Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Davidson's Reese Williams named All-Pioneer Football League

The preseason accolades continue for Davidson tight end Reese Williams, as he was named to the preseason All-Pioneer Football League team, the league office announced Wednesday

Williams (Abilene, Texas/Abilene Cooper) had a breakout season last year and earned first-team all-conference honors. He hauled in a career-best 51 receptions for 522 yards to rank second on the team in both categories and 11th and 13th, respectively, in the PFL. His top performance came in an overtime win at Valparaiso, in which he caught 10 passes for 131 yards to earn the College Football Performance Awards National Tight End of the Week award.

Returning players who were selected to the league’s 2012 All-PFL teams were automatically selected to the 2013 preseason team in order of voting. Thirteen preseason selections were first-team selections last season.

Williams has also been recognized by Phil Steele’s and this preseason.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Video: No fear for UNC's Larry Fedora, Tar Heels

At ACC Kickoff, UNC head coach Larry Fedora said he is not afraid of South Carolina star Jadeveon Clowney. Senior quarterback Bryn Renner and senior defensive end Kareem Martin also represented the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Video: N.C. State's Dave Doeren embraces recruiting challenges

N.C. State head coach Dave Doeran spoke about the Wolfpack's chances to win an ACC championship plus recruiting within North Carolina. Cornerback Dontae Johnson talked about the talent level in Raleigh.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

UNC football: Ranking 2013 schedule in order of difficulty

CHAPEL HILL -- And welcome to football season.

It hasn't been much of an offseason. Between baseball, a trip to Omaha, furloughs and covering the missteps of a certain prominent North Carolina basketball player, my mental clock hasn't quite registered that football season is upon us. But this is a good thing. The blog is about to become a lot more active than it has been in recent weeks, so please make this a part of regular reading rotation.

I have a few things planned between now and when the Tar Heels begin the season on Aug. 29 at South Carolina. Look out in the coming weeks for a primer on each of UNC's opponents, for a countdown of the players that will be most influential to the Tar Heels' success this season and a position-by-position rundown of the team. For now, we'll start nice and easy: With a look at UNC's schedule.

And it is:

29 - at South Carolina

7 - vs. Middle Tennessee State
21 - at Georgia Tech
28 - vs. East Carolina

5 - at Virginia Tech
17 - vs. Miami
26 - vs. Boston College

2 - at N.C. State
9 - vs. Virginia
16 - at Pittsburgh
23 - vs. Old Dominion
30 - vs. Duke

First reaction: That's kind of strange, for a team to playing nearly half of its games in November. Second reaction: That's a difficult opening stretch, with UNC's three most difficult games among the first five - and, really, four most difficult games among the first six.

Here's how I'd rank the games, by most difficult to least:
-at South Carolina
-at Virginia Tech
-at Georgia Tech
-at N.C. State
-vs. Miami
-at Pitt
-vs. Middle Tennessee State
-vs. ECU
-vs. Virginia
-vs. Boston College
-vs. Duke
-vs. Old Dominion

Usually when you look at a schedule, several tiers emerge. There are the guaranteed victories. There are the "should wins." There are the toss-ups. The games in which a team will be a sure underdog. And those that seem nearly impossible to win.

But when I look at UNC's schedule, I see fewer of those tiers. I see six games that I'd give UNC at least an 80 percent chance or better of winning. Then I see three toss-ups. And in the rest, UNC will be the underdog - one of them a significant underdog.

Here's the percentage I give the Tar Heels of winning each game:
-at South Carolina: .15
-vs. Middle Tennessee State: .8
-at Georgia Tech: .4
-vs. East Carolina: .85
-at Virginia Tech: .35
-vs. Miami: .55
-vs. Boston College: .9
-at N.C. State: .6
-vs. Virginia: .85
-at Pittsburgh: .55
-vs. Old Dominion: .99
-vs. Duke: .9

Add all those percentages up and it comes to: 7.89.

Or, translated to a 12-game football season, about eight wins. 8-4 That sounds about right. I'm not quite ready to make my season predictions yet - those will come later, closer to the start of the season - but 8-4 is probably a pretty good baseline in terms of expectations for this team. With some mild luck, 9-3 isn't out of the question. With some very good fortune, a 10-win season could be in the realm.

I really only see one sure defeat - the season-opener at South Carolina. Beyond that, UNC should be starting the season with six wins: Middle Tennessee State, ECU, Boston College, Virginia, Old Dominion and Duke. Win two of the five games against Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Miami, N.C. State and Pitt, and that'd be eight wins total. Win three of those five, and 9-3 becomes realistic.

Of course, the Tar Heels would significantly raise expectations with a victory at in Columbia, S.C., near the end of August. The season is upon us, folks ...

- Andrew Carter

Monday, July 22, 2013

Laura Keeley's preseason ACC football ballot

An old-time tradition: predicting the end results of a season before any teams have taken the field. For football, it made sense to go through and attempt to predict the outcome of every conference game. After that task was done, I tallied the results, broke a few ties and filled out my ballot.

Before you make fun of my ballot, though, check out a few stories from Sunday: Andrew Carter on the overall state of the ACC, Luke DeCock on the new arrivals, Pittsburgh and Syracuse, and yours truly with notes from Duke, UNC and N.C. State (Kareem Morris's comments on South Carolina are worth checking out).

Now, in the spirit of transparency, here are my preseason ACC predictions.

Florida State
N.C. State
Boston College
Wake Forest

Virginia Tech
Georgia Tech
North Carolina

ACC Champion

Preseason ACC Player of the Year
Tajh Boyd, Clemson

The main takeaway from this exercise: both divisions have two tiers of teams. In the Atlantic, there's Clemson and Florida State, a large gap and then five mediocre teams that could really win or lose any game against a fellow mediocre team.

In the Coastal, there are more contenders. Miami, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and UNC all have a shot to win the division, in my estimation. Draw a line, and then there's Duke, Pittsburgh and Virginia to fight for fifth place.

I had both UNC and Georgia Tech finishing 5-3 in ACC play. Georgia Tech took third by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker. My other tiebreakers: Duke over Pittsburgh and Boston College over Maryland.

Feel free to disagree.

For all the latest Duke news, like Duke NOW on Facebook and follow me on Twitter.

-- Laura Keeley

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Video: Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier: Notre Dame should join ACC for football, too

South Carolina Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier questioned why Notre Dame was allowed to be treated as a conference by itself getting to sit in on all the College Football Playoff meetings.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Video: Alabama's Nick Saban, A.J. McCarron speak at SEC Media Day

Alabama coach Nick Saban and quarterback A.J. McCarron addressed the media on Day 3 of SEC Media Days. Saban discussed the upcoming season while McCarron shared his thoughts on Johnny Manziel.

Video: Manziel, Clowney on potential Aggies-Gamecocks clash

Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel and South Carolina Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney have differing opinions on the outcome of a potential encounter in the backfield.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The numbers behind FSU football's ACC domination

Florida State dominated the ACC last season in football last season. The Seminoles won seven regular-season games and the ACC title.

FSU was really good. Sometimes you don't need advanced stats to tell you the obvious but sometimes they can explain just how good a team was.

The Seminoles led the ACC in yards per play on offense and defense (see chart below). On offense, FSU averaged 6.99 yards per play in nine conference games (including its 21-15 win over Georgia Tech in the ACC title game). The Noles held their conference opponents to just 4.02 YPP (Virginia Tech was only other ACC team with an average of less than 5.0).

The difference between FSU's offensive YPP and defensive YPP was 2.97 (the best difference among ACC teams the six years of data available on Clemson was second in the league with 0.68.

Interestingly enough, the five teams with the most conference wins last season had the five best difference in YPP. None of the teams with a negative average differential had a winning record in league play.

N.C. State, 4-4 in the ACC last season and the only team to beat FSU, was the only team with a negative average differential to have at least a .500 league record.

Duke, which went 3-5 in ACC play, had the worst difference in YPP at minus-2.02. The Blue Devils gave up a league-worst 7.07 yards per play in eight conference games. Wake Forest averaged the fewest yards per play on offense with 4.09.

Team YPP-O YPP-D +/- Wins
FSU 6.99 4.02 2.97 8*
Clemson 6.54 5.86 0.68 7
Georgia Tech 6.35 5.77 0.58 5
UNC 6.29 5.75 0.54 5
Miami 6.52 6.16 0.36 5
Virginia Tech 5.14 4.85 0.29 4
Virginia 4.95 5.20 -0.25 2
N.C. State 5.30 5.87 -0.57 4
Boston College 4.99 5.74 -0.75 1
Maryland 4.40 5.29 -0.89 2
Wake Forest 4.09 5.33 -1.24 3
Duke 5.05 7.07 -2.02 3

Note: *-counts FSU's win over Georgia Tech in the ACC title game.