ACC College Football Breakdown Part II: Atlantic Division

A couple days ago, College FootBlog provided a breakdown of the ACC Coastal Division as part one of two brekdowns of the ACC’s college football season.  In part two of College FootBlog’s breakdown of the ACC in the early stages of this season, we will provide power rankings for the Atlantic Division and cover some of the key strenths and concerns for each team.  Here is our list from what we feel are the teams in this division from top to bottom.

1.  Clemson

Senior DE Ricky Sapp will be playing on Sundays next year (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)

Senior DE Ricky Sapp will be playing on Sundays next year (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)

Srengths:  The Tigers have a great defense, particularly their front four led by senior DE Ricky Sapp.  The Clemson defense had issues with Georgia Tech, but who hasn’t?  If you take out that game, the Tigers have given up an average of 247 yards per game, with their most dominant outing coming against Boston College when they held the Eagles to 54 total yards.

Key Concerns:  After what was a very promising start to the season, freshman quarterback Kyle Parker has struggled as of late. 

In Parker’s last two games, he has completed less than 47% of his passes (30/64) and is averaging less than 150 yards passing per game.  Possibly the more telling stat in those two games is the zero touchdowns and two interceptions.  If he does not turn it around quickly, head coach Dabo Swinney will have to make a change.

 
Strengths:  College FootBlog has been high on Chrisitian Ponder all season, and he continues to impress.  Even in last weekend’s loss to the South Florida Bulls, Ponder went 25-37 for 269 yards, and he did so with some key drops and horrible protection from what was supposed to be the best O-line in the ACC.  Overall, Ponder’s dramatic improvement over last season and his poise has been the only thing that has kept FSU in games this season.
 
Key Concerns:  Florida State’s pass defense has been atrocious this season.  Even in their stunning win over BYU, the Seminoles managed to give up 365 yards to the Cougars, despite the fact that FSU dominated the time of possession, leaving Max Hall and company just over 20 minutes to work with.  Overall, the ‘Noles rank 115th nationally against the pass.  If that does not improve, FSU will have no shot at winning the Atlantic Division as many predicted would happen this year.
 
Quarterback Russell Wilson has 12 TD's and no picks in 2009

Quarterback Russell Wilson has 12 TD's and no picks in 2009

 
Strengths:  Quarterback Russell Wilson led the Wolfpack shocked a lot of the “experts” last week when the stunned Pittsburgh by lighting up what was supposed to be a solid Panther defense.  Wilson showed why he was first team All-ACC as a freshman last year.  Here is a stat for you–so far this season, Wilson has 12 touchdown passes with ZERO interceptions.  His athleticism and gamebreaking abilities could help NC State shock a lot of people before season’s end.
 
Key Concerns:  The running game minus Wilson is still a bit of a question mark.  Senior tailback, Toney Baker has been pretty solid this season, averaging  just over five yards per carry, but his 48 carries are only 16 more that Wilson.  Last game against Pitt, Wilson led the team in rushing with 91 yards on ten carries.  If Wilson has to continue to be that important in the running game, the chance for injury goes up substantially, especially when the Wolfpack gets into the thick of their schedule, which really begins in October.  If Wilson goes, so does NC State’s offense.

 4.  Boston College 

Strengths:  Quarterback Dave Shinskie has been solid in his first year as BC’s starter.  After a dismal performance against Clemson a couple weeks ago, Shinskie bounced back last weekend, throwing for 228 yards and three touchdowns last weekend against Wake Forest.  He will have a good shot at matching or improving on those numbers this weekend when the Eagles welcome FSU’s pourous secondary (see above).
Key Concerns:  The entire defense has struggled when faced with a true FBS opponent.  In those games (which only include the last two), offenses have really had their way with BC’s defense, who lost their two dominant DT’s, including first round NFL Draft selection BJ RajiWake Forest, who has had their share of offensive issues, put up 496 yards against the BC defense last weekend.
 
 
Strengths:  Staying with the theme here, quarterback, Riley Skinner has not been as effective as he has in year’s past, but he is still the leader of this Deamon Deacon squad.  Even in a somewhat down year so far, the four-year starter has still managed to complete just under 66% of his passes and eight touchdowns. 
Key Concerns:  The Deamon Deacons lost some subtantial pieces to their defense from last year, most notibly LB Aaron Curry, who was drafted number four overall last year and CB Alphonso Smith, who was drafted early in round 2.  Wake is really missing the impact that these two players brought.  Last week, against a struggling Boston College offense, the Deamon Deacons surrendered 398 yards, which included three TD’s through the air.
 
 
Strengths:  N/A–after struggling to beat FCS opponent James Madison by three points in week 2, the Terrapins fell to Middle Tennessee for the second year in a row.  As for the two games against FBS opponents, the Terps have been dominated 52-13 to Cal and 34-13 against Rutgers.
Key Concerns:  Name it.  The Terps have been horrible in nearly every facet of the game this season.  It looks like it will be a long two months for Ralph Friedgen.
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