Thursday, January 19, 2017

Farewell to 2016: ACC

The ACC had a huge season in 2016, obtaining both a national title (Clemson) and a Heisman Trophy winner (Lamar Jackson, Louisville). In all, the season could not have gone much better, and in many eyes, the ACC ran up to a neck and neck status for being the best conference in the Power 5 with the SEC. That is a huge leap for a conference long thought to be the weakest overall in the Power 5 grouping. That is certainly not the case moving forward. Here is a look at each team in the ACC for 2016, and a look at how the league transcended to their lofty peak.

Clemson Tigers
14-1 (7-1)

2016 Schedule
Beat Auburn 19-13
Beat Troy 30-24
Beat South Carolina State 59-0
Beat Georgia Tech 26-7
Beat Louisville 42-36
Beat Boston College 56-10
Beat NC State 24-17
Beat Florida State 37-34
Beat Syracuse 54-0
Lost to Pittsburgh 43-42
Beat Wake Forest 35-13
Beat South Carolina 56-7
Beat Virginia Tech 42-35 (ACC Title Game)
Beat Ohio State 31-0 (Fiesta Bowl)
Beat Alabama 35-31 (National Title Game)

What Went Right: Clemson won their first official national title since 1981, but there were a few bumps along the way that nearly kept that from happening. Deshaun Watson lumped the team over his shoulder on many a day this season, and he kept the team moving toward their destiny. He accounted for 50 TDs on the season in all (41 passing, 9 rushing) and over 5000 yards of total offense, making him the most dominant single player in the nation not named Lamar Jackson.
What was more stunning was how good the defense could be at times, as they allowe djust 18 points per game on the season. Clemson totaled 130 TFLs as a defense, with 6 defenders registering in double digits. Carlos Williams paced the defense in sacks as well, as he recorded 10.5, and the team recorded 49. That figure was almost 2.5 times more than what the Tigers gave up.
The one thing that Clemson excelled at was having the ability to win close games. Whether or not those games should have been close was another story, but the Tigers found a way to win those games, and that is a key with championship teams.

What Went Wrong: It's hard to find things that went wrong in a title season, but there were a few items that needed addressing. First, as great as Watson was at times, he was still a turnover machine. He was asked to do too much at times, as the run game was not always up to par, and he payed by tossing 17 INTs in 14 games, which is a huge number for someone like Watson. Had the run game been more effective throughout the season, and not just in spurts, that total would cetainly not have been so high.
The defense was also not always consistent throughout the season, as they gave up 30 or more points 5 times. Where that really hurt was against a moderately decent Pitt team, where Clemson gave up 43 points in a loss. The Troy game should never have been as close as it was early on, and let us not forget that the Tigers had their hands full against Troy in the second week of the season, and were lucky to escape with a win. There were also questions about the ending of the Louisville win with a sideline marker that was not where it should have been, and that little fact helped seal the win and the division title over Louisville. There was also the NC State game that almost ended in calamity. If any one of those things goes sideways, Clemson does not have this title in hand.

2017 Look Ahead: I will say it now...Clemson will not repeat in 2017 as national champions. Clemson, on paper, will not be the best team in their division next fall. Watson is gone. Wayne Gallman is gone. Mike Williams is gone. They need a new DL coach. Marion Hobby is now gone from the staff. There are too many questions, and without Watson, who largely carried the offense, there is no simple and ready answer there, as Watson is one of those players that you see once every 2 to 3 decades. With so many questions to answer, it would seem impossible that Clemson repeats, and I could see them finishing 3rd in their division behind Louisville and/or Florida State.

2017 Non Conference Schedule: 9/2 Kent State, 9/9 Auburn, 11/18 Citadel, 11/25 South Carolina

Louisville Cardinals
9-4 (7-1)

2016 Schedule
Beat Charlotte 70-14
Beat Syracuse 62-28
Beat Florida State 63-20
Beat Marshall 59-28
Lost to Clemson 42-36
Beat Duke 24-14
Beat NC State 54-13
Beat Virginia 32-25
Beat Boston College 52-7
Beat Wake Forest 44-12
Lost to Houston 36-10
Lost to Kentucky 41-38
Lost to LSU 29-9 (Citrus Bowl)

What Went Right: Lamar Jackson was one of the most dominant single players in the history of college football in 2016, and won the Heisman for his efforts. He passed for 3543 yards and 30 TDs while rushing for another 1571 yards and 21 more TDs. Jackson was a human highlight real, and at one point early in the season was on pace for 91 TDs.
Louisville also broke through in that they destroyed Florida State and finished tied for the Atlantic Division title with Clemson. What the Cardinals built in 2016 is a foundation for making a run for the 2017 ACC and national titles.
Defensively, the Cardinals were rock solid most days, allowing just 23.8 points per game on the season. The Cardinals gave up 30 or more points just 3 times during the season, and held teams to 20 points or less 6 times.
Led by DeAngelo Brown and James Hearns, the Cardinals racked up 94 TFLs as a unit, and recorded 30 sacks. Jaire Alexander led the way with 5 pick, and Louisville picked off 15 passes as a team.
Blanton Creque was rock solid in the kicking game, hitting 16/19 FGs, and freshman punter Mason King averaged over 43 yards per punt.

What Went Wrong: We start with the obvious in that Lamar Jackson got hit way too many times during the year, as teams piled up 47 sacks and 84 TFLs against the Cardinals. The line was a mess at times, and other than Jackson, there were no star power backs to take the load off of him at any given moment.
The other elephant in the room was that horrid skid to end the season, as Louisville enters 2017 on a 3 game losing streak. The Houston game seemed to expose the many issues with Louisville on both offense and defense, and then came a horrible loss to rival Kentucky that seemed to send the world spinning for this program. Jackson played by far his worst game against LSU in the bowl game, and after watching that film, there could be questions as to how teams will attack Jackson next fall as well.

2017 Look Ahead: Louisville, like Clemson, has some shoes to fill next season. The difference is, Louisville will get Jackson back. The question is how will he evolve after such a brilliant start and such a horrible finish to this season? Will the line play better? Brandon Radcliff, the best option at RB, is gone. The top 3 receivers will all be gone. DeAngelo Brown and Devante Fields are both gone at LB, as will be Keith Kelsey, the leading tackler. There are answers for Louisville, but they must get key pieces to mesh quickly in spring ball, and then they have to hope that those pieces stay intact heading into the fall. If that happens, Louisville makes another deep run in 2017. If there are any flaws, thing could get interesting.

2017 Non Conference Schedule: 9/2 Purdue @ Indianapolis, 9/23 Kent State, 9/30 Murray State, 11/25 at Kentucky

Florida State Seminoles 
10-3 (5-3)

2016 Schedule
Beat Ole Miss 45-34
Beat Charleston Southern 52-8
Lost to Louisville 63-20
Beat USF 55-35
Lost to North Carolina 37-35
Beat Miami 20-19
Beat Wake Forest 17-6
Lost to Clemson 37-34
Beat NC State 24-20
Beat Boston College 45-7
Beat Syracuse 45-14
Beat Florida 31-13
Beat Michigan 33-32 (Orange Bowl)

What Went Right: The Seminoles seem to have a long term answer at QB with freshman DeAndre Francois. The freshman was not as perfect as Jameis Winston was at this stage, but the flashes in his game are there, and Francois looks to build upon what he started in 2016, when he passed for 3350 yards and 20 scores. He needs to up the TD total, and di his INT total (7) to show true development, and the percentage of completions needs to rise a few points, but that is all within the realm of possibility moving forward with a full spring an fall camp coming up.
Dalvin Cook, in the meantime, was a star for the Seminoles all season long. Cook rushed for 1765 yards and 19 TDs, and averaged 135.8 yards per game. He was exactly what was needed to let the young QB break himself into the brutal ACC slate. Cook also added 488 receiving yards, again, taking pressure off his young QB.
Although the Seminoles lost in conference play to both Clemson and Pitt, the good news is that they beat rivals Miami and Florida this season, and that is a successful year by any standards.
DeMarcus Walker was a super star on defense, piling up 21.5 TFLs on the year, with a bone crushing 16 sacks. Four other Seminole defenders racked up double digit TFL totals this season as well, as FSU piled up 94 total TFLs on the season, along with 51 sacks as a team. Tarvarus McFadden also had a huge season, picking off 8 passes for the year.

What Went Wrong: The Seminoles got a huge shot of reality in week 3 when they were blasted by Louisville on the road. That was a sign that this would not be a normal dominant kind of season or the Seminoles. One can forgive that loss, and the narrow Clemson loss, but the one loss I am certain that the Seminoles wish they could have back was the stunner to North Carolina at home. That loss was a complete collapse, even though they only lost by 2, but the Seminoles were clearly a better team in 2016, and that was just a knock against them.
The other issue was protection on offense. FSU gave up 59 defended passes, 28 QB hurries, 15 forced fumbles, and 3 blocked kicks. These are numbers that are not remotely good for this team. They also gave up 86 TFLs, and 36 sacks. Those are issues that must be ironed out for the Seminoles to make a run in 2017.
Another issue is that the defense in games that were lost was completely a mess. The Seminoles gave up, on average, 49 points per game in those losses. They scored just 29.7 points per game in those losses, so the offense held up, while the defense shattered. That is a trend that must be reversed for FSU to return to familiar territory of being the alpha dog in the loaded ACC.

2017 Look Ahead: Dalvin Cook is gone, and that is a big job to fill in spring and fall camp. The good news is that the Seminoles have enough talent on hand and coming in to fill the job, but it may need to be more than one person claiming the job to get that production back. Francois is back, and the top 4 receivers are also all slated to return.
The Seminoles lose DeMarcus Walker on defense, but there is plenty of talent behind him to more than make up for his production. The defense may be enough to carry FSU to another ACC title in 2017.

2017 Non Conference Schedule: 9/2 Alabama @ Atlanta, 9/9 UL-Monroe, 11/18 Delaware State, 11/25 at Florida

NC State Wolfpack
7-6 (3-5)

2016 Schedule
Beat William & Mary 48-14
Lost to East Carolina 33-30
Beat Old Dominion 49-22
Beat Wake Forest 33-16
Beat Notre Dame 10-6
Lost to Clemson 24-17
Lost to Louisville 54-13
Lost to Boston College 21-14
Lost to Florida State 24-20
Beat Syracuse 35-20
Lost to Miami 27-13
Beat North Carolina 28-21
Beat Vanderbilt 41-17 (Independence Bowl)

What Went Right: Ryan Finley established himself as the QB of the future for next couple of seasons after passing for 3055 yards and 18 TDs against 8 picks. He should develop more in camps this spring and fall, and could be a major factor for the Wolfpack moving forward. NC State rushed for 2030 yards as a unit, but they lose their leading rusher in Mathew Dayes.
Defensively, the Pack held opponents to 24 points or under 10 times this season, and they gave up just 22.8 points per game. Bradley Chubb picked up 21.5 TFLs, Airius Moore racked up 13, and Darian Roseboro picked up 11.5. Chubb added 10 sacks to the list, and the Pack collected 37 sacks as a team. In contrast, the Pack gave up only 17 sacks all season.

What Went Wrong: The Pack went through a losing streak mid-season where they lost 5 of 6 games, with 3 of those losses coming to Clemson, Louisville, and Florida State. What the Pack proved during that streak was that they are not in league with the big boys just yet, despite having a chance to beat Clemson. Losses to Boston College and Miami were more troubling, as those were games that NC State should have probably won. The losses were mostly close, with the exception of the Louisville game, where they lost by 41. If NC State is to push forward, they have to take those close losses and make those into Ws.

2017 Look Ahead: With Dayes leaving as a senior, the Pack have got to find a consistent run game to compliment what should be a decent passing game.If too much pressure is placed on Finley to be a hero, the Pack will be lucky to repeat 7 wins. The top four receivers return, so the passing game ought to be in decent shape. The line has got to do a better job off the edge in rushing plays, but their pass blocking is rock solid.
Chubb is slated to return as of now to lead the defense again, and that could be huge for a unit that was actually one of the better defenses in the conference in 2016. The top five defenders up fron all return in 2017. Losing Jack Tocho in the secondary is big, but they do get back Josh Jones.
In short, NC State should be able to go bowling, but I am not certain they can move beyond 4th in the Atlantic Division in 2017.

2017 Non Conference Schedule: 9/2 South Carolina @ Charlotte, 9/9 Marshall, 9/16 Furman, 10/28 at Notre Dame

Wake Forest Demon Deacons
7-6 (3-5)

2016 Schedule
  • Beat Tulane 7-3
  • Beat Duke 24-14
  • Beat Delaware 38-21
  • Beat Indiana 33-28
  • Lost to NC State 33-16
  • Beat Syracuse 28-9
  • Lost to Florida State 17-6
  • Lost to Army 21-13
  • Beat Virginia 27-20
  • Lost to Louisville 44-12
  • Lost to Clemson 35-13
  • Lost to Boston College 17-14
  • Beat Temple 34-26 (Military Bowl)

What Went Right: Wake Forest got to a  bowl based really on the first month of their season, where they started off 4-0. The reality is that those four wins came against very weak competition, and the real Deacons showed in conference play. The reality is that getting to a bowl, any bowl, is a measure of success for this program in any given year, especially with as bad as the team has been recently.
In short, defense carries the day for Wake Forest in 2016, as they gave up just 22.2 points per game. In 6 losses, the Deacons gave up over 30 points just 3 times, which is impressive. Teams basically had to earn their wins against this group. Marquel Lee and Duke Ejiofor led the way up fron with a combined 37 TFLs, and Ejiofor added 10 sacks. Lee and freshman DB Jesse Bates both went over 100 tackles on the year as well. Another freshman in the secondary, Amari Henderson, added 9 pass breakups to a very successful defensive unit. Bates added 5 picks, 2 of which went for scores.

What Went Wrong: The offense is still a mess, and has been for a long while. The passing game got next to nothing out of John Wolford, and the run game never developed a top flight back that could carry the day. In all, Wake Forest averaged just 20.4 points per game, and scored 24 points or more just 4 times. The QBs tossed just 9 TDs, and were picked off 13 times. The line did not do a great job either, as they gave up 77 TFLs, and 39 sacks. In short, Wake Forest has no play makers on offense, and that is an issue that needs to be fixed if they are to go bowling again in 2017.

2017 Look Ahead: Fixing the offense is of paramount importance for Dave Clawson, who finally broke the bowl barrier for the Deacons. If this offense cannot improve, the defense will wear down and implode. Wake Forest also has to show up in conference play, as they won a bulk of their requisite wins came against teams with either losing records, or teams that were barely over .500 when the season ended. They lose Lee on defense as well, so a new leader in the middle of the field must be found.

2017 Non Conference Schedule: 9/23 Appalachian State, 11/4 at Notre Dame, TBA Presbyterian, TBA Utah State

Syracuse Orange
4-8 (2-6)

2016 Schedule
Beat Colgate 33-7
Lost to Louisville 62-28
Lost to USF 45-20
Beat U Conn 31-24
Lost to Notre Dame 50-33
Lost to Wake Forest 28-9
Beat Virginia Tech 31-17
Beat Boston College 28-20
Lost to Clemson 54-0
Lost to NC State 35-20
Lost to Florida State 45-14
Lost to Pittsburgh 76-61

What Went Right: Syracuse found a QB to build around in Eric Dungy, who passed 2679 yards and 15 TDs as a sophomore. He was far from perfect, but he gave the Orange an offensive punch that they had been missing. Amba Etta-Tawo and Ervin Phillips both caught 90 or more passes on the season, which helped the development of Dungy throughout the season.
At one point, Syracuse was 4-4, and a bowl bid looked possible. If Syracuse can build on that moving forward, a bowl bid may not be out of consideration for 2017.

What Went Wrong: On offense, consistency was not always there, and the run game never really developed the way they need it to. In 3 of the final 4 games, the Orange scored just 34 points total before blowing up for 61 against Pitt in a ridiculous game where nobody played a lick of defense.
Defensively, Syracuse allowed 38.6 points per game, and lacked the ability to basically stop anyone. The team gave up just 68 total points in their 4 wins, but came unhinged in their 8 losses. The 4 game losing streak to end the season put any shot of a bowl bid in the tank, and they lost those games by a combined 111 points.

2017 Look Ahead: If Dungy is to develop still, Syracuse must find a competent rush attack. Emba-Tawo is gone, so replacing 92 catches and over 1400 yards in the pass game will be something that must be figured out between the spring and fall. Finding consistency, in general, on offense, is another issue.
The defense was a mess in 2016, and that is another issue that must b shored up. The Orange were so close to finding some success coming off of wins over bowl teams Virginia Tech and Boston College, and the final month came and everything crashed. Closing out the season is a must.

2017 Non Conference Schedule: 9/2 Central Connecticut State, 9/9 Middle Tennessee, 9/16 Central Michigan, 9/23 at LSU

Boston College Eagles
7-6 (2-6)

2016 Schedule
Lost to Georgia Tech 17-14
Beat U Mass 26-7
Lost to Virginia Tech 49-0
Beat Wagner 42-10
Beat Buffalo 35-3
Lost to Clemson 56-10
Lost to Syracuse 28-20
Beat NC State 21-14
Lost to Louisville 52-7
Lost to Florida State 45-7
Beat U Conn 30-0
Beat Wake Forest 17-14
Beat Maryland 36-30 (Quick Lane Bowl)

What Went Right: Getting to a bowl, any bowl, was a huge move up for BC football, but there is still a long road to travel before they are respectable in the ACC. Picking up a 2 game win streak just to get bowl eligible was a major test for this program.
Junior Harold Landry was a super star on defense up front, recording 22 TFLs. Kevin Kavalec (14.5), Matt Milano (11), Connor Strachan (11) and Zach Allen (10) all added to the party, as the Eagles recorded 106 TFLs as a team in 2016. Landry was also one of the national leaders with 16.5 sacks on the season. BC recorded 47 sacks as a team.
Isaac Yiadom (10 PBU) and John Johnson (9 PBU) were impossible to throw at, as the Eagles broke up a total of 49 passes on the season.
Junior Mike Knoll handled the PK duties well, connecting on 12/14 FG tries. and Myles Willis and Tyler Rouse gave the Eagles a solid return game on both punts and kickoffs.

What Went Wrong: The Eagles won just 2 ACC games, and in my book, that should have kept them out of a bowl. They are now just 2-14 in ACC games the last two seasons, which is a horrible number that should have Steve Addazio on the hot seat, as he would be anywhere else with higher expectations. Addazio should be happy that he is coaching in a low key market where BC football is hardly acknowledged by the locals.
The offense, after two seasons, is still an abject disaster. QB play with Kentucky transfer Jonathon Towles was bare bones and no frills, and produced little. The run game, usually a strength of rthe Eagles, was barely alive.
The kicking game, specifically on punts, got little hlp, as the Eagles had 3 kicks blocked. The line on offense, was a mess, and that is, again, usually a strength. The Eagle sline gave up 7.23 TFLs per game, an awful number. They also gave up 2.15 sacks per game. If it weren't for the defense giving up just 14.7 points per game in the final 3 games, the Eagles would have been dead in the water. They gave up just 7 points per game in the final 3 regular season games, but the offense did little to nothing to help matters.

2017 Look Ahead: I do not see the Eagles being any better in 2017. The offense is still in shambles, and the Eagles lose some serious talent on the defensive side of the football. I have little faith that Addazio is the right guy to turn this thing around, but winning 7 games, even if it was mostly against bad competition, was a bit of a miracle with this offense being as bad as it is. They likely will not repeat that again next season.

2017 Non Conference Schedule: 9/1 at Northern Illinois, 9/16 Notre Dame, 9/30 Central Michigan, 11/18 U Conn @ Fenway Park

Virginia Tech Hokies
10-4 (6-2)

2016 Schedule
Beat Liberty 36-13
Lost to Tennessee 45-24
Beat Boston College 49-0
Beat East Carolina 54-17
Beat North Carolina 34-3
Lost to Syracuse 31-17
Beat Miami 37-16
Beat Pittsburgh 39-36
Beat Duke 24-21
Lost to Georgia Tech 30-20
Beat Notre Dame 34-31
Beat Virginia 52-10
Lost to Clemson 42-35 (ACC Title Game)
Beat Arkansas 35-24 (Belk Bowl)

What Went Right: Justin Fuente was a huge hit in first season as coach of the Hokies, driving Tech to 10 wins in year one. The Hokies also found a QB, something they have not had in some time. Jerod Evans was a huge find, passing for 3552 yards and 29 TDs to 8 picks. Evans added another 846 yards and 12 scores rushing to lead the team. In all, Virginia Tech rushed for 183 yards per game. The offense averaged over 35 points per game, which was a huge upgrade for the program. Isaiah Ford racked up 1094 yards receiving and 7 scores, while Cam Phillips was right behind him with 983 yards and 5 TDs. TE Bucky Hodges broke out big as well, with a line of 48-691-7.
The defense gave up just 22.8 points per game on the season. Woody Baron and Tremaine Edmunds both finished with 18.5 TFLs, and the Hokies finished with 113 on the year. Andrew Matuapuaka finished with 114 tackles, while Edmunds finished with 106.

What Went Wrong: There were two ACC losses that were baffling against Georgia Tech and Syracuse. The Hokies should have controlled both of those games, as they did against their toughest competition in the division in North Carolina. The Hokies scored just 18.5 points per game in those losses. The Hokies were also very lucky to win the bowl game as they trailed Arkansas 24-0 before going on a 35-0 run to win.
The line gave up 32 sacks on the season, and also averaged giving up 6.14 TFLs per game, and the defense completely folded in the loss to Clemson in the ACC title game.

2017 Look Ahead: Evans bolted for the NFL, and several other key pieces on both sides of the ball will be gone as well. Fuente needs to find an apt replacement at QB in order to avoid a sophomore slump. The Hokies can still win the Atlantic, but they have questions, like everyone else in the division.

2017 Non Conference Schedule: 9/2 West Virginia @ Landover,  9/9 Delaware, 9/16 at East Carolina, 9/23 Old Dominion

North Carolina Tar Heels
8-5 (5-3)

2016 Schedule
Lost to Georgia 33-24
Beat Illinois 48-23
Beat James Madison 56-28
Beat Pittsburgh 37-36
Beat Florida State 37-35
Lost to Virginia Tech 34-3
Beat Miami 20-13
Beat Virginia 35-14
Beat Georgia Tech 48-20
Lost to Duke 28-27
Beat The Citadel 41-7
Lost to NC State 28-21
Lost to Stanford 25-23 (Sun Bowl)

What Went Right: UNC had a winning streak of 4 games after losing their opener to Georgia, and then another 3 game win streak after the loss to Virginia Tech. That alone kept UNC in the Atlantic Division race until the very last game.
Mitch Trubisky was a monster all season, passing for 3748 yards and 30 TDs to just 6 picks. He averaged just over 288 yards per game, and completed 68% of his passes.
Yardage gained was not huge in the run game, but UNC did manage to rush for 21 TDs as a team.
Ryan Switzer and Bugg Howard had huge seasons as receviers, as the seniors cmobined for a line of 149-1939-14. Austin Proehl and Mack Hollins combined for 7 scores.
The line did a decent job, allowing just 20 sacks all season.
The defense boasted 3 players who finished with over 100 tackles each in Cole Holcomb (115), Andre Smith (113), and Donnie Mills (102), while Des Lawrence was a force in the scondary with 10 PBUs.
Freshman Punter Tom Sheldon was a nice find, averaging 42.68 yards per punt.

What Went Wrong: When everything was on the line for UNC, they folded, losing their final two conference games to Duke, who had a losing record, and to rival NC State. The Tar Heels lost their final 3 games against FBS schools, including the bowl game, and 2 of their 8 wins came against FCS schools.
Despite giving up just a shade over 24 points per game, the Tar Heels were not a great pressure team up front, recording just 67 TFLs on the season, and just 25 sacks in 13 games. The secondary was even worse at creating opportunities, as UNC picked off just 1 pass as a team all season long, one of the worst numbers in the nation in pass defense. The run defense allowed just over 225 yards rushing per game.
Nick Weiler did not help much at PK, hitting on just 71.4% of his kicks.

2017 Look Ahead: It could be a long season in 2017. Trubisky is gone, as are 3 of the top 4 receivers. Only Elijah Hood is scheduled to be back, if he does not declare, as 2 of the top 3 rushers are gone. Defensively, the Tar Heels were terrible against the run, but the unit was fairly young overall, with 9 of the top 10 tacklers all returning. Finding answers against the run will be crucial, as will filling the skill position holes on offense. If Carolina wants to be taken seriously, they will also have to stop the practice of scheduling multiple FCS opponents per season.

2017 Non Conference Schedule: 9/2 California, 9/16 at Old Dominion, 10/7 Notre Dame, 11/18 Western Carolina

Miami Hurricanes
9-4 (5-3)

2016 Schedule
Beat Florida A&M 70-3
Beat FAU 38-10
Beat Appalachian State 45-10
Beat Georgia Tech 35-21
Lost to Florida State 20-19
Lost to North Carolina 20-13
Lost to Virginia Tech 37-16
Lost to Notre Dame 30-27
Beat Pittsburgh 51-28
Beat Virginia 34-14
Beat NC State 27-13
Beat Duke 40-21
Beat West Virginia 31-14 (Russell Athletic Bowl)

What Went Right: The Hurricanes were dominant in the opening month of the season, giving up as many as 21 points just once during that period in a win over Georgia Tech. In all, the Canes allowed just 11 points per game during that opening 4 game win streak, and averaged 47 points per game on offense during that stretch. After a huge bump in the road that lasted the entire middle month of the season, Miami finished strong, with a 5 game win streak (including a big bowl win). The dominance returned during that final win streak, as Miami allowed just 18 points per game, while they scored 36.6 points per game. In short, when Miami was on, they were on. On the season, Miami averaged 34.3 points per game, while allowing just 18.5.
Brad Kaaya was not always perfect in 2016, but he was very good, passing for 271.7 yards per game, and tossing 27 scores to just 7 picks, just short of a 4:1 ratio, which in essence sold him as a pro prospect.
Sophomore Mark Walton blew up this season, rushing for 1117 yards and 14 scores. Joseph Yearby was a solid backup option, rushing for 608 yards and 7 scores. The run game was strong, as the Canes averaged 151.8 yards per game.
Stacy Coley and sophomore TE David Njoku combined for 17 receiving TDs, and freshman Ahman Richards showed up on a big stage by leading the team with a line of 49-934-3.
Defensively, the Hurricanes showed the wag of old on occasion, as Joe Jackson, Chad Thomas, Shaquille Quarterman, and Kendrick Norton all finished in double figures in TFLs. Jackson and Quarterman were both freshmen, while Norton was a sophomore. Jackson is a junior. Jackson led the team with 8.5 sacks.
Corn Elder was dominant at times in pass coverage, finishing with 12 PBUs.
Junior kicker Michael Badgley had a solid season kicking the football, finishing 21/26 on FG attempts, and Justin Vogel averaged over 43 yards per punt.

What Went Wrong: When you look at Miami by the numbers, which is what I do, they look like a team that easily should have won the ACC Atlantic title, and made a run at the ACC title, something they still have not won since joining the ACC. The mid season slump was inexplicable, and was especially so when you look at how Miami started, and how they finished. They blew the game against Florida State, lost to a North Carolina team they should have beaten, and found a way to lose to a Notre Dame team that finished 4-8. It simply does not compute as to how that run happened. The offense simply imploded in those games, scoring over 20 points only once during that 4 game losing streak. While Miami had huge averages during their win streaks, they scored just 18.75 points per game during the losing run, which is what they were allowing when they were winning. They allowed 26.75 points per game when they were on the losing streak, or about 8 points more per game than they allowed during the two massive winning streaks.

2017 Look Ahead: Miami has some questions coming into next season, and they are important ones. Kaaya is leaving a year early for the draft. Finding a new QB to supplement the new found rushing attack will be massively important. Ahmmon Richards will be back, but the Canes must find some depth around him, other than TE Njoku, who also returns. Miami will easily have the best TE group in the conference next season. Defensively, the secondary is departing almost entirely, so plugging those holes will be a priority. Miami was strong on defense despite being very young, and the front seven should be dominant once again. If Miami can find answers at QB, WR, and DB, they could make a run at a division title in 2017.

2017 Non Conference Schedule: 9/2 Bethune-Cookman, 9/9 at Arkansas State, 9/23 Toledo, 11/11 Miami

Pittsburgh Panthers
8-5 (5-3)

2016 Schedule
Beat Villanova 28-7
Beat Penn State 42-39
Lost to Oklahoma State 45-38
Lost to North Carolina 37-36
Beat Marshall 43-27
Beat Georgia Tech 37-34
Beat Virginia 45-31
Lost to Virginia Tech 39-36
Lost to Miami 51-28
Beat Clemson 43-42
Beat Duke 56-14
Beat Syracuse 76-61
Lost to Northwestern 31-24 (Pinstripe Bowl)

What Went Right: The Panthers offense was high energy in 2016, and that drove them to 8 wins on the season. Included in those 8 wins were two huge wins over arch rival Penn State and a win over Clemson, that knocked the Tigers from the ranks of the unbeaten, and had a few things gone a bit differently, could have knocked Clemson out of the national title picture.
Pitt scored 40.9 points per game in 2016 from an offense that was highly balanced, and actually ran for more yardage than it passed for. Nathan Peterman had a big senior season, passing for 2855 yards and 27 TDs to 7 picks. It was really his most complete season as a Panther passer duing his career there. He averaged 219.6 yards per game. The run game was also incredible, as James Connor returned from his cancer battle to rush for 16 scores on 1092 yards rushing. As a team, Pitt rushed for just over 225 yards per game on the year.
Ejuan Price was the MVP on defense, finishing the season with 23 TFLs on the year, and had 13 sacks in the midst of that. All of that brought him to finish runner up to Boston College's Harold Landry for my All-Bilo DL of the Year. In all, Pitt finished with 43 sacks on the season as a team. In contrast, the Pitt offensive line gave up only 10. Shakir Soto also finished with 10.5 TFLs on the year.
Ryan Winslow was strong in the punting game, averaging 42.59 yards per punt. Quadree Henderson was a monster in the kick return game, racking up 914 yards and 3 scores on kick returns. He also added 15.75 yards per punt return with one score.

What Went Wrong: Pitt lost many close games in 2016. Their average margin of loss was just 8.2 points per game, with a huge chunk of the margin of loss coming in one 23 point loss to Miami. If some of those games just click one step in the other direction, Pitt is winning 10 games, maybe more.
One of the issues was Chris Blewitt, who only hit 10/17 FG attempts on the season. He left 21 points on the field, and the margin of loss all season was just 41 points. A FG in losses against North Carolina and Virginia Tech would have beaten UNC, and driven the Tech game to OT. Wins in both of those games would have put Pitt, and not Virginia Tech, in a rematch against Clemson, a team that they beat this season, for the ACC title.
One cannot squarely lay the blame on Blewitt, as the defense as a whole was awful after the front line. Pitt allowed 35.2 points per game, allowed 333.2 yards passing per game, and those numbers were a determining factor in those losses as well. In short, it was the offense keeping the Panthers in every game, with the exception of the Duke win, which was dominant. Pitt even gave up 61 points in a win over Syracuse. That is right, I said a win.

2017 Look Ahead: There are no clear answers at QB with Peterman graduating, and with Connor leaving as well at RB, there are no clear answers there either. Quadree Henderson may be the guy to run the ball, but did not total 100 carries this season, and is a former receiver who fits better as a utility guy than an every down back. Jester Weah, who caught 10 TD passes return, but the receiving corps is largely uneven coming back as well. Price, Soto, and Bam Bradley all depart on defense, and that is a ton of production to lose all at once, so the defensive fron is rebuilding some as well after allowing just 119 yards rushing per game. With so much rebuilding going on up front, the secondary, which was torched this season, will need to find answers for improvement. In short, look for Pitt to maybe take a step back in 2017.

2017 Non Conference Schedule: 9/2 Youngstown State, 9/9 at Penn State, 9/16 Oklahoma State, 9/30 Rice

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
9-4 (4-4)

2016 Schedule
Beat Boston College 17-14
Beat Mercer 35-10
Beat Vanderbilt 38-7
Lost to Clemson 26-7
Lost to Miami 35-21
Lost to Pittsburgh 37-34
Beat Georgia Southern 35-24
Beat Duke 38-35
Lost to North Carolina 48-20
Beat Virginia Tech 30-20
Beat Virginia 31-17
Beat Georgia 28-27
Beat Kentucky 33-18 (Gator Bowl)

What Went Right: There were few teams hotter than Georgia Tech in the second half of the season, as the Yellow Jackets wrapped the season by winning 6 of their final 7 games, including a bowl win over Kentucky. Only 2 of those wins were by less than double digits, including a one point win over rival Georgia.
With Tech still running their triple option, they averaged 358 yards rushing per game, and scored 34 TDs on the ground, with 19 different players getting at least one carry for the season. That is a prototypical Tech offense and runs well with Johnson's theories on balance.
Defensively, Tech actually had a fairly good season. They allowed just 24.5 points per game. Senior DL Patrick Gamble finished with 10.5 TFLs, and 7.5 sacks. What was interesting is how a defense that was not thick with seniors came together and dropped a foundation down for what may be to come in 2017. DB Lance Austin added 12 PBUs to the action, and became a big time defender, adding 50 tackles.
Senior PK Harrison Bunker was rock solid in the kicking game, as he connected on 15/17 FGs on the season. Ryan Rodwell, another sesnior, was just as solid in the punting game, averaging 43.13 yards per punt. JJ Green racked up 345 yards and a score on kick returns, whileBrad Stewart averaged 11.45 yards per punt return.

What Went Wrong: With early losses to Clemson, Miami, and Pitt, the Jackets were out of the conference race by mid season. Starting 1-3 in conference play, even the serious winning streak at the end of the year was not enough to get them back into anything other than a decent bowl slot. Beating Virginia Tech and Georgia were both huge accomplishments, but Tech's slow start put them to pasture before they had a shot to become relevant. Tech is not a passing team by any means, but Justin Thomas, despite tossing 8 TDs to just 2 picks, was highly inconsistent when he did throw the ball, completing just 53.4% of his attempts.
Defensively, Tech gave up 229.4 yards passing per game, and allowed 172.4 yards rushing per game. The team recorded just 18 sacks on defense, and just 57 TFLs as well.

2017 Look Ahead: Thomas is gone at QB, but Johnson always seems to find a competent trigger man for the option. 5 of the top 6 rushers all return, so the offense, as it is designed, should not have much of a problem. Whomever wins the QB battle should pass a bit better than Thomas, such as Vad Lee was able to do before he transferred to James Madison. 7 of the top 9 tacklers return on defense, but the Yellow Jackets need to do a better job of applying pressure up front. If they cannot, they will struggle to keep pace with the upper half of the league. Tech also has to avoid prolonged losing streaks early, as that was what cost them in 2016. It is one thing to play strong out of conference, but they have to compete within the conference as well, and the Coastal Division is not that solid.

2017 Non Conference Schedule: 9/4 Tennessee, 9/9 Jacksonville State, 9/16 at UCF, 11/25 Georgia

Virginia Cavaliers
2-10 (1-7)

2016 Schedule
Lost to Richmond 37-20
Lost to Oregon 44-26
Lost to U Conn 13-10
Beat Central Michigan 49-35
Beat Duke 34-20
Lost to Pittsburgh 45-31
Lost to North Carolina 35-14
Lost to Louisville 32-25
Lost to Wake Forest 27-20
Lost to Miami 34-14
Lost to Georgia Tech 31-17
Lost to Virginia Tech 52-10

What Went Right: Not very much. East Carolina transfer QB Kurt Benkert was a bright spot at times, as he passed for 2552 yards and 21 scores. His completion percentage was sub par at 56.2, but otherwise, he had a decent run for the Cavaliers as a junior, and put together something to build on moving forward. Had UVA given the ball to RB Taquan Mizzell more often than 15.88 times per game, they may have been more successful on offense, as he managed to rush for 940 yards and 4 scores, and averaged 5 yards per carry. While 4 receivers caught as many as 49 passes or more, nobody else on the roster caught as many as 10. 3 of the top 4 in that group will return next season.
Andrew Brown and Micah Kizer were solid up front on defense, as Brown recorded 13 TFLs, and Kizer recorded 10. They combined for 12.5 sacks.

What Went Wrong: Almost everything else. UVA allowed 33.8 points per game while only scoring 22.5. The defense allowed 256.6 yards passing per game, and 190 yards rushing per game. The Cvaliers only managed to rush for 113 yards per game, and the offense averaged just over 345 yards per game total. As a unit, there was little to no depth anywhere on the roster on offense.
Virginia had to know something was wrong when they lost their opener to FCS Richmond by 17 points to start a 3 game skid out of the gate, with one of those loss coming against an inept team like U Conn, where Virginia managed to score just 10 points, while the defense allowed only 13. Virginia, in the end, finished the season on a 7 game skid, losing every game but 2 by 14 points or more.

2017 Look Ahead: Nobody is going to give me a good reason why Bronco Mendenhall left a perfectly good job at BYU for this train wreck, but this is a by product of having held onto Mike London for 2 years too many. The roster is a collective mess, and despite Benkert at QB, there is little to no talent across the board that they feel can carry this team on offense. While a few decent lights popped on for the defense, there is not nearly enough talent to support the couple of stars that are in place. This is no rebuild, it is a complete building job.

2017 Non Conference Schedule: 9/2 William & Mary, 9/9 Indiana, 9/16 U Conn, 9/23 at Boise State

Duke Blue Devils
4-8 (1-7)

2016 Schedule
Beat North Carolina Central 49-6
Lost to Wake Forest 24-14
Lost to Northwestern 24-13
Beat Notre Dame 38-35
Lost to Virginia 34-20
Beat Army 13-6
Lost to Louisville 24-14
Lost to Georgia Tech 38-35
Lost to Virginia Tech 24-21
Beat North Carolina 28-27
Lost to Pittsburgh 56-14
Lost to Miami 40-21

What Went Right: It was a season of disappointment for Duke in 2016 after losing Thomas Sirk at QB before the season even began. Daniel Jones, a freshman, was forced to step up, and he did a credible job overall. Jones passed for 2836 yards and 16 TDs on the season, averaging just a shade over 236 yards passing per game. He also managed to complete 62.8% of his passes, which is not great, but is credible enough to know that he has a future. TJ Rahming, a sophomore receiver, stepped up and caught 70 passes on the season. No other receiver caught more than 29 passes.
Safety Corbin McCarthy collected 12 TFLs on the season, while LB Ben Humphreys added 11. Breon Borders defended 12 passes on the season, making him one of the leaders in the ACC.
The special teams MVP had to be kick returner Shaun Wilson, who racked up 924 yards and a score.

What Went Wrong: While Duke averaged over 150 yards rushing as a team per game, they needed a ton of carries to get there, and as a team averaged just 3.89 yards per carry on the season. That is not getting it done in the modern offense of today. After Rahming, nobody stepped up to help out the freshman QB in the receiving corps. The number that shows the ineffectiveness of the unit was in PBUs against, as Duke had 50 balls defended against their passing game this season. The offense only managed 23.3 points per game, and that is a huge failure. You cannot blame everything that went wrong on just the loss of Sirk, because Sirk has to do everything when healthy. The issue here was a lack of overall talent.

2017 Look Ahead: Sirk should be back on a medical redshirt in 2017, but Daniel Jones needs time to develop, and could win the job in spring camp. There is depth coming back at RB, but someone has got to step up and be a big time ball carrier for this offense to work. There needs to be some identifiable depth at receiver as well, which did not happen in 2016.
Defensively, the Devils were not horrible overall. There is some promise coming back, but the offense being better alone could help some of the problems the defense had in 2016. In short, it is difficult for me to see Duke finishing in the upper half of the Coastal Division next season.

2017 Non Conference Schedule: 9/2 North Carolina Central, 9/9 Northwestern, 9/16 Baylor, 11/11 at Army

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