Say what you want about Florida State but they won the ACC and finished unbeaten and are currently on a 29 game win streak as they enter as the No. 3 seed in the college football playoff. Quarterback Jameis Winston didn’t have the same season as he had a year ago but he played very well when they needed him the most. You could make a strong case that wide receiver Rashad Greene is the team’s MVP. He had a monster season. Freshman running back Dalvin Cook gave the team a huge lift, especially over the course of the second half of the season. The Seminoles may not have won pretty but they won nonetheless. Despite losing so many players to the NFL and having the bulls-eye on their backs here they are ready to defend their title in the playoffs. Credit coach Jimbo Fisher for guiding this team into the post-season despite a lot of off the field distractions.
There were not many experts that picked Georgia Tech to win their side [Coastal] of the ACC. Paul Johnson led his Yellow Jacket squad to a 10-win season and trip to the ACC championship game, where they gave Florida State all they could handle. That included six conference wins and a huge victory over the hated Georgia Bulldogs in the season finale. Johnson’s triple option attack was spearheaded by quarterback Justin Thomas and running backs Synjyn Davis and Zach Laskey. Thomas passed for 1,460 yards and 16 touchdowns. On the ground he added another 861 yards [to lead team] and five scores. Laskey and Davis combined for 1,434 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. It was a solid defense this year for Georgia Tech at all levels. Cornerback D.J. White and safety Jamal Golden had four interceptions apiece.
It was a 9-3 finish for the Tigers this season as Dabo Swinney’s club was in a little bit of a rebuilding year. The quarterback duties were split between Cole Stout and freshman Deshaun Watson. Watson showed flashes of what he could eventually become running the Tigers offense. He looks like he’s going to have a spectacular career at Clemson. In eight games he threw for almost 1,500 yards and 14 scores. Another freshman made an instant impact in wide receiver Artavis Scott. He led the Tigers with 68 receptions for 851 yards and seven scores. Vic Beasley led the defense, tallying 11 sacks and 18.5 tackles for a loss. There’s a lot of youth here for Swinney. Of course time will tell how much of a loss offensive coordinator Chad Morris (SMU) will be. Jeff Scott was promoted to his title and he has a lot of good, young talent to work with.
How good of a coaching job has David Cutcliffe and his staff done at Duke? Amazing. They didn’t win the Coastal but the Blue Devils finished the season with nine wins. This is coming off Duke’s 10 win season in 2013 and a trip to the ACC Conference Championship game. Quarterback Anthony Boone lead the Blue Devil offensive attack, throwing for 2,507 yards and 17 touchdowns. His main target was wide receiver Jamison Crowder who caught 78 passes for 942 yards and six scores. Duke had four players with over 400-yards rushing in Boone (455 yards) and running backs Shaun Wilson (596), Shaquille Powell (504) and Josh Snead (415). Defensively, the Blue Devils were led by David Helton (125 tackles), Devon Edwards (119) and Jeremy Cash (103). Cash is a junior safety that had a monster season. He also recorded 10.5 tackles for a loss, four forced fumbles, 5.5 sacks, and two interceptions. Helton also had a huge year for Duke.
Bobby Petrino’s return to Louisville had a nice first season, as he led the Cardinals to a 9-3 season. Louisville lost two close games to Virginia and Clemson and led big over Florida State at the half. The Cardinals close the season with wins in South Bend and over in-state rival Kentucky. They posted a strong defense all season long led by safety Gerod Holliman. He had a spectacular 2014 campaign with a nation leading 14 interceptions. That tied an FBS single season record. Petrino broke in a pair of young quarterbacks in freshman Reggie Bonnafon and red-shirt freshman Kyle Bolin. Their best offensive player, wide receiver DeVante Parker, missed a good portion of the year because of injury.
Offensive Player of the Year
There are three players for consideration here including two Seminoles in quarterback Jameis Winston and wide receiver Rashad Greene. To me, Greene’s the most worthy and the team’s MVP. FSU most likely is not in the college football playoff without him. But the ACC’s most outstanding offensive player in 2014 is Pitt running back James Connor. This sophomore finished fifth in the nation in rushing yards (1, 675) and scored 24 touchdowns.
Defensive Player of the Year
Louisville safety Gerod Holliman had a sensational season and one for the record books. He recorded 14 interceptions, tying the FBS record. This red-shirt sophomore from Miami had only nine starts. He finished with 37 tackles, 17 passes defended and returned one pick for a touchdown.
Coach of the Year
Many felt that if the Yellow Jackets had a poor season or even average that Paul Johnson would be given his walking papers. Instead, Georgia Tech had a great season, beat their in-state rival (Georgia), won the Coastal side of the ACC and came within three points of winning the conference title against FSU on Saturday night. Johnson is putting together a ferocious triple option attack, led by quarterback Justin Thomas. Johnson’s squad has a good young nucleus. Johnson just signed a contract extension through the 2020 season.
Freshman Offensive Player of the Year
Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya edged out Florida State running back Brad Kaaya and Clemson wide receiver Artavis Scott for freshman of the year honors in the ACC. Kaaya, from West Hills, Calif., finished the season with 2,962 yards passing and 25 touchdowns. He led the Hurricanes to a 6-6 2014 season. His passing total was fourth most in ACC history for freshman signal callers. Kaaya was the only true freshman in the country throw for more than 2,900 yards and 25 scores.
Freshman Defensive Player of the Year