Power Five1. Florida State
4. Georgia Tech
5. Boston College
The national champions have now won 22 games in a row. But this season’s 6-0 start (4-0 in conference play) seems much different than last year, where Florida State simply steamrolled their way through the regular season behind quarterback Jameis Winston and a very good defense. Winston is back playing at a high level but you can’t say the same thing about Jimbo Fisher’s defense. In defense of Fisher and this Seminole unit, FSU has had so much attrition to the NFL. Florida State had a close call on the road at NC State but found a way to win. They struggled for a half against Wake Forest. While the Seminoles do seem vulnerable they also are finding ways to win, which is always a good sign.
You knew Clemson would be hard pressed to replace the graduated Tajh Boyd. Cole Stoudt has waited patiently and he split time before giving way to true freshman Deshaun Watson. This young phenom from Gainesville (Ga.) threw six touchdown passes in his very first start. He’s been one of the sparks on this Clemson offense, especially after two early season losses to Georgia and FSU. The Tigers seemed poised to go on a mid-season run. Then Watson injured his finger and will be out for a month. It was the defense that saved the day this past Saturday versus a pretty good Louisville team. Clemson sits at 4-2 (3-1).
David Cutcliffe has done an incredible job in Durham. Last season he got the Blue Devils to the ACC title game. This season they have won five of their first six games. Their only loss was on the road to Miami. Last weekend Duke finally got by a good Georgia Tech team, beating them for the first time over the last ten meetings. Freshman running back Shaun Wilson has made a huge impact on this team and he’s averaging over 10 yards a carry. Duke sits at 1-1 in conference play and don’t be surprised when they make another run at the Coastal title.
Georgia Tech suffered their first loss of the season last week to Duke 31-25. Mistakes and turnovers were costly. Still, this is a pretty talented Yellow Jackets team that has enough fire power to win the Coastal division. Georgia Tech sits at 2-1 in league play and has scored wins on the road at Virginia Tech and against Miami. This side of the ACC is wide open and Paul Johnson will have his Yellow Jackets primed to make a second half run. The schedule is favorable, as they have key home games against Clemson and Virginia and must travel to Pitt, NC State and North Carolina.
Boston College has one of the league’s best non-conference wins when they destroyed USC. In that game they rushed for 452 yards. The Eagles are led by quarterback Tyler Murphy, a transfer from the University of Florida. In fact he leads all quarterbacks nationally in rushing 711 yards and eight scores. Coach Steve Addazio has done a nice job in a short time with the Eagles. BC had a great defensive effort last week at NC State in a win over the Wolfpack. If they can get steady play on both sides of the ball they are going to be a tough team to contend with for the second half of this season. Boston College is 4-2 (1-1).
Coach of the YearIt’s a wide open race for Coach of the Year in the ACC. Mike London has already doubled his team’s win total from a year ago at four while David Cutcliffe once again has Duke winning as they are 5-1 at the halfway point. What about the excellent job Steve Addazio has done with Boston College who are currently 4-2.? There’s no doubt one of these could walk away with the hardware. However at this time I think it has to go to Jimbo Fisher. He has countless distractions in Tallahassee, lost another mother lode of players to the NFL and the Seminoles get to win the national champion bull’s eye on their jersey. Yet here are the ‘Noles, unbeaten again and riding a 22-game win streak.
Offensive Player of the YearJameis Winston may not have the stats he did at the same time last year but he continues to make huge plays for the Seminoles. He had an incredible run against Oklahoma State in their opener and he played super when the ‘Noles were on the ropes on the road against NC State. I believe he’s the guy now but will get pushed by quarterbacks Tyler Murphy and Jacoby Brissett, running back James Conner and teammate and wide receiver Rashard Greene.
Defensive Player of the YearThis is a two man race right now between Vic Beasley of Clemson and Gerod Holliman from Louisville. Beasley is the conference leader with seven sacks while Holliman is the country’s interception leader with seven. Beasley gets the nod right now simply because he has done it against slightly better competition. This race is far from over. Virginia Tech’s Chase Williams is another player to keep an eye on.
Offense: Top FreshmanBrad Kaaya gets the call here, as he has been the starter from game one at Miami. He seems to be getting more and more comfortable and gaining more and more confidence. The Hurricanes are 4-3 through seven games with all their losses coming on the road. Kaaya has thrown for 1,806 yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions so far this season. Those are some pretty good numbers for this true freshman from California.
Defense: Top FreshmanQuinn Blanding has been huge for the Virginia defense. He has recorded 61 tackles in six starts for the Cavaliers defense. He also has one tackle for a loss and one interception. This true freshman from Virginia Tech Bayside was a five-star prospect last year and the nation’s No. 3 safety. He has lived up to the hype and then some.