ACC: 2013-midseason-team-reports

Midseason report: Boston College

October, 15, 2013
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A .500 record never looked so sweet.

As the season hits the midseason mark, Boston College at 3-3 (1-2 ACC) has already surpassed its win total from 2012 (two) and is just three wins from a return to bowl eligibility. After the quagmire they slogged through during the 2011 and 2012 seasons, the Eagles have played entertaining and competitive football, outside of a 35-7 thumping at USC in their first road game.

Steve Addazio doesn't believe in moral victories, but BC played No. 3 Clemson and No. 5 Florida State as tough as anyone has this season. The Eagles lost by 14 at home against (then-No. 8) FSU and by 10 at Clemson. They led the Tigers after three quarters, but couldn't finish off the upset.

The Eagles tried to become a pass-first team in the final season of the Frank Spaziani era, with mixed results at best. Quarterback Chase Rettig became just the fourth BC quarterback to pass for 3,000 yards in a season, and wideout Alex Amidon set records for catches and yards in a season. But BC won just two games, struggling to put games away without a reliable run game or a shutdown defense.

Addazio reinstituted the physical, blue-collar mentality that’s always worked best at BC, relying on a massive offensive line and a power run game to set the tone for the team. Defensive coordinator Don Brown installed an aggressive defensive philosophy, and after totaling just six sacks in 2012, the Eagles already have 15 in 2013.

They're a .500 team, but considering the circumstances, things are definitely looking up for the Eagles.

Offensive MVP: Andre Williams. A 6-foot, 227-pound senior, Williams entered the game against Clemson leading the nation in rushing yards (153.6) and attempts per game (26.6). He totaled only 70 yards on 24 carries against the Tigers, falling from first to sixth in yards per game, but Williams, a Schnecksville, Pa., native has topped 100 yards in four of six games and topped 200 yards in two of six.

Defensive MVP: Kasim Edebali. A fifth-year senior co-captain, Edebali leads the Eagles with 3.5 sacks, two more than he had in his career entering 2013. A native of Hamburg, Germany, Edebali has 28 tackles (14 assisted, 14 solo), six tackles for a loss, two quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He’s a steady presence on a defense that is making strides in Brown’s system, despite occasional breakdowns.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

Midseason report: Clemson

October, 15, 2013
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The season began with Clemson as the heavy favorite in the ACC, and the Tigers have done little to dampen that enthusiasm in the weeks since.

Tajh Boyd and the Tigers struck the first big blow for the ACC in Week 1, knocking off Georgia in a marquee non-conference matchup. Since then, Boyd has only bolstered his Heisman credentials, leading the ACC in passing yards and helping the Tigers to average 40 points per game. Meanwhile, Clemson's defense has proven to be one of the most fearsome in the country. The Tigers lead the nation in sacks per game (4.0) and tackles for a loss (61).

The 6-0 start hasn't entirely been easy. Georgia pushed Clemson in the opener, NC State hung tough when conference play began, and just last week, Boston College nearly pulled off a staggering upset in Death Valley before the Tigers rallied with two fourth-quarter touchdowns. That's how it has been all year. When Clemson has needed a big play, it has gotten one.

Of course, that was all prelude to what's on tap this week, as Clemson hosts Florida State in a game that figures to decide the division. The Tigers haven't lost to FSU at home in 12 years, and Boyd and the defense will be looking for a little redemption after falling in Tallahassee last season.

Offensive MVP: Boyd. He's the ACC's top passer, averaging 297 yards per game. Boyd has thrown 15 touchdown passes (second in the ACC) to just two interceptions. He has added five more touchdowns rushing. He has saved his best throws for when Clemson has needed them most, and he can cement his status as a top Heisman contender with a strong performance this weekend against FSU.

Defensive MVP: DE Vic Beasley. The restoration of Clemson's defense has been impressive during the past two years, and the foundation for the turnaround might be the emergence of Beasley, who has blossomed into one of the nation's top pass rushers. Beasley's nine sacks lead the country, his 12 tackles for a loss rank third, and the suffocating pass rush has helped Clemson's secondary pick off 10 passes while allowing just four TDs.

Midseason report: Duke

October, 15, 2013
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Following last year’s bowl-bound season, expectations were even higher for Duke heading into the fall, and a 2-0 start looking promising. The Blue Devils were hit hard early, though, when quarterback Anthony Boone broke his collarbone in a win at Memphis in the second game of the season. Boone, in his first season as a full-time starter, had been playing well, completing 75 percent of his passes through the season's first six quarters and rushing for a pair of touchdowns. Despite the confidence in backup quarterback Brandon Connette, Duke is a different team with Boone in the lineup. The Blue Devils lost back-to-back Coastal Division games to Georgia Tech and Pitt, putting them behind early in the ACC race.

Boone, seemingly ahead of schedule, returned the starting lineup last week and led the Blue Devils to a win over Navy -- sweeping their nonconference opponents this fall. In his first game back since the injury, Boone set career highs for pass completions, attempts and yards (31-of-38, 295 yards). Equally as impressive was the performance by the defense, which made a statement that Duke can play a complete game. The improvement on Duke’s defense has been noticeable this year, especially last week against the Midshipmen. Duke is now just two wins shy of becoming bowl eligible for the second straight season under coach David Cutcliffe.

Offensive MVP: Jamison Crowder -- He’s second in the ACC with 7.8 receptions per game, and third in the league with 103 receiving yards per game. He also leads the ACC in punt return average at 17.5 yards. He’s second in the ACC with 159 all-purpose yards per game.

Defensive MVP: Jeremy Cash -- He’s second in the ACC with 9.7 tackles per game and 58 total. He’s also got four passes defended this year.

Midseason report: Florida State

October, 15, 2013
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It almost seems absurd now to think that the story of fall camp was a battle for the starting quarterback job. It's not that the overwhelming majority of fans had questions about Jameis Winston's potential back then, but coach Jimbo Fisher played it safe, let the battle rage on throughout camp, and while he was happy to endorse Winston's potential, he did his best to dampen the hype.

All that went out the window when Winston finally took the field, turning in a debut for the ages against Pitt in the opener. From there, it has been nothing but smooth sailing for Florida State, with five wins by an average of 42 points per game. Winston has been superb, throwing for at least 300 yards and four touchdowns in each of his three ACC games, and the defense, which had its own set of questions to answer, appears headed in the right direction after a shutout against Maryland.

Of course, the biggest tests for Florida State still await, headlined by this week's showdown against Clemson. The Seminoles haven't won in Death Valley since 2001, but if they end the streak behind Winston on Saturday, the path toward a national championship game appearance will be clear.

Offensive MVP: Winston. Who else? The redshirt freshman has the luxury of an exceptional offensive line and a multitude of weapons, but he has been the leader of this offense throughout the first half of the season. Through five games, Winston is among the nation's best in completion percentage (73.2 percent), passing touchdowns (17), yards per attempt (11.7) and Total QBR (91.6).

Defensive MVP: Telvin Smith. This hasn't been the same Florida State defense that manhandled offensive lines and shut down the opposition's ground game a season ago, but it's a unit that is making progress and learning on the fly, and Smith has been at the forefront. The senior linebacker has been the vocal leader on and off the field, and he has backed up his talk by leading the Seminoles with 32 tackles (seven more than anyone else on the team), including four for a loss.

Midseason report: Georgia Tech

October, 15, 2013
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The Yellow Jackets started the season looking like one of the best teams in the ACC, sure to be the next team to crack the Associated Press Top 25. First-year starting quarterback Vad Lee was earning high praise, the defense looked much improved under first-year coordinator Ted Roof and the passing game had started to emerge as an effective part of the offense with dependable receivers. Many were expecting two undefeated teams to square off in Miami on Oct. 5. With victories over Elon, Duke and North Carolina, Georgia Tech looked like a true contender in the Coastal Division.

And then the Jackets turned it over three times and lost at home to a Virginia Tech team that won with just 55 yards rushing.

The 17-10 home loss to the Hokies changed the picture, and started a three-game skid for Georgia Tech. Much had been made about Georgia Tech’s tough schedule heading into the season – a four-game stretch of Coastal Division opponents that began on Sept. 14 at Duke. The Jackets got halfway through it before collapsing against Virginia Tech and Miami. Now, instead of playing for a trip to Charlotte for the ACC championship, the Jackets are in a must-win situation if they want to become bow-eligible. After last week’s 38-20 loss at BYU, Georgia Tech needs to win four of its last six games, and Clemson and Georgia are still on the schedule. As the competition has gotten better, Georgia Tech’s weaknesses have been exposed.

Offensive MVP: RB David Sims He’s averaging 58.8 yards per game and has seven touchdowns – six rushing and one receiving. He’s averaging 4.9 yards per carry.

Defensive MVP: (tie) CB Jemea Thomas -- He is the second-leading tackler on the team (30), leads the team in pass break-ups (5) and has a fumble recovery. When Thomas began covering UNC’s tight ends in the second half, Carolina did not score again.

DE Jeremiah Attaochu - Often double-teamed, Attaochu is Tech’s best pass-rusher. He has 3.5 tackles for loss and leads the team with two sacks. He ranks sixth on Tech’s all-time career sacks list.

Midseason report: Maryland

October, 15, 2013
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A year ago, Maryland used five quarterbacks and finished with just four wins. This season, the news has been far better on both fronts.

Yes, C.J. Brown did get banged up against Florida State -- a game the Terrapins would love to forget altogether -- but he was stellar before the injury, accounting for 13 touchdowns and just one interception, and Caleb Rowe filled in nicely last week against Virginia. The result of the increased stability at the position has been a markedly more potent offensive attack. The Terrapins are averaging 11 more points and 164 more yards of offense per game this year than they did in 2012.

The defense, meanwhile, has been solid, pitching a shutout against West Virginia in Week 4 and ranking fourth overall in the ACC in yards allowed per play.

That's all added up to a 5-1 start that has Maryland poised for a bowl game in its final ACC season and 10 wins well within reach. That hasn't happened at Maryland since 2003. Yes, the Terps lost to FSU 63-0, putting a quick end to their time in the AP Top 25 and undermining some of the early enthusiasm following a hot start to the season, but there's no question Maryland has made significant strides this year.

Offensive MVP: Brown. Maryland has enjoyed its share of offensive playmakers, including Stefon Diggs (734 all-purpose yards) and Brandon Ross (5 yards per carry average), but Brown has been the difference -- at least when healthy. His athleticism was never a question, and not surprisingly, he's rushed for nearly 300 yards and six touchdowns. But he's been much improved with his arm, too, completing 63.7 percent of his passes for 1,125 yards and seven touchdowns in only four and a half games of action.

Defensive MVP: Marcus Whitfield. The senior linebacker leads the team in sacks (5.5) and TFLs (8). He's racked up 25 tackles and forced a fumble and has been Maryland's most consistent defender all year.

Midseason report: Miami

October, 15, 2013
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Miami’s biggest question heading into the season was whether or not the beleaguered defense would improve enough to make the Hurricanes a legit contender to win the Coastal Division.

That question was answered in Week 2.

Miami and its defense made a statement with a 21-16 upset of then-No. 12-ranked Florida. The defense was the difference, as Tyriq McCord buried Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel at the Florida 17-yard line, forcing a fumble that set up Miami's final touchdown. Florida had five turnovers, and Miami had a marquee win.

Now the Canes are 5-0, ranked No. 10 in the country, and barreling down the path toward an undefeated showdown against rival Florida State on Nov. 2. Miami has 18 sacks through five games, and has allowed two passing touchdowns, tied with Florida for the fewest in the nation. The Canes are No. 9 in the country in scoring offense at 45.2 points per game, and No. 9 in scoring defense at 16 points per game. The biggest question surrounding the Canes in the first half has been the health of quarterback Stephen Morris, who suffered a bone bruise in his ankle on Sept. 21 against Savannah State. The Canes and Morris have had a bye week to heal heading into Thursday night’s game at North Carolina, though, and expectations have only risen with the Canes’ latest ranking.

Offensive MVP: RB Dallas Crawford He leads the Canes in scoring with eight touchdowns, but what’s impressive is that he’s done it on 28 total offensive touches. Crawford has scored seven times on 25 carries. He also has one receiving touchdown.

Defensive MVP: (tie) LB Denzel Perryman (team-high 34 tackles, three pass breakups), LB Jimmy Gaines (29 tackles, two fumble recoveries, 1 touchdown) and DL Shayon Green (21 tackles, 5 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble).

Midseason report: North Carolina

October, 15, 2013
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The Tar Heels earned the dubious distinction of being labeled the ACC’s biggest disappointment in the midseason report, and that’s because they fell so far so fast. UNC was picked by the media to finish third in the Coastal Division, but the Tar Heels have played so poorly they’ve dropped even out of ESPN.com’s weekly ACC bowl projections.

UNC started the season with a 27-10 loss at South Carolina in which the defense struggled, but the overall result wasn’t unexpected. The surprise was three straight losses to Georgia Tech, East Carolina and Virginia Tech -- and complete irrelevance in the ACC standings just one year after winning eight games. The 55-31 home loss to East Carolina was an embarrassing microcosm of UNC’s weaknesses on both sides of the ball.

Second-year coach Larry Fedora has continued -- even through last week -- to say that this year’s offense still has the potential to be better than last year’s, but the group is No. 114 in rushing offense, No. 102 in turnover margin and No. 93 in scoring offense at just 23.6 points per game. Quarterback Bryn Renner has been underwhelming and injured, but the supporting cast hasn’t been much better. There’s plenty of blame to go around.

Not only have the Heels been unable to run the ball, but they can’t stop the run, either. UNC is ranked No. 101 in the country in rushing defense.

It’s hard to tell if the offense or defense has been the bigger problem.

Offensive MVP: TE Eric Ebron
He leads the team with 23 receptions for 333 yards. Against Georgia Tech, Ebron posted a career-high 106 yards receiving on six catches. The last time a tight end led the team in receptions was Mike Chatham with 20 in 1980. Ebron is third nationally among tight ends with 66.6 yards receiving per game.

Defensive MVP: LB Jeff Schoettmer
The former walk-on has started every game this season and leads the team with 44 tackles, including a career-high 13 stops against Virginia Tech. He also has one pass breakup and one quarterback hurry.

Midseason report: NC State

October, 15, 2013
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NC State may very well have been a close call away from possibly upsetting Clemson in its ACC opener. It came back and routed Central Michigan to get to 3-1, and things looked bright for first-year coach Dave Doeren and his squad with a favorable schedule awaiting it. Instead, the Wolfpack dropped games at Wake Forest and against Syracuse. They enter a bye, and the midway point of their season, at 3-3 overall but 0-3 in ACC play, and Florida State is awaiting them Oct. 26 in Tallahassee.

Many winnable games are left on the schedule, so the postseason does not appear to be in jeopardy. But the Wolfpack could certainly use a boost offensively, one they are likely to receive next time out from quarterback Brandon Mitchell, who was on the brink of a return from a broken bone in his left foot this past Saturday but ultimately sat out against the Orange.

Pete Thomas, who replaced Mitchell in Week 1 and has started since, has completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 1,314 yards with three touchdowns and eight picks. NC State has averaged just 12.3 points in its three conference games, and its 24.7 points per game on the season has the Pack ranked 91st nationally in that department.

The Wolfpack have gotten help from the run game, which has been solid but not great, and the defense has allowed just 21.2 points per contest, 28th nationally.

The opportunities are there for Doeren and the Pack to have a successful Year 1 together, and perhaps a bye week is coming at the perfect time. But they need to get better and take care of business down the stretch against a lineup that features the likes of struggling North Carolina and nonconference foe East Carolina.

Offensive MVP: Joe Thuney, OG/OT. Talk about versatility: The right guard filled in at right tackle in the opener in place of Tyson Chandler, replaced an injured Rob Crisp at left tackle in the Clemson game and, last year, was the No. 2 center. He has played every offensive line position but left guard so far for the Wolfpack, proving to be an invaluable piece to the unit.

Defensive MVP: Art Norman, DE. The redshirt junior has been a force, tallying a team-best three sacks and six tackles for loss while generating three quarterback hurries. He also has a forced fumble and has a fumble recovery.

Midseason report: Pitt

October, 15, 2013
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It has been quite a topsy-turvy season for the Panthers so far in their ACC debut. In two league games, they gave up 96 total points. In the other two, they gave up a combined 22 points and just one offensive touchdown.

As Eminem would say, will the real Pitt defense please stand up?

One thing is for sure -- we all know defensive tackle Aaron Donald is for real. Donald has been simply outstanding in his senior season, wreaking havoc on every offensive line the Panthers have faced so far this season. He is the anchor of a group that has had its share of highs and lows so far this season. Without him, it is hard to tell where this Pitt D would stand.

There have been highlights and lowlights for the Pitt offense as well. Quarterback Tom Savage has helped the Panthers improve their passing dramatically, allowing Devin Street and true freshman Tyler Boyd to become one of the best receiving duos in the entire nation. They are the only teammates ranked in the top seven in the latest ACC receiving stats.

True freshmen have made a large impact across the entire offense -- accounting for 66 percent of Pitt’s scoring output. But familiar concerns have cropped up along the offensive line. Pitt has allowed 21 total sacks on the season -- 15 in the last two games. That ranks the Panthers last in the ACC and third-to-last in the entire country. This has been an ongoing problem for years and clearly still is a work in progress. So is developing a consistent running game. In their last two games, Pitt has 31 total rushing yards.

Winnable games remain on the schedule, so Pitt has every chance to go bowling again. This team just needs to find more consistency from week to week.

Offensive MVP: Tom Savage, QB. We could have gone with receivers Tyler Boyd or Devin Street, but there is a reason those guys are having a great year. It starts with Savage, who has given the Panthers the ability to open up the passing game because of his arm strength. Plus, anybody who can stand in the pocket and take 15 sacks in the last two games is an MVP in our book.

Defensive MVP: Aaron Donald, DT. Donald went into the season with multiple preseason accolades and he has not disappointed, Donald leads the country in sacks per game (1.60 avg.) and tackles for loss per game (2.40 avg.). Donald has eight total sacks and 12 TFLs on the year. Donald has at least one sack in each game this year, including two last Saturday at Virginia Tech.

Midseason report: Syracuse

October, 15, 2013
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There will be much nit-picking about what-could-have-been in the early going, as Drew Allen won the preseason quarterback competition with Terrel Hunt, then underwhelmed in losses to Penn State and Northwestern before Hunt took over. But Hunt has struggled in ACC play, completing just 18 of 44 passes for 126 yards with no touchdowns and five interceptions in two games, this after looking dominant in wins over Wagner and Tulane. Could the Orange have pulled out a close win over the Nittany Lions with Hunt at the helm? Maybe. Maybe not. Against the Wildcats ... probably not.

Regardless, the ground game has been a strong point again for this offense, particularly in the upset win this past weekend at NC State, the program's first-ever ACC victory. Syracuse had two 100-yard rushers, and Hunt added 92 himself to get the Orange to 3-3 (1-1 in ACC play). They are 22nd nationally in rushing.

The defense has gotten pressure up front, with Jay Bromley leading an attack that has tallied 19 sacks so far this season and has been stout against the run, though the pass defense has struggled immensely. The unit has forced 12 turnovers, too, but the offense has given it away 13 times, something it needs to shore up as it heads into the meat of conference play this weekend at Georgia Tech.

A win over the struggling Yellow Jackets could do wonders for this group's confidence in Year 1 of both the ACC and the Scott Shafer eras, as it then has a bye followed by a five-game-in-five-week ACC stretch that begins with Wake Forest but leaves little room for error the rest of the way.

Offensive MVP: Jerome Smith, RB. The redshirt junior leads the ACC with eight rushing touchdowns, and he is fourth in the league in rushing with 482 yards. He is averaging 5.5 yards per carry and has added four catches in 47 yards and a receiving touchdown. Smith has seemingly picked up right where left off a year ago, when he rushed for 1,171 yards.

Defensive MVP: Jay Bromley, DT. The senior leads the ACC with three forced fumbles, is fourth in tackles for loss (nine) and tied for fifth in sacks (five). He is tied for fourth among Orange defenders with 22 total tackles, and he has added a quarterback hurry as well.

Midseason report: Virginia

October, 15, 2013
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The same old issues have vexed Virginia this season, starting with a struggling offense that ranks in the bottom half of the ACC. Headed into the year, the thought was that a new offensive coordinator and new starting quarterback would breathe some life into this group. But that has not panned out to this point.

David Watford has thrown just four touchdown passes to seven interceptions, and Virginia ranks last in the ACC in pass efficiency. But he has not gotten much help from his supporting cast. The receivers remain a work in progress. There simply is no go-to guy for Watford, nor is there anybody who can stretch the field vertically. Tight end Jake McGee leads the team in receptions and receiving yards, which speaks to this issue.

The Hoos have once again had problems holding onto the football, too, ranking last in the ACC in giveaways with 14. Virginia ranked last in the league in turnover margin a season ago; it ranks last in that area once again. The Cavaliers are still struggling with too many penalties, a problem area in 2012 as well.

Defensively, we have seen some signs of life from this group. But the last two weeks have not gone nearly as well -- the Hoos have given up a combined 75 points and nearly 1,000 yards of offense. Still, Virginia has already matched its sack total from a year ago (17) and ranks No. 4 in the nation with 7.0 three-and-outs per game and No. 7 in third-down defense.

The second half of the season will not get any easier, with three ranked teams on the schedule -- Clemson, Miami and Virginia Tech. Virginia will need a win in one of those games to get back to a bowl game.

Offensive MVP: Jake McGee, TE. The Hoos’ offense has been brutal to watch at times, but McGee’s play stands out. He leads the team in receptions (27), yards (233) and touchdown catches (two) and is one of the best tight ends in the ACC.

Defensive MVP: Brent Urban, DT. Both Urban and Eli Harold have been solid on the Hoos’ defensive front, but Urban has been particularly active inside. Before he got hurt last week against Maryland, he was leading the ACC and No. 15 nationally in pass breakups as a defensive tackle, a pretty impressive feat. He now ranks No. 25 and lead leads all defensive linemen in pass breakups with 1.3 per game.

Midseason report: Virginia Tech

October, 15, 2013
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Are the Hokies truly back as a perennial top 25 team? The first half of the year makes last season look like a mirage. Through seven games, Virginia Tech is already bowl eligible and back in the rankings, thanks to a stellar defense and improvement from quarterback Logan Thomas. It is the defense that has been the story so far, ranking No. 4 in the nation in total D, No. 7 in scoring D, No. 12 in rushing D, No. 4 in passing defense efficiency, No. 1 in interceptions and No. 2 in sacks. Louisville is the only other school in the nation to rank in the top 12 in those six categories.

Given the returning starters among the line and linebackers, Virginia Tech expected improvement this season. But watching true freshmen Brandon Facyson and Kendall Fuller step in like veterans has made this the best overall defensive group in the ACC.

As for the offense, there is still much room for improvement. Thomas has gotten better, but Virginia Tech still has no running game to speak of midway through the season, ranking No. 11 in the ACC with 117.6 yards per game. That’s worse than a year ago. Virginia Tech also ranks No. 13 in the ACC in total offense, which is why this season has not been picture perfect to watch.

It has been downright ugly at times. Virginia Tech had to survive one slog at East Carolina, and a three-overtime game against Marshall just to get to this point. The Hokies have not beaten any of their FBS opponents by more than 10 points. But with a defense that is playing as well as Virginia Tech's right now, the offense is not going to need to get into shootouts to win. This is a formula that has worked for the Hokies to this point. And it’s one they will continue to rely on as they make their push to win the Coastal.

Offensive MVP: Logan Thomas, QB. Thomas started off shaky this season but has been much improved over the last three games, throwing five touchdowns to zero interceptions while completing 66.6 percent of his passes. You can tell he is growing more comfortable in the offensive system and gaining more confidence in his receivers.

Defensive MVP: Kyle Fuller, CB. The entire defense has been the MVP of this team but since we have to choose one player, we are going with Fuller. He leads the ACC and ranks in the top 10 nationally in passes defended. He also has been a big-time leader for this group, especially working with the young players in the secondary to bring them along without much transition time.

Midseason report: Wake Forest

October, 15, 2013
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Just when you thought they were out ... they pulled you back in.

That may, in some way, be the theme for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons through six games. They lost consecutive contests to Boston College and Louisiana-Monroe to fall to 1-2 ... then redeemed themselves with a 25-11 win at Army. They were routed from start to finish by No. 3 Clemson in a 56-7 defeat ... then upset NC State, 28-13, a week later.

So here they are at the half-way point of the season, sporting a 3-3 record as they ready for a home game Saturday against a Maryland team that suddenly looks a lot more vulnerable these past two weeks after its 4-0 start. Bowl eligibility is the goal again for the Demon Deacons, who did themselves no favors by not taking care of business in the early part of nonconference play against the Warhawks and who will close their season Nov. 30 at Vanderbilt. In between are five straight ACC games for a team currently at 1-2 in the conference.

Wake Forest must try to find some traction in its running game, as the Deacs rank 13th in the ACC in rushing, in yards per rush and in rushing touchdowns. It has taken away from what have been a solid passing game and a solid overall defense, one that ranks 34th nationally in scoring and 29th nationally in yards per play. The defense has been opportunistic in forcing 13 turnovers -- 25th nationally -- but seven lost fumbles has the Deacs at just plus-two in the turnover margin, a battle they are going to need to win more often if they want to get back to postseason play for the second time in three years.

Offensive MVP: Michael Campanaro, WR. The senior leads the ACC in receptions per game (8.8) and receiving yards per game (116.4). He has four touchdowns, too, and his 206 career receptions leave him just 11 shy of becoming the program's all-time leader.

Defensive MVP: Nikita Whitlock, NT. Another senior, Whitlock is third in the ACC in tackles for loss, with 11.5 -- five of which have gone for sacks, which ranks him seventh in the conference. He has forced two fumbles, four quarterback hurries, is third on the team with 40 total tackles so far and has a blocked kick as well.

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