ACC: P.J. Hill

What to watch in the ACC bowls

December, 24, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Here are a few things to watch in the pre-New Year's Day ACC bowls:

1. The ACC's win-loss record. With seven of the 10 games being played between Dec. 27-Dec. 31, this is the conference's chance to make a statement and show how far it has come since last year's two-win postseason. So far, so good, as Wake Forest got the ACC off to a 1-0 start.

2. North Carolina's defense against Pat White. The Tar Heels couldn't beat Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and White is even more dangerous. In addition to his 135.64 pass efficiency rating, White has also accounted for 83.5 rushing yards per game.

3. Wisconsin's time of possession. The Badgers best chance of winning this game is by running the ball repeatedly, wearing out FSU's defense and controlling the clock. It's what they've done all season, as Wisconsin is No. 22 in the nation in time of possession with 31:22. If the Seminoles can contain P.J. Hill, they should come out on top.

4. Miami quarterback Jacory Harris. He won when starter Robert Marve was suspended in the season opener and will have to do it again, as Marve is suspended for the Emerald Bowl. Harris has proven before he can win games, as he came off the bench and accounted for five touchdowns against Duke. But he has also looked cold and uncomfortable at times in the formula Randy Shannon has used him in. He has completed 60.8 percent of his passes for 1001 yards, six interceptions and 10 touchdowns.

5. Miami's run defense. The Hurricanes will need to play better than they did against NC State, when they allowed 219 yards on the ground. Cal running back Jahvid Best finished the regular season with 1,394 rushing yards and will be playing about six miles from his campus.

6. NC State quarterback Russell Wilson vs. Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel. Both have led their teams to impressive late-season rallies, and one will be the difference in this game. Wilson has a 134.28 passer rating and has thrown just one interception this season. Teel is 16th in the nation in passing efficiency at 148.53.

7. Georgia Tech's rushing offense vs. LSU's rushing defense. This is the key statistical matchup in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, as the Yellow Jackets rank third in the nation with 282.3 rushing yards per game, and LSU is No. 17 in the nation in rushing defense, with 105.7 yards per game and just 3.3 yards per carry.

8. Boston College quarterback Dominique Davis. He's trying to rebound from a subpar performance in the ACC championship game and has been working hard to improve his pocket presence. He'll face a tough Vanderbilt defense.

9. BC's non-offensive touchdown streak. The Eagles are tied for first in the country with eight non-offensive touchdowns, and have scored on either defense or special teams in seven straight games, the longest streak in the nation. Can they keep it going until the end?

10. UNC's record-setting receiver, Hakeem Nicks. Nicks needs one more touchdown to set the school record with 10. One more would also equal the career record of 19. He also needs five more receptions to break the UNC career record of 177, and is just 58 yards shy of moving into 12th place on the ACC's career receiving list.

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.

Florida State season review

December, 15, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Overview: The Seminoles overcame some growing pains on offense with their standout defense led by Everette Brown, arguably the best defensive end in the ACC. FSU was second in the country in tackles for loss and sixth in sacks. Quarterback Christian Ponder was inconsistent, as to be expected for a first-year starting quarterback, and had 13 interceptions to 12 touchdowns for 150.6 passing yards per game. Still, the Seminoles led the ACC in scoring offense behind an offensive line that grew up quickly. They paved the way for one of the program's best running games in years, as the 4.9 yards per carry was the best since 1995, and the 25 rushing touchdowns were the most since 2000.

Several suspensions of wide receivers, coupled with the news of players involved in an altercation near the student union were an off-field distraction that might have contributed to a devastating home loss against Boston College. But safety Myron Rolle countered the negativity when he won a Rhodes Scholarship the same day he flew to College Park to help the Noles win a critical Atlantic Division road game at Maryland.

Offensive MVP: Antone Smith. Smith scored 14 rushing touchdowns, four more this season than he had in his entire career. It was the most touchdowns in a single season since Warrick Dunn had 16 in 1995, and fourth all-time at FSU for single-season rushing touchdowns. He averaged 62.8 yards per game and scored more touchdowns than any other player in the ACC.

Defensive MVP: Everette Brown. He was the only player in the FBS to rank among the top three in tackles for loss and sacks. His 20.5 tackles for loss is the third-highest in a single season in school history. Brown led all ACC defensive linemen in tackles, and finished fourth all-time at FSU with 12.5 sacks in a season. He had three sacks or more in three different ACC games.

Turning point: Ponder put together an 11-play, 70-yard fourth-quarter drive to lead FSU to a 26-17 comeback win over NC State on Oct. 16. It was a deficit in a Thursday night road win that, in the past two seasons, FSU might not have been able to come back from.

What's next: Florida State will face Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl, and Brown, who has already graduated, will have to decide whether he is returning for his senior season. First, though, Brown and FSU's defense will have to contain P.J. Hill, who has rushed for 1,000 yards three years in a row.

Champs Sports Bowl: Florida State (8-4) vs. Wisconsin (7-5)

December, 7, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Florida State will face a middle-of-the-pack Wisconsin team that was reflective of a bulk of the Big Ten -- average. The Badgers were expected to contend for the Big Ten title, but fell below the preseason expectations and barely escaped their season finale against Cal Poly.

It's the first time these programs have met, and they're similar in that their strengths are both their running games. The Badgers finished the regular season 14th nationally and lead the Big Ten with 212 rushing yards per game, and are led by P.J. Hill, who has 1,021 yards and 13 touchdowns this season.

The Seminoles are holding opponents to an average of 291.8 total yards, and have the No. 5 rushing defense in the ACC. Wisconsin's challenge will also be to stop the run -- namely Antone Smith and Jermaine Thomas -- and force quarterback Christian Ponder into throwing the ball deep and making mistakes.

The Badgers will also be challenged to match Florida State's speedy playmakers, and stop the ACC's No. 1 scoring defense at 32.7 points per game. Wisconsin has the No. 5 rushing defense in the Big Ten at 133.2 yards per game. Wisconsin won three straight to end the season.