabama, I recognize it could blow up in my face faster than a Cuban martial artist. I'm also hopeful for the Tarheels, it's time to bear the fruit of hiring Butch Davis. If, however, they lose to this guy and Notre Dame, I'm officially fast forwarding to basketball season.