ACC: Kareem Martin

ACC viewer's guide: Week 9

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
10:00
AM ET
Miami silenced Virginia Tech's Lane Stadium fairly early Thursday night. Will we find more drama in the rest of the Week 9 slate?

Noon

North Carolina at Virginia, ESPN3, #UNCvsUVA: Marquise Williams is coming off consecutive career outings. Virginia is looking to get back on the winning track after losing to reigning Coastal division champion Duke last week. Can its defense make another big stand and make life difficult for the red-hot UNC offense? Or have the Heels found their second-half groove after a poor start, much like they did last year?

3:30 p.m.

Boston College at Wake Forest, ESPN3, #BCvsWAKE: John Wolford is good to go for Wake after leaving last week's 30-7 home loss to Syracuse. He'll face a BC team that gave Clemson all it could handle last week before falling just short. Still, the 4-3 Eagles are on the brink of back-to-back bowl games under Steve Addazio in his first two years, and their rushing game (No. 9 nationally) should be a handful for a Demon Deacons defense that has been stout this season.

Georgia Tech at Pitt, ESPNU, #GTvsPITT: Is it panic time in Atlanta? A 5-0 start has been met with consecutive losses, including a 48-43 defeat last week at North Carolina in which the defense simply could not make a stop late. Pitt hopes it turned the corner last Thursday in its win over Virginia Tech, but it needs more diversity on the offensive side of the ball, which has been too reliant on James Conner and Tyler Boyd. Its defense does not have Aaron Donald and his dominant performance last year against the Yellow Jackets, but it has been playing well so far this season, ranking 14th nationally in scoring average (18.6).

7 p.m.

Syracuse at No. 21 Clemson, ESPNU, #CUSEvsCLEM: Scott Shafer and Dabo Swinney have made up after last year's Tigers rout in the Carrier Dome. Both teams are in their second straight week with their current signal-caller, as freshman AJ Long led the Orange past Wake Forest in their first career start and Cole Stoudt returned as Clemson's starter in its win at BC. Will the Orange's offensive line give Long a chance against the Tigers' stout front? This game ends a brutal stretch for the Orange, who faced Notre Dame, Louisville and Florida State before Wake last week.

ACC's lunchtime links

February, 25, 2014
Feb 25
12:00
PM ET
There is no offseason ...

ACC and the NFL combine

February, 11, 2014
Feb 11
4:00
PM ET
The NFL draft combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis will be held from Feb. 19-25 and will feature workouts, medical examinations, psychological testing and interviews for the 335 invited prospects. The ACC has a total of 46 players who will participate, including at least one player from every school (we included Maryland and not Louisville in this post, because it is from the 2013 season). National champion Florida State led the league with eight players heading to the combine, but UNC was right behind with seven. Don't cry ... you're gonna miss some of these names next year. Good luck to these guys.

Here is the official list of the ACC attendees:

BOSTON COLLEGE (5)
CLEMSON (4)
DUKE (1)
FLORIDA STATE (8)
GEORGIA TECH (2)
MARYLAND (1)
MIAMI (5)
NORTH CAROLINA (7)
NC STATE (1)
PITTSBURGH (3)
SYRACUSE (2)
VIRGINIA (2)
VIRGINIA TECH (4)
WAKE FOREST (1)
Some are can't-miss prospects, such as Jameis Winston. The Florida State quarterback was ESPN's No. 1 QB in the Class of 2012, won the Heisman Trophy in his first season as the Seminoles' starter and added a national championship to cap his redshirt freshman year.

Others are not so easy to find.

Andre Williams, who finished three spots behind Winston in the 2013 Heisman Trophy voting, was a two-star prospect in the Class of 2010. All the Boston College running back did this past fall was tally the fifth-highest rushing total in FBS history (2,177 yards).

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston, Andre Williams
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty ImagesAndre Williams and Jameis Winston came from opposite ends of the recruiting spectrum.
With national signing day coming Wednesday, we figured this is a good time to revisit where our All-ACC players stood when they signed with their schools. The results, as usual, offer some surprises.

Just one ESPN.com All-ACC player from this past season entered college as a five-star prospect. Williams was one of two two-star prospects. There were 11 four-star prospects and eight three-star prospects. Two players, both of whom are from the high school Class of 2009, don't have star ratings, as ESPN didn't start using star ratings until 2010. Kickers and punters have no ratings, rankings or grades.

(All rankings and information are from ESPN's Recruiting Nation.)

Offense

  • QB Jameis Winston, Florida State via Hueytown (Ala.) High: Four stars, No. 14 overall prospect, Class of 2012. Scout grade: 84
  • RB: Andre Williams, Boston College via Allentown (Pa.) Parkland High: Two stars, No. 152 RB, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 73
  • RB: Devonta Freeman, Florida State via Miami Central High: Four stars, No. 15 RB, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 80
  • WR: Sammy Watkins, Clemson via South Fort Myers (Fla.) High: Four stars, No. 39 overall prospect, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 82
  • WR: Rashad Greene, Florida State via Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Saint Thomas Aquinas High: Four stars, No. 125 overall prospect, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 80
  • WR: Jamison Crowder, Duke via Monroe (N.C.) High: Three stars, No. 65 WR, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 78
  • TE: Eric Ebron, North Carolina via Greensboro (N.C.) Smith High: Four stars, No. 8 TE, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 80
  • T: Cameron Erving, Florida State via Colquitt County (Ga.) High: Three stars, No. 83 DT, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 76
  • T: Brandon Thomas, Clemson via Dorman (S.C.) High: No. 60 OG, Class of 2009. Scout grade: 76*
  • G: Laken Tomlinson, Duke via Chicago Lane Tech High: Three stars, No. 65 OG, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 75
  • G: Tre’ Jackson, Florida State via Wayne County (Ga.) High: Three stars, No. 50 DT, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 78
  • C: Bryan Stork, Florida State via Vero Beach (Fla.) High: No. 45 TE, Class of 2009. Scout grade: 76*
Defense

  • DE: Vic Beasley, Clemson via Adairsville (Ga.) High: Four stars, No. 19 ATH, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 80
  • DE: Kareem Martin, North Carolina via Roanoke Rapids (N.C.) High: Three stars, No. 59 DE, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 80
  • DT: Aaron Donald, Pitt via Pittsburgh Penn Hills High: Four stars, No. 22 DT, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 79
  • DT: Timmy Jernigan, Florida State via Lake City (Fla.) Columbia High: Four stars, No. 17 overall prospect, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 84
  • LB: Telvin Smith, Florida State via Valdosta (Ga.) Lowndes High: Four stars, No. 107 overall prospect, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 81
  • LB: Kelby Brown, Duke via Charlotte (N.C.) Christian High: Three stars, No. 88 OLB, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 75
  • LB: Kevin Pierre-Louis, Boston College via Stamford (Conn.) The King & Low Heywood Thomas School: Four stars, No. 20 OLB, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 79
  • CB: Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State via Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Saint Thomas Aquinas High: Five stars, No. 6 overall prospect, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 87
  • CB: Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech via Baltimore Mount St. Joseph High: Three stars, No. 43 CB, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 77
  • S: Terrence Brooks, Florida State via Dunnellon (Fla.) High: Three stars, No. 21 CB, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 70
  • S: Anthony Harris, Virginia via Cheesterfield (Va.) Lloyd C. Bird High: Two stars, No. 203 ATH, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 72
Special Teams

  • K: Nate Freese, Boston College via Strongsville (Ohio) High: Class of 2009
  • P: Pat O’Donnell, Miami via Palm Beach (Fla.) Central High: Class of 2009
  • SP: Ryan Switzer, North Carolina via Charleston (W.Va.) George Washington High: Four stars, No. 59 WR, Class of 2013. Scout grade: 80
No. 14 Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina

Previous ranking: No. 19

Making the case for Martin: He was able to get off blocks to make plays behind the line of scrimmage, often in spite of facing double teams. He got after quarterbacks and made game-changing plays, such as the sack in the end zone for a safety in the Belk Bowl victory over Cincinnati. Martin was a first-team All-ACC selection after finishing the regular season with 78 tackles, 20.0 tackles for loss, 11.0 sacks, 14 quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

One of his best games came in the victory over Pitt, when Martin finished with eight tackles (six solo), 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Against Miami, Martin had four tackles for loss and a sack, two quarterback hurries and eight total tackles. He was a disruptive interior pass rusher and participated in the 2014 Reese's Senior Bowl, finishing with four tackles (1.5 for loss) for the North team. He is ranked No. 7 at his position by ESPN’s Scouts Inc.

The countdown
The ACC's three quarterbacks struggled to get their North squad on the board Saturday, throwing three total interceptions in a 20-10 loss in the Senior Bowl.

[+] EnlargeStephen Morris
AP Photo/Chris O'MearaMiami QB Stephen Morris completed 10 of 18 passes for 89 yards and two picks at the Senior Bowl.
Clemson's Tajh Boyd, Miami's Stephen Morris and Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas combined to go 21 of 39 for 137 yards with no touchdowns. Thomas, who impressed all week down in Mobile, Ala., with his arm strength, threw just five passes, completing four. He was sacked five times for a total loss of 39 yards.

"I don't think I had much time to do anything with it," Thomas said, according to the Associated Press.

The other two quarterbacks managed to stay on their feet but accounted for the trio of turnovers.

Morris completed 10 of 18 passes for 89 yards with two picks. Boyd went 7 of 16 for 31 yards with one interception, adding two rushes for eight yards.

“Just talking to the linemen, they said these guys are kind of quick coming off the ball," Boyd said, according to the AP. "You've got to go out there and try to help those guys out."

One notable bright spot offensively for the ACC was the play of Michael Campanaro, who caught two passes for 11 yards for the North and returned three punts for 24 yards. The former Wake Forest receiver saw his first game action since Nov. 2, when he suffered a broken collarbone in a loss at Syracuse.

The ACC's biggest victory came two days earlier, when on Thursday night Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald added one more line to his résumé, as he was named most outstanding player for the week of practice.

"Donald is a very explosive defensive tackle," Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons and North team coach, said in a statement. "I've been very impressed with him. He's short in stature by NFL standards and doesn't maybe have all the measurables, but he's one of the more explosive guys we have on the North squad. He's done a very nice job both in the running and the pass game."

Below are ACC player statistics from Saturday. Scouts Inc. lauds a number of ACC players from the week of practice in its superlative post here.


QUARTERBACKS
Stephen Morris, Miami: 10 of 18, 89 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 0 sacks
Tajh Boyd, Clemson: 7 of 16, 31 yards, 0 TDs, INT, 0 sacks, 2 rush, 8 yards
Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech: 4 of 5, 17 yards, 5 sacks (39 yards)

WIDE RECEIVERS
Michael Campanaro, Wake Forest: 2 catches, 11 yards, 3 punt returns for 24 yards

DEFENSE
Christian Jones, LB, Florida State: 6 tackles
Telvin Smith, LB, Florida State: 5 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss
Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina: 4 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss
Dontae Johnson, DB, NC State: 2 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, 1 breakup
Terrence Brooks, S, Florida State: 2 tackles
Jeremiah Attaochu, LB, Georgia Tech: 1 tackle
Jemea Thomas, S, Georgia Tech: 1 tackle

ACC players in the Senior Bowl

January, 21, 2014
Jan 21
10:30
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Senior Bowl practices are underway this week, and wouldn't you know it -- scouts have their eyes on the quarterbacks.

That means Stephen Morris, Logan Thomas and Tajh Boyd are firmly in the spotlight this week among featured ACC players participating in the college all-star game, a critical first step in evaluations for the NFL draft in May. Scouts Inc. lists Thomas as the highest rated quarterback among the three and broke down what each has to accomplish this week.

For Thomas: The need to "thrive with an even playing field."

For Morris: More consistency with footwork and ball placement as a passer.

For Boyd: "Show improvement throughout the week with pro-style progressions and anticipation as a pocket passer."

Scouts Inc. also lists Miami offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson and Virginia offensive tackle Morgan Moses as having the most to prove.

Here is a look at all the ACC players participating in the Senior Bowl, with the game set for Saturday. Boston College running back Andre Williams was invited but pulled out so he can continue to rehab his injured shoulder.

Season wrap: North Carolina

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
7:30
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The turning point in North Carolina’s season was actually a loss, the fourth straight for the Tar Heels. Reeling after a 1-4 start, UNC finally appeared to find its footing, leading No. 10 Miami nearly the entire game before a Dallas Crawford TD run with 16 seconds remaining completed a Hurricanes comeback.

It might’ve been the final dagger in a lost season for North Carolina. Instead, it was a building block. Freshman T.J. Logan got his first real taste of playing time, and he racked up 79 yards on 18 touches. Marquise Williams rotated in at quarterback and showed flashes of the potential that would carry UNC down the stretch. Eric Ebron had a career night, hauling in eight catches for 199 yards. By the next week, everything was starting to click.

North Carolina won five straight -- and six of its final seven -- following the Miami game, salvaging its season, making it to a bowl game and ending on a high note. More importantly, the Tar Heels identified a bevy of talented youngsters -- Logan and All-American Ryan Switzer chief among them -- that provide ample optimism for 2014.

Offensive MVP: Eric Ebron. He was arguably the best all-around tight end in the nation in 2013, leading UNC in catches (62) and yards (973). He was first-team All-ACC and a Mackey Award finalist, and he set the school record for single-season and career catches and receiving yards by a tight end. UNC’s most reliable receiving threat, 42 of Ebron’s catches went for first downs, the most by any tight end in the ACC, and eighth most overall.

Defensive MVP: Kareem Martin. It was a dismal start to the year for North Carolina’s defense, but Martin was a consistent star. He finished the season with 82 tackles -- third on the team -- while racking up 21.5 tackles for loss (fifth nationally) and 11.5 sacks (eighth nationally). Martin was the Walter Camp player of the week after dominating Pitt on Nov. 16 to get UNC back to .500, racking up eight tackles, 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.

Best moment: Finishing strong in the Belk Bowl. It was a perfect finale for 2013 for North Carolina. Playing in nearby Charlotte, the Heels dominated Cincinnati in every phase of the game. Williams was reliable and, at times, exceptional, assuring UNC is in good shape at quarterback heading into 2014. The defense was sturdy, led by Martin’s sack of Brendon Kay in the end zone for a safety. The special teams were crucial, with Switzer returning his fifth punt of the season for a touchdown. By the time the 39-17 win was over, that 1-5 start to the season was nothing but a distant memory.

Worst moment: UNC's blowout loss to East Carolina. The season-opening defeat at South Carolina wasn’t encouraging, but at least it was forgivable. The 28-20 loss to Georgia Tech in Week 4 was concerning. But the blowout loss to ECU -- 55-31 in a game that was never close -- turned those concerns into an all-out catastrophe at North Carolina. The defense was in shambles (ECU racked up 603 yards) and the offense looked out of sync, with Bryn Renner being asked to do it all. It was a low point for UNC, but to the Heels’ credit, it was a loss they didn’t allow to define their season.

The Belk Bowl unfolded quickly as North Carolina jumped out to an early lead over Cincinnati and never looked back Saturday, running away with a 39-17 win. Here's how it all happened:

It was over when: Can a game be over almost as soon as it begins? North Carolina started off as strong as conceivably possible, scoring the game's first touchdown on a 2-yard run from Romar Morris with 5 minutes, 40 seconds left in the first quarter. Just three minutes later, the Tar Heels delivered what proved to be a debilitating series of jabs as Kareem Martin got the sack-safety and T.J. Logan followed that up by taking the ensuing kickoff 78 yards for a score, resulting in a 9-point swing. Cincinnati showed some life in the second half, but the 16-point deficit was ultimately too much to overcome.

Game ball goes to: Even without Blake Anderson calling plays, North Carolina didn't miss a beat. Marquise Williams executed the offense in perfect tandem with head coach Larry Fedora, who subbed in while his former offensive coordinator was off starting his own head-coaching career at Arkansas State. Williams, a talented sophomore, spread the ball around in the air, completing passes to seven different receivers while rushing for 46 yards. He finished the game with 171 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions on 19-of-33 passing.

Unsung hero: Make no mistake, North Carolina won the Belk Bowl in the trenches. A tip of the cap should go to both the offensive and defensive lines. The Tar Heels wouldn't have jumped out to such a big lead without the defense providing four sacks and three three-and-outs in the first half. Cincinnati's line entered the game having allowed 12 sacks all season, but UNC wound up with five on the day. UNC's offensive line, meanwhile, allowed for a balanced offensive attack, with 171 yards through the air and 174 yards on the ground.

Stat of the game: North Carolina got the monkey off its back by finally not rejecting some good old-fashioned home cooking. The Tar Heels won a bowl game in their home state for the first time after losing the three previous bowl games they played in Charlotte. Ryan Switzer, meanwhile, managed to tie an NCAA record by returning his fifth punt for a touchdown this season. Where many would have called for a fair catch in the third quarter against the Bearcats, Switzer hung in, caught the ball with a number of defenders in the vicinity and weaved upfield 85 yards for the score.

What North Carolina learned: Fedora taught his Tar Heels that it's not how you start but how you finish. Ending the season with six wins in seven games was impressive. Getting above .500 after starting off the year 1-5 was incredible. The hope for North Carolina is that the momentum coming out of the Belk Bowl will carry over into next season and such a furious surge won't be necessary to reach the postseason again. With Williams, freshman tailback Logan, freshman receiver Switzer and sophomore receivers T.J. Thorpe and Quinshad Davis all returning to Chapel Hill, the future is bright.

What Cincinnati learned: The Bearcats, on the other hand, end the season on a sour note. The momentum of winning six straight games late in the year was almost entirely wiped out after losing in overtime against Louisville on Dec. 5 and then getting blown out by North Carolina on Saturday. Next season will be tough for head coach Tommy Tuberville, as he will be without senior quarterback Brendon Kay and the quarterback of the defense in senior linebacker Greg Blair. But with the much-traveled redshirt freshman transfer quarterback Gunner Kiel entering the fold, there's reason for optimism. The former No. 3-ranked quarterback in the 2012 class has all the tools to do well in the Bearcats' spread offense.

To watch the trophy presentation of the Belk Bowl, click here.

ESPN.com's All-ACC team

December, 16, 2013
12/16/13
9:00
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Florida State’s undefeated season is reflected in the Seminoles’ 10 all-conference selections by ESPN.com. Quarterback Jameis Winston was the highlight of the group, along with Boston College running back Andre Williams, who was also a Heisman candidate this year. This list differs just slightly from the choices of the coaches and writers, with the toughest decisions coming on defense.

Offense
Defense
Special Teams

Florida State headlines All-ACC team

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
3:28
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Florida State led all schools with seven players on the All-ACC first team, including quarterback Jameis Winston, running back Devonta Freeman and cornerback Lamarcus Joyner.

In all, the Seminoles had 17 players chosen to the first, second and third teams as voted on by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association and announced Monday. Eleven players were selected from Coastal Division champion Duke, including four on the first team.

Boston College back Andre Williams, who leads the nation and set an ACC single-season record with 2,102 yards rushing, was the only unanimous selection to the All-ACC team. Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins received 63 votes, while Winston received 61. Duke receiver Jamison Crowder, who leads the ACC in receptions with 88 and has returned two punts for touchdowns this season, was the only player selected at multiple positions. Crowder was voted to the first team at receiver made the second team as a specialist.

First team

Offense

QB – Jameis Winston, Florida State

RB – Andre Williams, Boston College

RB – Devonta Freeman, Florida State

WR – Sammy Watkins, Clemson

WR - Jamison Crowder, Duke

WR – Rashad Greene, Florida State

TE - Eric Ebron, North Carolina

T- Cameron Erving, Florida State

T- James Hurst, North Carolina

G- Tre’ Jackson, Florida State

G-Shaq Mason, Georgia Tech

C- Bryan Stork, Florida State

Defense

DE - Vic Beasley, Clemson

DE - Kareem Martin, North Carolina

DT - Aaron Donald, Pitt

DT – Nikita Whitlock, Wake Forest

LB - Kelby Brown, Duke

LB – Denzel Perryman, Miami

LB – Kevin Pierre-Louis, Boston College

CB – Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State

CB – Ross Cockrell, Duke

S – Anthony Harris, Virginia

S – Jeremy Cash, Duke

Special Teams

PK - Nate Freese, Boston College

P - Pat O’Donnell, Miami

SP - Ryan Switzer, North Carolina

Q&A: North Carolina DE Kareem Martin

November, 1, 2013
11/01/13
2:00
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As he approaches what is possibly the final month of his North Carolina career, Kareem Martin is not thinking about his long-term future. The defensive end is focused on extending his season with the Tar Heels. He hopes to build off his two-sack performance from last Saturday's victory over Boston College and help UNC make a late run to a bowl game, something the Tar Heels were unable to do last year.

ESPN.com caught up with Martin this week to chat about his season as the 2-5 Tar Heels get ready to head to rival NC State.

Obviously it wasn't the easiest month for you guys going into this past weekend against Boston College, but to see everything come together and channel all of your frustrations into that game and come up away with the win you guys did, what kind of payoff was that for you guys?

Kareem Martin: It was a big payoff, because we had been working hard playing every game. To finally get the win against Boston College, it really just shows how much hard work pays off and hopefully we can take that momentum once we take the field again.

[+] EnlargeKareem Martin
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsThe North Carolina-NC State rivalry has Kareem Martin's full attention this week.
What's been working for you specifically? You've had sacks in three straight games now. Do you feel different? Are you seeing things differently?

KM: A little bit of everything. More film study and just getting back to fundamentals. During the season, a lot of times, you lose a lot of your techniques that you work on in training camp because you're not working on them as much as you were in camp. I tried to focus on that and get my technique back, just tried to get that back and just extra film study.

What's the NC State rivalry mean to you?

KM: It means a lot. Last year it was a really great feeling being able to get a win against them, and every time we play them we know they're giving their best shot; they're getting our best. No matter what's going on in that season, I feel like those games mean so much around the Triangle and around the state and that everybody wants to play on our schedule.

This is probably the most stability you've had from a staff standpoint in your time here. How much easier has that made it on you?

KM: It helps out a whole lot. I had time to learn the full defense, seeing the things I can do and the players and skills we have that comes with the staff being in its second year with the defense. I know a lot more than what I did last year and I know what freedoms and what risks I should take. Having [defensive line] coach [Keith] Gilmore come in this year, he's really just developing my game and teaching different things to elevate my game.

I know fans and media can look ahead at the schedule and see things maybe start to open up for you guys. It was a very front-loaded schedule. From your perspective, how do you approach this final month? You obviously want to go bowling and have a thin margin of error, but do you look ahead at the opponents and say, If we can win four of these next five or whatever it may be, we're going to be where we want to be at the end of the year?

KM: You can't look ahead. Once you start looking ahead, that's when the team that week can beat you. What we talk about is being 1-0 every week, and our focus is going against NC State. By doing that, playing the game that's on our schedule, it'll keep guys focused and not looking at: 'Who do we play two weeks from now? That looks like a game we can win.' But once you focus on this one game, that's when everything else will fall into place.

Has it kind of dawned on you yet that these are going to be your final games in a North Carolina uniform? What are your overall thoughts as you see your name pop up on all these different draft boards and what not?

KM: Yeah, I'm definitely starting to feel it. Luckily the back-half of our schedule has a lot of home games, so we're coming back here and playing at home a lot, so that's definitely a positive. And hopefully we'll get a bowl game and a great season so I can end my UNC career here on a positive note. As far as the draft boards and things like that, I can't look ahead to that because that's not the goal right now. The goal is to win every week and continue to perform, and if I continue the way I have been, everything will fall into place.
North Carolina has started the season 1-3, a huge surprise considering many expected this team to compete for the Coastal crown. So that has gotten us to wonder, what has been the bigger disappointment at UNC this season -- the offense or the defense?

Heather Dinich says: Deee-fense

We knew North Carolina’s offense would go through a bit of a transition. It was na´ve to think otherwise. With the losses of standout running back Giovani Bernard and his lead blocker Jonathan Cooper to the NFL, it was all but inevitable there would be some growing pains.

[+] EnlargeLarry Fedora
AP Photo/Gerry BroomeAdd UNC coach Larry Fedora to the list of coaches not pleased with the proposed rule change aimed at slowing down offenses.
What’s the defense’s excuse?

Andrea will argue that UNC’s offense has been the bigger disappointment, but Bryn Renner & Co. didn’t allow East Carolina 603 total yards -- the second-highest total ever allowed by UNC at home. Saturday’s 55-31 loss to the Pirates was embarrassing, but hey, at least Renner found a way to throw three touchdown passes. You’d think that on a day when your quarterback throws for a career-high 366 yards and three touchdowns it would be enough to win the game.

Unless, of course, the quarterback is playing with the UNC D.

The Tar Heels allowed ECU 36 first downs. The Pirates ran 101 plays -- the most plays by an opponent against UNC. Ever. Vintavious Cooper ran for a career-high 186 yards. He may as well have been running on a treadmill for how much was in his way. How far the defense has fallen in a year, since last season when UNC held ECU quarterback Shane Carden without a touchdown in a 27-6 win.

On Saturday, North Carolina couldn’t stop the run. It lost the battle up front. There were missed tackles all over the field. And it was hardly the first porous performance.

For four straight games, North Carolina has allowed a 100-yard rusher and at least 400 total yards. Had David Sims eeked out one more yard for Georgia Tech, UNC would have allowed the Yellow Jackets two 100-yard rushers. It was a critical Coastal Division game UNC could have won, had it not squandered first-half leads of 13-0 and 20-7.

This is a secondary that returned all four starters from a group that ranked No. 20 in the country last year with 16 interceptions. Senior defensive end Kareem Martin was among the ACC’s leaders in tackles for loss last year.

Hasn’t mattered one bit.

UNC enters Saturday’s game at Virginia Tech ranked No. 105 in the country in total defense, No. 112 in rushing defense, No. 108 in third-down conversion defense, No. 103 in first-down defense, and tied for No. 93 in scoring defense. These guys could make the Hokies’ pedestrian offense look like one of the best in the ACC.

There’s certainly plenty of blame to go around in Chapel Hill, on both sides of the ball, but the math is simple: If your offense can only score 25.3 points per game, the defense can’t allow 32.5.

Andrea Adelson says: _ffense

The easy answer for the biggest disappointment at North Carolina is the defense. But that cannot be true, not when this was a mediocre group a season ago that nobody anticipated would become elite in just a year.

No, the biggest disappointment has to be the offense, which ranks among the worst in the ACC. Yes, we knew it would be a struggle without Bernard and three new starters on the offensive line. But North Carolina returned a veteran quarterback in Renner, the best tight end in the league in Eric Ebron and talented young receivers. Surely, that would be enough to get North Carolina through as it worked on its run game.

But alas, we have come to see just how valuable Bernard was to this team a year ago. North Carolina has gone from having the No. 1 rusher in the league to the worst rushing offense in the ACC, averaging just about 100 yards on the ground per game. That, in turn, has caused one of the biggest offensive downfalls in the entire nation. North Carolina has tumbled from No. 14 in total offense to No. 75, averaging just 397 yards per game. Only West Virginia and Louisiana Tech have had steeper drops.

North Carolina only has one game with 500 yards total offense this year. Last year, it had four. The two games North Carolina has failed to reach 400 yards under coach Larry Fedora came this season, too, against South Carolina and Georgia Tech.

The failures we have seen from this offense have put Fedora into uncharted territory. Fedora has found success everywhere he has been with his version of the spread, hurry-up offense. He has simply plugged new players into starting roles and chugged along from there.

In his first season at Southern Miss, the offense broke 36 school records. His offense gained over 5,000 yards of offense all four years he was there, including a record 6,459 yards in his final year, 2011. Then last year, he came into North Carolina and the Tar Heels set more than 35 team and individual marks, including total points, points per game and total offense.

Throughout his career, Fedora has achieved these numbers with balance. In every previous season as a head coach, his teams averaged at least 181 yards rushing per game. Without that balance this year, though, North Carolina is on pace to total less than 5,000 total yards of offense for the first time in Fedora’s career as a head coach.

Fedora has built his reputation on offense. But his offense is simply doing him no favors this year.
No. 1. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

Previous ranking: No. 1

Making the case for Boyd: The fact that he is at the top of the list two years in a row shows that Boyd is indeed the face of the ACC and its best hope at a Heisman Trophy. There’s no question Boyd is a contender -- he was in the conversation last season. The question now is whether or not his team will be good enough to help him actually win it. Individually, Boyd has already proven to be good enough. In 2012, he was named the ACC’s Player of the Year and the league’s Offensive Player of the Year by both the coaches and the media.

Boyd’s leadership alone has been invaluable to the team, as the Tigers continue their hunt for another ACC title and run at the national championship. Boyd has established himself as one of the best in school history, as he ranks first at Clemson in passing touchdowns, first in passing efficiency and first in touchdowns he’s responsible for. Over his career, which includes a 21-6 record as the starter, Boyd has completed 62.5 percent of his passes and has thrown for 8,053 yards and 73 touchdowns against 28 interceptions. He put up remarkable numbers last season with an ACC-record 36 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. He also had 514 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns and was responsible for an ACC-record 46 touchdowns. He has helped transform the perception of Clemson from pretender to contender, and he came back for his senior season to do it again.

The countdown

ACC's lunchtime links

August, 26, 2013
8/26/13
12:00
PM ET
Game face is already on.

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