ACC: Marc Verica

ACC's lunchtime links

August, 2, 2011
We talkin' bout practice. Not a game, not a game, not a game. We talkin' bout practice.
The "spring shoes to fill" series looked at the most difficult player to replace in each program. Five of them were quarterbacks, four linemen, two receivers and one linebacker.

Boston College: Anthony Castonzo
Clemson: Da'Quan Bowers
Duke: Abraham Kromah
Florida State: Rodney Hudson
Georgia Tech: Joshua Nesbitt
Maryland: Torrey Smith
Miami: Leonard Hankerson
North Carolina: T.J. Yates
NC State: Russell Wilson
Virginia: Marc Verica
Virginia Tech: Tyrod Taylor
Wake Forest: Russell Nenon

Hudson was the most decorated offensive lineman in ACC history. Taylor was the winningest quarterback in school history. Nesbitt was the most prolific rushing quarterback in league history. Bowers was honored as the nation's top defensive player. Almost all of them were record-setters. The ACC lost some tremendous talent from 2010 rosters.

Of these 12 players, I took the liberty of narrowing the list down to five choices for the most difficult player to replace in the ACC.

Virginia spring wrap

May, 5, 2011
2010 overall record: 4-8

2010 conference record: 1-7

Returning starters

Offense: 8, defense: 9, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners

WR Kris Burd, OT Morgan Moses, G Austin Pasztor, TB Perry Jones, DT Matt Conrath, DT Nick Jenkins, DE Cam Johnson, CB Chase Minnifield, SS Rodney McLeod, LB Steve Greer

Key losses

WR Dontrelle Inman, QB Marc Verica, DE Zane Parr, RB Keith Payne, LB Darnell Carter

2010 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Payne (749 yards)

Passing: Verica (2,799 yds)

Receiving: Burd* (799 yds)

Tackles: LaRoy Reynolds* (66)

Sacks: Cam Johnson* (6.5)

Interceptions: Minnifield* (6)

Spring answers

1. Good move for Gooch. Miles Gooch made the move from quarterback to receiver this spring, and because of the numerous injuries to the wideouts, he got significant reps. Whether that translates into game snaps remains to be seen, but with a crowded competition at quarterback, his odds are better at receiver.

2. No move for Mathis. Jeremiah Mathis moved from defensive end to tight end last year, and he stayed there this spring. Coach Mike London has said Mathis has a huge upside on the offensive side of the ball. Mathis caught three passes in 10 games last year, but that number could increase this fall with the departure of Joe Torchia.

3. Another step forward on defense. With nine starters returning in the second season in the 4-3 scheme, the Cavaliers showed improvement this spring. London said the defense is well ahead of where it was this time a year ago because of the transition and coaching change.

Fall questions

1. Who’s the quarterback? Michael Rocco, Ross Metheny, Michael Strauss and true freshman David Watford will continue their competition in summer camp, as none of them separated themselves this spring. While it’s limited, Metheny and Rocco have the most experience, but that hasn’t guaranteed them anything, according to London.

2. Who will compensate for the loss of production with the departure of Keith Payne? Perry Jones, Kevin Parks and Khalek Shepherd will likely share the carries, but the latter two are redshirt freshmen with no game experience. Jones ran for 646 yards last year.

3. Roster cuts. London needs to trim the roster to meet the NCAA’s 85-scholarship limit, and he has not determined how he plans to do that yet. If Devin Wallace does not return from his suspension, that will make one less -- and one less starter on defense. London has not yet released a number on how many fifth-year seniors will be invited back. Different scenarios could transpire in the next few months to get this question answered, as some players might not qualify and will have to attend prep school.

Spring shoes to fill: Virginia

April, 25, 2011

Biggest shoes to fill: Quarterback Marc Verica

The Cavaliers will miss Keith Payne, but he shared time at running back, while Verica touched the ball on every offensive play and was more of a leader to the offense. Verica finished his career sixth on the school’s career passing list with 4,992 career yards. He passed for a career-high 2,799 yards and 14 touchdowns last year and ranked fourth in the ACC in passing yards, fifth in total offense and sixth in pass efficiency.

Spring replacement:With no separation occurring among the four quarterback candidates this spring, Verica so far hasn’t been replaced. Virginia released its latest depth chart and not surprising there is no answer at quarterback, where the starter could be Ross Metheny, Michael Rocco, Michael Strauss or David Watford.

Summer outlook: The competition will continue this summer, but coach Mike London has said the time between now and summer camp will help separate the quarterbacks because he wants to see who best takes on the leadership role of organizing the voluntary workouts, who spends the most time in the film room, and who makes the best use of the time before official practices begin again.

More in this series:

Spring preview: Coastal Division

February, 15, 2011
We've already looked at who and what to watch in the Atlantic Division this spring. Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program in the Coastal Division:


Spring practice starts: Feb. 16

Spring game: March 26

What to watch:
  • Jim Knowles taking over as defensive coordinator. After coaching the safeties last season, Knowles was promoted in late January following the departure of Marion Hobby to coach Clemson’s defensive line. It’s not a complete overhaul on defense, but for the third time in as many seasons, a different person will be calling the plays. Knowles has also assumed the lead role with Duke’s practice scheduling and weekly preparation.
  • New faces at linebacker. Duke graduated its leading tackler from 2010, Abraham Kromah, and freshman All-American Kelby Brown is out while recovering from knee surgery. Those two slots will be wide open this spring and the competition will be among Austin Gamble, C.J. France, Tyree Glover and Kevin Rojas.
  • Offensive line shuffling. The Blue Devils return four starters up front, but they’ll be missing the glue of the line in Bryan Morgan, who graduated. Brian Moore, who has started the past two seasons at right guard, will make the transition to center. John Coleman and Laken Tomlinson are expected to compete for the right guard spot.

Spring practice starts: March 28 (tentative)

Spring game: April 23

What to watch:
  • Starting quarterback competition. Tevin Washington enters the spring at No. 1 on the depth chart, and it's his job to lose, as he has the most experience after taking over for injured starter Joshua Nesbitt in 2010. Synjyn Days will give him legitimate competition this spring, though, and it will increase this summer with the addition of standout recruit Vad Lee to the roster. For now, though, it’s between Washington and Days, as David Sims is expected to move to B-back.
  • Offensive line reshuffling. Georgia Tech will have to replace three starters in all-conference center Sean Bedford, right tackle Austin Barrick and left tackle Nick Claytor, who decided to leave early for the NFL draft. Phil Smith, Barrick’s backup last year, is the only one with any experience at tackle. The staff will likely have to move a player or two from guard to tackle, and only it knows who those candidates might be right now.
  • Revamped secondary. Jerrard Tarrant's decision to leave school early and enter the NFL draft left the Jackets without any returning starters in the secondary. Junior cornerback Rod Sweeting, sophomore cornerback Louis Young, redshirt freshman cornerback Ryan Ayers and sophomore safety Fred Holton are front-runners, but they all have a lot to prove this spring. Holton and Young played sparingly as true freshmen and combined for 21 tackles. Sweeting played in all 13 games and had one fumble recovery and eight passes defended, including one interception. Senior cornerback Michael Peterson may help, and safety Jemea Thomas played as a true freshman in 2009 but redshirted last year. There’s some talent, but the inexperience makes it a question mark.

Spring practice starts: March 5

Spring game: April 9 or 16

What to watch:
  • New staff, new schemes. Defensively, first-year coordinator Mark D’Onofrio will work with two other assistants who were with him and first-year coach Al Golden at Temple, so there is familiarity there. Linebackers coach Michael Barrow has to learn D’Onofrio’s system, but the players tend to pick it up faster if the majority of the staff is already acclimated to it. Offensively, everyone will be working together for the first time. Jedd Fisch wants to run a pure pro-style offense based on matchups, and the good news is that several of the assistants, because of their respective backgrounds, are already schooled in at least a version of it.
  • Quarterback battle. Golden has said he would like to name a starter by the end of the spring, making these practices critical auditions for both Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris. Harris has both flourished and flopped as a starter for the Canes, and his injury last year gave Morris the opportunity he needed to win the people’s choice award. Has a new era of quarterback begun, or will Harris finally have the breakout season Miami fans have waited for in his final year as a Cane?
  • Corner competition. Following the departures of Ryan Hill, DeMarcus Van Dyke and Brandon Harris, Brandon McGee is the only corner remaining on the roster with any significant experience. He played in 11 games, started one, and had 15 tackles. Redshirt freshman Devont’a Davis, sophomore Kacey Rodgers, and redshirt sophomore Jamal Reid will also compete for playing time. There are also several incoming freshmen who could be immediate contributors.

Spring practice starts: March 16

Spring game: April 9

What to watch:
  • The rookie quarterbacks. There’s no guarantee that Bryn Renner will be the Tar Heels’ starter in 2011, but he enters the spring slightly ahead of the race, as he was No. 2 on the depth chart last season and was pushing T.J. Yates for the starting job at this time a year ago. The staff would also like to see what true freshman Marquise Williams, who enrolled in January, has to offer. Braden Hanson and A.J. Blue will also compete for playing time. Blue was injured two years ago and redshirted last season.
  • Running backs race. The Tar Heels graduated three key players from 2010: Johnny White, Anthony Elzy and Shaun Draughn. Ryan Houston is back for his fifth year after redshirting last year and is the most experienced of the returnees. Giovani Bernard was a true freshman last year and had been expected to get some playing time, but he tore his ACL on the third day of training camp. It’s not clear yet how much he’ll be able to participate this spring. Hunter Furr played sparingly last year and true freshman Travis Riley, who enrolled in January, are also in the mix.
  • Another strong defensive line. If Quinton Coples was an all-conference selection as a defensive tackle, he could be scary good at his natural position, defensive end. Coples played there as a freshman and sophomore, but switched to tackle out of necessity last season. The defensive line should once again be the strength of the team, but it will be reconfigured again, as Coples’ move will leave a defensive tackle spot up for grabs. Junior college transfer Sylvester Williams, who enrolled in January, could fill that role.

Spring practice starts: March 16

Spring game: April 2

What to watch:
  • The search for a new starting quarterback. With Marc Verica graduated, the lead contenders to replace him are the ones who saw the field last year -- Michael Rocco and Ross Metheny. Neither of them started, but Rocco played in six games and Metheny five. Nobody has thrown the ball more than Rocco’s 25 times. The staff will also look at Michael Strauss, who redshirted last year, Miles Gooch, and David Watford, who enrolled in January.
  • Competition at running back. With leading rusher Keith Payne graduated, the question becomes what can Kevin Parks do after redshirting last year? There’s a lot of depth at the running back position, but Parks, the No. 56 running back in his class by and national prep record-setter out of the state of North Carolina, came to Charlottesville facing high expectations. With Payne gone, this could open the door for him to meet them, but returning starter Perry Jones will also be competing for carries.
  • Development of the receivers. In January, Jared Green Tweeted that he had decided to transfer after finishing his degree in Charlottesville this spring, according to a school spokesman. His departure, coupled with the graduation of Dontrelle Inman, leaves the Cavaliers without two of their top wideouts from 2010. With Tim Smith coming off an injury, the development of other receivers will be critical -- especially with a new starting quarterback.

Spring practice starts: March 30

Spring game: April 23

What to watch:
  • Quarterback Logan Thomas. The Tyrod Taylor era is over, and Thomas is the front-runner to succeed the winningest quarterback in school history. Ju-Ju Clayton is the only other quarterback on the roster who’s ever taken a snap, and he’ll push Thomas this spring. It’s Thomas’ job to lose, but the staff is looking for him to improve his accuracy. He played quarterback in only his final two high school seasons and was projected as a tight end. He’s still raw and learning the position, but physically, he’s a clone of Cam Newton. If he develops some poise in the pocket, look out.
  • Competition on the defensive line. The Hokies have to replace starters John Graves (defensive tackle) and Steven Friday (defensive end), who both graduated. They’ve got Antoine Hopkins and Chris Drager back, but it’s possible Drager could move back to tight end after starting 10 games at defensive end last year. Tackle Kwamaine Battle, who started the first two games before he tore his ACL and Hopkins took over, is another front-runner. Hopkins’ younger brother, Derrick, will also be in the mix, along with James Gayle and J.R. Collins. Redshirt freshman defensive end Zack McCray, the cousin of Logan Thomas, has also impressed the staff so far.
  • Tight end auditions. The graduation of Andre Smith leaves the Hokies with only one returning tight end who’s caught a pass in a game, Randall Dunn (one). Redshirt freshman Eric Martin was the second tight end when the Hokies used two-tight end sets, but he missed three games mid-season with an injury.

UVA QB Marc Verica invited to inaugural all-star game

January, 11, 2011
Virginia quarterback Marc Verica has been selected to take part in the inaugural Eastham Energy College Football All-Star Game at 7:30 p.m. ET on Jan. 23 inside Sun Devil Stadium at Arizona State. The game will be televised live on Fox College Sports, including Fox Sports Arizona, Fox Sports West and Fox Prime Ticket Southwest.

Verica finished his career No. 6 all-time at UVA with 4,992 passing yards, including 2,799 passing yards in 2010. Verica’s passing mark in 2010 trails only Matt Schaub’s 2,976 yards in 2002 and his 2,952 yards in 2003 for most passing yards in a season at UVA. Verica finished his career No. 3 all-time at the school with 487 career completions and a .599 (487-of-813) career completion rate.

He also finished No. 3 all-time at Virginia with 14 career 200-yard passing games, including eight in 2010. Verica’s six-straight games with 200 or more passing yards in 2008 tied him with Schaub for a program best streak.

Players representing the six BCS conferences are participating in this inaugural event. This game will be benefiting local Arizona causes, Jared Allen's Homes for Wounded Warriors and Native American Connections.

Growing pains expected at QB in 2011

December, 16, 2010
Heading into 2010, the quarterback position was expected to be one of strength. With seven veterans -- Georgia Tech’s Joshua Nesbitt, FSU’s Christian Ponder, Miami’s Jacory Harris, NC State’s Russell Wilson, Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor, Clemson’s Kyle Parker, and UNC’s T.J. Yates, there were seven reasons to believe the ACC would be stronger this year.

It didn’t quite work out that way.

Ponder, a Heisman hopeful, was inconsistent and injured. Nesbitt was injured. Harris was injured and turnover-prone. Parker didn’t have the receivers to throw to and also underperformed.

Brace yourself, ACC fans, because it’s going to be an even bumpier ride in 2011. At least half of the conference will usher in a new starting quarterback, if not more. There will an infusion of youth. Virginia’s quarterback position is wide open after the graduation of Marc Verica. Boston College and Wake Forest will rely on two true sophomores, and they’re practically the veterans of the group. If Wilson decides to return for his senior season instead of joining the Colorado Rockies next year, there’s no question he will be the best returning quarterback in the ACC. Nobody else will come close to his experience level. If not, it’s going to be a wide-open race. Here’s a look at who is expected to return, listed by experience:

DUKE – Sean Renfree: He played in all 12 games this year and started 11 of 17 career games.

FLORIDA STATE – E.J. Manuel: He’s played in 16 career games, including four starts in 2009, when he was the Gator Bowl MVP.

MARYLAND – Danny O'Brien: He’s the ACC’s rookie of the year, and he has played in 12 games.

WAKE FOREST – Tanner Price: He’s played in 11 career games and started nine this year.

BOSTON COLLEGE – Chase Rettig: He’s played in eight games, taking over as starter in 2010.

GEORGIA TECH – Tevin Washington. He’s played in eight career games, and while he’ll head into spring ball leading the depth chart, coach Paul Johnson told me in a recent interview that doesn’t guarantee he’ll be the starter next year.

MIAMI – Jacory Harris or Stephen Morris. Morris has played in five career games and started four. If Harris gets the nod, Miami moves to the top of the list obviously for experience, but Wilson is still the better quarterback.

NC STATE – Russell Wilson or Mike Glennon. If it’s Wilson, he’s obviously at the top of the list. If it’s Glennon, he has played in 10 career games, including three this year.

VIRGINIA TECH – Logan Thomas: He played in seven games this year.

CLEMSON – Tajh Boyd: He’s played in six games, no starts.

NORTH CAROLINA – Bryn Renner: He played in three games this year.

VIRGINIAMichael Rocco (six games) and Ross Metheny (five games) both saw time this year, and Michael Strauss and Miles Gooch are also options.

ACC helmet stickers: Week 9

October, 30, 2010
Here are the ACC’s top five performers for Week 9:

Boston College running back Montel Harris: He was named the team’s MVP of the game after rushing 36 times for 142 yards in the 16-10 win over Clemson. He also caught a 36-yard touchdown pass that put BC up 13-10. It was his 18th game with at least 100 yards rushing.

Virginia: The entire team -- starting with coach Mike London -- deserves a sticker for its 24-19 upset of No. 22 Miami. London earned his first career ACC win, and has now led the team to back-to-back wins. Virginia’s secondary, which had five interceptions the entire season, doubled that in one afternoon. Chase Minnifield and Corey Mosley each had two of those takeaways, and quarterback Marc Verica completed 19-of-27 for 176 yards 1 touchdown and 1 interception. He converted two big third downs to help run clock out and secure the win.

NC State quarterback Russell Wilson: He threw the game-winning touchdown pass to tight end George Bryan with 2:40 left in a 28-24 upset of Florida State on Thursday. Wilson threw for 178 yards and a touchdown, and he ran for three more touchdowns.

Maryland quarterback Danny O’Brien: He threw a career-high four touchdown passes in the Terps’ 62-14 romp of Wake Forest. O'Brien completed 13 of 20 passes for 168 yards before taking a seat in the third quarter. He has seven touchdown passes in his past two games, leading the Terps to bowl eligibility.

Duke quarterback Sean Renfree: He completed 28 of 30 pass attempts for 314 yards and a touchdown, and ran for two more scores in the Blue Devils’ 34-31 win over Navy. It was a school record for single game completion percentage, and he equaled a school record with 16 straight completions.

Virginia takes lead on Canes

October, 30, 2010
Nothing is going as planned for Miami, which now trails Virginia, 7-0.

Miami quarterback Jacory Harris was sidelined with an injury (still waiting for official word), and the Canes then fell behind when Marc Verica completed a 16-yard touchdown pass to Colter Phillips for the lead. Virginia, which is seeking its first conference win of the season, refuses to quit under first-year coach Mike London. The Cavaliers are playing to win, and winning the turnover battle. It should be an encouraging sign for Virginia fans.

Friday conversation: Part II with Colter Phillips

October, 29, 2010
This is the second part of an interview with Virginia tight end Colter Phillips. Click here for part one.

Team-wise, how frustrating has it been for you guys going through this season, trying to get those wins?

CP: Offensively, it’s been frustrating sometimes because it’s a new offense and this is my third offense in three years. This year, in the beginning at least, it was a little frustrating learning a new offense, and having to learn everything over a third time again. There have been a lot of games where the score really hasn’t shown the true game. We’ve given up a lot of easy plays on both sides of the ball where a one-touchdown game turns into a three-touchdown game by the end of the game. It’s just frustrating sometimes to be that close and then lose it.

Do you think you guys can change that here down the stretch?

CP: Oh yeah, for sure. There are kind of some growing pains with learning a new offense and being with a new coaching staff, but I think, you know, we are ready to change what has happened here in the past and really step it up and become a big-time team in the ACC.

How far away do you think you guys are from doing that?

CP: You don’t really want to look too far ahead in the future. I just try to look ahead to the next game, but it is nice to know I have two years after this season to play. I’m confident that by the time I leave here, we’re going to be one of the best teams in the ACC.

So how did you and your brothers wind up going to different schools? Are you friends?

CP: My family is really close. My final two schools were here and Stanford. I went on all of these recruiting trips with my dad and at first I wanted to play out in California with my brother. I visited around a little bit and came to UVA and just absolutely fell in love with it. My dad liked the school and my mom but they made me visit Stanford one last time to make sure I didn’t want to play with my brother. So we did that, and I actually committed to UVA in the Palo Alto airport. That kind of made the Stanford guys a little mad. I had to go out there and check it out one last time before I came here, but I felt like each of us wanted to go through our own paths in life. Going to a different school has been good for each of us to grow up a little bit. Growing up I really relied a lot on my older brother. We played for the same coach every year, and he could tell me what to expect, and in school what classes to take. I felt like in order for me to really grow and mature both as a player and as a student I had to go to my own school and do my own thing. I feel like it has helped me to do my own thing and be my own person.

So what was it like at your house? Were you guys out there tackling each other in the backyard every night?

CP: My mom went crazy when we were all pretty young. We’re all two years apart, and my youngest brother is seven years younger than me. When it was us three growing up, it was pretty crazy in our house. Somehow we turned out all right.

How much are you talking to your brothers now?

CP: I talk to all three of them every day, whether it’s through text messages or phone calls. We check in on each other. It’s a tough time for us now still. We’re just happy that Willy is doing OK and getting better. We’re going to stick together and get through this thing together.

I was going to ask you how your little brother was doing. He’s the youngest, right?

CP: Yeah, he’s 13. He’s doing alright. I think he’s had five or six surgeries since the crash. His leg is starting to heal. He’s in a wheelchair still. But he’s hanging in there. He’s a tough little kid. I have so much respect for him. I know that it’s been especially tough for him, what he’s been through. He’s just doing his best, and trying to get better.

Wow. What an emotional year. Is there anything else you want Virginia fans to know?

CP: I don’t know if anyone out there is aware, but my man Marc Verica has been throwing out some new songs on YouTube if people want to check them out. If any Marc Verica fans are out there, they can check him out on YouTube.

ACC predictions: Week 9

October, 28, 2010
Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

Well, I finally picked a Clemson-Georgia Tech game right, but it didn’t help my winning percentage much. I struck out on the Terps’ win at BC and Miami’s win over the Heels. That added up to a 3-2 week and a grand total of 48-15 (76.1 percent). It’s not getting any easier, starting tonight with a tough pick in the ACC’s game of the week:

NC State 31, Florida State 28 (OT) -- This is the biggest game the Wolfpack have played in years, and it’s an upset in the making. The Carter-Finely crowd will make for a great atmosphere, and quarterback Russell Wilson will be the difference. Linebackers Audie Cole and Nate Irving will help slow down the running game, and FSU quarterback Christian Ponder will be forced into a costly turnover.

Navy 38, Duke 14 -- The Blue Devils won’t be able to get Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs off the field, and therefore won’t get enough possessions to get into a shootout with him. The Middies are coming off a big win over Notre Dame and have the momentum.

Clemson 28, Boston College 14 -- The Eagles’ defense won’t be the same without its best pass-rusher, defensive end Alex Albright, and the offense has been anemic all season. Andre Ellington will have another big running day and DeAndre Hopkins will continue to blossom as a receiver.

Maryland 24, Wake Forest 17 -- The Deacs have had a week to rest and prepare, but still have what is statistically one of the worst defenses in the country. Wake has won three of the past four meetings, but the difference this time around will be Maryland’s defense, especially against the run.

Miami 31, Virginia 17 -- The talent, speed and depth of the Canes will be too much for Virginia to overcome. The difference, though, is in the turnover margin, where Miami’s defense up front will force quarterback Marc Verica into another interception or two and create a short field for Jacory Harris.

North Carolina 31, William & Mary 24 -- The Tar Heels will overlook the Tribe, and it will be a closer game than necessary, but UNC will pull away in the second half thanks to a strong running game and some big plays by the defense.

Back and forth in the ACC: Weeks 8/9

October, 25, 2010
It’s time to look back on Week 8 one last time and fast-forward to Week 9:

[+] EnlargeO'Brien
AP Photo/Stephan SavoiaMaryland's Danny O'Brien threw three TD passes in a 24-21 win against Boston College.
The good: Quarterback redemption. One week after throwing three interceptions apiece, Virginia quarterback Marc Verica and Maryland quarterback Danny O’Brien guided their respective teams to victories without one interception. Even Duke quarterback Sean Renfree, who threw five picks in the loss to Miami, cut it down to only one interception against Virginia Tech. And Miami quarterback Jacory Harris only threw one interception while UNC’s T.J. Yates, who had only thrown one all season, threw two against the Canes.

The bad: Injuries. None was worse than the motor scooter accident at Maryland, which left starting offensive lineman Pete DeSouza in intensive care with two broken bones in both legs. But Boston College also lost a leader for the season when starting defensive end Alex Albright – the Eagles’ top pass rusher and a team captain – broke his fibula and will miss the rest of the season. Starting safety Wes Davis, another team captain, suffered a neck injury but has full mobility and has been released from the hospital.

The ugly: Virginia’s attendance. The Cavaliers finally got an FBS win, but Hoo cares if nobody was there to see it? The announced crowd was 36,600 – the fewest in Scott Stadium since UVA played Duke in 1997.

The broken: Streaks. Miami coach Randy Shannon was awarded the game ball after snapping his three-game losing streak to North Carolina coach Butch Davis, and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney snapped his three-game losing streak to Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson.

The unbelievable: Georgia Tech quarterback Joshua Nesbitt, who was just 44 yards shy of becoming the ACC’s most prolific rushing quarterback, was held to two rushing yards against Clemson.

The front-runners: Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor and Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers continued to make cases in the races for offensive and defensive players of the year, respectively. Taylor threw for 280 yards and three touchdowns, and Bowers had his 10th sack of the season and finished with 2.5 tackles for loss.

The Atlantic Division takes center stage in this week’s top three games:

Florida State at NC State: It’s lost some of its luster since NC State lost to East Carolina and wasn’t able to hold onto its spot in the Associated Press Top 25 for more than a week, but it should still be a great game that holds championship implications. The winner of this game should be considered the favorite to win the Atlantic Division.

Wake Forest at Maryland: The Terps can become bowl eligible with a home win on Saturday, but the Deacs have had a week off to rest and prepare and could play the role of spoiler.

Clemson at Boston College: It’s a chance for the Tigers to continue their momentum, and they’re catching the Eagles at one of their lowest points in years. BC never quits, though, especially at home, and considering its poor start, Clemson can’t afford to overlook anyone.

Virginia wraps up Eastern Michigan

October, 23, 2010
That's more like it.

After getting a scare from Eastern Michigan, Virginia pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 48-21 win. The Cavaliers outscored Eastern Michigan 31-7 in the second half.

Virginia quarterback Marc Verica redeemed himself from three interceptions a week ago, throwing for 203 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Keith Payne added two rushing touchdowns, and Virginia snapped a three-game losing streak with its first FBS win of the season. It was a small step, but an important one for Mike London and his team in this rebuilding year. The next step? Getting the first conference win of the season. With Miami looming next, the best shot is likely Nov. 6 at Duke.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 8

October, 21, 2010
In no particular order, here are 10 things to watch this week in five ACC games:

Bowl eligibility: Both Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech can become bowl eligible this weekend if they win. So far, Florida State is the only ACC team to have reached the six-win mark. NC State is also one win away, but the Pack have a bye week.

Turnovers in Miami. They’ve been the Hurricanes’ downfall in three straight losses to UNC, as Miami has 10 turnovers to UNC’s one during that span. But UNC isn’t the only team that can force mistakes. If UNC quarterback T.J. Yates is finally going to slip up again, there’s a good chance it happens on Saturday against a defensive line that helped Miami lead the nation in tackles for loss and rank fourth in the country in sacks.

The red zone in Miami. North Carolina leads the ACC in red zone offense having converted on 22 of 24 trips inside the 20-yard line. The Tar Heels have scored 16 touchdowns and made 6-of-7 field goal attempts. UNC is the only team in the ACC that hasn’t turned it over in the red zone this season. Miami hasn’t been as fortunate. The Canes have lost possession six times inside the 20, including three turnovers. Miami has scored 15 touchdowns in 26 trips in the red zone, but UNC and Miami have the No. 2 and No. 3 red zone defenses in the ACC, respectively.

[+] EnlargeTorrey Smith
Mitch Stringer/US PresswireTorrey Smith is Maryland's best player on offense but is fighting an ankle injury.
Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith. He’s their best player on offense. They need him. But his ankle isn’t 100 percent and he’s having trouble cutting on it. If BC is going to take away the Terps’ running game -- which it is expected to do -- Danny O’Brien is going to need some help in the passing game. Smith is also 49 yards shy of setting an ACC career record for kickoff returns.

BC running back Montel Harris. He needs just 65 more yards to reach 3,000 in his career and only three BC players before him have ever reached that number. Derrick Knight, BC’s all-time leading rusher, was the last to do it in 2003. Harris will be the first player in school history to reach it as a junior. The milestone could be an early birthday gift, as he turns 21 on Oct. 30, the day the Eagles host Clemson at Alumni Stadium. He ran for 142 yards in last year’s 19-17 win over the Terps, and he ran for 191 yards in the loss at Florida State last weekend while averaging 7.3 yards per carry. FSU was able to keep him out of the end zone, though, and the Terps will be challenged to do the same.

Georgia Tech quarterback Joshua Nesbitt. He needs 44 more rushing yards to break the ACC career record of rushing yards by a quarterback. After rushing for 106 yards against Middle Tennessee, Nesbitt has 2,718 yards. The record is held by former Clemson standout Woodrow Dantzler (2,761, 1998-2001). How long can the Tigers’ D protect their record books?

Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers. Georgia Tech’s offensive line will have its hands full with this guy. He’s leading the nation in sacks and tackles for loss.

Quarterbacks in the Commonwealth. Duke quarterback Sean Renfree can’t afford five interceptions against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, and Virginia quarterback Marc Verica is looking to shake off the three picks he threw last week against UNC and rebound against Eastern Michigan. And Tyrod Taylor? Well, he can move into fourth place in career passing yards at Virginia Tech with 144 more yards.

Virginia Tech’s secondary against Duke’s receivers. The Hokies’ pass defense hasn’t exactly been stellar this year, and it’s no secret that Duke is going to throw the ball. The Blue Devils have three of the ACC’s top receivers in Conner Vernon, Donovan Varner and Austin Kelly. The Hokies’ Jayron Hosley leads the ACC with four interceptions.

Virginia’s running game. The Cavaliers’ rushing defense hasn’t been very good, but Eastern Michigan’s is worse. Expect Keith Payne and Perry Jones to boost their stats. Eastern Michigan is allowing 228 rushing yards per game.

ACC predictions: Week 8

October, 21, 2010
Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

Welcome to the coachspeak picks.

Had it not been for the Pack’s loss to ECU, I would have gone undefeated last week. But I’m like Virginia coach Mike London after the loss to USC -- I don’t settle for moral victories. After seven weeks, my record stands at 45-13 (77.5 percent). But I don’t pay attention to the numbers. Sure, it would be nice to be ranked ahead of Chris Low, but where you finish the season is more important. Besides, these things go in cycles.

With only five games this week, my margin for error is slim. I can’t afford to beat myself with silly mistakes and mental errors. What’s that? Georgia Tech fans are tired of me picking Clemson? I don’t know, I don’t read the comments. The only things I can worry about are the things I can control, and that’s trying to get some W’s this week:

Boston College 14, Maryland 10: The Eagles’ offense is inept, but Maryland will continue to struggle to run the ball against the No. 10 rushing defense in the country.

Clemson 28, Georgia Tech 24: Georgia Tech’s defense won’t be able to stop Andre Ellington, and Kyle Parker will get some more help in the passing game. Clemson has so many freaks on defense the Tigers will force the Jackets into some mistakes. Georgia Tech is a completely different team than the one that won the ACC title -- that team was better.

Virginia Tech 45, Duke 17: Even if the Blue Devils completely eliminate their turnovers, they won’t be able to stop this offense. Tyrod Taylor and his supporting cast are clicking on all cylinders now.

North Carolina 24, Miami 21 (OT): In a game that’s been decided by turnovers for the past three years, it would be foolish to ignore Miami quarterback Jacory Harris’ penchant for turnovers. Until proven otherwise, the benefit of the doubt goes to the team that has made fewer mistakes this season.

Virginia 38, Eastern Michigan 14: Virginia is banged up and still trying to find its identity, but is still talented enough to get its third win of the season. Quarterback Marc Verica will make fewer mistakes and the Cavaliers’ offense will suddenly look dramatically better against one of the nation’s worst defenses.