ACC: Pat White

SEC: Super Enviable Conference

March, 17, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Admit it. You look around and see the big, bad SEC playing its conference championship game while the ACC hands out free Super Bowl tickets hoping somebody, anybody besides me will come watch this rerun of last year's game and it makes you drool with envy. Green envy.

You see that man with the bum knee shuffling around Happy Valley, and wish that your coach in Tallahassee was the winningest coach in college football, while quietly mumbling curses on the NCAA. You see Bradfords and McCoys throwing for more yardage than you drive to work and wish you, too, had a Heisman Trophy candidate to talk about over the water cooler.

That's what we're all about here today in the blogosphere. Anything green, anything Irish, and envy tops the list. Happy St. Patrick's Day, my envious ACC friends.

Here are three things the ACC envies about other conferences:

1. The Big 12 and SEC conference title games -- Imagine, the ACC championship game not only drawing a packed stadium, but essentially featuring two teams in a play-in game for the national championship. The SEC's title game has drawn capacity crowds in 15 of its 17 games. There were 75,892 fans who saw Florida beat Alabama last year, and the ACC had 27,360 for the repeat of Virginia Tech vs. Boston College. And the Big 12? That title game generated more attention than the ACC championship before Texas, er, Oklahoma even took the field.

2. The SEC and Pac-10 BCS bowl records -- The ACC was overjoyed to win its second BCS bowl game in 11 tries last year. Baby steps, ACC, baby steps. The SEC is 12-5 in BCS bowls and the Pac-10 is 9-4. They both have had at least six different schools play in BCS bowls while the ACC has had four. Florida State, Maryland, Virginia and Wake Forest have all represented, but the once mighty Seminoles are 1-5 and the Hokies are 1-2.

3. Heisman hopefuls -- It goes beyond Big 12 quarterbacks. The Big Ten had Shonn Greene and Javon Ringer, the SEC had Tim Tebow and Knowshon Moreno, the Pac-10 had Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart. Even the Big East had Pat White and Donald Brown to throw in the mix. Heck, Ball State quarterback Nate Davis got some consideration. Meanwhile, ACC fans are still talking about Chris Weinke and Charlie Ward. Somebody cue up "Glory Days" from the Boss.

North Carolina squanders opportunity

December, 27, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

It was an all too familiar ending for North Carolina.

 AP Photo/Nell Redmond
 T.J. Yates' interception with less than 2 minutes left shut the door on the Tar Heels' hopes.

Just as the Tar Heels squandered their opportunity to win the ACC's Coastal Division in the waning weeks of the regular season, they turned over their opportunity to win the program's first bowl game since 2001.

In what was one of the more entertaining games of the ACC's season, North Carolina made one too many mistakes in its 31-30 loss to West Virginia. Mountaineers quarterback Pat White played an outstanding game, but North Carolina countered with Hakeem Nicks and had the win in their grasp until the fourth quarter.

While Butch Davis undoubtedly raised the program to a new level this season by winning eight games and taking the Tar Heels to their first bowl game since 2004, it's difficult not to think about what could have been. There was so much promise on this roster, and expectations were soaring in Davis' second season. But North Carolina lost two of its last three games, and the bowl game loss is one that will linger because of how the Tar Heels lost it.

Trailing 30-24, West Virginia wasted a timeout for a poorly called play on fourth-and-1 that resulted in a loss of four yards. All North Carolina had to do was keep the ball and run out the clock.

Instead, Shaun Draughn fumbled and West Virginia scored three plays later to take the 31-30 lead. This wasn't a clumsy fumble or a foolish mistake. West Virginia had to practically break Draughn's legs to pry the ball loose.

UNC got a second chance to win the game, and needed only to get within field goal range on its final possession, but quarterback T.J. Yates threw a costly interception that erased an otherwise strong performance.

The loss overshadowed another incredible record-setting performance by Nicks, who finished with eight catches for 217 yards and three touchdowns. He was the Tar Heels offense, and probably for the last time.

For the most part, UNC took advantage of two starters missing in the West Virginia secondary, and smart play calling by offensive coordinator John Shoop in the first half. North Carolina's misdirection kept the Mountaineers off balance, and Nicks got the Tar Heels critical first downs for four quarters. But the defense gave Pat White too much time, and his offensive line gave him good protection.

Had North Carolina won, it would have been an excellent 2-0 start for a league desperate to improve upon its two-win postseason from 2007. Instead, the league dropped to 2-3 against the Big East, 1-1 in the bowls, and North Carolina has to wait until next year to make its statement in the conference and the postseason.

Meineke Car Care Bowl preview

December, 27, 2008

Posted by'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.

Butch Davis breaks down the West Virginia offense

December, 26, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

One of the biggest questions heading into the Meineke Car Care Bowl is obviously how the North Carolina defense is going to contain -- or, more accurately, slow down -- quarterback Pat White.

One of my favorite parts about this job is listening to the coaches actually talk about football -- not bowl gifts, or schedules, or who's starting at quarterback and who's injured -- but the actual Xs and Os.

So, just for fun, I checked out this video. North Carolina fans may have already seen it, but it's one of those things that if you like football, it's kind of neat to watch UNC coach Butch Davis break down game film of West Virginia's read option offense.

Of the three games involving ACC teams on Saturday, this one should be the best.

ACC bowl predictions

December, 24, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

So far I'm 1-0 in the postseason and the ACC is, too. According to my forecast, the ACC will be 6-2 heading into New Year's Day. Here is the second round of bowl predictions for the remaining ACC games before New Year's Day:

North Carolina 28, West Virginia 24 -- More than 40,000 Tar Heel fans are expected to support UNC in Charlotte, and the Tar Heels will counter Pat White with Hakeem Nicks.

Florida State 31, Wisconsin 14 -- There are too many speedy athletes on the Seminoles' roster, and Mickey Andrews will have his defense ready to stop the Badgers' running game.

California 28, Miami 17 -- There were too many off-field distractions with Miami's suspensions, plus the fact they're playing about 3,000 miles away from Coral Gables.

NC State 24, Rutgers 17 -- Russell Wilson is the more versatile quarterback in this game and the Wolfpack's defense has made significant improvement over the past few weeks.

Nevada 31, Maryland 10 -- This offense will be too much for the Terps' defense to handle, especially after recently losing their defensive coordinator. With the way the schedule worked out, Maryland had too many days where it wasn't practicing.

Georgia Tech 28, LSU 24 -- The Yellow Jackets are on a roll, they're essentially playing at home and LSU has had issues at quarterback all season.

Boston College 14, Vanderbilt 10 -- Once again, it should be another defensive struggle, but the Eagles will need quarterback Dominique Davis to play better than he did in the ACC championship game.

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 Meineke Car Care Bowl

December, 22, 2008

Posted by'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.

Non-official, official ACC/Big East blogger challenge, Part II

December, 22, 2008
Posted by's Heather Dinich

Ah, the holidays. Time for giving, sharing and arguing with your colleagues. Those of you who have been with us since the beginning might remember the first non-official, official blogger ACC/Big East challenge. Some of you liked it, some of you didn't. Regardless, Big East blogger Brian Bennett and I kept ourselves amused and did it again.


Here is Part II of the non-official, official challenge:

Brian Bennett: All right, Heather. Back in September we had some fun debating whether the ACC or the Big East was the worst BCS league. I guess you won that one since the ACC has got like 32 bowl teams, though none of them are ranked higher than Cincinnati. But we've got another round coming in bowl season, when the ACC and Big East meet in three different games. Who's sitting prettier (or less ugly) when the dust clears Jan. 2?

Heather Dinich: Well, the ACC was 2-2 against the Big East during the regular season, and since 2001, the Big East has a better bowl record than the ACC. You guys are 20-14 since then, and the ACC is 27-22. I think that trend will start to tip, though, with the ACC coming out on top this bowl season, 2-1. Sorry, but I'm taking Russell Wilson over Mike Teel, and as for the Meineke Car Care Bowl, they may as well move the game to Chapel Hill ...

BB: I'll agree with you on the Meineke Car Care Bowl, because North Carolina absolutely smoked Rutgers and UConn this year. But I strongly disagree on the Bowl. Rutgers has been playing lights-out for the past month or so, and unless they're bummed about being in Birmingham, the Scarlet Knights are going to pound NC State like South Florida did earlier this year.

But, really, only one game matters, and that's champs vs. champs. I see by your projected record you're already conceding that Virginia Tech will lose to Cincinnati in the FedEx Orange Bowl. Is that because the ACC hasn't won a BCS game since people were worried about the Y2K problem? And doesn't your league need to win one of these someday to have any credibility?

HD: Strongly disagree? As in, strenuously object? Look, in case you haven't noticed, NC State has kind of been on a hot streak. And the Pack had a better team in their training room for that South Florida game. They were missing their top two playmakers on offense AND defense. The bloggers could've pounded NC State in that game (with me at quarterback, though, not you).

You're right though, only one counts, and the ACC is desperate to win it. Frank Beamer is desperate to win it. The conference is on an eight-game losing streak in its BCS games. Based on experience, I give the coaching edge to Beamer and his staff, but I think Cincinnati's rushing defense will be too good for the Hokies. I'm not sure how they've fared against mobile quarterbacks like Tyrod Taylor, though. And as for having some credibility, talk to me about that after your Big East champs make more than one BCS appearance.

BB: Mobile quarterbacks? Cincinnati had no problems against Pat White and Matt Grothe. Tyrod Taylor is no Pat White.

Yes, it's true that the Bearcats are brand new at this. But winning BCS games is old hat for the Big East. This will be four straight wins, which I'd take over 0-for-9 any day. And Cincinnati should be a top 10 team at the end of the season, which leads to my final question: Is it better for a league to have one highly-ranked team or a bunch of mediocre ones in the 15-to-30 range like the ACC has?

HD: Ouch! Man, you're harsh. But the truth hurts. The ACC needs a dominant team pushing for a final top 10 ranking, otherwise four- and five-loss teams are going to be the league's highlight of the bowl season. It doesn't matter if the entire conference is bowl eligible every year if they're not winning the big games against the best competition. Does Cincinnati legitimately fall into that category? I mean, exactly how good of a win would that really be for the Hokies?

I'll give you the last word.

BB: You're too kind. This is all in good fun of course. And I never even got around to my ACC title game jokes. (If they play a championship game and no one is there to see it, does it really exist?) Luckily, unlike a lot of things in college football, we'll get to settle at least part of this debate on the field. And then one of us will have the upper hand when we start arguing again next fall.

Meineke Car Care Bowl: UNC (8-4) vs. West Virginia (8-4)

December, 7, 2008
Posted by's Heather Dinich

North Carolina couldn't get much closer to home for the holidays, and it's exactly what executive director Will Webb was hoping for. The Tar Heels will face a West Virginia team that finished third in the Big East and hasn't scored more than 15 points in its past two games. Still, shifty quarterback Pat White will present challenges for the Tar Heels' defense. White is 81 rushing yards shy of his third straight 1,000-yard season. He'll be throwing into a defense that has 19 interceptions this season. UNC's top priority will be stopping the run, as West Virginia averages a conference-best 217.2 yards per game.

The Tar Heels have had an inconsistent season, which was a product of its inconsistent offense. Butch Davis switched quarterbacks after a 17-15 loss to Maryland, but starter T.J. Yates, who was injured for half of the season, didn't look like himself until the season finale against Duke. The Mountaineers have the best scoring defense in the Big East, holding opponents to 15.9 points per game. UNC will need a strong performance from tailbacks Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston in order to open up the passing game for standout receiver Hakeem Nicks, who leads the ACC with 83.8 yards per game.

Clemson falls in the coaches' rankings

September, 7, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

This is goofy -- not the fact that Clemson is ranked No. 23 in the USA Today poll that just came out, but that the Tigers ever fell out of the AP poll. Now they won and they dropped a spot in the coaches' poll.

Look at what just happened to West Virginia -- three points ... three ... by this Pat White-led team against a surging East Carolina program, and the Mountaineers are still on the list, as they should be.

I've been saying all week that it was too dramatic to bump Clemson out entirely after a poor showing in the season opener against Alabama. I dropped them from No. 10 in my preseason power ranking to No. 21 last week.

The Tigers are still a good football team with a shot at winning the ACC title, but even if they do, most people will scoff at the program's first title since 1991 and say they did it against a sorry excuse for the ACC.

There's no argument here that the ACC might be the worst BCS conference out there right now, but did we really need The Citadel to remind us there is talent on Clemson's roster?

Tommy Bowden just said on his teleconference that the No. 9 ranking they had wasn't all too important.

"We need to win a lot more games before we get real interested in that," he said. "Hopefully our players aren't paying that much attention to it right now. We did that earlier and it didn't work."

Clemson slips into top 10 in USA Today Coaches' Poll

August, 1, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

The votes are in, as the USA TODAY Coaches' poll came out Friday. Here are the ones you're looking for:

No. 9 Clemson -- No doubt Clemson should start off as a Top 10 team, and the Tigers have more answers right now than Texas and Auburn, but I'd be surprised if those two programs don't eventually push past Clemson in the rankings. And yes, West Virginia should be good - Pat White will get Heisman consideration -- but to have the Mountaineers ranked above Clemson right now seems high, especially without Steve Slaton and Owen Schmitt.

No. 15 Virginia Tech -- Wow. That's saying something for Frank Beamer and his staff. Considering how many questions the Hokies have heading into Monday's practice (we don't really need to rehash it again, do we?), that's a little high. Jim Grobe and the Demon Deacons should be ranked higher at this point, but neither team should be above 20 right now.

No. 23 Wake Forest -- This seems just about right. The program is still asserting itself on the national level, but this ranking is further proof Wake Forest is getting taken more seriously and that maybe 2006 wasn't a fluke, but the start of a trend. Wake was just one of two ACC teams to win its bowl game last year. They've got 16 starters back, including two of the league's best playmakers on defense in Alphonso Smith and Aaron Curry.