Overall, 2013 was a pretty good year for the ACC. Florida State went 13-0 and is set to play Auburn for the national championship. Clemson went 10-2 – its only losses to Florida State and South Carolina – and the Tigers will play in their second BCS game in three years.
There was a drop in the final rankings from Florida State and Clemson, but Duke finished 10-3 and claimed its first Coastal Division title. Behind the Blue Devils in the Coastal were Virginia Tech (8-4), Miami (9-3) and Georgia Tech (7-5).
Florida State and Clemson clearly dominated the Atlantic Division, but Syracuse, Boston College and Maryland all finished with at least a .500 record.
The ACC expanded to 14 teams with the addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse, and the conference has 11 teams set to play in a bowl game this year.
The bowl season is still to come, but Athlon Sports wraps up the 2013 regular season with a few awards and all-conference honors.
ACC 2013 Season Awards
Coach of the Year: David Cutcliffe, Duke
Between Cutcliffe, Boston College’s Steve Addazio and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, the ACC has a good crop of candidates for coach of the year. Despite the seasons by Fisher and Addazio, it’s hard to pick against Cutcliffe for this award. Cutcliffe guided Duke to its first ACC Coastal title and the program’s first season of double-digit victories. To illustrate how far along Cutcliffe has improved Duke as a program, from 2000-07 the Blue Devils won just 13 games. Under Cutcliffe’s direction (2008-13), the Blue Devils have won 31 contests, including 16 in the last two seasons. And this isn’t a one-year wonder: Duke has enough returning talent to be in the Coastal Division mix again in 2014.
Offensive Player of the Year: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Boston College running back Andre Williams and Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd deserve consideration here, but Winston is the clear frontrunner for this award. The redshirt freshman quickly went from a talented, inexperienced quarterback in September to arguably the best in the nation by December. In the season opener against Pittsburgh, Winston threw for 356 yards and four touchdowns and only got better with each snap. Against Clemson, he threw for 444 yards and three touchdowns and completed 21 of 29 passes for 325 yards and one score against Miami. Winston completed at least 60 percent of his passes in 10 out of 12 games against BCS competition and threw at least one touchdown pass in every contest.
Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Donald dominated the line of scrimmage and opposing offensive lines during his four years in Pittsburgh, but he was at his best during his senior year. Donald recorded 54 tackles – no easy feat for a defensive tackle – 10 sacks and 26.5 tackles for a loss. He also recorded 16 quarterback hurries, forced four fumbles and blocked one kick. Donald finished his career in the Steel City with 64 tackles for a loss and 28.5 sacks. He was picked as a finalist for the Bednarik, Outland, Lombardi and Nagurski Awards, and was the ACC media’s pick as ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
Newcomer of the Year: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
As we mentioned under the ACC Offensive Player of the Year, Winston is already one of – if not the best – quarterback in the nation. The redshirt freshman finished the regular season with 3,820 yards and 38 touchdowns, while rushing for 193 yards and four scores. Winston completed 67.9 percent of his throws, averaged 293.8 passing yards per game and led the nation with a 190.1 passer rating. The Alabama native set FBS freshmen records with 38 touchdown passes and 3,820 passing yards.
Biggest Disappointments of 2013: Virginia and NC State
No one was necessarily expecting big things from either NC State or Virginia this year, but a combined 0-16 mark in conference play is a big disappointment. The Wolfpack was picked to finish third in the Atlantic Division by the ACC media in July, while the Cavaliers were pegged sixth in the Coastal. Neither team was particularly competitive in ACC games, as NC State’s closest conference loss was by eight points to North Carolina, while only one of Virginia’s defeats were by less than 10 points. Despite the disappointing 2013 season, there is hope for both programs. The Cavaliers have a solid recruiting class on the way, and the Wolfpack will gain the services of transfer quarterback Jacoby Brissett for 2014.
Biggest Surprises of 2013: Duke and Boston College
We normally award just one team here, but it’s hard to ignore the accomplishments of Duke and Boston College in 2013. We highlighted the Blue Devils under David Cutcliffe’s coach of the year selection, and 2013 will be recorded as one of the best seasons in Duke football history. Boston College won only two games last year but finished 7-5 this season behind first-year coach Steve Addazio. The Eagles leaned on a veteran core of players to return to the postseason, including senior running back Andre Williams (2,102 yards) and quarterback Chase Rettig (17 TDs, 6 INTs). Both of these programs have experienced their share of struggles in recent years, but it’s clear Duke and Boston College are pointed in the right direction going into 2014.
Athlon's 2013 All-ACC Team
QB Jameis Winston, Florida State
QB Tajh Boyd, Clemson
RB Duke Johnson, Miami
RB Devonta Freeman, Florida State
RB Andre Williams, Boston College
RB Kevin Parks, Virginia
WR Rashad Greene, Florida State
WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
WR Allen Hurns, Miami
TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina
TE Nick O'Leary, Florida State
C Bryan Stork, Florida State
C Macky MacPherson, Syracuse
G Tre Jackson, Florida State
G Brandon Linder, Miami
G Shaquille Mason, Georgia Tech
G Laken Tomlinson, Duke
T Cameron Erving, FSU
T Matt Patchan, Boston College
T James Hurst, North Carolina
T Brandon Thomas, Clemson
AP Jamison Crowder, Duke
AP Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh
DE Vic Beasley, Clemson
DE Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech
DE Kareem Martin, North Carolina
DE Kasim Edebali, Boston College
DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
DT Derrick Hopkins, Virginia Tech
DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
DT Nikita Whitlock, Wake Forest
LB Christian Jones, Florida State
LB Kelby Brown, Duke
LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, Boston College
LB Denzel Perryman, Miami
LB Telvin Smith, Florida State
LB Jack Tyler, Virginia Tech
CB Ross Cockrell, Duke
CB Bashaud Breeland, Clemson
CB Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State
CB Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech
S Jeremy Cash, Duke
S Tre Boston, North Carolina
S Anthony Harris, Virginia
S Terrence Brooks, Florida State
K Roberto Aguayo, Florida State
K Nate Freese, Boston College
P Pat O'Donnell, Miami
P Tommy Hibbard, North Carolina
KR DeVon Edwards, Duke
KR Stacy Coley, Miami
PR Ryan Switzer, North Carolina
PR Jamison Crowder, Duke