ACC: 2010 midseason team reports

Midseason report: Boston College

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
11:30
AM ET
Boston College Eagles

Record: 2-3, (0-2 ACC)

The Eagles haven’t been this bad -- sub .500 -- since the 1998 season. Fortunately for BC, the defense is still dependable and capable of getting the ball back for the offense. The offense, though, is horrible. That the Eagles haven’t been able to run the ball is somewhat of a surprise considering the veteran offensive line, which includes potential NFL draft pick Anthony Castonzo. BC is ranked 110th in the country in rushing offense and No. 105 in total offense. The biggest problem, though, has been a lack of a dependable quarterback. Dave Shinskie has been benched repeatedly, but Mike Marscovetra hasn’t been much better and freshman Chase Rettig has been injured. BC has lost three straight heading into Saturday’s game at Florida State and has been outscored 94-30 during that span. It might be possible that this is the first season Boston College, which was picked to finish third in the Atlantic Division, was actually overrated.

Offensive MVP: Freshman wide receiver Bobby Swigert. With the loss of its two starting wide receivers and five overall from last year, the last thing the Eagles needed was a season-ending knee injury to top returner Colin Larmond, Jr. this past summer. Swigert has risen to the challenge and leads the team with 232 yards and two touchdowns on 14 catches.

Defensive MVP: Linebacker Luke Kuechly. He leads the nation in tackles with 14.2 per game. He reached 200 career tackles faster than any other player in school history. He owns the nation’s longest streak of games with double digit tackles at 14 after recording 20 -– yes 20 -- against NC State. He leads the team with 71 total tackles and has recovered two fumbles.

Midseason report: Clemson

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
11:00
AM ET
Clemson Tigers

Record: 2-3 (0-2 ACC)

Maybe quarterback Kyle Parker should’ve taken the Colorado Rockies’ money and run. Clemson is in the midst of a three-game losing streak and Parker has thrown seven touchdowns and four interceptions. He hasn’t exactly gotten a lot of help from his receivers this year. Coach Dabo Swinney switched the veteran wideouts with younger players, and now he’s hoping to get running back Andre Ellington some more carries, because Ellington has been the best and most consistent player on offense.

The defense remains inconsistent, but is No. 2 in the country in tackles for loss and No. 19 in sacks. There certainly isn’t a lack of talent on the roster, but the Tigers need more from their passing game in the second half of the season. Clemson looked like a top 25 team in its overtime loss at Auburn, a team capable of repeating as Atlantic Division champs. Now? The Tigers look like a team capable of losing to Maryland. Again.

Offensive MVP, RB Andre Ellington: He has eased the loss of C.J. Spiller’s production, as he’s third in the ACC in rushing and leads the team with 87 yards per game. He is averaging 6.6 yards per carry and has had four plays of at least 20 yards. He has 435 yards and needs just 74 more to reach 1,000 in his career.

Defensive MVP, DE Da’Quan Bowers: He had two sacks for 16 yards in the loss to North Carolina. He now has six sacks in just five games and 11.5 tackles for loss. In five games he has already exceeded his 2009 season totals in sacks and tackles for loss. Bowers ranks third in the nation in tackles for loss and is tied for fourth in sacks.

Midseason review: Duke

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
10:30
AM ET
The 62-13 loss to Alabama wasn’t a setback, it was a reality check. The program still has a long way to go under coach David Cutcliffe. The Blue Devils haven’t won a game since the season opener against Elon, and it can be attributed to a porous defense, inconsistent offense and one of the worst turnover margins in the country. The offensive struggles are to be expected with a first-year starting quarterback, but Sean Renfree has proven capable of winning games and should eventually develop into one of the league’s top passers. Duke still has some of the best receivers in the ACC in Conner Vernon and Donovan Varner. The defense, though, is in need of some help. Duke ranks 115th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing almost 40 points per game. The bright spot has been some semblance of a running game, which was last in the country in 2009. Desmond Scott has been a huge help, averaging 58.2 yards per game. And If Duke can cut down on its turnovers the second half of the season, the team should see instant improvement.

Offensive MVP: Wide receiver Conner Vernon. He leads the ACC in receptions and receiving yards, and he has had three 100-yard games (and one of 99 yards). Vernon ranks fifth in the country with 109.6 yards per game and is tied for 13th with 6.8 receptions per game.

Defensive MVP: Nose guard Charlie Hatcher. He has 16 tackles, including three tackles for loss, and he has one pass breakup. He makes everyone around him better by doing his job.

Midseason report: Florida State

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
10:00
AM ET
Florida State Seminoles

Record: 5-1, (3-0 ACC)

First-year coach Jimbo Fisher began his head coaching career in a way even Bobby Bowden did not -- with a win in the season opener. There is a big difference between Samford and the Sooners, though, and Florida State was quickly humbled in a 47-17 loss at Oklahoma. Quarterback Christian Ponder’s Heisman hopes were quickly dashed when he threw two interceptions and no touchdowns at Oklahoma, and Mark Stoops’ defense was beaten soundly by his brother. Florida State has since won four straight, though, and worked its way back into the Associated Press Top 25 with one of the nation’s top scoring offenses and defenses. Stoops’ group might have made the biggest turnaround in the country from a year ago, as FSU leads the nation in sacks and is holding opponents to slightly over 15 points per game. With a convincing win over Miami, the program looks ahead of schedule in Fisher’s first season and is the team to beat in the ACC.

Offensive MVP: Offensive guard Rodney Hudson. Hudson matched his season-high against Miami by earning a grade of 94 percent, which included two knockdown blocks. He did not have one missed assignment or draw a penalty in 62 snaps while leading a running attack that piled up 298 yards on just 40 carries (7.4 ypc). He has had no missed assignments and 18 knockdown blocks since the loss at Oklahoma.

Defensive MVP: Defensive end Brandon Jenkins. In his first season as a starter, Jenkins has been a headache for quarterbacks. He tied his career best with two sacks at Wake Forest, along with three tackles for loss. He leads the team with five sacks for a loss of 38 yards, has two pass breakups and a forced fumble. He’s fourth on the team with 25 tackles.

Midseason report: Georgia Tech

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
9:30
AM ET
The team that showed up -- or, more correctly, didn’t show up -- at Kansas didn’t look like the one that won the 2009 ACC title. Coach Paul Johnson had questioned his team’s effort and focus after the 28-25 loss to the Jayhawks and a home loss to NC State. Wide receiver Stephen Hill conceded the preseason hype hailing him as the next Demaryius Thomas was a little too much, and it wasn’t until Virginia came to town that B-back Anthony Allen found his way into the end zone. First-year defensive coordinator Al Groh’s 3-4 defense hasn’t fared much better than Dave Wommack’s did, and turnovers have been a problem. The one thing the Jackets have been able to depend on is the play of senior quarterback Joshua Nesbitt. He won the game for Georgia Tech in the final minute against Wake Forest and is the biggest reason for hope in the quest for a second straight ACC title.

Offensive MVP: Quarterback Joshua Nesbitt. He ranks first in the ACC in rushing (90.5 yards per game) and he ranks fifth nationally among quarterbacks in rushing. Nesbitt needs 150 rushing yards to become the most prolific rushing quarterback in ACC history. He has more rushing TDs (32) than any QB in ACC history. Nesbitt needs 388 rushing yards to become just the eighth player in NCAA history with 3,000 career rushing yards and 3,000 career passing yards.

Defensive MVP: Linebacker Steven Sylvester. He moved from inside to outside in late August and has, at least statistically, been Georgia Tech's top defender. He leads the team in tackles for loss (8.0), sacks (3.0) and forced fumbles (2). Sylvester has helped Georgia Tech’s defense improve the past two weeks after allowing 45 points to NC State.

Midseason report: Maryland

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
9:00
AM ET
Maryland Terrapins

Record: 4-1 (1-0 ACC)

It’s been a complete turnaround from a year ago for coach Ralph Friedgen, whose job was in question following a 2-10 finish in 2009. This year, a 4-1 start is as good as can be expected with the lone loss coming on the road to a ranked West Virginia team.

One of the biggest reasons for the improvement can be found in the turnover margin, where the Terps are fourth in the country. They’ve only lost the ball four times this season and have 12 takeaways.

Injuries to quarterbacks – including starter Jamarr Robinson -- have been an issue, but freshman Danny O’Brien has been a success as he has managed the offense without throwing any interceptions. The entire offense could use a boost, but stability and experience at quarterback will help that.

The defense has also shown improvement in the second season under coordinator Don Brown, holding opponents to just 18.4 points per game. Florida State and NC State have asserted themselves as the teams to beat in the Atlantic Division, but until proven otherwise, Maryland is a contender, too.

Offensive MVP, WR Torrey Smith: He leads the team in receptions (17) and receiving yards (405). His five touchdown receptions rank second in the ACC and matches his total from last season. With two touchdowns each against Morgan State and West Virginia, he became the first Terp to record consecutive multiple touchdown-reception games since Jermaine Lewis in 1993. He has touchdown receptions of 60, 68 and 80 yards, and is averaging 20.5 yards every time he touches the ball.

Defensive MVP, LB Alex Wujciak: He is 10th in the country with 11.4 tackles per game. He is on the watch list for five awards - Lombardi Award, Nagurski Trophy, Lott Trophy, Bednarik Award and Butkus Award. He set a new career high with 18 tackles in the season opener against Navy, but has expanded his game beyond the tackles stat. Over the past 10 games, he's also forced three fumbles and broken up a pair of passes.

Midseason report: Miami

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
8:30
AM ET
Miami Hurricanes

Record: 3-2 (1-1 ACC)

Miami’s momentum from a 2-1 record in a grueling three-game road stretch came crashing down in a flat performance against rival Florida State. It wasn’t just that the Canes lost, it was how they lost -- in the most lopsided victory the series has seen since 1997. Not only did Miami miss an opportunity to make a statement on the national level in its loss to Ohio State, but the Canes also blew a chance to separate themselves in the ACC race with their loss. The value of the win over a 2-3 Pitt team has decreased since the preseason, and the best win has come against a struggling Clemson team. Miami is still a good football team -- the defense remains one of the best in the country -- but the losses to Florida State and Ohio State were proof that the program isn’t as far ahead as it should be in the fourth season under coach Randy Shannon.

Offensive MVP: Wide receiver Leonard Hankerson. He has caught a pass in 18 straight games and had a career-best 147 receiving yards at Clemson. He has been quarterback Jacory Harris' favorite target and leads the Canes with 28 catches for 460 yards and six touchdowns. He caught five passes for 72 yards against Florida State. He ranks No. 18 in the country with 92 receiving yards per game.

Defensive MVP: Linebacker Sean Spence. After recording 65 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss as a freshman in 2008, Spence was slowed by injury last year as a sophomore, making just 36 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss in 10 games. Spence is now averaging 8.6 tackles per game after five starts -- a pace that would give him more than 100 if he continues at the same rate. He leads the team in total tackles (43), solo tackles (24) and tackles for loss (8.0) through five games.

Midseason report: North Carolina

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
8:00
AM ET
North Carolina Tar Heels

Record: 3-2 (1-1 ACC)

Surprisingly, the only things that have gone right for the Tar Heels this year have gone right on the field. The highly-publicized NCAA investigations sidelined seven defensive starters for the season opener against LSU, and 15 players were missing for injuries or suspensions on Saturday against Clemson.

Now, the college careers of Greg Little, Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn are over. No matter. The players have refused to let the negative headlines become a distraction and have won three straight games after starting the season 0-2. A 17-13 win at Rutgers was the turning point, as UNC had to climb out of a 10-0 hole with a dozen players suspended.

UNC’s backups have proven to be even more effective than some teams' starters, and quarterback T.J. Yates, who has only thrown one interception this season, has been one of the most improved players in the country. This team is not producing any eye-popping statistics, but it is finding a way to win together. Still, it’s hard not to wonder what could have been had Carolina’s roster remained intact.

Offensive MVP, RB Johnny White: He entered the season with just one rushing touchdown. Against Clemson last weekend, he rushed for more yards (89) and gained more receiving yards (90) than any player on either team. He gained 179 of Carolina’s 255 yards from scrimmage. He has now scored four rushing touchdowns, and the Tar Heels wouldn’t have beaten Clemson without two of them.

Defensive MVP, LB Bruce Carter: He’s a proven game-changer, and with so many starters missing on defense, that ability has been invaluable. At Rutgers, Carter blocked a fourth-quarter punt and the Tar Heels took over at the Rutgers 35. Carolina kicked a field goal on the ensuing drive. He also has one interception for 55 yards. He’s fourth on the team with 14 tackles, including one for a loss.

Midseason report: NC State

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
7:30
AM ET
NC State Wolfpack

Record: 5-1 (2-1 ACC)

The Wolfpack began this season without any running backs with starting experience and having to replace all four starters on the defensive line. Quarterback Russell Wilson had missed the entire spring and summer to concentrate on baseball, and expectations were tempered. It didn’t take long, though, before they were exceeded. NC State’s win against defending ACC champ Georgia Tech gave the Pack its first 4-0 start since 2002 and proved the program was a legitimate contender for the ACC title. A home loss to Virginia Tech in which NC State blew a 17-point lead exposed some weaknesses, though, and coach Tom O’Brien missed the opportunity to start 5-0 for the first time in his career. NC State has since rebounded with O’Brien’s first win against Boston College since he was hired at NC State, and enters the second half of the season as the biggest challenger to Florida State to win the Atlantic Division.

Offensive MVP, QB Russell Wilson: He is a major reason why the Pack is 5-1, its best start since 2002. Wilson is No. 2 in the country in total passing yards (1,802), No. 12 with 24 completions per game, No. 7 in passing yards per game and No. 37 in passing efficiency. He has passed for more than 300 yards in five of six games this year and tied Philip Rivers for the single-game school record for pass completions with 38.

Defensive MVP, LB Nate Irving: After missing the entire 2009 season to recover from injuries he suffered in a serious car accident, Irving leads his team with 45 tackles. He has four quarterback hurries, one forced fumble, 8.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. His leadership was sorely missed last year, and he is a main catalyst behind the Pack’s defensive improvement.

Midseason report: Virginia

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
7:00
AM ET
Virginia Cavaliers

Record: 2-3 (0-2 ACC)

First-year coach Mike London has stated his team is “a work in progress” and that’s exactly what it has looked like -- inconsistent. The effort has been there, and the Cavaliers earned respect for the way they played on the road at USC, but London isn’t into moral victories, nor should he be. The only two wins have come over FCS programs, but the season opening win against London’s former team, Richmond, was an important first step. This senior class won the program’s first season opener since 2005. Their goals are obviously bigger, but Virginia got a dose of reality in a 34-14 loss to Florida State. London and his staff have put the players in position to win, and have made a noticeable change in the culture, but it will take some time for them to recruit to their philosophies. The good news is the second half of the regular season starts with three straight home games.

Offensive MVP: Wide receiver Kris Burd. He leads the team with 23 catches for 381 yards and four touchdowns, and has helped Virginia reclaim viability through the air that lacked last season. Burd had a receiving touchdown in four straight games to start the year, marking a first for Virginia since Heath Miller scored receiving touchdowns in the first five games of the 2002 season. Burd is also the first Cavalier to record consecutive 100-yard receiving games since Miller in 2003.

Defensive MVP: Defensive back Chase Minnifield. In the absence of Ras-I Dowling and Rodney McLeod, Minnifield embraced a leadership role and is a big reason why Virginia is ranked No. 10 nationally and second in the ACC in pass defense. Minnifield is fifth on the team with 22 tackles, has three interceptions -- ranks No. 9 nationally -- while UVA has faced three prolific passing quarterbacks - USC's Matt Barkley, Florida State's Christian Ponder and Richmond's Aaron Corp (a USC transfer).

Midseason report: Virginia Tech

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
6:30
AM ET
Virginia Tech Hokies

Record: 4-2 (2-0 ACC)

Virginia Tech couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start. It's hopes for a national championship dashed by Boise State in a 33-30 loss, the Hokies returned home only to lose to FCS program James Madison five days later. No, the scheduling was not smart, but there weren’t any excuses to be made for the 0-2 hole that dropped the Hokies from a top-10 team to unranked in less than a week. Instead of letting that poor start snowball into a disastrous season, Virginia Tech regrouped and dug out of a 10-0 hole against East Carolina for the 49-27 win. It hasn't lost since, and at 2-0 in league play is once again one of the teams to beat in the ACC.

Despite the return of two 1,000-yard rushers to the backfield, it took five games into the season before the Hokies saw a 100-yard rushing performance. Ryan Williams has missed three straight games with a hamstring injury, but thanks to improved blocking by the offensive line, the Hokies have rediscovered their ability to run.

Offensive MVP, QB Tyrod Taylor: With the 45-21 win against Central Michigan, Taylor won his 27th game as a starter, surpassing Bryan Randall’s previous high of 26 victories. He accounted for 288 of the Hokies’ 394 yards of total offense in that game. He leads the ACC in pass efficiency (156), has completed 61.6 percent of his passes, and is fourth in the ACC in total offense at 238.2 yards per game.

Defensive MVP, DB Jayron Hosley: He leads the ACC in passes defended with nine (five breakups, four interceptions), and his three interceptions at NC State were the difference in the game. He also scored on an 80-yard punt return against Central Michigan with 4:55 left in the game. It tied for the sixth-longest return in school history.

Midseason report: Wake Forest

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
6:00
AM ET
Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Record: 2-4 (1-2 ACC)

It wasn’t replacing the winningest quarterback in school history that has been the problem for the Deacs, it was keeping all four of those replacements healthy. True freshman Tanner Price has proven capable of taking over for Riley Skinner, but he suffered a concussion against Florida State, and backups Ted Stachitas and Brendan Cross were also injured, leaving the offense in the hands of Skylar Jones against Georgia Tech. The young defense has struggled to stop the run, is ranked last in the ACC in total defense, and has allowed 36.8 points per game. When the defense showed measurable improvement against Florida State, the offense came up empty. Since opening the season with back-to-back wins over unheralded Presbyterian and Duke, Wake has since lost four straight, putting their bowl hopes in serious jeopardy.

Offensive MVP: Quarterback Tanner Price. The true freshman is as good as advertised. He leads the team in total offense with 158.8 yards per game and has only started three games. He has the best completion percentage of the quarterbacks (58.7) and set a school record for pass completions by a true freshman (19). He has also accounted for three rushing touchdowns and his four passing touchdowns are the most in school history by a true freshman quarterback.

Defensive MVP: Kyle Wilber. He was sidelined with a broken leg for seven games last year and has returned with fervor. He’s tied for the conference lead in sacks with five and he leads the ACC and the country in tackles for loss with 12.5. He is also tied for second in the ACC with three forced fumbles, and made a career-high 11 tackles and two sacks at Florida State. He had three tackles for loss at Stanford.

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