ACC: Noel Devine
2. FSU’s running game and offensive line. Florida State won its first two games convincingly, but if there were any areas that showed some need for improvement, it was up front and in the running game. The offensive line needs to do a better job of sustaining its blocks, and the running backs need to work harder to create their own yards.
3. Miami quarterback Jacory Harris. All eyes will be on Harris as he makes his first start since a forgettable performance in the Sun Bowl last year. Harris threw four interceptions against Ohio State last year, but first-year coach Al Golden is confident enough in him to name him the starter ahead of Stephen Morris.
4. Turnovers in Chapel Hill. UNC turned the ball over five times last week, and Virginia had five turnovers – all interceptions – the last time these two teams met. UNC’s secondary is still looking for its first interception of the season, and UVA quarterback Michael Rocco threw one in last year’s meeting.
5. Virginia Tech’s punters. There’s a competition still going on. Scott Demler won the starting job this summer, but has punted 10 times for an average of 35.1 yards, with a long of 44. Danny Coale is still an option, and coach Frank Beamer said they could give true freshman Michael Branthover a look.
6. NC State’s defense. South Alabama is in a transitional phase to FCS status, and will become full members in 2013. You would think that even with a few injuries, the Wolfpack could show some improvement. NC State has allowed an average of 422 yards of total offense, and 27. 5 points per game.
7. Maryland’s pass defense. West Virginia has yet to really find a replacement for Noel Devine and the running game has struggled, leaving too much depending on the arm of Geno Smith. Fortunately for West Virginia, he’s good enough to get it done. Smith has completed over 66 percent of his passes and will challenge Maryland’s secondary.
8. Defense in Death Valley. There hasn’t been much of it for either Clemson or Auburn, so somebody will have to show improvement. Clemson ranks No. 90 in the nation in total defense, and Auburn is 111th. Both teams are allowing over 200 yards rushing per game.
9. Clemson’s offensive line: The Tigers allowed four sacks against Wofford, and failed to pick up a fourth-and-1. The pass protection has to improve, and earlier this week, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said left guard David Smith struggled, and fans could see more of Mason Cloy and Brandon Thomas at the guard positions.
10. BC’s secondary vs. the ‘Killer V’s’: The Eagles’ depleted secondary could have its work cut out for it against Donovan Varner and Conner Vernon. BC learned this week that cornerback C.J. Jones will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. Jones is the third player in what was projected to be BC’s starting secondary who won’t be in the lineup for various reasons.
Since it's so close to the Mountaineers, it should read, "We (heart) your defense, Bobby."
This is what got Florida State in trouble all year long -- allowing big plays on defense. West Virginia has only had the ball for two possessions so far, but the Mountaineers have already proven that the Noles' defense didn't get any extreme makeover during the past month.
On second-and-13 from his own 26-yard line, Noel Devine took off for a 70-yard gain, a team record for the longest run in a bowl game for a Mountaineer. It landed WVU on FSU's four-yard line and set up the second touchdown of the game. WVU leads 14-3 with 5:13 left to play. It could be a long day for Florida State.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
WHO TO WATCH: UNC safety Trimane Goddard. He has game-changing ability, having twice intercepted passes on an opponent's final drive to seal a win (Miami and Duke). And against Notre Dame, his fumble recovery clinched Carolina's victory. Goddard is tied for the national lead with seven interceptions, including a 51-yard interception return for a score against Boston College. He has had his best season at Carolina, and is the most experienced player on defense with 30 career starts.
WHAT TO WATCH: Aside from the obvious -- North Carolina's defense on Pat White and Noel Devine -- keep an eye on how UNC overcomes West Virginia's quirky 3-3-5 stack defensive alignment. It could make things more difficult for quarterback T.J. Yates, as it's difficult to determine who the fourth rusher will be, and presents a challenge in pass protection. And with five defensive backs out there, it could be a long day for standout receiver Hakeem Nicks.
WHY TO WATCH: It's the first time North Carolina is in a bowl game since 2004, and it could be the last time Nicks wears a Tar Heel uniform. Nicks has yet to decide whether he wants to leave school early for the NFL draft.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Good morning ACC fans. The conference has three bowl games coming up on Dec. 27, and I've got a few things to help preview the Meineke Car Care Bowl, the Champs Sports Bowl and the Emerald Bowl. Let's start with UNC today.
Here are three reasons why UNC will beat West Virginia:
1. Home crowd. It's UNC's first bowl game since 2004, and Tar Heel fans are eager to see it. UNC sold its allotment of 22,000 tickets and expect more than 40,000 UNC fans at Bank of America Stadium. The Tar Heels are 15-3-2 in Charlotte. Defensive coordinator Everett Withers was born in Charlotte, and six current players are either from Charlotte or the surrounding area. Consider this a home game.
2. Butch Davis and his top playmaker, receiver Hakeem Nicks. The veteran coach will have his players prepared, and they should have some confidence from beating Big East opponents Rutgers and Connecticut during the regular season. Many have wondered how UNC will stop WVU's top two playmakers, but the Tar Heels have their own offensive threat in Nicks. He has already set the school single-season record for receiving yards (60 receptions for 1,005 yards and nine touchdowns).
3. Non-offensive touchdowns. If the offense can't get it going, defense and special teams can. The Tar Heels have scored on four interception returns, one punt return and one blocked punt recovery in the end zone. Safety Trimane Goddard is tied for the national lead with seven interceptions this season, and UNC is eight in the nation with 19.
Here are three reasons why they won't:
1. Quarterback Pat White and running back Noel Devine. The Mountaineers' shifty quarterback has accounted for 83.5 rushing yards per game, and is 35th nationally in passing efficiency with a 135.64 rating. He will be playing his final college game. West Virginia has the nation's No. 12-ranked rushing offense with 217.17 yards per game, and Devine is at the heart of the Mountaineers' running game. He is ranked 22nd nationally with 102.3 rushing yards per game. UNC is allowing 140.75 rushing yards per game.
2. West Virginia's bowl experience. The Mountaineers have been to seven straight bowls and are riding a three-game bowl win streak, including a 38-35 win over Georgia Tech in the January, 2007 Gator Bowl. It's only North Carolina's second bowl since 2001 and first since 2004. Only Goddard has ever played in a bowl game.
3. West Virginia's defense. The Mountaineers lead the Big East and are 12th in the nation in turnover margin, and they're ninth in the country in scoring defense at 16 points per game. They've also got the No. 1-ranked red zone defense in the country.