Tag Archives: Hunter Renfrow

Will ACC Football Continue Its Roll After Last Season?

Will ACC football do it again? I could answer this question in a couple sentences, but that wouldn’t be any fun for anyone.

ACC football was on a roll at the end of the year last year, with ACC teams winning the overwhelming majority of the bowl games in which they played. Not to mention, Clemson eventually won the National Championship Game.

With a new season less than a few weeks away, now is definitely the time to ponder whether the ACC can (and will) do it again. For me, it depends on what exactly “it” is. If the ACC must win the title and win the same number of bowl games, I just don’t see that happening again. If the ACC simply must have a playoff participant and win most of its bowl games, then maybe “it” can be done.

The playoff participant I’d expect to emerge from the ACC this season would not be the Clemson Tigers, though. If anything, I expect the Florida State Seminoles to earn a spot in the College Football Playoffs this postseason and be the ACC team mostly likely to win the title. Vegas says I’m not alone in this expectation.

Florida State may have lost running back Dalvin Cook, but it looks ready to reload and move forward this season. Cam Akers is expected to pick up where Cook left off, so Seminole fans need not worry about that loss. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Deondre Francois also has an entire season of experience now, which should help him better lead the Florida State offense. The Seminole defense returns countless starters and will have Derwin James back this season (if he can stay healthy). This combination of offensive and defensive power is what makes Vegas (and me) hot on Florida State this year.

On the other hand, Clemson is in for a rebuilding year after losing its dual-threat quarterback Deshaun Watson to the NFL. The Tigers lost multiple other starters that leave a few big holes on both sides of the ball. Two major departures that come to mind are Ben Boulware (defense) and Mike Williams (offense). Clemson fans might place their confidence in Dorian O’Daniel and Hunter Renfrow to step up to replace those two, but I don’t have that same confidence—yet.

As far as the non-conference games during the season and the bowl games during the postseason go, there are countless other ACC football teams that look ready to take on formidable opponents. I’ll be brief, but here are a few teams worth giving some attention.

Virginia Tech had a great first season under one of my favorite head coaches, Justin Fuente. If the Hokies can improve their ball security, they may even finish above that 9-3 mark from last season.

Miami had a solid season under Mark Richt as well. Hurricane fans remain confident as ever, but I’m not entirely sure what to make of this team now that quarterback Brad Kaaya is gone. He may not have been elite, but he was an important part of Richt’s offense.

Louisville was flying high behind Heisman trophy winner Lamar Jackson early last season, but fell from grace by the end of the year. After watching that collapse, the Cardinals are another team that I really don’t know what to think about yet.

Georgia Tech had an interesting season last year, finishing 8-4 in the regular season and beating two SEC teams during that time. The Yellow Jackets beat the Vanderbilt Commodores and the in-state rival Georgia Bulldogs during the regular season. Georgia Tech also went on to beat Kentucky in its bowl game. This season, Georgia Tech gets a chance to prove itself early against another SEC foe—the Tennessee Volunteers. Let it be known right now that I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Yellow Jackets take down the Vols in this season opener.

The Pittsburgh Panthers, North Carolina Tar Heels, and NC State Wolfpack are a few other teams to keep on the radar in the ACC this season.

To wrap things up I’m also going to give you my prediction for the end-of-year standings in the ACC.

ACC Atlantic Division:
  1. Florida State
  2. Clemson
  3. Louisville
  4. NC State
  5. Syracuse
  6. Wake Forest
  7. Boston College
ACC Coastal Division:
  1. Virginia Tech
  2. Miami
  3. Georgia Tech
  4. Pittsburgh
  5. North Carolina
  6. Duke
  7. Virginia

With those being my standings, I would expect Florida State to beat Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game and secure a spot in the College Football Playoffs.

While the ACC may not be quite as good as last year, I do still expect a championship contender from the conference and a strong record in non-conference games.

 You can email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @KristenBotica.

Featured photo courtesy of Ashley Romanosky.

Do You Like a Hollywood Blockbuster? Alabama and Clemson Wrote Back-to-Back Scripts

It’s five past eight on Tuesday morning and I’m surprisingly not tired, considering I stayed up until 12:45 in the morning watching Clemson topple Alabama. I didn’t dare go to bed while that game went on. I couldn’t have slept knowing what I was missing.

Last night’s College Football Playoff National Championship rematch was even better than last year’s installment. This time last year, I was talking about how we had just witnessed a sensational football game. Well, I’m back to say the same thing about Monday night’s classic.

Last year’s game had just about everything – stars carrying their team (Derrick Henry and Deshaun Watson), surprising standout performances (O.J. Howard and Hunter Renfrow) and numerous dramatic momentum shifts. Monday night’s game wasn’t as wide-open, but the storylines were just as, if not more compelling.

Admittedly, I was searching for them but there really were a lot of similarities between the 2015 and 2016 versions of this game. I started noticing them in the second quarter as the Tide’s offensive line began to dominate the Tigers’ front seven. Then, my guy Bo Scarbrough scampered in from 37 yards out to score his second touchdown of the evening. A lot of people were ready to hand the Tide the title at that point. Aren’t we glad they didn’t?

Last season we saw improbable stars emerge in the form of Hunter Renfrow and O.J. Howard. Both of them were cast brilliantly in the sequel. Renfrow was again Watson’s most reliable target, reeling in 10 passes for 92 yards and two scores. Howard turned in more big plays when Alabama needed them most, racking up 106 yards and a touchdown on four grabs.

This game was the culmination of what truly could be made into a movie. It felt like fiction as it played out in front of us. The “underdog” won. You have the villain, Nick Saban, (or anti-hero, as I prefer to see him) trying to win his sixth national championship and remain perfect in the game itself. The zany Dabo Swinney can act as comic relief, if you’re into his whole act.

Deshaun Watson is clearly the main character and hero. His performance was both outstanding and inspiring. My favorite part was the way he handled it. He doesn’t seem like a spotlight guy, off the field. He can’t help but steal it on the field, though. He became a college football legend and unquestioned top-pick candidate without being annoying like a lot of guys tend to get now.

All the makings of a cheesy Hollywood blockbuster are there. The only difference is this was real life.

The most untouchable dynasty in the history of college football hit a big speed bump and got a flat tire. I’m not at all worried about Alabama not making it back to this stage. In fact, find any odds you can and I’ll take the Tide as 2017 champs.

That’s down the road though. For now, all we have to do is revel in the greatness that was Monday night’s game and give props where they are due.

Congratulations to Deshaun Watson and the Clemson Tigers, 2016 College Football Playoff National Champions.

E-mail Mitch at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @GreatGatzke.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Recapping a Phenomenal Football Game

It’s a real shame that the College Football Playoff National Championship Game did not get good ratings last night.  If you didn’t tune in then you missed out on an instant classic.  The Clemson Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide battled back-and-forth for four quarters to decide which team would take home the ugliest trophy in sports and you didn’t even turn it on.  Oh well, your loss.

Or, maybe you fell asleep during a fourth quarter that didn’t start until 11:15 and ended sometime after midnight in the east.  I can’t say that I blame you but you too missed out on a frantic finish.

Or, maybe you’re one of us.  Those who were glued to the four-letter network’s “Megacast” were treated to a tremendous football game between two championship-caliber teams.  Yes, Alabama won the game and the national championship but it was undoubtedly well-earned.  Clemson played well enough to win, and would’ve on most other nights.  The Tide was not to be denied though.

This game had just about everything.  The Heisman winner went off.  The second runner-up put his team on his back.  Unexpected heroes stole the show.  A trick play drastically swung the momentum late in the game.  There was even a feel-good aspect to the ending.  That wasn’t all either, but if we go through everything how are we supposed to make people feel like they missed out?  Here are the essential highlights of the biggest, and arguably the best, game of the 2015-16 season:

Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry struck first, shrugging off a defender and scampering 50 yards into the end zone.  When the night was over Henry had carried 36 times for 158 yards and three touchdowns.  All that and it didn’t even seem like he had impacted the game as he normally does.

DeShaun Watson was the one wowing those watching.  He carried the Tigers all night, as he did all season.  Scrambling for first downs, extending plays, marching his offense down the field against the best defense in the country, Watson showed us a little bit of every part of his game.  Most impressive of all were his two touchdown passes in the first quarter.  The first of which was an absolutely perfect throw to the corner of the end zone.  The second one was placed where only his guy could catch it.

The guy on the receiving end of those perfect passes was former walk-on Hunter Renfrow.  This redshirt freshman came into Monday night with just 26 catches, 404 yards and three touchdowns to his name.  What a coming out party it was for him, reeling in seven balls for 88 yards and two scores in the national championship.  Renfrow certainly stole the first half headlines.

Another unlikely hero emerged in the second half.  Alabama tight end O.J. Howard plays a vital role in the offense even if he doesn’t get the statistical reward he deserves.  Howard had only one game with more than four catches this season.  He hadn’t scored since November 9, 2013.  That is, until he exploded for 208 yards and two touchdowns on five receptions last night.  The first touchdown was a brilliantly designed play, called at the opportune time by offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.  On the second, Howard was the lucky recipient of some poor communication in Clemson’s secondary.  The real highlight of his night, however, was a little screen pass that should’ve resulted in a two-yard loss.  Instead, Howard slipped a tackle, turned the corner and tiptoed down the sideline, picking up 63 yards and setting up Alabama’s game-winning touchdown.

By far the most surprising and exciting play of the game came on special teams.  An Adam Griffith field goal tied the game at 24 with about 10 and a half minutes left in the game.  Then Nick Saban, a notoriously conservative coach, dialed up the trick play that would allow his team to take the lead for good.  Griffith pooched one right into the hands of his intended receiver.  He kicked it more accurately than most guys can throw it.  Clemson was caught off-guard and you could feel the wind shift in favor of the Tide’s sails.

As the confetti fell all around the victorious Alabama players, none must have felt as accomplished as Jake Coker.  You want to know what patience is, ask him.  This guy’s had to sit in the back seat his entire collegiate career.  He started at Florida State where he was redshirted and beat out by EJ Manuel and then Jameis Winston.  Then he transferred to Alabama where he was immediately eligible to play because he had already graduated from FSU.  Coker competed with Blake Sims for the starting job only to be relegated to backup duty for the fourth year in a row.  This year Coker finally got his chance to start but did not play well early in the season.  In fact, Cooper Bateman got the start in Alabama’s only loss against Ole Miss.  Bateman’s poor play in that game opened the door for Coker yet again.  The second half comeback attempt fell just short that night but Coker had won his job back.  Fast forward three months and Coker found himself on top of the college football world.  We can only imagine the feeling of validation that washed over him after such a journey.  His story is one that makes college football so special.  You had to feel good for him during his postgame interview where it seemed to sink in what he had accomplished.

Congratulations are in order for Coker, Griffith, Howard, Kiffin and, of course, Saban who has won his fourth national championship in seven years.  You can hate on them all you’d like but you can’t deny that Alabama’s current run ranks high in terms of the all-time great dynasties of not just college football, but all major American sports history.

So yeah, you either missed all that or were so enthralled by it that you wanted to recap.  Either way, there’s no doubt that the second edition of the College Football Playoff National Championship Game was simply sensational.

E-mail Mitch at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @GreatGatzke.