ACC: Jay Valai

ACC's lunchtime links

December, 26, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Here's a look at what's going on around the league today ...

If anyone knows how hard Wisconsin strong safety Jay Valai can hit, it's Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder. The two were friends and high school teammates. Ponder is likely to be reminded of his old friend's aggressive style when the two teams meet in the Champs Sports Bowl.

The last time NC State played at Legion Field, the Wolfpack defeated a Southern Miss quarterback named Brett Favre. The players on NC State's 1990 team haven't forgotten that.

With Justin Tuggle waiting in the wings to be the next Boston College quarterback, current starter Dominique Davis knows the Music City Bowl will be the first step towards keeping his job. He's ready, though, for a little competition.

Virginia will have the only pure spread offense in the ACC, a philosophy new offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon installed at Bowling Green with Urban Meyer.

Jacory Harris is ready to take over Miami's offense while suspended starter Robert Marve ponders his future.

After losing four of its past five bowl games, Virginia Tech has changed the way it approaches bowl games.

Clemson's win over Nebraska for the 1991 national title put the Tigers on the map.

Breaking down the Champs Sports Bowl

December, 23, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

It's not quite the holiday vacation yet, and there are still plenty of ACC bowls to talk about. Today we'll focus on the Champs Sports Bowl and the Emerald Bowl. Let's start with the Seminoles.

Here are three reasons why Florida State will win:

1. Speed. The Seminoles have it, and Wisconsin isn't used to seeing it. Badgers quarterback Dustin Sherer, who replaced Allan Evridge as the starter in October, will get up close and personal with FSU defensive end Everette Brown, one of the best pass-rushers in the country. And the Badgers' scoring defense has been friendly, allowing 25 points per game. FSU has plenty of speedy playmakers ready to take advantage of a veteran defensive line that has underperformed this season.

2. Home turf. Florida State has never lost a game in Orlando (6-0-2), and is 2-0 in bowl games there. Bobby Bowden played -- and won -- the first bowl game of his career in Orlando, a 40-17 win over Texas Tech in the 1977 Tangerine Bowl.

3. Special teams. The Seminoles have Lou Groza award winner Graham Gano, and Wisconsin has the worst kickoff return unit in the country. FSU's Michael Ray Garvin leads the country in kickoff returns, and Gano leads the country in field goals. Gano is averaging 41.1 yards per punt, and Wisconsin is 48th in the country in punt returns.

Here are three reasons why FSU won't win:

1. Momentum. Wisconsin enters this game on a three-game winning streak while Florida State is trying to regroup after losing two of its last three, including that pounding the Noles took from Florida.

2. The Big Ten's No. 1 rushing offense. This is obviously the Badgers' strength, as they lead the Big Ten with 212 rushing yards per game, good for 14th in the country. It's the best the program has been on the ground since 1999. Junior P.J. Hill and redshirt freshman John Clay combined to run for 1,866 yards this season. Over the past four games, Hill and Clay each went over the 100-yard mark three times and combined to total 773 yards (an average of 193.3 ypg). They also scored 13 touchdowns over that span. Wisconsin will try to pound the ball and control the clock.

3. Wisconsin's secondary. Niles Brinkley, Allen Langford and Shane Carter have combined for eight interceptions this season, and Jay Valai has developed a reputation as a hard hitter. If the Badgers can force quarterback Christian Ponder to throw the ball, this group is capable of making game-changing plays.