Tag Archives: Sean Maguire

2016 ACC Football: The Struggle is Real

Last week I took a look at the 2015 year that was in the ACC, some good and bad for each school. This week we’re going to put the past behind us and take a look at what 2016 may hold for ACC football.

Boston College

What needs to get better – The passing game and 3rd down conversions. The two go a bit hand in hand. BC had one of the worst passing games in the nation, ranking 125th in yards per game. None of their quarterbacks threw for more than 464 yards on the season. Yes, you read that correctly. The quarterbacks combined to complete 44.6% of their passes. This all lead to an offense that was 126th out of 127 in 3rd down conversion rate, getting a first down on just 26.7% of their third down attempts. If the offense wants improvement in 2016, it’ll need to start here.

What will go well – The run game. Part of the inability to throw the ball has been due to the dual-threat nature of the quarterbacks that the Eagles trot out there. This obviously helps the ground game. After five games of not getting double digit carries, junior RB Tyler Rouse had 24 for 111 yards and two touchdowns in the final game against Syracuse. Hopefully that leads to a big senior year for him. Helping will be the offensive line, which returns three starters that were only underclassmen last year.

What will be a struggle – Passing game. Once again. There really isn’t much hope here. Even if there is moderate improvement it’s hard to see a team jumping from the bottom five in the country to anywhere near average. Last year BC’s leading receiver had 17 catches for 233 yards. If someone approaches 500 yards in 2016 it would be a miracle.

Clemson

What needs to get better – Big plays allowed. Clemson had a great season, but they gave up some big plays in the ACC Championship to North Carolina which allowed the Tar Heels to hang around and stay in the game. Those big plays basically cost them the title, with multiple breakdowns in the secondary resulting in long touchdowns for the Crimson Tide.

What will go well – The offense. I know, I’m a such a genius, but this is about as obvious as it gets. Deshaun Watson was coming off a knee injury and still was a Heisman finalist this season. Now he’ll be further removed from that injury and back with him will play explosive playmakers Wayne Gallman, Artavis Scott, and Mike Williams, who would have been the Tigers’ best WR but was lost for the year in the season opener.

What will be a struggle – The defense. Clemson is going to be in a lot of shootouts in 2016. Brent Venables was able to rebound from losses to the NFL draft going into 2015 to lead one of the nation’s best defenses yet again. It’s hard to overcome that multiple years in a row however, just ask LSU. This time the Tigers lose both starting DEs (who just happened to be numbers 1 and 2 in the country in tackles for loss) as well as 3/4ths of the secondary. They lose seven defensive starters in total, an astonishing five of them early entrants to the NFL draft.

Duke

What needs to get better – The defense. It gave up almost 31 points per game, including 40+ to the explosive offenses that were Virginia and Virginia Tech. They pass defense in particular was a sieve, finishing 73rd in yards allowed, but there is hope. All five secondary starters return in their 4-2-5 alignment.

What will go well – The running game. Duke’s ground attack was pretty versatile in 2015, led by QB Thomas Sirk. Sirk led the team with 803 yards rushing, but they also had three different running backs all rush for over 400. In total the Blue Devils ran for over 2500 yards on the season on almost five yards per rush.

What will be a struggle – The passing game. It’s not all Sirk’s fault, he just doesn’t have much to work with. A measley 6.15 yards per attempt won’t put fear into the hearts of defensive coordinators, and Duke will not see much improvement unless someone steps up and produces some of the play-making that vanished when Jamison Crowder took his talents to the NFL after the 2014 season.

Florida State

What needs to get better – The passing game. You couldn’t expect FSU’s passing to be as good when Jameis Winston left for the NFL. Outside of a couple nice efforts, the it couldn’t be counted on consistently, and certainly not against the better teams on the schedule. Whether Sean Maguire retains the starting job going into 2016 or a younger, more talented signal caller takes the spot, there’s no reason for this area not to improve with the talent the Seminoles have at receiver.

What will go well – Handing the ball off. FSU could probably just do that every play in 2016 and win double digit games. Dalvin Cook averaged 7.4 ypc last year and he’ll be back. He’ll also be running behind an offensive line that returns all five starters. I already feel bad for the rest of the ACC.

What will be a struggle – Kicking game. The Seminoles have been spoiled the last few years with Roberto Aguayo, one of the best college kickers in years. Aguayo never missed an extra point and was almost as automatic on field goals, converting over 90% of them (64-70) from under 50 yards. With Aguayo off to the pros, Seminoles fans will have to hope their kicking situation doesn’t turn into the one present in Gainesville.

Georgia Tech

What needs to get better – Ball security. It might be expected that a team that runs the triple option would have more chances at fumbling. But you’d also think that they’d preach protecting the ball even more. Whatever they do didn’t work in 2015 as the Yellow Jackets lost 14 fumbles (only three teams lost more). Navy, another triple option team, only lost six. Add the Yellow Jackets’ 10 interceptions, another astonishing number considering how little they throw it, and the result is finishing 105th in turnover margin.

What will go well – The run game. Georgia Tech wasn’t able to stay in games with their rush attack like in previous years, but there are plenty of reasons for optimism. The line was extremely young (they had a freshman at center and both tackles spots by the end of the year) so it should improve. Add that to QB Justin Thomas and their stable of running backs returning and the offense should rebound.

What will be a struggle – Pass defense. It wasn’t bad in 2015, ranking 37th in pass yards allowed, but the Yellow Jackets were also 120th in sacks. They now lose all four starters from the secondary. If the front seven can’t find a way to put pressure on the opposing quarterback, the defense could get burnt through the air with a less experienced defensive back corps.

Louisville

What needs to get better – The offense. I can’t believe I’m saying this about a Bobby Petrino team but the offense was pretty disappointing. The quarterbacks were average, finishing 61st in QBR. That is a little more understandable with Lamar Jackson getting so much playing time, but with a dual-threat guy like himself, the Cardinals should have been able to finish better than 81st in rushing.

What will go well – Defense. The Cardinals defense could be one of the best in the country in 2016. They were T-10th in sacks last year and return stud Devonte Fields who was T-10th in individual sacks. As if a ferocious pass rush wasn’t enough, the ‘Ville will also get all their secondary starters back, including NFL prospects Shaq Wiggins and Josh Harvey-Clemons.

What will be a struggle – The passing game. Bobby Petrino can work whatever magic and QB voodoo he wants, I just don’t think he’s going to be able to do what he traditionally has with Lamar Jackson. It doesn’t mean Jackson won’t improve, I just don’t think there will be any game to game consistency, which will frustrate the coaching staff as well as Cardinals fans.

Miami

What needs to get better – 3rd downs. I talked about how bad Boston College was on third downs, but that’s a little more understandable considering their quarterback situation and well, because of the fact that they’re Boston College. But Miami was almost as bad, finishing 107th at 35%. Considering the talent at the skill positions and at quarterback, there’s no excuse for that and Miami needs to see drastic improvement in this area if they want any shot at competing for the division in 2016.

What will go well – Pass attack. The offensive line was extremely young last year, with four underclassmen starters at year’s end. With improvement Kaaya should have time to throw. With talent at WR in Stacy Coley and Braxton Berrios and at TE in Standish Dobard and David Njoku, Kaaya will have plenty of options at his disposal.

What will be a struggle – Pass defense. Miami was 70th last year in sacks, and they have had a non-existent pass rush for years. Last year the pass defense was able to survive because of how good the secondary was. That won’t be the case this year. Miami loses both starting safeties as well as CB Artie Burns, who led the ACC with six interceptions. In 2016, no lead will be safe.

NC State

What needs to get better – Explosive passing plays. Jacoby Brissett had a mediocre yards per attempt, and it showed when you look at the receivers. The Wolfpack’s leading WR averaged under 10 ypc (9.2). That’s embarrassing. And their second leading receiver had just 34 catches. Not the ideal way to keep a defense honest.

What will go well – Run game. At least NC State has this going for them. They have their top three running backs return, and all three averaged over six yards per rush in 2015. But the biggest reason will be the return of Matthew Dayes. Dayes was averaging over 100 yards per game on 6.5 ypc and had 12 touchdowns through just 7+ games. He ended up missing the last five games due to a foot injury but will be back next season.

What will be a struggle – Passing attack. NC State might be able to get some plays off play-action thanks to their run game, but a standard passing game will not be forte. They have limited wide receivers and with Jacoby Brissett no longer around, will have a new starting quarterback as well.

North Carolina

What needs to get better – The defense. It was abysmal the second half of the year. They gave up at least 31 points in 4 of 6 games. The two that they didn’t were against Miami and Virginia Tech, not exactly the Marcus Mariota-led Oregon Ducks.

What will go well – Offense. The Tar Heels’ offense was explosive in 2015 and have most of it returning in tact for next year. 4/5 offensive linemen return along with the top two receivers and stud running back Elijah Hood. While starting quarterback Marquise Williams departs, he’ll be replaced by Mitch Trubisky, who fans have been high on.

What will be a struggle – The defense. It’s hard to see much improvement from a unit that allowed over 400 yards per game. It was 110th in run defense, stamped off by their embarrassing showing in the bowl game when the allowed a bowl record 645 rushing yards to Baylor. Now they lose a DT and MLB who were defensive captains.

Pittsburgh

What needs to get better – Their “passing attack”. It wasn’t Boston College level putrid, but it left a lot to be desired. Pitt can run the ball, so mild improvement in the passing game is all they need to have a competitive offense.

What will go well – The run game. James Conner was an ACC player of the year candidate before missing basically the whole season. In his place was Qadree Ollison who ran his way to a nice little 1,100 yard, 11 touchdown season in Conner’s place. Both will be back in 2016 to run behind an offensive line that returns 4/5 starters.

What will be a struggle – The passing game. The Panthers need their passing game to be competent, but I don’t see how it improves from last year. It wasn’t good to begin with and now the Panthers are losing WR Tyler Boyd early to the NFL draft. Boyd accounted for 91 of the team’s 212 receptions in 2015.

Syracuse

What needs to get better – The whole offense. They were 119th in yards per game. Brutal to watch and not able to move the ball consistently as evidenced by their 100 ranking in red zone opportunities. But the Orangemen were actually pretty good once they got there, ranking 8th in red zone scoring percentage. If the offense can move the ball a little more, they can put their red zone efficiency to better use.

What will go well – Defense. It wasn’t exactly good this past year, but it was young. They return seven starters so with the experience they should be better just from that. Additionally, the defense played better at home in 2015, not surprising for a young unit. A year older and they should be able to carry some of that success on the road more frequently.

What will be a struggle – Getting to a bowl game. It’s hard as a fan to go into a year knowing your team probably won’t make a bowl. What’s more difficult is seeing how Syracuse gets to one. Along with divisional home games against FSU and Louisville, they have to go on the road in conference to play BC, Pitt and Clemson. Add in non-conference games at Connecticut and with Notre Dame and this year will be about building for 2017.

Virginia

What needs to get better – Performance in close games. Virginia had their chances last year. They had a halftime lead against Notre Dame and a second half lead against Miami, neither of which they could hold. They were also tied at half with North Carolina and tied in the 4th quarter with Louisville. An ability to finish games and the Cavaliers may have not been looking for a new coach.

What will go well – Off-season. If nothing else there will be positive vibes around the Cavaliers before the season starts. Tiquan Mizzell is a player fans can be excited about watching. There’s always hope when a new head coach comes in, which is what Virginia has in Bronco Mendenhall. Throw that in with a senior quarterback and fans may talk themselves into a sneaky good season.

What will be a struggle – The offense. An experienced quarterback returns, yes, but also a limited one. He’ll be looking for new targets as well since the offenses loses its top two receivers from last year. Just like 2015, it appears 2016 will be the Mizzell show.

Virginia Tech

What needs to get better – The running game. As bad as Virginia Tech’s offense has been, you could usually count on a decent running game if nothing else. Last year the Hokies didn’t even have that, ranking 112th in yards per carry. If you’re going to win games by keeping them close and playing good defense, you need a good running game to take pressure off the quarterback.

What will go well – Pass defense. This is one thing you can count on with the Hokies. They were 17th in passing yards allowed per game and return everyone in the secondary besides Kendall Fuller. He can be adequately replaced by Brandon Facyson, the next in line for NFL-caliber Hokie corners.

What will be a struggle – The passing offense. It’s going to be a shock for new coach Justin Fuente going from possible 1st rounder Paxton Lynch to new Hokies starter Brenden Motley. Motley got his feet wet last year when Michael Brewer got hurt and I don’t think fans liked what they saw. He had success in his first couple starts against against Furman and Purdue (congratulations), but the rest of the way was mostly a disaster.

Wake Forest

What needs to get better – Pass protection. Wake Forest is Wake Forest, so they’re going to be playing from behind a lot. Because of this it would be nice if the quarterback wasn’t running for his life every other play. That’s probably what it felt like for Demon Deacons quarterbacks last year, when they were sacked on 8.94% of drop-backs, 113th in the country.

What will go well – “Offensive fireworks”. OK fireworks might be a strong word. But Wake’s offensive should be vastly improved from a unit that was almost last (125th) in scoring at 17.4 ppg. The offense only loses two seniors, one at WR and one at guard, and 7/11 starters last year were freshmen or sophomores. On top of that, QB John Wolford improved his accuracy from 58.3% to 60.9% while also increasing his yards per attempt by over two full yards (5.55 to 7.69). Why do I feel like I’m talking myself into Wake Forest? I can’t wait to look back on this in November when Wake is eliminated from bowl contention and the offense is still a disaster.

What will be a struggle – Speaking of bowl games, making one will be tough for Wake Forest next year. The first month of the season is manageable but with a road slate that includes games against Florida State, Louisville, NC State, and Duke, it’s going to be a nail-biter for fans the second half of the season.

E-mail Jason at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JLindy87.

Featured image courtesy of Thomson20192

2015 ACC Football: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

2015 was a typical year for the ACC. By typical of course, I mean one team outclassing the rest and trying to remove itself as far as possible from the negative connotations that “ACC football team” brings. The ACC has long been considered the worst of the Power 5 football conferences and did little to dispel that notion this season. Clemson did its best by not only reaching the playoff, but dispatching Oklahoma and going toe-to-toe with Alabama in what may have been one of the three best title games of all time. Florida State and North Carolina each won double-digit games but I think many, myself included, would say that was more a byproduct of the conference’s weakness than the strength of those two football teams.

Today we’ll take a look at the Good, the Bad, and the downright Ugly for each ACC team in 2015. As far as the Atlantic Coast Conference itself? The good could really only come from the aforementioned Clemson. The bad was harder to choose if only because there were so many more options, but we’ll go with defense, something that will be a common theme throughout this piece. Ten of the conference’s fourteen teams ranked 43rd or worse in scoring defense. The ACC misery saved its best (the Ugly) for last. That would be bowl season, where ACC teams not named Clemson went 3-5. Even those wins weren’t a lot to hang their hat on. Duke defeated Indiana who had one of the worst defenses on college football. Virginia Tech beat Tulsa, giving up 52 points in the process. Then there’s Louisville, who scored a 27-21 victory over a Texas A&M team that had just seen its top two quarterbacks transfer.

This article would have been much easier if it was just “The Bad and the Ugly”. Can we find some good from the 2015 season for each team? I gave it my best shot.

Boston College Eagles

Good – I mentioned defense in the intro. Well Boston College was one of the four ACC teams not abysmal on that side of the ball. BC ranked fourth in the country, allowing just 15.3 points per game. This included giving up just 34 to Clemson, 14 to Florida State, and 19 to Notre Dame. Sure they shortened games by running the ball a ton on offense, but only three times all year did they give up more than 20 points in a game.

Bad – As stellar as the defense was, the offense was the complete opposite. After the first two games of the season against non-D1 schools, Boston College didn’t top 17 points even once the rest of the year. Spearheading this vaunted offense was a leading passer that only had 464 yards on the season.

Ugly – We’re staying with the offense here. In a time when offenses are upping the tempo and putting up 40s and 50s left and right, the Eagles would struggle to outscore the Red Sox. BC put up 76 points against Howard the second week of the season. They then proceeded to score just 73 points COMBINED in their eight conference games. The cherry on top of this offensive ineptitude sundae was an October contest where they ran the ball 54 times and didn’t even get to 200 yards, getting shut out at home by Wake Forest.

Clemson Tigers

Good – Does the whole season count? Clemson had its best season in recent memory, finding itself at the top spot every week of the playoff committee’s rankings. After losing most of the starters off college football’s top defense of 2014, the Tigers managed to have one of the best defenses again. DeShaun Watson, coming off a torn ACL, was a Heisman finalist in just his sophomore season and led the Tigers to the national title game. Though falling just short against the Alabama empire, Watson had a scintillating performance against the Tide defense that will propel him to be the Heisman favorite going into 2016.

Bad – It’s hard to find the bad for a team that started the year 14-0. In this spot we have to look at the defense, which might have to do more re-tooling for next year. Brent Venables did an incredible job in 2015 but it may take more next year. That’s because the Tigers may lose DE Shaq Lawson and CB Mackensie Alexander to the NFL draft, both of whom were stars of the Clemson defense. It always hurts to lose players early to the NFL, it hurts even worse when those players are just redshirt sophomores.

Ugly – The Tigers had every opportunity to win the championship on Monday night, but big plays allowed Alabama to stay in the game. They gave up a 50 yard touchdown run to Derrick Henry. Besides that long run, they held the Heisman winner to just 108 yards on 35 carries, barely over three yards per carry. The defense was also smothering QB Jacob Coker, but mental breakdowns allowed him to have a big second half. Blown coverages accounted for two 50+ yard touchdowns to OJ Howard, which also accounted for almost 1/3 of Coker’s passing yards. Then there was the back-breaking kickoff-return touchdown by Kenyan Drake. While Clemson’s offense consistently moved the ball on Alabama throughout the game, it felt the opposite for the Tide’s offense. Clemson shut down Alabama for longer stretches, but the coverage breakdowns allowed the Crimson Tide to not just stay in the game, but ultimately win it.

Duke Blue Devils

Good – While 2015 saw the fewest wins from the Duke football team in the last three years, it’s hard not to consider an 8-5 season a success for a basketball school. To top it off, they had the aforementioned bowl win against Indiana, a 44-41 OT thriller. It just so happened to be the first bowl win in 55 years.

Bad – The Blue Devils were riding high at one point, sitting at a stellar 6-1. Then the Miami game happened. And the last play lateral controversy happened. Duke didn’t handle the outcome of that ending well and it showed. They went on a slide that saw them lose three more games with the defense getting torched in all three.

Ugly – Duke had the unfortunate position of having to face a rival following that Miami game. Normally heading to Chapel Hill for a football game isn’t something you’d worry too much about, but this year happened to be the one wear Larry Fedora had the Tar Heels’ offense humming. The Blue Devils had their worst defensive performance in a year that was full of bad ones, giving up 66 points and over 700 yards in a game that was 38-10 at halftime.

Florida State Seminoles

Good – There are never really lowered expectations at Florida State, but after losing Jameis Winston and a plethora of defensive talent to the NFL, it’s hard not to consider the Seminole’s season a success considering the drop-off in QB play. Winning ten games in a down year tells you your program is in a good place. The brightest spot of the season had to be Dalvin Cook. Cook dazzled every time he was on the field and if not for a hamstring injury may have been a Heisman finalist.

Bad – Injuries. Cook’s injury was the biggest bummer for Seminoles fans. He only had 229 carries on the year (about 5 games for Alabama’s Derrick Henry) and basically missed two full games, robbing him of a shot at 2,000 yards. QB Sean Maguire’s injury in the bowl game was another tough one. While Maguire didn’t take over until the second half of the season and didn’t play all that great once he did, he was a reshirt junior who had waited a while for his chance. After waiting around another half of a season thanks to Everett Golson showing up, he was able to lead the Seminoles to a New Year’s Six bowl game but got hurt early on. He was able to finish the game but his play was clearly impacted by the injury.

Ugly – That bowl game. Maguire may have played injured, but that wasn’t the reason Florida State lost. Other aspects of the team were abysmal and it was clear Florida State was not nearly as amped up to be there as Houston. FSU rushed for just 16 yards and had five turnovers which were only partially to blame for giving up 38 points to an offense that had Greg Ward Jr. and not much else.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Good – Ugh..Umm. Can anybody help here? The Yellow Jackets had a dismal season from the start. One bright spot however was that Paul Johnson’s triple-option attack still resulted in the 7th most rushing yards per game in the country.

Bad – Here’s another team that more than struggled on the defensive side of the ball. The Yellow Jackets couldn’t put pressure on the quarterback (121st in sacks) or create turnovers (T-92nd in interceptions). The defense was at its worst during a five game mid-season stretch that saw them allow over 30 points in each game.

Ugly – This whole year couldn’t get over soon enough. Tech started the year in the Top 25 and after beating two doormats by a combined 134-16 to start the year it was hard to tell anything was wrong. After being ranked 14th heading into Week 3, the Yellow Jackets went 1-9 in their last ten games with their only win coming in improbable fashion, scoring a touchdown off a blocked field goal as time expired.

Louisville Cardinals

Good – The Cardinals began the year on some sleeper lists but that was quickly vanquished after starting 0-3. Though the opening season loss to Auburn isn’t exactly one to put on the resume, looking back the three-point losses to Houston and Clemson don’t look so bad. It would have been easy to fold after that start, but the Cardinals bounced back by finishing strong and winning eight of their last ten games.

Bad – You would expect teams to play worse on the road, but Louisville definitely underwhelmed away from home considering the talent level on the team. A couple of single-digit wins over NC State and Wake Forest hardly make up for getting crushed at Florida State and losing by 11 against Pitt.

Ugly – For a Bobby Petrino-led team, the offense was awfully hard to watch at times. Petrino couldn’t settle on a quarterback and it seemed like no matter if Lamar Jackson or Kyle Bolin were behind center, the offense could never find consistency. Jackson often dazzled as a runner, but was nowhere near good enough as a passer to provide the type of threat we’ve come accustomed to seeing out of Petrino passing attacks.

Miami Hurricanes

Good – The improvement of young offensive players. The Hurricanes started an incredibly young offensive line in its bowl game. Though the team lost, the line wasn’t a disaster and bodes well heading into next season. Sophomore RB Joe Yearby quietly surpassed 1,000 yards on almost five yards per carry and should grow with the offensive line. The brightest sign however was the improvement of sophomore QB Brad Kaaya. Kaaya improved his completion percentage and threw one less interception on 11 more throws.

Bad – Head Coach Al Golden was fired. While in the long run this was probably needed for the program, it’s a definite sign that things aren’t going well if the coach is getting fired.

Ugly – Part of the reason Golden got fired? How about a 58-0 loss to Clemson. At home. I don’t care who you’re playing, if you are a Power 5 conference team you shouldn’t lose by this much, especially at home. This game was embarrassing. Almost as embarrassing was Miami giving up 59 in a 38 point loss to North Carolina. Those two games put a dark cloud over an otherwise solid 8-4 regular season.

North Carolina Tar Heels

Good – The Tar Heels had one of the best seasons in school history, going 11-3 and not losing a conference game until the ACC Championship against title runner-up Clemson. It was led by a balanced and explosive offense that finished 11th in the country in scoring at 41 points per game.

Bad – Thanks to UNC’s loss to Clemson in the conference championship game, their opening season loss to South Carolina didn’t cost them an undefeated season and shot at the playoff. But man was that a bad loss. South Carolina went on to be a dumpster fire, with Steve Spurrier quitting in the middle of the year. Somehow that high-scoring Tar Heel offense was held to just 13 points by a team that’s only other wins on the year came against UCF and Vandy.

Ugly – UNC managed to one-up its opening season loss with its bowl performance, bookending its season with an equally embarrassing loss to Baylor. As good as the offense had been all year, the defense was just as bad if not worse in the bowl game. Going up against a team that had seemingly every offensive playmakers out and wasn’t a threat to pass, the Tar Heels allowed the Bears to rush for a bowl record 645 yards.

North Carolina State Wolfpack

Good – NC State was a mediocre team, just as their 7-6 record would have you believe. But unlike other undermanned squads (ahem, Miami) the Wolfpack didn’t roll over against superior competition. NC State brought their A game when they had to, losing by a respectable 17 at Doak Campbell against Florida State, by 15 to Clemson, and just 11 to North Carolina after giving their rival a scare for much of that game.

Bad – Overall it was a disappointing year, but particularly for Jacoby Brissett. Brissett came out of high school as a somewhat highly regarded prospect and after transferring to NC State following two years at Florida, he put up 23 touchdowns and just 5 interceptions for the Wolfpack in 2014 while adding over 500 yards on the ground. Because of this, he came into 2015 with some deep sleeper Heisman buzz and high hopes for his team. It never came together for either as the senior QB saw a regression in almost every passing category.

Ugly – The kicking game. Teams like Florida have gotten more national attention for their kicking woes, but NC State was right there with them, resulting in the team attempting the 7th most 4th down conversions in the country. Nothing outside of 30 yards was a gimme, as just 6/9 field goals from 30-39 yards were converted and a grand total of zero field goals made from beyond 37 yards.

Pittsburgh Panthers

Good – The run game for the Panthers showed that it isn’t just a one-man show. Lead back James Conner went down in the first game after running for 1,700 yards and 26 touchdowns last year. With an iffy passing attack, it was fare to wonder how Pitt would score. But Qadre Ollison stepped in and was a nice surprise, leading the Panthers ground attack finishing with a more than respectable 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns on 5.3 ypc.

Bad – Pitt had a good regular season, going 8-4 and hovering around the fringe of the Top 25 for much of the year. That’s what made the team’s bowl performance so disappointing. Even with extra weeks to prepare for Navy’s triple option offense, the Panthers defense was trampled, giving up four touchdowns to Keenan Reynolds.

Ugly – As nice of a surprise as the running game was post-Conner, the passing “attack” was not a surprise. It was awful. Pitt finished 95th in passing yards per game, a number you’d expect to see from a team like Georgia Tech or Navy. Further illustrating how ineffective the passing game was, the Panthers threw for less than 200 yards in 8 of the team’s 13 games.

Syracuse Orangemen

Good – They say you need to defend home turf. Well as limited as Syracuse was talent wise, they did everything they could to give the hometown faithful something to cheer about. ‘Cuse went 4-3 at home with those three losses coming to Pittsburgh by just three, Clemson by just ten and LSU by just ten as well. That’s how you keep the Carrier Dome rockin’.

Bad – Ok maybe “rockin” wasn’t the right term for Syracuse home games. Though the Orangemen kept things close against good teams, it certainly wasn’t keeping the fans awake with an exciting offense. They struggled to score points and even though they ran the ball 139 more times than they passed it, they still only finished 76th in rushing yards per game.

Ugly – They must have spent all of their energy during home games, because Syracuse road games usually weren’t close. They lost all five contests away from home by an average of 18 points.

Virginia Cavaliers

Good – There wasn’t much to cheer about for Cavaliers fans in a season that resulted in the team hiring a new coach, but Taquan Mizzell was a lone bright spot. Mizzell showed play-making abilities that at least gave fans hopes of a big play when the ball was in his hands. A running back, Mizzell actually had more yards receiving (721) than rushing (671) but scored four times each via both methods.

Bad – Like most bad teams, they can usual salvage something at the end of a bad season by beating a rival. Virginia had that opportunity in the season finale against Virginia Tech in a game they had control of in the fourth quarter. A defensive meltdown and turnovers allowed the Hokies to take it to over time and get the comeback win. On top of it, it gave Frank Beamer the opportunity to do this.

Ugly – Usually for bad Power 5 teams, the offense or defense is at least average. This was not the case for Virginia, where there was little hope no matter what side of the ball was on the field. Their scoring offense finished 93rd in the nation. Not to be outdone, the defense was 96th.

Virginia Tech Hokies

Good – Virginia Tech has slid from ACC powerhouse to mediocrity for the last few years and 2015 was no different. Considering Frank Beamer basically built the program, it was nice for the Hokies to not only get that comeback win against rival Virginia, but also send Beamer into retirement with a win, notching a 55-52 victory in their bowl game.

Bad – Even though the Hokies haven’t been relevant on the national scene in a while, folks in Blacksburg could still always rely on the defense to be nasty and make difficult for even the best of the opponents. But even that slipped in Beamer’s final year where the Hokies had just the 47th best scoring defense.

UglyBeamer dabbing, again. And I’m not just one of those people who hates what “the kids are doing these days” but I can’t stand the Dab to begin with and Beamer’s rendition frankly makes me cringe.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Good – Wake Forest was probably the toughest team to find something good for. I think QB John Wolford did enough to give Demon Deacon fans some hope for the future. Given that he was just a sophomore, he did about as reasonably well as you could expect in a five-game stretch that included games at North Carolina, home to Louisville, at Notre Dame, and at Clemson.

Bad – Believe it or not, Wake was actually 3-3 at one point with their eyes on a potential bowl bid. Their wins weren’t anything to write home about but they also played tough against Indiana and Florida State. And then reality hit and the team lost their last six, most in ugly fashion.

Ugly – 120th in scoring, as a Power 5 team, is unacceptable. Oh and 33 PLAYERS had more rushing yards than Wake Forest had as a team all season.

 

 

Featured Image courtesy of Lauren Nelson

Bold Predictions for Florida State vs Houston

With the Chic-Fil-A Peach Bowl only being a day away, there isn’t a whole lot that hasn’t been said about the matchup between the Houston Cougars and Florida State Seminoles. The Seminoles are favored by seven, which most people agree with, giving the benefit of the doubt of a close matchup to the team with a better profile in recent history. Even with that, there isn’t much doubt that this will be a game that goes down to the end.

The Seminoles haven’t been able to put a lot of points on the board against any quality team this season, while Houston scores the 11th-most points per game in the nation. On the other side, Florida State allows the fifth-least points per game to opponents in the country, compared to Houston, who rank 19th in points allowed. Statistics can’t be relied on to predict a winner in this one, this will be your classic; is the national powerhouse team in fact better than a similar team that isn’t in a power five conference?

Having said all of that, here are a few bold predictions for the game:

GREG WARD JR. RUSHES FOR 150 YARDS AND 2 TD’S

This has to be the scariest aspect of the game for Florida State fans; the prospect of a running quarterback. Greg Ward Jr. is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks the Seminoles have faced in the past few years outside of Marcus Mariota, and typically, these types of quarterbacks are able to run free against Seminole defenses. Deshaun Watson and Justin Thomas, of Clemson and Georgia Tech, respectively, each accumulated at least 88 yards rushing against the Seminoles, and both games were losses for the Noles. I don’t see why this game will be any different (save for maybe the loss column.) Ward will be able to do what he wants on the ground, to the tune of over 150 yards on the ground and two touchdowns.

SEAN MAGUIRE THROWS FOR 350 YARDS AND 4 TD’S

It's been an interesting year for Sean Maguire, but he'll prove his doubters wrong in this game
It’s been an interesting year for Sean Maguire, but he’ll prove his doubters wrong in this game

It’s been an interesting year behind center for the Seminoles. It began with Everett Golson, developed into a seesaw between him and Maguire, to now, where Maguire has firmly become the quarterback for the Seminoles. This will be the best game of Maguire’s season. Considering Houston’s rush defense (which I’ll get to later,) and their terrible pass defense that has allowed 3,449 yards through the air this season (which ranks them at 121 of 128 teams,) Maguire will have a field day against the Cougar defense, throwing for 350 yards and 4 touchdowns. This will be Maguire’s break out game for the Seminoles, and will begin the big question of whether he should remain the starter for 2016, or if the five-star recruit Malik Henry should be given the reins as a freshman.

HOUSTON HOLDS DALVIN COOK TO LESS THAN 50 RUSH YARDS

As I was alluding to earlier, Houston’s rush defense is very, very good. The Cougars allow only 3.3 yards per rush attempt, good for 6th in the nation in that category. Obviously they face a tough task in stopping one of the best running backs in the country in Dalvin Cook, but Houston will be up to the task. They’ve had success this season against potent rushing attacks, most noticeably having held Navy – who have the second most rush yards on the season – to only the 3.9 yards per carry in a win. Cook will have his hands full against Houston, and the results will tell the story, Houston will hold Dalvin Cook under 50 rush yards.

DERWIN JAMES HAS TWO INT’S AND TWO SACKS

Derwin James is poised to have a breakout game to finish his freshman campaign
Derwin James is poised to have a breakout game on a national stage to finish his freshman campaign

One of the wild cards of this game that I’ll be very interested to watch will be how the Seminoles utilize freshman safety Derwin James. James has proven to be a jack-of-all-trades for the Seminoles as the season has worn on, as he’s proved to be equally talented in coverage as he is rushing the passer. I think he’ll be put all over the field, at times being in charge of containing Ward, and at times dropping back in coverage. People who have watched James play recently are certainly aware of the talent he possesses and it can be argued that he has already had a couple breakout games. However, this will be the first time since he’s become a vital component on the Nole defense that the nation will be able to watch him play, and the nation will recognize a star in the making after he has two sacks and two interceptions on New Year’s Eve.

Turning Points of FSU’s season; ACC Wrap Up

This is the period of time in the college football season when you really get to reflect on your team’s season, assess what went right and wrong, and see what could have been. For the Seminoles, they were only a couple of plays from being undefeated, and a couple of plays from being 8-4. The Seminoles went through a couple quarterback changes and injuries on both sides of the ball that altered their season, but instead of running down a list of things that affected their season, I’m going to point out the pivotal moments of the Seminole’s season, positive and negative, in chronological order.

1. Seminoles stop Miami at midfield on 4th and 4 with 53 seconds left

This was one of the moments that could potentially have derailed the Seminoles’ entire season. With Miami down 29-24, they got the ball at their own 19-yard line with two minutes left with a chance to win the game. After getting a first down, the Hurricanes ultimately found themselves in a 4th and 4 situation at their own 42-yard line. With how well Brad Kaaya had been playing in the game, Seminole fans weren’t too confident in the defense’s ability to stop the Hurricanes, and were afraid they were about to watch Kaaya drive down the field and hand the ‘Noles their first loss of the season. Alas, the pass Kaaya attempted was incomplete, and the Seminoles were able to get into victory formation, and end the week at 5-0.

2. Aguayo gets his kick blocked, and returned for a touchdown against GT

This obviously had a huge impact on the Seminole’s season, and the loss had a couple trickle down effects for the team. First of all, the decision to go for a 56-yard field goal, although long, had to have been a no-brainer for Jimbo Fisher considering he had one of the best kickers in the country in Roberto Aguayo, so let’s not argue with the decision itself. The team set up for the field goal, and knowing it needed to be a low-angle kick, a Georgia Tech defender managed to get a hand on it, and that’s when everything hit the fan for the Seminoles. It didn’t look too harmful when GT picked up the loose ball, but after reversing the field and getting to the sideline, Seminole fans started to realize what was about to happen. Two terrible missed tackles by Cason Beatty and Roberto Aguayo later and the clock had struck zero with the Yellow Jackets leading 22-16. This game not only was the first loss of the season, but it also brought up the first real questions about who should be starting at quarterback for the Seminoles.

3. Sean Maguire starts for the Seminoles against Syracuse

After losing to Georgia Tech, Fisher decided to switch out quarterback Everett Golson, in favor of Sean Maguire. Maguire was the quarterback everyone expected to be the starter in the spring, but after Golson transferred in during the summer, the quarterback battle was neck and neck going into the season with Golson slightly ahead of Maguire. A slip up by Golson gave Fisher enough of a reason to see what Maguire could do. Maguire proceeded to pass for 348 yards and 3 TD’s in a 45-21 win, and supplanted Golson as the starter going into playing #1 Clemson. This game brought up questions about whether Maguire should have been starting all along, and what might have happened in the Georgia Tech game had Maguire been starting.

4. Seminoles turn the ball over on downs with 6 minutes left against Clemson

This was the part of the game that decided the outcome of the game for the Seminoles. Down 16-13, the Seminoles had the chance to drive down the field and take a 4-point lead. At midfield, the Seminoles had two opportunities to gain one yard for a first down, but Cook couldn’t gain the yard in either of his two attempts. Clemson would take possession of the ball, and score a touchdown to go up 23-13 with 2:34 remaining. Getting that first down and potentially scoring a touchdown could have changed the entire landscape of college football. With a win, the Seminoles would have had the lead in the Atlantic divisional race with a head to head win over Clemson, and with a win in that game could have overcome the loss to Georgia Tech and found themselves playing in a playoff game. Clemson however rose to the challenge, stopped Cook and preserved their undefeated season. The game gave the Seminoles their second loss of the season, and ended any dreams of grandeur for the Seminoles.

5. The Seminoles defeat Florida 27-2

At 9-2, the outlook of the 2015 season for the Seminoles had a lot riding on the outcome of this game against Florida, that was the highest profile Florida vs. Florida State game in recent years. The Gators had a chance to make a run to the playoffs if they entered the SEC Championship with only one loss, and the Seminoles had a chance to extend their 10-win season streak. The game kind of went the way people had expected early, with both defenses playing well, allowing only 13 points going into the 4th quarter. In the 4th, Dalvin Cook ran for 150 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Seminoles to a victory over the hated Florida Gators. The game gave the Seminoles a 10-2 record at the end of the season, and put an exclamation point at the end of the season, after losing a couple of tough games earlier in the year.

One has to wonder what could have been for the Seminoles had they managed to win the game against Clemson, however I’m sure there are a lot of teams thinking the same thing. In all, it was a good season for the Seminoles. Although fans have become accustomed to winning more, you can’t complain too much with a ten-win season, especially when one of the losses was to the #1 team in the country who remain undefeated.

The Seminoles have a chance to end the season 11-2, when they play #18 Houston in the Chic-Fil-A Peach Bowl December 31st at noon.

Here’s what’s happening around the ACC:

ACC HAS FOUR FIRST TEAM ALL AMERICANS

The AP All American teams were announced a couple days ago, and the ACC had four players placed on the first team. Two were named from Clemson between quarterback Deshaun Watson, and defensive end Shaq Lawson. Guard Landon Turner from North Carolina and safety Jeremy Cash from Duke were the other two. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey and runningback Dalvin Cook from Florida State were both named second team All-Americans, and the third team consists of guard Joe Thurney of NC State and cornerback Mackensie Alexander from Clemson. This is a pretty good showing for the ACC when you consider the depth of the conference. With four first teamers, the ACC placed the third most players on the first team, behind the SEC with six, and the Big Ten with five.

DESHAUN WATSON AND DALVIN COOK FINISH 3RD AND 7TH IN HEISMAN RACE

Deshaun Watson of Clemson finished in third place in the Heisman race, receiving 1,165 total votes, 831 more than the fourth place finisher. The Heisman race turned out as expected with Derrick Henry winning the trophy, and Christian McCaffrey coming in second. Beyond the top three, Dalvin Cook of Florida State finished seventh in the race, receiving 79 total votes. Of the power-5 conferences, the Big 10, Big 12, the SEC and the ACC each had two players in the top ten.

FSU vs Houston; ACC Wrap Up

The #8 Florida State Seminoles have landed in the Chic-Fil-A Peach bowl, and will face the #18 Houston Cougars at noon on December 31st. At 10-2, the Seminoles have had a great season if you take into account the type of year that was expected, and the questions they have faced at a couple key positions. The Seminoles are still coming off their biggest win of the season, and head into late December playing the best football they’ve played all year.

Some Seminole fans were a bit disappointed that they didn’t end up playing a more glamorous opponent, but once you look at this Houston team it becomes apparent that they will give the Seminoles a few problems in the game.

The first and most obvious is Houston’s rush defense. With the Seminoles, the buck stops with Dalvin Cook and their running attack. Behind Cook, the Seminoles offense averaged 5.4 yards per carry, which ranks them at 14th in the country in yards per carry. Houston’s defense, ranks 8th in defending that same category, allowing only 3.3 yards per carry to opponents. If Houston wants to win this game they will need to win this matchup, and by win I don’t necessarily mean completely shut down Cook, but Houston will need to bottle him up and limit his effectiveness if they want to be in the game by the end. Fortunately for Houston they have a defense capable of doing this, as they held the #2 rushing offense in the nation, Navy, to only 147 yards on the ground when they averaged 330 yards per game for the season.

Houston’s QB Greg Ward Jr. will also give the Seminole defense their own fair share of problems. Ward at quarterback has completed 68% of his passes this season for 16 TD’s and only 5 INT’s, these are pretty good stats, but when you add in the fact that he is also their leading rusher with 1,041 yards on the season, you start to see why this guy is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country. These are the exact kind of quarterbacks that have given Seminole defenses problems in the past. If you look at just this season, the two games the Seminoles lost have come by the hands of Justin Thomas and Deshaun Watson, but additionally in the past we’ve seen Marcus Mariota, Jacoby Brissett, and even Everett Golson give the ‘Noles problems.

Maguire will be the difference maker against Houston's 111th ranked pass defense
Maguire will be the difference maker against Houston’s 111th-ranked pass defense

With these things in mind, I think it will be a much closer game than many people anticipate. My bold prediction for this game, is that quarterback Sean Maguire for the Seminoles will have a break out game and be the reason why the Seminoles beat Houston. Maguire has been steady in the second half of the season, but he hasn’t put together a performance that has completely erased doubts about who should start at quarterback. I think the Seminoles will be put in a few third and long situations during the game, and Maguire’s play will help table the effectiveness of Houston’s rush defense. Maguire will prove to Seminole fans that he should have been the starter all season long.

Here’s what’s happening in the ACC:

CLEMSON DEFEATS UNC: PLAYOFF BERTH

Clemson defeated North Carolina 45-37 in the ACC Championship Game, to win the ACC and clinch a berth into the 2015 College Playoffs. The game ended with a terrible offside call that eliminated an onside kick recovery by UNC that would have allowed the Tarheels a chance to tie the game. Nonetheless the referees called an invisible offside, and the Tigers were able to wind the clock down. #1 Clemson now will face #4 Oklahoma in the Capital One Orange Bowl December 31st at 4pm. This game will put two of the best quarterbacks in the country against each other between potential Heisman winner Deshaun Watson and Baker Mayfield.

MIAMI HIRES MARK RICHT

After firing Al Golden, Miami had been looking for the best successor, and found exactly that in Mark Richt. Georgia fired Richt after a couple down seasons, and basically by the time the news broke he was hired by Miami. This is a great fit for a couple reasons; Richt played at Miami, and Miami had been looking for a high-profile name to lead their team. It seems as if this is the hire all Miami fans have been waiting for, and they seem poised to return to former glory with a coach like Mark Richt at the helm.

ACC HAS NINE BOWL TEAMS

The ACC has enjoyed a pretty successful season as a whole, culminating in nine teams playing in bowl games this year. Among the teams in bowl games are Miami, Duke, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, North Carolina, NC State, Louisville, Florida State and Clemson. The ACC as a whole is a top-heavy conference, with only three top-25 teams, however all three of them are in the top ten. These three teams, #1 Clemson, #9 Florida State, and #10 UNC will play against #4 Oklahoma, #18 Houston and #17 Baylor, respectively in their bowl games.

Seminoles vs Gators: ACC Wrap Up

Florida State defeated Chattanooga 52-13 over the past weekend, in a game that was never really in question. At 9-2, the #13 Seminoles will now turn all of their attention towards the #12 Florida Gators.

Obviously this is a monumental game for both teams, a win for Florida State would be the highlight of their season and would keep the Noles from having their first three-loss season in a couple years. A win for Florida would keep them on track for a playoff berth if they can beat Alabama in the SEC Championship. This game also could mean a lot to the recruiting landscape in Florida, as the winner would have bragging rights within the state as the best program.

These two teams have been pretty similar throughout the season. Neither has gotten a lot of production from their offense, and both rely on their defense to win games. Both teams have their reasons for their offensive woes, but currently both have questions at quarterback. The Gators quarterback situation got sticky when Will Grier got suspended, while the Seminoles have just had a quarterback problem all season between Sean Maguire and Everett Golson. Both offenses rely on their rushing game to gain yards, and that will be no different this weekend.

On the defensive end, Florida’s defense is ranked third in the nation in points allowed per game, and the Seminoles’ defense is ranked 11th in the same category. All signs point towards this game being a low-scoring, defensive showdown that will be decided by which quarterback makes the fewest mistakes.

Whichever back has the better game will most likely determine who wins this game
Whichever back has the better game will most likely determine who wins this game

For the Seminoles, this game will come down to the matchup between their ground game, and Florida’s 8th ranked run defense. Florida State’s offense hinges on the success of their run game, and if Dalvin Cook can continue doing what he’s done all season against Florida that would bode well for their chances of winning. At quarterback, the Seminoles need to get Sean Maguire settled into the game early on with some quick and easy throws that will help him get some confidence in the beginning of the game. Maguire has shown that he can play well when he establishes some confidence and gets into a rhythm. Noles fans are hoping that he can do this early on in the game, opposed to getting into a hole quickly on the road.

The game will be played in the Swamp at night, which provides it’s own set of problems for the Seminoles as they’re 2-2 on the road and 7-0 at home. However their game against Clemson in Death Valley should help prepare this team for the fans they’re about to face in Gainesville.

In a game that will be decided by big plays and the ground game, I’ll take the Seminoles winning this game simply because of Dalvin Cook. If Cook can shred the Gators this weekend he might even find himself in the middle of the Heisman discussion, although no ACC Championship for the Noles will make Cook’s odds very slim. Florida State’s defense should be able to contain the Gator’s offense considering that the Gator’s offense hasn’t really been able to do damage against anyone. In a low scoring game, I think the Seminoles will take this one 20-13.

The game kicks off at 7:30 in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Here’s what else is happening in the ACC this weekend:

RIVALRY WEEK

Being that it is rivalry week in college football, there are numerous matchups to watch within the ACC. Georgia Tech could end their season on a positive note when Georgia comes into town to play them. Seeing as Georgia Tech has nothing left to play for, they should show up in this game against a beatable Georgia team. Clemson plays South Carolina in what has been a very disappointing season for South Carolina. Virginia Tech and Virginia face off in an interstate rival that will determine which team has the better season. One of the sneaky good matchups this weekend will be when UNC travels to NC State this weekend. At 7-4, the Wolfpack are a good team in their own right and the Tarheels will have their hands full with their high-powered offense.

 FRANK BEAMER AND VIRGINIA TECH

Virginia Tech’s game this weekend has a lot more on the line than a victory over Virginia, a victory this weekend means that the Hokies will be bowl eligible in Frank Beamer’s final year with the team. At 5-6, the Hokies haven’t had a whole lot of positives from this season, and a win against Virginia would change that. A win would allow Frank Beamer the chance to finish his last season with a winning record, and would boost morale within the program going forward. A loss would be a sad way to end Beamer’s career at Virginia Tech.

ACC NEEDS CLEMSON AND UNC TO WIN

One thing that I don’t think will happen, but would be bad for the ACC is if Clemson or UNC were to lose this weekend. A win by both teams this weekend would mean that the winner of the ACC would most likely be playing in the playoffs. A loss this weekend for either team allows the possibility of the ACC winner not playing in the playoffs. A loss by UNC this weekend would make them 10-2, making it hard for them to advance even if they did beat Clemson, and a loss by Clemson would mean that if they beat UNC they might not make it to the playoff. Even though it is hard to imagine the ACC winner not being in the playoff, a loss by either team this weekend would open up a Pandora’s box of possibilities.

Seminole’s Lose Again

The Florida State Seminoles were defeated 23-13 by #1 Clemson, who clinched the Atlantic division title with the victory.

It was a tied game going into the fourth quarter, but ultimately the Clemson offense exposed the Seminoles defense late with a couple seam passes and screens, which proved to be too much for defense to handle. Combine that with poor quarterback play from Sean Maguire and you have a recipe for a loss. Besides a 75-yard touchdown from Dalvin Cook on the second play of the game, the ‘Noles offense only scored six points. The loss can’t be entirely blamed on the quarterback, but one has to wonder if starting Maguire was the correct decision by coach Jimbo Fisher.

The Seminoles had a couple chances to step on Clemson’s throat early and seize all of the momentum, but failed to rise to the occasion. The first mishap was the inexplicable interception by Maguire at the 5-yard-line, in which Maguire decided to throw the ball off his back foot up to 5’7” WR Kermit Whitfield, the interception kept the game from being potentially 14-0. Once the Tigers got the ball, the Seminoles would have forced a three and out, if not for a dumb late hit penalty from cornerback Jalen Ramsey that extended Clemson’s drive.

Surprisingly Clemson never pulled away in this game, as their quarterback Deshaun Watson missed a few throws and had a few costly errors of his own. The most obvious being him spiking the ball on third down inside the Seminoles’ 20-yard-line with thirty seconds left in the first half. The Seminoles’ defense played very well, but one of the biggest takeaways from this game might be that Clemson looked very beatable.

The pivotal point of the game was obviously Clemson turning the ‘Noles over on downs after two failed rushing attempts by Dalvin Cook to get a single yard. Clemson would go on to score the game-clinching touchdown seven plays later.

What it means:

The Seminoles are now 7-2, and National Title hopes are officially dead. The hopes were already clinging to life before the loss, but now there isn’t a possible way to get to the playoff. It’s still a good season by most standards, but after winning the National Championship and making the playoffs in the past two years, two losses in a season is unfamiliar ground in recent history for Seminole fans. The success of this season for ‘Noles fans will be decided on the last game of the season by the outcome of their game against the #11 Florida Gators. A win over a contending Florida team would help people forget about the tough losses as well as give Seminole fans bragging rights, while a loss would help declare the season a failure (any season with a loss to Florida is a failure for Seminole fans.)

The biggest question for the Seminoles is who will be the starting quarterback for the rest of the season. With an eye already looking towards next season, you would think that Fisher would opt towards Maguire starting the rest of the year, as he will be back on the team next season, and Golson won’t. Whoever ultimately does end up starting won’t really affect the team much, as both are mediocre, but I do think that Maguire starting would be most beneficial going forward because at least Maguire can open up the offense and help younger players grow in the system.

Here’s what else happened in the ACC:

CLEMSON IS ATLANTIC DIVISION CHAMPS

With Clemson’s victory over Florida State they have clinched the Atlantic division within the ACC and will set their sights on the ACC Championship. Clemson’s remaining opponents until then have a combined record of 9-18, with none seemingly having any chance of beating them. What a year for Clemson. Deshaun Watson has been everything Clemson fans could have hoped for, leading Clemson’s fifteenth ranked offense in points per game. Combine that with their fourth ranked defense in terms of yards, and it doesn’t seem like this team has a weakness. The only thing this team may have to worry about until bowl season is the underrated Tarheels who they are poised to play in the ACC Championship.

UNC CAN CLINCH COASTAL DIVISION

Can someone please tell me why everyone is overlooking the Tarheels? Since the first game of the season, a game they shouldn’t have lost, the Tarheels have won every game, culminating in their two best wins of the season in the past two weeks against Pittsburgh and Duke. At 8-1, UNC is only four games a way from a possible playoff birth, the fourth of which would assumedly be against a #1 Clemson team. Quarterback Marquise Williams has been one of the best quarterbacks in the country this season, making the Tarheel offense the sixth most efficient offense in the country. Granted they haven’t had a very tough schedule, but if they can close out the season, a matchup against #1 Clemson would allow North Carolina to make up for their lack of a tough schedule. North Carolina can clinch the Coastal division with a victory and a Pittsburgh loss this weekend.

DUKE AND PITT UNRAVEL

Pittsburgh and Duke both got shredded on defense this weekend giving up a combined 108 points to UNC and Notre Dame. Both teams have now lost two games in a row when they each had a chance to win the Coastal division. Duke’s past two games have been brutal between Miami’s illegal kick return and a 35-point loss to the Tarheels. Pittsburgh has to be wondering how their season would have went if they had a bit of an easier schedule. The Panthers have lost to #4 Notre Dame, #5 Iowa, and an under ranked #23 North Carolina. These are two teams that the ACC was hoping could step up and provide some depth in the ACC after Clemson, UNC and Florida State, but it hasn’t worked out that way. One of these teams will add another loss to their record when Duke hosts Pittsburgh this weekend at noon.

FSU’s QB Battle and ACC Wrap Up

Florida State’s 45-21 victory over Syracuse means a lot more than simply defeating an ACC opponent, the victory brings up questions at the most important position on offense, the quarterback.

With season long starter Everett Golson sitting out the game due to a concussion, backup Sean Maguire got the start and proceeded to pass for 348 yards, 3 touchdowns with no interceptions.

Maguire simply made the offense look the best it has all season. Most noticeably was his ability to throw down the field, which Golson has shown he isn’t consistently able to do. The plays that were being called for Maguire proved that there is more trust in his arm than Golson’s. The Seminoles haven’t been utilizing wide receiver Travis Rudolph’s speed downfield because Golson can’t be trusted to chuck it down the field. In comes Maguire, and two bombs to Rudolph later early in the game and he has two catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns.

Travis Rudolph had his best game of the season with Maguire under center.
Travis Rudolph had his best game of the season with Maguire under center.

Being able to stretch the field is something that the Seminole offense has been lacking all season, with this, opposing defenses have been loading the box in order to contain running back Dalvin Cook, and Golson hasn’t given any team a reason not to because he hasn’t shown that he is capable of making the defenses pay.

All of this adds up to one big question for the Seminoles leading into the biggest game of their season against newly #1 Clemson; who should be the starting quarterback?

Normally a good game by the backup quarterback in replacement of the starter isn’t enough to supplant the starter, but this isn’t an ordinary situation. The first reason is that even though Golson transferred in during the offseason and subsequently won the starting job over Maguire, Golson hasn’t performed to the level that was expected and the level coaches were hoping. Secondly is that Maguire has proved that he can lead the team to victories, he is only 2-0, but one of them was against Clemson and their top five defense last season.

Who will start is a complete unknown at this point. Coach Jimbo Fisher has said everything from saying he’s going to wait and see throughout the week, to saying that he’s not eliminating the possibility of a two quarterback system. Regardless of who starts, the success of the Seminoles season will be determined by the outcome of their next game against Clemson. A win will help people forget about their loss to Georgia Tech, while also putting them in the driver’s seat of the Atlantic division of the ACC.

If you asked me, I think the nod will be given to Maguire. It is a tough decision, but Golson just hasn’t looked like he has been in control of the ‘Noles offense at any point of the season. At times he looks scared and opts to scramble, or he throws a short pass, the offense under Golson was more of a dink and dunk offense, compared to what Maguire showed us on Saturday. Maguire’s arm brought life to the offense, and he did so without Dalvin Cook.

The Seminoles face Clemson at 3:30 on Saturday.

Here’s what else happened in the ACC this weekend:

MIAMI’S KICKOFF RETURN VS DUKE

One of the biggest plays of the season happened last weekend when Miami miraculously returned a kickoff for a touchdown against Duke to win the game as time expired. Miami, in a last ditch effort to win the game lateralled the ball eight times and managed to get by the Duke coverage team to score the game-winning touchdown, but not really. One of the Miami runners who attempted to lateral the ball was clearly down upon watching the replay, and multiple block in the back calls were missed that should have been called. The ACC has thus suspended a couple of the ACC officials from the game, admitting that the referees erred on the play. So the play that won Miami the game, shouldn’t have been a touchdown, but it was. Why the ACC can’t overturn the play and give Duke the victory is beyond me, but as it stands Miami won the game, and now has an outside shot of winning the Coastal division. It really is a shame because Duke had a lot more on the line in this game than Miami did. With the loss, Duke now is a game back from UNC in the Coastal division of the ACC.

UNC LEADS THE COASTAL DIVISION

Because of the botched kickoff return, UNC is now sitting atop the Coastal division. With Pittsburgh and Duke both losing, #21 North Carolina is now quietly 7-1 and in position to face either Clemson or Florida State in the ACC championship. The divisional race is still far from over as UNC and Duke face each other this weekend, with Duke and Pitt facing each other in two weeks. Nonetheless it seems like this UNC team is being slept on. They have the 21st ranked offense in points per game in the NCAA, and the 15th best defense in terms of points allowed. People will point to their strength of schedule, but the win over #23 Pittsburgh helped put them on the map, and how they perform in their game against Duke this weekend will go a long ways to determining how good this team really is.

FRANK BEAMER RETIRES

Frank Beamer, the long-time coach of the Virginia Tech Hokies has decided to step down as head coach after the end of the 2015 season. This wasn’t a move that was completely unexpected, but it will mark the end of an era at Virginia Tech. Beamer began coaching for Virginia Tech in 1987, leading them to 22 straight bowl games. His teams have slipped a bit over the past few seasons, which along with his age, surely played a big part in his decision to step down. Beamer will be remembered as one of the most respected coaches in college football by coaches, and by his players who all credit Beamer to being one of the biggest influences in their careers. Beamer took Virginia Tech from an independent team in 1987, to the Big East in 1991, to where they are now in the ACC in 2004. Beamer led the Hokies to four ACC Championships, three Big East Championships, and six BCS bowl game appearances. Who will be the coach in 2016 is unclear, however Beamer has stated in the past that he hopes someone on his current staff will be named his successor.

The Seminoles New Offense

If you had asked me in January how I felt about Sean Maguire being the starting quarterback for the Seminoles in 2015 I would have been an optimist and told you that he is going to be fine because we have the playmakers on offense to help a game-managing type quarterback such as Maguire. If you would have then told me that Everett Golson would be the starting quarterback for the Noles when the September 5th season opener against Texas State came around I would have probably laughed and said, “yea I wish.”

Fast forward to August 31st and former Notre Dame quarterback Golson has just been named the starting quarterback for the Seminoles. This news didn’t come as a surprise to people that have been following the Seminoles or even people that knew about the two players competing for the starting spot. Golson simply brings more to the offense than Maguire can. Obviously Golson can change a game with his legs and extend plays once they break down, but I would also argue that Golson and Maguire have similar arms, making the quarterback competition boil down to simply choosing the player who has more mobility.

Now that Florida State has their starting quarterback, it’s time to think about what this means as far as what the offense will look like. This offense isn’t going to look very much like the offense the Seminoles have deployed in the past few seasons when they had Jameis Winston or EJ Manuel. With both of these quarterbacks being players who did most of their damage from inside the pocket, the Seminoles ran mostly a pro-style offense allowing the quarterback to make decisions and move the ball, allowing for the occasional quarterback scramble.

With Golson at the helm, the Seminoles offense will undoubtedly involve more read option handoffs utilizing the tag team that will be Golson and running back Dalvin Cook. The running game will be the focus of the Seminoles offense this season. Not because Golson can’t make certain throws or is turnover prone, but because that is the strength of the players who will be taking the field. Cook, who recently got his suspension lifted after being found not guilty for assaulting a women at a Tallahassee bar, is a dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate after a stellar freshman campaign. The offense will be built around these two players on the ground.

For people who can remember what the Seminoles’ offense looked like when Christian Ponder was under center, this year’s offense will be similar to the one Ponder ran. An offense that centers around the run game, and utilizes wide receivers by getting the ball out quick to playmakers in space.

It’s going to be an exciting season for Seminoles fans, it seems that between the embarrassing Rose Bowl loss and Jameis Winston’s departure that Florida State is flying under the radar and are an afterthought to be in the 2015 playoffs. In what was assumed to be a transition year into the post-Winston era at Florida State, the Seminoles are now clearly all in on this season, and with Golson transferring in and assuming the starting quarterback role, this Seminoles team will put as much talent onto the field as any other team in the nation. The 2015 season comes with more question marks going into it than Seminoles fans have had going into a season in recent memory, but these question marks are more about who will on the field opposed to whether or not the Noles have the talent on their roster to contend.

The biggest piece of the puzzle was announced earlier this week when coach Jimbo Fisher declared Golson as the 2015 starting quarterback.

The Seminoles begin their season at Doak Campbell Stadium this Saturday the 5th at 8pm versus the Texas State Bobcats.

The Quarterback Competition at Florida State

Going into the 2015 college football season, the Florida State Seminoles have a few question marks surrounding the starters in many of their position groups. After another great season for the Seminoles where they made it to the first College Football Playoff, the majority of the players who made up teams during the Jameis Winston era are now gone. Only three of the starters from the 2013 Championship winning team remain, with all three being on defense.

Along with replacing Seminole greats Jameis Winston and Rashad Greene on offense, the Seminoles must replace four starters on their offensive line, the top tight end in college football last season Nick O’Leary, and running back Karlos Williams. On defense, the most notable players no longer on the team are the two starting cornerbacks Ronald Darby and P.J. Williams, and two defensive linemen Eddie Goldman and Mario Edwards Jr.

Perhaps the biggest unknown for the Seminoles heading into the 2015 season is at the quarterback position. The Noles have two capable quarterbacks in Sean Maguire and Everett Golson, the question is which one of the two will win the starting job. Maguire and Golson present two very different quarterbacks, Maguire being the prototypical pocket quarterback, while Golson is more of a dual-threat quarterback.

In a vacuum, when you look at these two it seems like Golson would be the better quarterback. He has much more experience than Maguire does as Golson led an undefeated team to a National Championship appearance with Notre Dame, and adds another element to the offense with his ability to run with the football. However Maguire is also a good quarterback in his own right. He stepped in for the Seminoles last season and beat a ranked Clemson team when Winston was suspended, and he also has much more experience with the team and staff than Golson. Maguire also is a bit more of an unknown since he has only played sparingly in the past few seasons opposed to Golson’s many starts.

The two quarterbacks have been splitting reps so far in practice, with neither one having a leg up on the other. Maguire assumedly had a small advantage over Golson coming into practices simply because of his familiarity with Florida State and the players on the team as he has been in Tallahassee for a few years, but Golson has already been impressing team members in practice with his knowledge of the playbook.

Whoever the QB is, returning sophomore receiver Travis Rudolph is poised for a big season
Whoever the QB is, returning sophomore receiver Travis Rudolph is poised for a big season

Coach Jimbo Fisher has been quiet in regards to which quarterback has the advantage so far through practice, providing no insight into which one is winning the quarterback race. Continuously saying things like, “they both got a lot of work to do,” and “both sides had their moments.”

It’s anybody’s guess as to who will eventually be named the starter for the season, as for me, I see Golson starting for the Noles September 5th versus Texas State. This isn’t necessarily because I don’t believe Maguire can be a solid quarterback, I just believe that Golson can bring more to the offense than Maguire can. In Maguire’s start against Clemson last year, he played well enough to win the game, but he wasn’t particularly impressive while doing it. Granted he was thrown in the fire against a pretty good Clemson team, he just didn’t do anything that made you excited about him being the next quarterback after Winston. You also wonder why coach Fisher would bring in a guy like Golson, if he was comfortable with Maguire at the position.

With Golson the offense gets an experienced leader in the huddle, and someone that has proven he can take a team to the pinnacle. Now let me go on the record and say that Golson isn’t capable of single-handedly taking a team to the promise land, but I also would go on the record saying that Golson can put much more stress on a defense than Maguire can with his running ability. The thought of a Golson led option play with running back Dalvin Cook running behind him would give any defense a tough assignment.

Whichever quarterback ultimately wins the starting job is going to be put into an explosive, albeit very young offense. Starting with sophomore receiver Travis Rudolph who had a great freshmen season and Cook, the offense will be fine with either quarterback, the offense would just have a much higher ceiling with Golson under center.