ACC: ACC team 0808

Midseason report: Wake Forest

October, 16, 2008
10/16/08
1:37
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

WAKE FOREST (4-1, 2-0 ACC)

OVERVIEW: Wake Forest is tied for the league lead with 18 takeaways, and leads the nation in passing efficiency defense. How else do you explain a 2-0 ACC record when the offense has only scored one touchdown? There's no question coaching has played a role in this team's success, but the defense has been winning the games. With the exception of the loss to Navy, Wake Forest has taken care of its nonconference business with wins against both the Big 12 and the SEC this season.

OFFENSIVE MVP: Quarterback Riley Skinner. He's as cool as they come, and what makes him good is his ability to forget his mistakes. Still, you can count on one hand the number of bad games he's had, and while the Deacs haven't always been able to punch it in, Skinner leads the league with an average of 232 passing yards per game.

DEFENSIVE MVP: Linebacker Aaron Curry. The final scout count at the Clemson game was 42, and three of them told the staff Curry was one of the best outside linebackers in the country and a first-round pick. Curry leads the team with 30 tackles and four tackles for loss. He has been the Deacs' top tackler in four of five games.

WHAT'S NEXT: If Wake Forest can beat Maryland on the road this weekend, it will be very difficult for another team to unseat the Deacs as the top team in the Atlantic Division. After that, the toughest game left on their schedule might be the season finale against Vanderbilt. This weekend could go a long way in bringing the Deacs much closer to their second Orange Bowl appearance in three seasons. The only problem is how they'll hold up without a bye week in the second half of the season.

Midseason report: Virginia Tech

October, 16, 2008
10/16/08
1:20
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

VIRGINIA TECH (5-1, 2-0 ACC)

OVERVIEW: In addition to the numerous playmakers they lost to the NFL or graduation from their 2007 roster, the Hokies also lost about half a dozen contributors on offense to injuries or suspensions. Frank Beamer's heavily scrutinized decision to pull the redshirt off Tyrod Taylor proved to give the otherwise bedraggled offense the spark it needed. The Hokies picked up two early critical Coastal Division wins -- North Carolina and Georgia Tech -- that made them the team to beat. Again.

OFFENSIVE MVP: Tailback Darren Evans. After redshirting last season, Evans has made a quick impact on the Tech offense off the bench, rushing for a team-leading 415 yards and eight scores -- including at least one in each game. He will take over the starting duties with Kenny Lewis Jr. now out for the rest of the season.

DEFENSIVE MVP: Victor "Macho" Harris. It's hard not to acknowledge a guy who has helped out on kickoff returns, punt returns, wide receiver and leads the team with three interceptions. Harris has done it all this season, including recover a fumble. Harris is averaging 47.8 all-purpose yards per game and has four catches for 23 yards.

WHAT'S NEXT: Without a legitimate passing game (12th in the ACC), the Hokies are still vulnerable, beginning this weekend at Boston College and next at Florida State. Those might be the two toughest games left on their schedule, save for the Commonwealth Cup in the season finale. Their kickoff return game will be a work in progress, as three major injuries have come to players who doubled as kick returners. The Hokies will now line up Dyrell Roberts and Jahre Cheeseman with Harris and Cris Hill backing them up.

Midseason report: Virginia

October, 16, 2008
10/16/08
12:44
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

VIRGINIA (3-3, 1-1 ACC)

OVERVIEW: In a matter of two weeks, Virginia morphed from a joke into a respectable football team. Only those within the program saw the hints of progress, but even Al Groh wasn't entirely convinced his team could sustain it until they did it again against East Carolina. While winning cures (almost) everything, this was still a season filled with turmoil for the Cavaliers, from academic and legal off-field issues, to embarrassments on the field.

OFFENSIVE MVP: Tailback Cedric Peerman. After being limited in the first four games because of injury, Peerman was the difference the past two weeks with consecutive 100-yard games. He is the one player Groh mentioned in his pregame speech before the Cavaliers walloped Maryland, 31-0. Peerman is averaging 7.2 yards per carry this season and is fifth in the ACC with 75.8 rushing yards per game.

DEFENSIVE MVP: Linebacker Clint Sintim. He's a beast. His eight sacks are more than any other linebacker in the nation and he has 13 quarterback pressures this season. He leads the ACC in sacks and has had six in the past three weeks. He's got two fumble recoveries, nine tackles for loss, and 6.2 tackles per game.

WHAT'S NEXT: Groh is not off the hot seat quite yet. While he should be credited for keeping the team together at its lowest point, it's still unlikely the Cavaliers will make it to a bowl. The top three teams in the Coastal Division are still on the schedule, as is Atlantic Division leader Wake Forest. Considering the way the season started, fans should be happy with a four- or five-win season. And as Clemson has already proved, contract extensions don't mean so much anymore.

Midseason report: NC State

October, 16, 2008
10/16/08
12:15
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

NC STATE (2-4, 0-2 ACC)

OVERVIEW: Another year under Tom O'Brien, and another year of injuries so extensive we'll never know how good the Wolfpack could have been. A total of 12 starters have been injured, but the most important was at quarterback, where three different starters were needed. Against East Carolina, Russell Wilson proved he was capable of leading the Pack's offense. T.J. Graham has helped field position tremendously and developed quickly as a receiver.

OFFENSIVE MVP: Quarterback Russell Wilson. He started four games and threw three touchdown passes in NC State's dramatic overtime upset of East Carolina. He is averaging 106.4 passing yards per game, and made a comeback from a severe concussion against Clemson by completing 10 of 21 passes for 92 yards.

DEFENSIVE MVP: Linebacker Nate Irving. He had an interception in each of the first three games, including one he ran back 33 yards for a touchdown against Clemson. Irving was the Wolfpack's top playmaker on defense before sustaining a knee injury against East Carolina. He missed the past two games but will return tonight against Florida State.

WHAT'S NEXT: O'Brien is finally starting to get some players healthy in time for the second half of the season, but the damage has already been done. After facing a rapidly improving Florida State team tonight, the Wolfpack have back-to-back road games against Maryland and Duke. While both of those could be winnable games (you never know with the Terps), O'Brien needs to find four more wins on the schedule for a bowl, and that's a daunting task. With so many injuries, though, O'Brien might want to take a closer look at his strength and conditioning program.

Midseason report: North Carolina

October, 15, 2008
10/15/08
5:01
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

NORTH CAROLINA (5-1, 1-1 ACC)

OVERVIEW: If you recall the preseason hype, the Tar Heels are right where everyone expected them to be -- in the hunt and in second place behind the Hokies. What nobody expected was for them to play so well despite losing their starting quarterback. UNC has won with defense, special teams, coaching, and its ability to create turnovers. The loss to Virginia Tech will haunt them all season, but the win over Notre Dame validated their place in the national rankings.

OFFENSIVE MVP: Receiver/returner Brandon Tate. Before suffering his season-ending knee injuries, Tate was the Tar Heels' third-leading rusher, their second-leading receiver, and their top return man. He was one of the most exciting players in the ACC and ranked 13th in the nation with 163.7 all-purpose yards per game, fifth in punt returns (22.6) and 18th in kickoff returns (27.7)

DEFENSIVE MVP: Safety Trimane Goddard. He has four picks through the first five games of the season, and is tied for the national lead with 0.67 per game. His interception in the end zone on the final play of the game at Miami preserved Carolina's 28-24 win. He also has three pass breakups this season and one forced fumble.

WHAT'S NEXT: Life without Tate begins. Cooter Arnold saw his most significant playing time against Notre Dame after Tate left, but it's going to take more than just Arnold to fill that void. The coaching staff will also have to figure out what to do once quarterback T.J. Yates is cleared to play. Do they go back to the old lineup, or reward Cam Sexton? First, they have to get past Virginia, which is suddenly a more interesting road game.

Midseason report: Miami

October, 15, 2008
10/15/08
3:45
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

MIAMI (3-3, 0-2 ACC)

OVERVIEW: The Hurricanes were young to begin with, but the roster got even younger after several injuries to key contributors. The program is still headed in the right direction, but when freshmen are your biggest playmakers, it's going to take some time to see the results in the win column. Miami looked like a different team than a year ago in its loss to Florida and win over Texas A&M, but is still missing opportunities to beat conference opponents. The defense is holding strong while quarterback play develops.

OFFENSIVE MVP: Receiver/returner Travis Benjamin. This freshman wasted no time making a name for himself. His 274 all-purpose yards against Florida State was the most by a Hurricane since Edgerrin James had 310 against UCLA in 1998. Benjamin now leads the team with 569 all-purpose yards and ranks 23rd nationally in kick return average (27.1) while ranking second in league and 18th nationally in punt return average (14.0).

DEFENSIVE MVP: Linebacker Sean Spence. Another freshman, another playmaker. Spence has been a pleasant surprise coming off the bench in UM's first four games before starting against FSU and UCF. So far this year he has recorded four tackles for losses (-16 yards), one pass break-up, an interception returned seven yards for a touchdown against FSU and recorded a nine-yard sack of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.

WHAT'S NEXT: With four of their final six games on the road, it's not going to be easy for the Hurricanes to find three more wins on their schedule. Miami would make life a lot easier for itself if it came out of Durham this weekend with a win. Coach Randy Shannon hasn't been faced with a win-or-else ultimatum from the administration, and he should be given more time to develop the talent he recruited.

Midseason report: Maryland

October, 15, 2008
10/15/08
2:39
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

MARYLAND (4-2, 1-1 ACC)

OVERVIEW: Is there an award for the most inconsistent team? Let's start one. Down against Middle Tennessee, up against Clemson. Down against Virginia. It's dizzying. It's not really a surprise the team is 4-2, but how it got there is. Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey needs to do a better job of getting open, the offensive line needs to play like the veterans they are, and the entire defense needs to play better. And they need to be ready to play every Saturday, not every other Saturday.

OFFENSIVE MVP: Center Edwin Williams. Offensive coordinator James Franklin called Williams "the most consistent and underappreciated guy on our team." He has helped pave the way for Da'Rel Scott this season and is one of the reasons why Maryland didn't allow a sack against Clemson. Williams has started 32 straight games and is one of the most dependable players on an otherwise unreliable offense.

DEFENSIVE MVP: Linebacker Alex Wujciak. There aren't any superstars on this defense, but Wujciak is the team's leading tackler with 52 and has made 35 over the past three games, including a career-high 16 against Clemson -- tied for the most in the ACC in a single game this season.

WHAT'S NEXT: This weekend could be the defining point of the season for Maryland. If the Terps can redeem themselves and avoid a home loss to Wake Forest, they're still in the mix. If not, they'll sink into an Atlantic-sized hole and likely wind up at a mediocre bowl game. Then again, it wouldn't entirely be a surprise if this team beat the Deacs and lost to NC State. Their margin for error, though, is running out if it hasn't already.

Midseason report: Georgia Tech

October, 15, 2008
10/15/08
1:36
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

GEORGIA TECH (5-1, 2-1 ACC)

OVERVIEW: The Yellow Jackets are in the midst of a three-game winning streak, but would arguably have had a different season had it not been for their defense. Georgia Tech leads the nation in tackles for loss and the four starting defensive linemen have combined for 29 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, three fumble recoveries and two blocked field goals. The new offense developed quickly in large part because of Josh Nesbitt, Jaybo Shaw and Jonathan Dwyer, but the entire coaching staff is to be credited for bringing the young team along so quickly in new offensive and defensive schemes.

OFFENSIVE MVP: B-back Jonathan Dwyer. He's been involved in 10 plays of 20 yards or more. He is averaging 95.83 rushing yards and 133.5 all-purpose yards per game. Dwyer, having played in only 18 career games, has flourished in his new role this season. He has rushed for at least 100 yards in four games.

DEFENSIVE MVP: Defensive tackle Vance Walker. On a line comprised entirely of NFL prospects, Walker has had the most consistent and productive first half of the season. Defensive stats don't always tell the entire story, but Walker, a projected first-round pick, has seven tackles for loss and sacked Chris Crane in the end zone for the safety at Boston College.

WHAT'S NEXT: Because two of their wins came against FCS opponents, the Yellow Jackets will need seven wins to be bowl eligible. It's less a question of will they get two more than it is which teams will they beat? They've got a good chance this weekend at Clemson, as they will be catching the Tigers in a time of transition. After losing to Coastal Division leader Virginia Tech, the Nov. 8 game at North Carolina will be critical.

Midseason report: Florida State

October, 14, 2008
10/14/08
3:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

FLORIDA STATE (4-1, 1-1 ACC)

OVERVIEW: The Seminoles have already been tested, and are shaping up to be one of the better teams in the league. The young offensive line is ahead of schedule, the running game has developed behind it, and quarterback Christian Ponder has taken ownership of the offense. The Seminoles have made significant progress since their loss to Wake Forest. Meanwhile, the defense is one of the best in the nation. FSU's biggest drawback has been foolish penalties.

OFFENSIVE MVP: Running back Antone Smith. He is the ACC's leading scorer with 60 points on 10 touchdowns and is having the most productive season of his career. He has gained 394 yards and scored nine rushing touchdowns in the first five games. It marks the first time since the 1997 season (Travis Minor) that a Seminole player had scored at least nine rushing touchdowns in a single season.

DEFENSIVE MVP: Safety Myron Rolle. He has been arguably the most consistent defender and is in the midst of his best season. Against Miami, Rolle had four pass breakups, three third-down stops, a touchdown-saving tackle, a tackle for loss, a quarterback hurry and half a sack. Defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews called it the best performance he'd seen by an FSU defender in 25 seasons.

WHAT'S NEXT: With some outside help against Wake Forest, this team is capable of winning the ACC title if it doesn't get in its own way. The Seminoles can beat just about every opponent left on their schedule, but won't if they continue to turn the ball over and cost themselves 90 yards in penalties every game. Thursday night's game at NC State should not be taken lightly, as FSU needs all the wins it can get against Atlantic Division opponents.

Midseason report: Duke

October, 14, 2008
10/14/08
1:29
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

DUKE (3-2, 1-1 ACC)

OVERVIEW: In many ways, the Blue Devils have already exceeded expectations, not just by winning three games and snapping their 25-game losing streak to conference opponents, but also by emerging from obscurity under first-year coach David Cutcliffe. He and his staff have pushed the players at every practice and they have responded. Not all of the progress can be measured in wins and losses this season, but much of it can be quantified in the weight room, where the transformation began.

OFFENSIVE MVP: Senior left tackle Cameron Goldberg. He has been the most consistent performer on offense, and is a major reason why the sacks allowed decreased dramatically from last year to this year. He's tasked with protecting the blind side of Thaddeus Lewis. Duke gave up 3.8 sacks per game last year and has allowed 10 all season.

DEFENSIVE MVP: Linebacker Michael Tauiliili. He earned national recognition after his 16-tackle performance against Virginia, during which he also had an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Tauililli leads the ACC and ranks third nationally with 11.4 tackles per game. He leads Duke with 57 tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and three quarterback hurries.

WHAT'S NEXT: Duke will host Miami on Saturday before tough back-to-back road games against Vanderbilt and Wake Forest, respectively. How the Blue Devils respond this weekend after their poor performance against Georgia Tech will go a long way in determining if they're capable of another win or two. It still seems too early to be talking bowl game for this program, but Cutcliffe has proven more than capable of getting them there eventually.

Midseason report: Clemson

October, 14, 2008
10/14/08
11:32
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON (3-3, 1-2 ACC)

OVERVIEW: This team has had enough drama to last it the whole season, and it's only October. The Tigers have named an interim head coach, fired their offensive coordinator and switched starting quarterbacks. The players, though, remain the same, and despite a veteran roster, Clemson always looks like it's playing its first game of the season. The Tigers have been average in just about every category, and the reasons for their struggles include injuries, coaching and a subpar offensive line.

OFFENSIVE MVP: Running back C.J. Spiller. His speed and big-play capability have given opposing defensive coordinators fits. He's averaging 6.5 yards per carry, 124 all-purpose yards per game and has a team-best seven touchdowns. He ran for three touchdowns against The Citadel. Spiller injured his leg in the second quarter against Wake Forest and is doubtful for Saturday.

DEFENSIVE MVP: Safety Michael Hamlin. Nobody wants to throw it near this guy. He has 44 tackles, four pass breakups and three interceptions. All three of his interceptions came against The Citadel, a school record, but he has also played well against tough competition. Hamlin made 13 tackles against Alabama.

WHAT'S NEXT: Dabo Swinney and recruiting coordinator Billy Napier will be calling the plays, but haven't indicated how much different the offense will look, other than Willy Korn will start at quarterback. This is an audition for Swinney, who is an obvious candidate for head coach, but the Tigers are going to have a tough time making a run at the ACC title after losses to Atlantic Division foes Maryland and Wake Forest. In order to see more wins in the second half of the season, the offensive line has to drastically improve.

Midseason report: Boston College

October, 14, 2008
10/14/08
10:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

BOSTON COLLEGE (4-1, 1-1 ACC)

OVERVIEW: The Eagles have quietly put themselves in contention to win the Atlantic Division, but have done so against lesser opponents with a combined 7-19 record. Boston College hasn't beaten anyone who has won more than two games this season. What they have done is establish a running game that was nonexistent when the season started, and win with one of the best defenses in the league. The offensive line has given Chris Crane time for on-the-job training, as BC has allowed only five sacks this season.

OFFENSIVE MVP: True freshman running back Montel Harris. Jeff Jagodzinski had no running backs returning from the 2007 roster and no idea what to expect from the newcomers, but Harris made the most of his opportunity when Josh Haden was injured against Georgia Tech. He now leads the Eagles and is fourth in the ACC with 78.2 rushing yards per game.

DEFENSIVE MVP: Linebacker Mark Herzlich. He leads the team with 41 tackles, including two for a loss of 10 yards, but his role in pass defense has been critical. Herzlich has two interceptions for 61 yards and a touchdown, and one pass breakup. He had 12 tackles (11 solo) against Georgia Tech and one forced fumble.

WHAT'S NEXT: The Eagles don't catch one break in their schedule in the second half. This team's future hinges in large part on the success of Crane, whose performances have been inconsistent. He didn't take charge of the offense until his career day at NC State, and Jagodzinski has no problem putting backup Dominique Davis in if he needs to. Saturday's game against Coastal Division leader Virginia Tech will be a good indication of whether this team is a legitimate contender for the ACC title.

Sneak preview: ACC midseason reports

October, 14, 2008
10/14/08
9:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Good morning ACC fans! Now that most of the teams are six games into their schedule, it's time for the midseason reports. We'll kick it off today and continue through Thursday afternoon. We'll do four teams alphabetically each day, starting this morning.

On Tuesday: Boston College, Clemson, Duke and Florida State. On Wednesday: Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami and North Carolina. On Thursday: NC State, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.

Also, look for an overview of the entire conference on Wednesday, where I'll give you my surprise team, most disappointing team, coach of the year and even tell you what teams are going to bowls. And I promise, Clemson won't sweep the awards this time.

Stay tuned!

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