University of Pittsburgh Panthers
The Panthers had two running backs gain more than 750 yards in 2013. Freshman James Conner rushed for 799 yards and eight touchdowns, while his backfield mate, junior Isaac Bennett, rushed for 797 yards and seven touchdowns. As a team, the Panthers rumbled to the tune of 1,634 yards in 2013, the team’s first year in the ACC, while facing powerhouses such as Navy, Old Dominion, New Mexico, and Virginia. Meanwhile, in Chestnut Hill, Andre Williams was busy finishing up a Heisman Finalist campaign, rushing for 2,177 yards. Pittsburgh’s top defender, DT Aaron Donald, the 13th overall pick in this year’s draft, racked up 28.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks for the Panthers, winning nearly every major defensive award: ACC DPOY, the Lombardi Award, the Bronco Nagurski Trophy, the Chuck Bednarik Award, and the Outland Trophy. An impressive haul, it comes close to matching former BC linebacker Luke Kuechly’s trophy case from 2011-12, when he became the ninth-overall pick of the draft.
University of Southern California Trojans
Last year, the Trojans had a revolving door at their head coaching spot. Beginning the season was Lane Kiffen, who was fired (reportedly at the airport) after going 3-2. D-line coach Ed Orgeron was promoted to the head gig and went 6-2 over the final eight games. When he was passed over for the job in favor of Steve Sarkisian, Orgeron quit rather than coach the Trojans’ bowl game. While Sarkisian was named coach on December 2, almost three weeks prior to the team’s bowl game, Clay Helton, offensive coordinator, was the interim head for the game. For a little perspective, BC hired Tom O’Brien in December 1996, and has hired just three head coaches since.
University of Maine Black Bears
The Black Bears went 10-3 in 2013. One of those wins came against UMass, while two of their three losses were against the University of New Hampshire. While the Black Bears beat out the Wildcats for the Colonial Athletic Association regular season crown, the Wildcats defeated the Black Bears in both their regular season finale and in the FCS playoffs. Overall the Eagles are just 4-3 all-time against the Black Bears, but their last meeting was a lopsided affair that ended without the Black Bears scoring a touchdown in a 34-3 victory for the Eagles at Alumni Stadium.
Colorado State University Rams
Former leading rusher Kapri Bibbs compiled an impressive 1,741 yards on just 281 carries last year, an average of 6.2 yards per rush. In an early-season game against the Alabama Crimson Tide, however, Bibbs was only able to gain 12 yards on five carries for 2.4 yards per carry as the Crimson Tide completely stifled the Rams’ rushing attack. Meanwhile, in its two games against ranked competition, BC rushed for 321 yards on 66 carries for an average of 4.9 yards per carry, and the Eagles return both Myles Willis and Tyler Rouse while adding a number of highly touted freshman backs.
North Carolina State Wolfpack
In 2013, the Wolfpack finished a miserable season with a record of 3-9, going 0-8 in ACC play. The Wolfpack had a day to forget (or remember, for BC fans) at Alumni Stadium in 2013. Andre Williams rushed for 339 yards and two touchdowns on the day. In this performance, Williams secured BC’s single-season and single-game rushing records, tied the school record for carries in a single game, and set the ACC single-game rushing record. Meanwhile, Nate Freese’s three field goals and three extra points on the day gave him the title of BC’s all-time leading scorer, and, as an exclamation point on the day, BC became bowl-eligible for the first time since 2010 with its 38-21 handling of the Wolfpack.
Clemson University Tigers
Clemson was an offensive juggernaut in 2013, scoring 40 or more points in eight games, five of which were over 50 points. The Tigers were only trailing at halftime in four games on the year, against Florida State, South Carolina, Ohio State, and BC. The Tigers came back against the Buckeyes and Eagles, but fell to the Seminoles and Gamecocks. Clemson lost its top four offensive skill players—quarterback Tajh Boyd to the New York Jets (he has since been cut), wide receiver Sammy Watkins to the Buffalo Bills, wide receiver Martavis Bryant to the the Pittsburgh Steelers, and running back Roderick McDowell, who has yet to stick with a team in the NFL.
Wake Forest University Demon Deacons
Wake Forest allowed the 14th-fewest yards in the nation in 2013 on defense, an average of just 366 yards per game. On the flip side, the Demon Deacons finished 121st in the nation on offense, gaining just 291 yards per game and scoring an average of only 18.3 points per game. Wake actually outgained BC in 2013 through the air, 2,359 yards to 2,012 yards, but the Eagles were far more effective on the ground while Wake Forest struggled mightily—the Demon Deacons put up a total of 1,129 yards on a painful 2.9 yards per attempt. Offensive issues doomed the Deacons to a 4-8 record in 2013.
Virginia Tech Hokies
The Hokies had the third-best defense in the nation in 2013,including the ninth-best rush defense. That did not stop Andre Williams from continuing his torrid pace—rushing for 166 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Logan Thomas led a passable offense that got the Hokies to an 8-5 record, including a bowl loss to the UCLA Bruins. The Hokies also forced 26 turnovers last year, while only losing 19 of their own. Four of those turnovers came against the Eagles—two interceptions from Thomas and two lost fumbles—helping the Eagles upset the Hokies at home.
University of Louisville Cardinals
Louisville allowed the fewest yards in the nation last year, and gave up the second-fewest points per game, at 12.2 points per game. Led by first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater and now-Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong, Louisville went 12-1 in 2013, including a bowl win in the Russell Athletic Bowl over the Miami Hurricanes. Louisville scored an average of 32.2 points per game, outscoring its opponents by an average of 20. Now in their first season in the ACC, the Cardinals have already secured their first ACC win, defeating Miami in their home opener by the score of 31-13. The Cardinals cue the start of the roughest portion of BC’s season when they come to Alumni in November.
Florida State Seminoles
The Seminoles, in case you hadn’t heard, are the defending ACC and National Champions. In 2013, they went undefeated en route to beating the Duke Blue Devils in the ACC Championship game and the Auburn Tigers in the National Championship Game. The Seminoles were fourth in the nation in total offense and seventh in the nation in total defense, a potent combination. They dropped 80 points on Idaho in late November, and their lowest point output of the year was in the National Championship game, when they scored 34 points. Apart from Auburn, the Eagles put up the best fight of any team on FSU’s schedule—BC scored 34 points, the most FSU gave up in a single game, and lost by 14 points, second to Auburn, which kept the game within a field goal.
Syracuse University Orange
In its first year in the ACC, Syracuse had its ups beating Maryland, NC State, and Wake Forest, and its downs losing to Florida State, Georgia Tech, and Clemson by a combined score of 164-17. The Orange snuck past the Eagles by a score of 34-31, becoming bowl eligible in the process. After recovering a late turnover, the Eagles were forced to settle for a chip-shot field goal by Nate Freese, allowing the Orange to drive down the field and score the winning touchdown with just six seconds remaining on the clock, dashing BC’s hopes for an eight-win season. Losing starting RB Jerome Smith to the NFL is a blow, but most of the team’s other offensive weapons will return, including QB Terrel Hunt, who is hoping to help the Syracuse offense pack a little more punch than it did in 2013.
Featured Image by Graham Beck / Heights Senior Staff