ACC: Randy Edsall

So just what should we expect from Maryland as the Terrapins enter the Big Ten? To get some answers, I turned to our in-house expert, Heather Dinich. She covered the program for the Baltimore Sun before joining ESPN.com's ACC blog. And Heather still lives in Maryland.

As we take the Terps off Heather's hands, she was kind enough to answer a few of our pressing questions about the Big Ten newbie-to-be:

Heather, how competitive should Big Ten fans expect to the Terrapins to be when they enter the Big Ten?

[+] EnlargeRandy Edsall
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyRandy Edsall and the Terps will face a brutal schedule in their first foray into the Big Ten.
HD: Think Hoosiers. Somewhere around not quite as good as Penn State and not as bad as Purdue. And nowhere near the likes of Ohio State. Average at best. The schedule is brutal, with Ohio State and back-to-back road trips to Wisconsin and Penn State, plus a trip to Michigan. The travel and stadiums alone are going to be a culture shock for the Terps. It’s a good thing Rutgers joined the Big Ten so the Terps have somebody they can match up against. (Though former Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen is going to be a wee bit motivated for that one as the Scarlet Knights’ new OC.) I think it’s going to be a long season for Randy Edsall, and it’s going to be a dose of reality for athletic director Kevin Anderson. Then again, ADs are paid to see the big picture and follow the money. I have football tunnel vision and it looks like a huge train coming at the Terps through this one.

How solid is Randy Edsall's standing as head coach, especially now that he'll have to compete against Friedgen and former Maryland coach-in-waiting James Franklin (the new head coach at Penn State)?

HD: I think it’s tenuous at best. Look, considering all of the injuries they’ve had, Edsall gets a bit of a pass. Two seasons ago his quarterback position was completely decimated by injuries, to the point where he had a backup linebacker throwing the ball. Last season he lost his top two receivers to injuries, including Stefon Diggs, one of the most exciting playmakers in the country. But he lost the bowl game to Marshall last year -- in Annapolis. That’s unacceptable if you’re the top team in the state. The Terps lost five of their last seven games. They lost to Wake Forest and Syracuse, you think they’re gonna beat Wisconsin and Penn State? On the road? Maryland is going to be haunted by its past, with those games against Franklin and Friedgen, and losses against those two programs will further fuel the fire for Edsall’s critics. Playing the first season in the Big Ten could buy him some time, but it shouldn’t buy him much.

As you mentioned, injuries have been a big problem for the Terps lately. How good can they be if everyone stays healthy?

HD: Even at full strength, I still don’t think they can match up with the best of the Big Ten, but Maryland should look like a better team than what fans saw in 2013. They should be expected to beat Indiana, Iowa and Rutgers and be able to steal one or two they’re “not supposed to win.” The question is if they can handle winning on the road in a new conference. This could actually be a pretty decent team with Diggs and WR Deon Long healthy for the season, and a veteran quarterback in C.J. Brown. Overall, they lose only four starters, and last year was a very young team. The whole defensive line returns and the entire defense should be an experienced group. They should pick up at least two more wins in the nonconference schedule, but they’ve got to win at Syracuse, a team they lost to last year. So while it might be a better team overall, it might not necessarily be reflected in the win column. Still, if everyone stays healthy, fans should expect a bowl game.

Have Maryland fans come around to the idea of leaving the ACC, or does it still seem weird to think of Maryland in the Big Ten?

HD: Weird. Very weird. I live in Maryland and can’t get used to it, and a lot of fans, of course, are focused on the impact it has on the hoops season. Many fans are indifferent, and even more are still trying to understand it.

Finally, what are some must-see attractions/traditions for visiting Big Ten fans who come to College Park?

HD: I cannot tell a lie: Gameday traffic will be created by Ohio State fans. I recommend checking out Cole Field House, which is right behind Byrd Stadium, for some historic hoops scenery, and Comcast Center, for the modern version. On the field, the statue of Testudo is said to bring some good luck, and of course, the pride this state takes in its flag is, well, dizzying. As for places to eat and consume adult beverages downtown, sources say R.J. Bentley’s and the Cornerstone Grill & Loft are the local institutions.
Maryland's 2014 Big Ten schedule just got even more interesting.

On Nov. 1, the Terps will travel to Penn State, where they will face their former offensive coordinator, James Franklin, who is now head coach of the Nittany Lions.

On Nov. 29, Maryland will end its first regular season in the Big Ten with a home game against Rutgers -- and former coach Ralph Friedgen, who was just hired by Rutgers as offensive coordinator.

That might be a little, um, awkward.

Friedgen, who was replaced by Randy Edsall after the 2010 season, will go back to Byrd Stadium for the first time since he was fired by athletic director Kevin Anderson. Odds are he'll have a wee bit of motivation going into that game. Maryland is his alma mater. He earned two letters as a guard. And then he was fired after winning nine games and being named the ACC's Coach of the Year. No wonder he's not convinced there's much loyalty left in his business.

So, instead of moving forward in a new conference and looking ahead at a clean slate, Maryland will have little choice but to face its past along the way.

ACC's lunchtime links

January, 17, 2014
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Can't wait 'til offseason coaching carousel comes to a stop ...

Season wrap: Maryland

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The season began on a high note for the Terps, with starting quarterback C.J. Brown finally healthy again and back in the lineup, a 4-0 start that included a win over West Virginia in nearby M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore and a much-awaited turnaround under coach Randy Edsall. After a win over Virginia, securing a bowl bid for the first time under Edsall seemed inevitable. A three-game losing streak against Atlantic Division opponents dropped the Terps to 1-4 in the ACC race, though, and Maryland plummeted back into mediocrity. It wasn’t until a stunning 27-24 overtime win at Virginia Tech that the Terps earned themselves a spot in the bowl lineup. Still, having lost five of their last seven games, including their bowl game to Marshall in nearby Annapolis, the Terps’ final season in the ACC ended with a thud, especially considering how it began.

Offensive MVP: QB C.J. Brown. He was the catalyst of the offense the entire season and finished with 2,242 passing yards and 576 rushing yards. He led the team with 12 rushing touchdowns and also threw for 13 touchdowns with seven interceptions.

Defensive MVP: LB Marcus Whitfield. He finished with 52 tackles, including 15.5 tackles for loss, nine sacks, three pass breakups, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and a blocked kick.

Best moment: Beating Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Having lost three straight games, a win in Blacksburg seemed unlikely, but the Hokies’ usually stingy defense had no answer for Brown, and Maryland held the Hokies to a field goal in overtime before scoring the game winner.

Worst moment: Losing their top two wideouts to injuries in the same game. Maryland lost leading receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long for the season in a 34-10 loss to Wake Forest on Oct. 19. That was the start of the three-game losing streak. Long broke his tibia and fibula, and Diggs, one of the best all-purpose players in the ACC, broke his fibula. Diggs led the team with 520 yards on 26 receptions and three touchdowns, while Long led the team with 28 receptions for 446 yards and a score. In all, Diggs and Long had accounted for more than half of the team's total receptions at the time of their injuries.

ACC's lunchtime links

December, 23, 2013
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Shopping days are nearly gone.
For the first time in years, Florida State exceeded expectations.

The No. 1-ranked Seminoles, destined for the VIZIO BCS National Championship after finishing the season as the only undefeated team in the country, were predicted to play in the shadow of Clemson this season. FSU was picked by the media to finish second in the ACC's Atlantic Division, in large part because the program had to replace its starting quarterback, its entire defensive line, 11 NFL draft picks and six staff assistants.

[+] EnlargeJimbo Fisher
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsJimbo Fisher took a Noles team that sent 11 players to the NFL after last season and made it better.
Didn't matter. Jimbo Fisher has Florida State back.

While Florida State was unstoppable, Duke was simply unbelievable. A school-record 10-win season. Upsets of Miami and Virginia Tech. Back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time in school history. The program's first Coastal Division title, and a spot in the prestigious Chick-fil-A Bowl. Duke finished the regular season on an eight-game winning streak, punctuated by a victory over rival North Carolina for the second straight season.

Duke's 45-7 loss to FSU in the ACC title game wasn't an indictment of the Blue Devils. Rather, it was further evidence that the ACC this year was indeed Florida State "and everybody else."

Nobody else in the conference -- save for Boston College's heroic effort -- even came close to the Noles this fall. They steamrolled Clemson in Death Valley -- early proof that quarterback Jameis Winston was unflappable. They bulldozed in-state rivals Miami and Florida, leaving no doubt which program has ascended to the top in the Sunshine State. And in spite of legal allegations that could have derailed the season, they produced a redshirt freshman Heisman Trophy front-runner.

And then there was the rest of the Atlantic Division.

Wake Forest suffered its fifth consecutive losing season, ending in the unexpected resignation of longtime coach Jim Grobe. NC State, in its first season under coach Dave Doeren, was winless in league play and ravaged by injuries. Maryland's mediocre season ended on a positive note, with the Terps getting to a bowl game for the first time under coach Randy Edsall, but they will leave the ACC still ensnarled in a lawsuit with the conference. Boston College's quick ascension and the jaw-dropping numbers of running back Andre Williams were the surprise of the division in the Eagles' first season under coach Steve Addazio.

For all of the clarity within the Atlantic Division race, there was as much confusion in the Coastal, which once again came down to the final week of the regular season.

Duke, though, left no doubt that it was the best team in the division and earned its title outright. While Clemson's fifth straight loss to South Carolina and Georgia Tech's loss to Georgia in the regular-season finales were disappointments, the ACC this year had two special teams exceed expectations -- and they're not done yet.

Offensive MVP: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State. Winston was the best player in the country all season, setting FBS and ACC freshman marks with 38 touchdown passes and 3,820 yards. Winston also ranks first in the nation in QBR and passer rating, won the Davey O'Brien Award as the top quarterback in the country, the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award and both ACC Offensive Player of the Year and ACC Player of the Year honors.

[+] EnlargeAaron Donald
Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY SportsAaron Donald was a relative unknown in August. Then he wreaked havoc on the ACC.
Defensive MVP: Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt. Donald went from an unknown before the season to the best defensive player in the nation, taking home four major awards -- the Outland Trophy, the Chuck Bednarik Award, the Lombardi Award and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy. Donald also was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year. He leads the nation in tackles for loss and ranks 13th in sacks. Of his 54 total tackles, nearly half have been behind the line (26.5).

Newcomer of the year: Winston. What makes the season he had more impressive is that he is a redshirt freshman and has played in only 13 career games. But Winston has looked like a veteran behind center and is a major reason why the Seminoles are playing in the BCS national championship game.

Biggest surprise: Duke. The Blue Devils were picked to finish last in the Coastal Division but ended up becoming one of the most surprising teams in the nation. Duke won a school-record 10 games, made a first-ever appearance in the ACC title game and is now going to consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history.

Biggest disappointment: NC State. Even though the Wolfpack went through a coaching change and returned a young team, nobody anticipated they would be one of the worst outfits in the ACC. Thanks in part to injuries and inconsistent play at quarterback, NC State went winless in league play for the first time since 1959 and posted its worst record since 2006.

Best nonconference game: Clemson 38, Georgia 35. The marquee opening-weekend matchup did not disappoint as the two top-10 teams battled back and forth throughout the game. The turning point came after Georgia flubbed a chip-shot field goal attempt late in the third quarter that would have tied the game. Instead, the Tigers stretched their lead to 10 before thwarting a late-game rally. Tajh Boyd had one of his best games of the season, scoring five total touchdowns and racking up 312 total yards.

Best ACC game: Duke 27, North Carolina 25. Duke needed to beat hated rival North Carolina on the final day of the regular season to secure a spot in the ACC title game. As expected, this game went down to the wire. The lead changed six times, and Duke rallied in the fourth quarter for the victory. After North Carolina went up 25-24 with 7 minutes, 3 seconds to play, Duke went 66 yards in 11 plays to set up what became the game-winning 27-yard field goal from Ross Martin with 2:22 remaining.

ACC's lunchtime links

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11. Not bad.

What we learned in the ACC: Week 14

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Here’s a quick look back at five lessons learned in the ACC in the final week of the regular season, in no particular order:

1. Duke is the outright Coastal Division winner. No tiebreaker scenarios needed. No back doors opened. Duke marched right into the ACC championship game with a thrilling 27-25 win at North Carolina, leaving no doubt it was the best team in the division and the most deserving to line up against Atlantic Division winner Florida State. Duke’s fate was sealed when DeVon Edwards intercepted Marquise Williams with 13 seconds remaining. It was a fairytale ending to Duke’s Cinderella season, which included eight straight wins to end the season and an undefeated season on the road. With its 10 wins, Duke broke the school record for wins in a season. Duke’s six ACC wins were the program’s most since 1989 -- also the same year that Duke last won an ACC title.

[+] EnlargeTajh Boyd
Gerry Melendez/The State/Getty ImagesTajh Boyd and Clemson again struggled in their rivalry game with South Carolina.
2. The ACC couldn’t get it done against the SEC (again). Six turnovers for Clemson. Six. It was déjà vu for the Tigers in their fifth straight loss to South Carolina. The turnovers continued to haunt Clemson in the series and be the difference in the game, just as they had in their past four losses to the Gamecocks. This looked like a prime year for the ACC to come out on the winning end against the SEC -- especially with Georgia veteran quarterback Aaron Murray done for the season with a torn ACL. Instead, Wake lost to Vandy, and Georgia Tech lost to Georgia. Florida State beat Florida, but you knew that was coming. And considering the state of the Gators, it wasn’t much worth bragging about. Georgia Tech squandered a 20-point lead and the defense came up short in the second overtime, losing a 41-34 heartbreaker. The ACC went 1-3 against the SEC this week, losing yet another chance to close the gap with its neighboring rival.

3. Syracuse is bowl eligible. In what was another one of the ACC’s most thrilling and entertaining down-to-the-wire games, Syracuse ended the season with a 34-31 home win over Boston College to reach bowl eligibility in its final chance to do so. With six seconds remaining, Terrel Hunt threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Josh Parris to win the game. It snapped BC’s four-game winning streak and was one of the best offensive performances of the season for the Orange. Unfortunately for BC, Heisman hopeful running back Andre Williams was injured in the third quarter and didn’t return. BC quarterback Chase Rettig accounted for three touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough, as Syracuse racked up 480 yards and won the turnover battle.

4. Maryland leaves the ACC on a winning note. The Terps won their final regular-season game as members of the ACC, a convincing 41-21 drubbing of an inept NC State team, to finish 7-5. It was a significant -- and much-needed -- turnaround for Maryland and coach Randy Edsall before heading to the Big Ten next season. It was also a terrific sendoff for quarterback C.J. Brown, who ran for three touchdowns and threw for two more in the win. It was Maryland’s first seven-win season since 2010. Maryland is likely bound for the Military Bowl, but as the Terps finish their season, they do so with the ACC’s lawsuit still hanging over their heads.

5. The Hokies still own the state. As much as Virginia Tech’s offense has struggled this season, rival Virginia’s offense was even worse on Saturday in a 16-6 loss. The Hokies’ defense held Virginia without a touchdown on its home field, and both quarterbacks -- starter David Watford and his backup, Greyson Lambert -- were ineffective. It was the 10th straight win against UVa for the Hokies, who have won 18 of the past 22 games in the series. Much has been made about Virginia’s strong recruiting class, but it has yet to add up in this rivalry or in the win column under coach Mike London. UVa ended the season on a 10-game losing streak and winless in the ACC for the first time since 1981.

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November, 27, 2013
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Gobble gobble ...

ACC weekend rewind: Week 13

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The final regular-season weekend is on deck. Time sure flies. So here's one last look at all that went down in the ACC this past weekend.

The good: The ACC seemingly survived JV week without incident, with Florida State and North Carolina each putting up 80 points, Georgia Tech crushing Alabama A&M 66-7, and Clemson taking care of business against the Citadel with a 56-7 win. Two teams, UNC and Pitt, got to bowl-eligibility, setting up for some great showdowns this coming rivalry weekend.

The bad: Well, there is always Virginia, which lost by 19 at Miami and remains winless in ACC play. And there is NC State, also winless in ACC play after a 14-point home loss to East Carolina -- which, to add insult to injury, further declared its place in the Triangle in a season in which it beat both NC State and North Carolina.

The ugly: North Carolina's 80-20 win over Old Dominion featured a shortened fourth quarter, from 15 minutes to 10. And none of the Tar Heels' 80 points ended up coming in the final frame. Funny enough, this was actually a 14-13 game after the first quarter. I was at Notre Dame on Saturday, and when the out-of-town scores were announced in the press box, this game was announced: "North Carolina 80, Old Dominion 20. That's football, not basketball."

[+] EnlargeDaniel Rodriguez
AP Photo/Rainier EhrhardtClemson walk-on WR Daniel Rodriguez, a Purple Heart recipient, caught a TD pass Saturday, providing a heart-warming moment.
The awesome moment: It came at the 14:10 mark of the fourth quarter, with Clemson already holding a 45-3 lead over the Citadel. Then, Daniel Rodriguez caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Cole Stoudt, for his first career touchdown. On Military Appreciation Day, no less. If you're not already familiar with Rodriguez's story, become so. Simply amazing.

The icers: Paul Chryst, bravo. Randy Edsall, not so much. Up 17-16 with 1:03 left and Syracuse facing a fourth-and-8 from the Pitt 36, Chryst called a timeout right as the Orange were about to attempt a game-winning field goal, which was then revealed to be a fake, a fake that looked destined to be good. Terrel Hunt then threw an incomplete pass out of the timeout, sealing bowl-eligibility for the Panthers and leaving Syracuse with no other choice but to beat Boston College this Saturday in order to make the postseason. Edsall, meanwhile, called a timeout to ice BC kicker Nate Freese's 52-yard game-winning attempt, which hooked left. With new life from Edsall's timeout, however, Freese drilled it, giving the Eagles a 29-26 win at Maryland, their fourth straight victory.

The unconventional two-pointer: Speaking of BC-Maryland, how about the wild extra-point sequence in the fourth quarter? Alex Amidon hauled in a 74-yard touchdown pass for BC with 5:02 left to take a 26-24 lead. But the extra point was blocked, and Anthony Nixon ran it back the other way to tie the game at 26. You don't see that every day.

The Heisman hopefuls: In making your case for why you should win college football's highest individual honor, you can do a lot worse than what Andre Williams and Aaron Donald did on Saturday. Williams rushed for 263 yards, eclipsing the 200-yard mark for the third straight game. He also got to 2,073 yards on the season, becoming just the 16th player in college football history to reach the 2,000-yard plateau. His 36-yard run set up the game-winning field goal for Boston College. Donald, meanwhile, was named the Walter Camp defensive player of the week award, as the Pitt defensive tackle tallied nine tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and a blocked extra-point attempt that provided the winning margin in a 17-16 win at Syracuse.

The three-headed attack: Here's another box-score oddity you don't see every day: Florida State had three different players average better than 11 yards per carry. Devonta Freeman carried it 11 times for 129 yards and a touchdown (11.7 yards per carry), Karlos Williams ran it 10 times for 114 yards and two touchdowns (11.4 ypc) and James Wilder Jr. rushed four times for 85 yards and a score (21.3). The Seminoles had 336 rushing yards on the day, averaging 8.4 yards per attempt.

The Blue Devils: Where do we start this time? Duke is in the BCS standings for the first time, at No. 24, after getting picked to finish last in the Coastal Division by the media in July. The Blue Devils have now clinched a tie of the division title after beating Wake Forest 28-21, and can win it outright by winning this Saturday at North Carolina. They have tied a school record with nine wins, something they have not done since 1941. And they have won seven straight games for the first time since 1994.

ACC Power Rankings: Week 13

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Sorting out the ACC after Week 13:

1. Florida State (10-0, 8-0 ACC; LW: No. 1): The Seminoles were their usual dominant selves in an 80-14 dismantling of Idaho, leaving little doubt their on-field performance this season makes them worthy of playing for a national championship. They will try to close their first unbeaten regular season since 1999 against sinking in-state rival Florida.

2. Clemson (10-1, 7-1; LW: No. 2): As expected, the Tigers had no problems against The Citadel. This week will not be so easy as they try to end a four-game losing streak to South Carolina. Tajh Boyd has thrown 12 touchdown passes to two interceptions in his past three games, and is completing 78.3 percent of his passes in that span.

3. Duke (9-2, 5-2; LW: No. 3): We could be on the verge of witnessing history. After beating Wake Forest 28-21 on Saturday, Duke wins the Coastal with a victory over North Carolina on Saturday. Anthony Boone had his best game since returning from a collarbone injury, and the defense had another stellar fourth-quarter performance. Duke has won nine games for the first time since 1941.

4. Virginia Tech (7-4, 4-3; LW: No. 4): While it is true the Hokies have not looked so hot recently, they are the best positioned after Duke to make the ACC championship game. If the Blue Devils lose to the Tar Heels and the Hokies beat Virginia, there are several scenarios that favor Virginia Tech for a spot in the ACC title game. Plus, they own a 4-1 record in the Coastal and victories over Miami and Georgia Tech.

5. Miami (8-3, 4-3; LW: No. 5): The Canes ended their three-game losing streak with a much-needed win over Virginia thanks to their maligned defense, which came through with four turnovers -- two returned for scores. Concerns remain about an inconsistent offense and a struggling Stephen Morris, who was off once again in the win over the Hoos.

6. Georgia Tech (7-4; 5-3; LW: No. 6): No surprise at how soundly the Jackets dispatched Alabama A&M for a second win over an FCS opponent this year. Now comes the best opportunity in years to beat in-state rival Georgia, heavily handicapped because of injuries. Coach Paul Johnson has beaten Georgia only once in five meetings, and that came in his first season as head coach.

7. North Carolina (6-5, 4-3; LW: No. 7): The surging Tar Heels have won five straight and are playing some of the best football in the ACC. You could make an argument they deserve to be ranked higher. But they did lose to the three teams ahead of them in the power rankings, and their victories have come against UVa, NC State, Pitt and Old Dominion. Not exactly heavyweights there.

8. Boston College (7-4, 4-3; LW: No. 8): A bit of fortune helped Boston College beat Maryland on Saturday, along with a lot of Andre Williams. The senior running back has now topped 2,000 yards on the season, and folks across the nation are taking notice. Expect him to earn a few more votes in the ESPN.com Heisman Watch on Tuesday. BC now has a chance to win eight games for the first time since 2009.

9. Pitt (6-5, 3-4; LW: No. 11): The Panthers secured bowl eligibility following a 17-16 win over Syracuse, despite being outgained, losing the turnover battle and falling short in time of possession. Special teams was the reason. Aaron Donald came up with a blocked extra point, and a timeout call just as Syracuse was about to fake a field goal were the two big turning points.

10. Maryland (6-5, 2-5; LW: No. 10): There is no way around it. Maryland lost a heartbreaker to Boston College on senior day. Coach Randy Edsall decided to call timeout to ice kicker Nate Freese, who ended up missing the 52-yard attempt. When he got his second shot, Freese nailed the kick to win the game. The Terps did lose head-to-head to Syracuse but they are bowl eligible, so that gives them the spot ahead.

11. Syracuse (5-6, 3-4; LW: No. 9): Talk about losing a heartbreaker. Syracuse did, too, and now the Orange's bowl hopes are on life support with a game against former Big East rival Boston College to close the season. Terrel Hunt played better, but injuries have really taken a toll on this team defensively.

12. Wake Forest (4-7, 2-6; LW: No. 12): The Deacs put forth a great effort in a loss to Duke, jumping out to a 14-0 lead before ultimately coming up short. They will not make a bowl game for the fourth time in five seasons, putting a damper on a season that began with postseason expectations.

13. NC State (3-8, 0-7; LW: No. 13): Hard to say what the low point has been this season for new coach Dave Doeren. Losing to East Carolina certainly did not seem like a certainty when the season began. But everything has unraveled for the Wolfpack, who went 0-4 against teams from North Carolina this season. They will try to avoid their first winless season in ACC play since 1959 against Maryland this weekend.

14. Virginia (2-9, 0-7; LW: No. 14): The Hoos have lost eight straight, and have only one win over an FBS program this season. Virginia has now allowed 35 or more points in seven losses this season, and Greyson Lambert has come in to finish the last three games.

ACC Saturday setup: Week 13

November, 23, 2013
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Here’s one final look at what’s on tap today in the ACC:


Game: Duke (8-2) at Wake Forest (4-6)

What’s at stake: The Coastal Division title is on the line for Duke, which can win it outright with two more wins, against Wake Forest and North Carolina. A win would guarantee Duke at least a share of the division title, while a loss by the Blue Devils would send them into a tie with Georgia Tech, and also possibly Miami, North Carolina and Virginia Tech. A win would also give Duke a ninth win for the first time since 1971. Wake Forest, meanwhile, has to win out just to become bowl eligible.

Statistically speaking: All four of Duke’s running backs -- Jela Duncan, Shaquille Powell, Josh Snead and Juwan Thompson -- average at least five yards per rushing attempt this season. A total of 43.8 percent of Duke’s offense has come from its ground game this year.

Quotable: “This isn't a flash in the pan. We're going to be good next year if our team has the kind of work ethic that this team has.” -- Duke coach David Cutcliffe


Game: Virginia (2-8) at Miami (7-3)

What’s at stake: Miami still has a slim chance at playing in the ACC title game. It needs to win its final two games and hope Duke loses, for starts, so there is no margin for error against the Hoos. Virginia is looking to snap a seven-game winning streak and finish on a strong note.

Statistically speaking: UVa true freshman Keeon Johnson made his collegiate debut in the Cavaliers’ fifth game of the season after originally being slated to redshirt. He has 17 catches for 226 yards (13.3 yards per catch) and one touchdown. He’s on pace to have the best true freshman receiving season for a UVa wide receiver since Billy McMullen had 28 catches for 483 yards (17.2 yards per catch) and six touchdowns in 1999.

Quotable: “A lot of players on this team have been successful against Miami. It's one of those things you have to create that mindset, that balance of, we got two games left, and we want to play to the best of our ability to send these seniors out.” -- Uva coach Mike London

Game: Old Dominion (8-3) at North Carolina (5-5)

What’s at stake: North Carolina would become bowl eligible with a win, completing one of the best turnarounds in college football this year. The Tar Heels started out 1-5, but enter this game on a four-game winning streak.

Statistically speaking: UNC freshman Ryan Switzer has the single-season school record with three punt return touchdowns. The ACC single-season record is four by Maryland’s Steve Suter in 2002. The ACC career mark is six, also held by Suter. Three of Switzer’s last five punt returns have gone for touchdowns.

Quotable: “The kids kept believing. They kept working extremely hard. They had great attitudes. And that's one thing that I can say about these guys: Their attitude after a game or going into a game has been the same each and every week. That has been very consistent, which is what we're looking for.” -- North Carolina coach Larry Fedora

Game: The Citadel (5-6) at (7, 8, 6) Clemson (9-1)

What’s at stake: A BCS bowl. Pride. Senior Day. There shouldn’t even be a whiff of an upset in Death Valley, and this should be an easy week before ending the regular season against rival South Carolina. Clemson has to keep winning, though, to help ensure a shot at a BCS bowl. If Clemson can defeat The Citadel, it will give the Tigers 31 wins over the last three years, the most in a three-year period in school history.

Statistically speaking: Saturday will be the final home game for Clemson’s 19 seniors. Only 10 of the 19 are scholarship players. The class has a 36-14 record over the last four years, the sixth-most wins for a class in Clemson history. That includes 24 wins over ACC teams, the most in school history in a four-year period.

Quotable: “He has I think been the best receiver in the country. I don't think there's any doubt about it in my mind.” – Dabo Swinney on WR Sammy Watkins


Game: East Carolina (8-2) at NC State (3-7)

What’s at stake: Pride. Recruiting. There’s plenty of history between ECU and NC State, as the Pirates are located in Greenville, N.C. The two teams met every season from 1970-1987, but since then have played just nine times. This one is important because of the state of both programs within the state -- ECU is trending up and NC State? Well, the Pack have lost six straight and are winless in league play. This is a chance for first-year coach Dave Doeren to reassert the program’s place within the state, and to avoid what could be an embarrassing home loss.

Statistically speaking: Freshman wide receiver Jumichael Ramos has 18 catches this season, and eight of them have been to convert a third or fourth down. Only one time when Ramos was targeted on a third or fourth down play did the rookie fail to convert and that was a third and 15 against Syracuse when he gained 11 yards.

Quotable: “I know what they're saying at that school. Those things have been talked about here. We feel like we have a lot to prove, probably more than them to be honest with you. It's a game that means a lot for a lot of reasons.” – NC State coach Dave Doeren

Game: Pitt (5-5) at Syracuse (5-5)

What’s at stake: Bowl eligibility and bragging rights. These former Big East teams will play for the first time as ACC opponents, and one of them will finish bowl eligible. The loser of the game will have one more chance to reach the six-win mark in the regular-season finale. This is also a chance for Pitt to redeem itself from last year’s 14-13 loss to the Orange.

Statistically speaking: S Ray Vinopal has created four turnovers in his last two games, including a forced fumble and recovery to set up a Panthers’ touchdown against North Carolina.

Quotable: “With the push towards the big mega-conferences, to some degree, I'm saddened that some of the rivalries are not played anymore. We don't play West Virginia anymore. That was a great game. So I'm glad that we are able to do two things, first and foremost, this week playing a Pitt team that we've been playing for the last 55 years; I think it's great for the fans in both towns and for the fans in the northeast that have watched these games for so many years,” -- Syracuse coach Scott Shafer

Game: Alabama A&M (4-7) at Georgia Tech (6-4)

What’s at stake: It’s the first meeting between the schools, and the first time Georgia Tech will play a team from the SWAC, and the first time coach Paul Johnson will coach against a team from that conference. As far as the ACC race goes, Georgia Tech has to wait and see how it plays out, as the Jackets have wrapped up their ACC play at 5-3. They’re in sole possession of second place in the division this week. The only thing at stake here for Georgia Tech really is avoiding an embarrassing loss and using an unheralded opponent to tune up for the regular-season finale against Georgia.

Statistically speaking: Georgia Tech’s defense has not allowed a rushing play longer than 34 yards. The Yellow Jackets are one of just 10 FBS teams that have not allowed any rushing plays of 40 yards or longer. In Georgia Tech’s six wins this season, the defense has allowed just 11.5 points per game.

Quotable: “We could have -- had we played better Thursday night and found a way to beat a good Clemson team; we knew going into that game we had a chance. If we won that game, I felt like we had a chance to win the division without the tiebreaker or outright. There's still that chance. I think the Coastal is pretty well balanced and I don't know that there's one team that's head and shoulders better than the rest. You just step back and let the guys play out and see what happens.” -- Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson

Game: Boston College (6-4) at Maryland (6-4)

What’s at stake: Maryland is trying to break a two-game losing streak to the Eagles, and with two more wins, the Terps could finish the ACC season at .500 -- a huge improvement from the past two seasons under Randy Edsall. It would also be a strong finish for Maryland in what will be the program’s final year in the ACC before moving to the Big Ten. Both teams are already bowl eligible, so this game is about continuing the positive momentum, and positioning themselves for one of the better bowls.

Statistically speaking: BC is fifth in the country and second in the ACC in red zone offense, having scored on 21 of 22 chances. BC has scored 13 touchdowns (six rushing and seven passing ) and has kicked eight field goals to account for their 18 scores from inside the red zone.

Quotable: “I think Andre is an outstanding football player. The answer to that is yes. The definition is being a dominant football player, leading rusher in America. High, high character. A great human being. A real student-athlete. Certainly extremely valuable to our football team. I would say he fits all that criteria.” -- BC coach Steve Addazio on whether RB Andre Williams is a Heisman contender

Game: Idaho (1-9) at (2, 2, 2) Florida State (10-0)

What’s at stake: The national championship. It doesn’t change for Florida State, which must win out to maintain its No. 2 spot in the BCS standings.

Statistically speaking: The Seminoles have outscored their opponents 170-21 before halftime during their last five games -- a stretch that featured two top 10 opponents (No. 3 Clemson and No. 7 Miami). During the five-game span, FSU has nearly tripled its opponent’s yardage in the first half -- averaging 301 yards before halftime and allowing just 110 yards to opponents. With Florida State resting most of its starters for the better portion of the second half in these games, opponents have gained nearly 50 percent more yards after halftime (156.8).

Quotable: “We have played good football, but there are still things we need to clean up and we know that. We have not played our best football yet in my opinion.” -- Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher

Q&A with Maryland QB C.J. Brown

November, 22, 2013
11/22/13
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Maryland is going bowling for the first time under third-year coach Randy Edsall. The Terrapins have C.J. Brown to thank in large part for that, as he ran for the game-winning touchdown in a 27-24 overtime upset win at Virginia Tech on Nov. 16.

The redshirt senior quarterback has suffered his share of injuries on a team that has been depleted by them the last two seasons, but in eight games this season he has completed better than 59 percent of his passes for 1,608 yards with eight touchdowns and six interceptions, and has added another 378 yards and eight scores rushing.

ESPN.com caught up with Brown this week to talk about the home stretch for the Terrapins, who host Boston College on Saturday.

Can you take me through that game-winning touchdown dive and the wait afterward while they reviewed it, and the celebration of getting to a bowl game and pulling out that win?

C.J. Brown: We were down on, I want to say, the 3-yard-line. They just stopped us. We got a cover-zero look on the play was supposed to go to the tight end, a little tight end pop pass. When I turned around after the play-action fake I saw he was covered, he kind of got tackled. Watched down the running back, who I knew wasn't going to be there. Continued to stay on the move on the rollout. Saw the edge, saw the pylon — the guard was able to get out, kind of handle one of the linebackers — and took a dive for the end zone and swiped the pylon.

[+] EnlargeC.J. Brown
AP Photo/Steve HelberMaryland quarterback C.J. Brown dives for the game-winning touchdown at Virginia Tech.
Have you ever seen your coach, Randy Edsall, as jubilant and as excited as he was the minute that game was announced as over and he was celebrating?

CB: Not at all, not at all. That was definitely a moment that I'll remember for the rest of my life. It was exciting to see your coach excited like that. It's always funny to see him run on the field that fast because you never see your coach run.

What's it mean to become bowl-eligible in the third year under Randy Edsall?

CB: To get six wins and to be eligible for that, it's huge. We haven't had a bowl game in a while, and for everyone, that's been the goal: Get to a bowl game, get to a bowl game. To be able to solidify a sixth win in that fashion is huge for us. We're excited and have two games left to better our situation.

You guys have not been the luckiest team when it comes to injuries. From your perspective, how have you had to adjust playing without Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, some of your top targets?

CB: Yeah, it's been tough. Injuries are part of the game. We understand that. Like coach always says, the next-man-up mentality. If something ever happens, the next guy to get up has to do just as good or better, and I think that's what guys are doing. They're taking it upon themselves to not let the team down, and I think that you see that on the field. But injuries are part of the game and they're going to happen, so we've just got to roll with it.

And for you, would it be fair to say this is probably as healthy as you've been in at least the last month and probably for most of the season outside of the first game or two?

CB: Yeah, definitely. I think that definitely shows on the field. Just to be able to be out there and be healthy again, it feels really good. And just to go out there and give ourselves a chance to win, I think it's definitely a better situation, especially on offense.

This Boston College team you're about to face has undergone a massive turnaround from last season. Just looking at them from your position, what do you think is the biggest difference from last year to this year?

CB: I think their whole coaching staff. I think that's the biggest thing, is the whole mentality. They're explosive when running the ball on offense. They just pound it. On defense, coach [Don] Brown, who was here and I know personally, implementing that defense and giving everyone hard looks and bringing all these blitzes and pressures. Just the mentality, I think, has changed there.

[+] EnlargeC.J. Brown
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyC.J. Brown and the Terrapins have achieved bowl eligibility, a big goal for the program in their final season in the ACC.
All the implications aside in terms of six wins, bowl-eligibility and what not, what did it mean to win in a place like Blacksburg, Va., especially given the last month you guys have had? How do you think this can be a catalyst for a nice finish to the season?

CB: It's huge, especially because no one on the team's ever been to Blacksburg. No one had been to Lane Stadium. You hear all the time about the hostile environment, the history of the team, and to go in there and how loud it is. And for us to go in there as underdogs and come out with the victory like that, it was huge.

I know it's different from a player perspective. I know media, coaches and administrators like to think about it a lot more, but this being your last year in the ACC, is there anything special about playing in the league this last year or is it one of those things you haven't really thought about?

CB: Nah, I haven't really thought about it. We get asked questions about it a lot. The ACC was here long before us and I think that we want to go out on top, obviously, and we want to show our Maryland pride. And I think that's the biggest thing, is just making sure we're leaving everything on the field and having no regrets.

ACC weekend rewind: Week 12

November, 18, 2013
11/18/13
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Just two more weeks left in the regular season. But before looking ahead, let's take one last look back at the week that was in the ACC.

[+] EnlargeJames Wilder Jr.
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsTailback James Wilder Jr. rushed for two touchdowns on just three carries in Florida State's romp of Syracuse.
The good: There's not a whole lot not to like about another brilliant Florida State performance, as the Seminoles rolled to a 59-3 win over Syracuse to clinch a perfect ACC season. Jameis Winston (19-of-21 passing) was only needed for a half, and he got plenty of help from his supporting cast, with Karlos Williams making the most of his four carries (78 yards), Kenny Shaw adding 99 receiving yards on seven catches and the defense holding the Orange to 68 first-half yards on 30 plays. Those poor souls from Idaho entering Tallahassee this coming weekend for Senior Day ...

The bad: What happened to you, Miami? Just three weeks ago you entered a prime-time showdown at rival FSU riding high, undefeated, free of the NCAA cloud and ranked No. 7 in the BCS standings. You've lost three games since, the latest a 48-30 contest at Duke, which wrestled away control of the Coastal Division from you. You gave up 358 rushing yards to a team that entered averaging just 165.9 per contest. Fortunately, you have Virginia on deck this weekend for Senior Day.

The ugly: Speaking of Virginia, the Cavaliers have some company in the cellar of the ACC, as NC State lost again, this time a 38-21 contest at Boston College. The Wolfpack fell to 0-7 in ACC play for the first time in program history, and they are now guaranteed to miss a bowl game in Year 1 under Dave Doeren. Andre Williams did a lot of this to them, too.

The history: Williams keeps finding records to chase. This time the Eagles senior rushed for an ACC single-game record of 339 yards, giving him an ACC single-season record of 1,810 rushing yards on the season. The previous ACC single-game record was 329 by Wake Forest's John Leach in 1993 versus Maryland, according to ESPN Stats & Info. And the previous league single-season record was 1,798 by Virginia's Thomas Jones in 1999. Williams' 339 yards Saturday were the most by an FBS player in a game this season, though it was not the most across college football Saturday: That would belong to Cartel Brooks and his 465 yards for Div. III Heidelberg, a new NCAA record.

More history: Tajh Boyd broke Phillip Rivers' ACC record for career touchdown passes, as he now has 97. And the Clemson quarterback had 340 passing yards in Thursday's win over Georgia Tech, leaving him one 300-yard game shy of Rivers' ACC record of 18.

(We want) more history: OK, fine. Duke quarterback Brandon Connette rushed for four touchdowns, giving him 29 rushing touchdowns for his career, breaking the previous school record of 28, set by Tom Davis from 1941-44.

The fun and games: Hey, who doesn't like a game of Hangman? It's not like the end of the Florida State-Syracuse game featured anything more dramatic, anyway.

The consistently inconsistent: Pitt was thisclose to keeping Notre Dame out of the national title game last season. It then followed things up by laying an egg at UConn. The Panthers finally took down the Irish this year, so how did they respond? Naturally, by falling behind by 24 points in the second half in an eventual 34-27 home loss to red-hot North Carolina. Give credit to Pitt for mounting a furious comeback to tie the game, and to Tom Savage and Devin Street for playing hurt, but surrendering a pair of punt return touchdowns to Ryan Switzer did not help matters. The Panthers remain at five wins, with a game this weekend at the always-tricky Carrier Dome on deck before the season finale against Miami.

The celebration: Did you see how happy Randy Edsall was? Maryland finally got to bowl eligibility under the third-year coach, snapping a three-game losing streak by pulling off the overtime upset at Virginia Tech. This was a big deal for Edsall & Co., as evidenced by his oh-so-happy postgame demeanor.

ACC helmet stickers: Week 12

November, 17, 2013
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Who stood out the most in the ACC this weekend? Glad you asked.

North Carolina wide receiver Ryan Switzer. As a receiver, Switzer put up a modest two catches for 21 yards. But the true freshman was a game-changer as a punt returner, as he brought back kicks of 65 and 61 yards, the latter breaking a 27-27 tie with 4:46 left in the fourth quarter and helping the Tar Heels escape Pittsburgh with the 34-27 win, their fourth in a row. North Carolina is on the verge of a bowl berth after a 1-5 start, and they have the 5-foot-10, 175-pound rookie in large part to thank for that after blowing a 27-3 second-half lead.

Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown. Brown delivered when his team needed him most, helping engineer a big upset in Blacksburg, Va., as the Terrapins escaped with a 27-24 overtime win. Brown was just 12 of 25 passing for 135 yards with a touchdown and an interception, but he made some big plays with his legs, including the three-yard game-winning run in the extra session as he moved left and dived into the pylon to clinch the victory. Brown finished with 122 rushing yards and two scores on 23 carries, helping Maryland snap a three-game winning streak and clinching bowl eligibility for the first time in three seasons under coach Randy Edsall.

Boston College running back Andre Williams. He seemingly has reserved a spot in this post every week, as the senior powered the Eagles to a sixth win, tripling last year's total. They gained bowl eligibility for the first time since 2010 with a 38-21 Senior Day win over NC State. Williams rushed for 339 yards and two touchdowns on 42 carries, breaking the ACC's single-game and single-season rushing record (he has 1,810 rushing yards on the season). Williams now has four 200-yard rushing games on the year, and he has amassed 634 rushing yards and four touchdowns in his last two games.

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. Winston played just a half, but he made it count. The redshirt freshman completed 19 of 21 passes for 277 yards with two touchdowns and no picks, leading the Seminoles to a 38-0 lead at the break, en route to a 59-3 win. Keep in mind the Syracuse defense he was facing had not given up a touchdown in its previous two games, too. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Winston is now the only player since at least 2000 with two games of at least 90 percent comp pct (min. 20 att) in a season.

Duke's rushing game. The Blue Devils entered Saturday's contest averaging 165.9 rushing yards per game. Against Miami, they rushed for 358 and five scores, doing whatever they wanted as they overcame an early 17-7 deficit and scored the game's final 20 points to win 48-30. Josh Snead led the ground attack with 138 yards on nine carries, and Jela Duncan added 98 yards on 16 carries. Let's not overlook Brandon Connette, who scored four rushing touchdowns on 11 carries, totaling 37 yards on the night.

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