Welcome to ACC Action! Each week our staff will divide up the conferences, watch the games pertaining to the the assigned conference and then write up an overview with the key takeaways from that weekend.
All 14 teams in the ACC were in action this week with 5 inter-conference games to digest.
Let’s dig into the notable impressions and what we learned from Week 11 in the ACC.
Daniel Jones’ Record-Breaking Day
Could Daniel Jones be the 1st QB off the board in the 2019 NFL Draft? Don’t eliminate the possibility. With Justin Herbert and Dwayne Haskins potentially staying in school, Jones could seize the opportunity and he has a lot of buzz. NFL Scouts I’ve talked with about Jones rave about his intangibles and upside.
In Duke’s 42-35 win over UNC, Jones accounted for a program-record 547 total yards and four touchdowns. He threw for 361 yards and 3 touchdowns while also adding 186 rushing yards.
The 547 yards of total offense were also the most ever given up by UNC, surpassing Lamar Jackson’s previous record of 525 set last year against the Heels.
Head coach David Cutcliffe, who previously coached Eli and Peyton Manning, spoke highly of Jones performance after the game, “Jones played as well as a quarterback can play.”
While I’m not ready to pound the table for Jones as a first-round pick, he has the most buzz of any QB prospect in the nation right now and his performance against UNC makes it even louder.
Juan Thornhill Solidifying Status as Top-50 Prospect
Transitioning from corner to safety for his senior season, Thornhill perfectly made the switch and is one of the ACC’s top playmakers on the back end. Thornhill was dominant yet again on Saturday in the Cavs win over Liberty, racking up 13 tackles and and interception. He also tipped another pass that lead to an interception for De’Vante Cross.
Thornhill is now up to 5 interceptions and 5 pass breakups on the season, bringing his career totals to 11 interceptions and 24 PBUs. He is a versatile defender that tackles well, processes the run, offers man coverage skills, thrives in zone and makes game-changing plays on the ball.
Don’t sleep on him.
Clemson’s D Suffocates BC
It’s going to be near freezing temperatures and Clemson isn’t used to the cold so they won’t be as strong, they said. BC has a great rushing attack which will challenge Clemson’s defense, they said. Trevor Lawrence has never played in a game north of Virginia, they said. An emotional BC Eagles team will empty the tank for the upset at home over Clemson, they said.
When it was all said and done, Clemson covered the 19.5-spread, didn’t allow BC to score on offense and limited the Eagles to just 113 total yards. That dominant BC rushing attack was held to 9 yards on 33 carries.
Wilkins and Lawrence were especially great on Saturday, playing with urgency and dominating the line of scrimmage. I thought Muse had one of his better performances processing the run and attacking downhill.
Update on Louisville’s Defense
Louisville continues to be lost on defense. The basic fundamentals that should be present for an ACC Football team are nowhere to be found. The trend continued on Friday Night against Syracuse where the Cardinals surrendered another 54 points and 518 total yards.
Over the Cardinals’ last five games, Louisville has allowed 290 points which averages out to 58 per game! Against Power 5 competition this season, Louisville is allowing over 50 points per game.
Over Louisville’s last five games, Louisville has given up a total of 1,979 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns on 266 attempts for an average of 7.4 yards per carry.
It’s time for Bobby Petrino to be held accountable for this disaster no matter how tricky his buyout is.
Big Day for Wake Safety
Cameron Glenn has caught my eye a few times over the last two seasons of watching Wake Forest but his performance against NC State was probably his best. The Deacs held the Wolfpack to 47 rushing yards on 27 attempts and Glenn was a big reason why.
Wake lined Glenn up in a variety of places and used him in attacking/slashing role against NC State’s zone rushing attack. Bursting through gaps and making plays all over the field, Glenn racked up 11 tackles, 4 tackles for loss and a sack.
Glenn is sliding a bit under but he’s stacked together two quality seasons to close out his collegiate career. Time to get him on the radar.
Finley’s Lack of Arm Strength
I firmly believe accuracy and decision making are the most important traits a quarterback can have and that arm strength isn’t everything. With that said, a lack of arm strength is very limiting to a quarterback.
It’s not hard to identify the lack of zip Finley generates on out-breaking patterns – it’s all over his tape in any game you watch. On Thursday Night, Finley was tasked with a hail mary attempt, needing to get just over 50 yards of distance on the throw. As you will see below, Finley couldn’t make the throw with the needed distance and air under the ball to create the needed trajectory to give his team a chance.
Nothing is more strange to me than continuing to see Finley mocked in the first round and ranked at the top of QB rankings. He’s just too limited physically, his accuracy beyond 10 yards is lacking, his trigger can be slow and he’s going to be 24 in December after 6 seasons in college. He’s a maxed out prospect that can be an NFL backup.
Here's that Ryan Finley hail mary attempt to close out Thursday Night's loss to Wake Forest pic.twitter.com/kHEnR0zAur
— Joe Marino (@TheJoeMarino) November 10, 2018
Pitt’s Dominant Rushing Attack. What’s Up With the Hokies D?
Lasering in on an ACC Coastal Division Title and a date with Clemson for the ACC Championship, Pitt is riding its dominant rushing attack which showed up in a big way in Pitt’s 52-22 win over Virginia Tech.
The senior duo of Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall combined for 23 rushes for 421 yards and 4 touchdowns. Hall has made his share of explosive plays this season which is surprising given his modest physical upside. I’m more bullish about Ollison’s NFL upside given his multifaceted skill set, vision and power.
On the flipside is a fluttering Hokies defense that just hasn’t been able to replenish its talent like in year past. Head Coach Justin Fuente won 10 games in 2016, 9 last year and is likely to only reach 5 or 6 wins this year. He could be facing a make or break season in 2019. Bud Foster’s lunch pail defense is broken and the offense is uninspiring.
- Kudos to Syracuse for closing out the season with an undefeated record at home. Inching towards a top-10 ranking, Syracuse has a chance to knock off Notre Dame next Saturday. Dino Babers has turned the program around and is likely to be a hot candidate for vacancies this offseason.
- Syracuse DT Chris Slayton has flown under my radar and that needs to change. He’s been a steady contributor for the Orange across the last 3 seasons and showcases good power at the POA. After a standout performance against Louisville he’s up to 3.5 sacks and 7 TFLs in the season and 7.5 sacks/29.5 TFLs for his career. Time to take a deeper look at this senior.
- Wake Forest QB Jamie Newman stepped in admirably for the injured Sam Hartman. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, Newman showcased a live arm and good mobility while carving up the Wolfpack defense for 297 yards and 3 touchdown passes on Thursday. We haven’t seen much from Newman previously but his physical upside is intriguing. He figures to be the starter the rest of the way and the competition for the Deac’s starting QB job could be interesting next spring. Hartman is a true freshman while Neman is a sophomore.
- Lost in NC State’s disappointing loss to Wake is another dominant performance from Kelvin Harmon and his sidekicks. Harmon hauled in 15 passes for 134 while showcasing smooth route running skills and the play strength we’ve come to enjoy from Harmon. Jakobi Meyers caught 10 passes for 117 yards and Emeka Emezie (Harmon 2.0) brought in 5 receptions for 83 yards and a TD.
- UNC WR Dazz Newsome has been making a bunch of explosive plays of late and that continued Saturday against Duke. Catching 6 passes fo 66 yards, Newsome also ripped off an 84-yard touchdown run. He is an electric playmaker with the ball in his hands that thrives in space.
- Duke was without LB Joe Giles-Harris against UNC and it showed. The Blue Devils allowed 536 total yards, including 315 on the ground with him out of the lineup.
- This –
After only 2 bowl game appearances from 1960-2013 (88 & 94), #Duke is now bowl-eligible for the 6th time in the last 7 years under head coach David Cutcliffe.
Unbelievable accomplishment for Cutcliffe and the Duke football program.
— Joe Marino (@TheJoeMarino) November 11, 2018
- It’s a real possibility that Florida State (4-6), Miami (5-5) and Virginia Tech (4-5) aren’t bowl-eligible. Let that sink in.
- Boston College CB Hamp Cheevers hauled in his ACC-leading 6th interception of the season against Clemson.
- It doesn’t completely show up in the box score (4 tackles, TFL, PD, 2 QBH), but Boston College DL Zach Allen had an outstanding game against Clemson. He played with relentless energy and showcased his patented play strength while controlling the line of scrimmage. He’s not the most athletic of flexible player but his energy, hand usage and power at the POA is simply outstanding. He’ll be a valuable piece for an NFL defensive line.
Power Rankings After Week 11
- Boston College
- NC State
- Georgia Tech
- Virginia Tech
- Wake Forest
- Florida State
- North Carolina