Wake’s Clawson, Pitt’s Pickett Top AP’s Midyear ACC Honors | Sports News

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By AARON BEARD, AP Sports Writer

Wake Forest turned years of consistent winning streak into a potential watershed moment in the Atlantic Coast Conference, while Pittsburgh surged behind the rise of quarterback Kenny Pickett.

They top Wednesday’s list of midseason winners in the Associated Press league.

With his undefeated 16th-place Demon Deacons, Dave Clawson is the unanimous choice as the ACC’s top coach in the first half of the season in AP editors’ votes covering teams in the league. Pickett was voted the league’s best offensive player to date for the 23rd-ranked Panthers.

Additionally, Wake Forest has been chosen as the Most Surprising Team so far, with Pittsburgh as the finalist.

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Now in his eighth year, Clawson has led the Demon Deacons to five straight games with a plan based on developing veterans willing to contribute over time rather than just plugging in five-star rookies annually. They’ve all rendered but a handful of starters, creating an experienced, deeper roster that generally avoids self-inflicted damage.

“The advantage of having depth is that there is more internal competition,” Clawson said. “And then… guys have to train harder because if they don’t train harder they won’t play.” So these are actually the easiest years to train. “

Maybe, but Clawson made the right choices with a team chosen to finish fifth in the Atlantic seven-team division.

The Demon Deacons are 6-0 for the first time since 1944 – nine years before the ACC was formed – and 4-0 in the ACC for the very first time. They are also the league’s top-ranked team in an unusually wide league race featuring the Panthers and the No.18 in North Carolina State.

A fifth-year senior, Pickett sparked the Heisman Trophy buzz with increasing NFL draft stock, placing eighth in the Bowl Division ranks throwing 322.3 yards per game and fourth with 21 pitches from touched while throwing a single interception for the Panthers (5-1, 2-0).

“He made a lot of money coming back, I can tell you that,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said after Pickett’s TD four game at Georgia Tech.

“He’s just a smart football player. It takes time to get it where you want it to be. He put in the work and he deserves what he’s getting right now.

As the league enters the second half of the schedule, here are some of the best, worst and most notable developments in the ACC after the AP Writers Vote:

Virginia Tech defensive back Jermaine Waller is tied for the lead in FBS with four interceptions. The fourth-year junior helped the Hokies rank third in the league when it comes to passing efficiency defense.

Syracuse defensive back Darian “Duce” Chestnut became an immediate contributor. The defensive back has had two interceptions and 19 tackles while starting all seven games this year.

The surprise with Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong was how much he raised his level of play.

The fourth-year junior ranks second in FBS throwing 403.4 yards per game, including a record 554 yards – the most by any FBS player this year – in a loss to North Carolina. By comparison, Armstrong averaged 235.2 passing yards last year.

North Carolina is the first pick in a year with several options in Clemson and Miami, six-time defending league champions, all three unranked.

Mack Brown’s Tar Heels (4-3, 3-3) started off with a No. 10 ranking as the Coast Division favorite with the return of star quarterback Sam Howell and a veteran offensive line. But they struggled to protect Howell and overcome losses from big-game threats Javonte Williams, Michael Carter and Dyami Brown to the NFL, falling off the ballot before October.

The pressure is mounting on Manny Diaz of Miami and Justin Fuente of Virginia Tech.

The Hurricanes (2-4, 0-2) were ranked No. 14 in the preseason and screened as the UNC’s top coastal challenger. But Miami has its first 2-4 start since 1997, when the program faced probation and scholarship limitations from the NCAA. And Diaz is 16-14 in three seasons with the Hurricanes.

The Fuente Hokies (3-3, 1-1) are 41-29 in six seasons, including the team that rose to 5-6 last year and pulled out of the playoffs for end a 27-year streak.

Diaz’s job only got more complicated with a season-ending shoulder injury for D’Eriq King. The double-threat sixth-year quarterback was injured in the second half of a Week 3 loss to Michigan State, with the team remaining hopeful until last week that King could recover through rehab instead. surgery.

King threw for 2,686 yards and 23 scores while running for 538 yards and four touchdowns in 2020.

AP Sports Writers Gary B. Graves in Louisville, Kentucky; Will Graves in Pittsburgh; Pete Iacobelli in Columbia, South Carolina; John Kekis in Syracuse, New York; Hank Kurz in Richmond, Virginia; and Charles Odum in Atlanta; contributed to this report.

More AP College Football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25. Sign up for the AP College Football Newsletter: https://apnews.com/cfbtop25

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

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