ACC: Spencer Whipple

Sixteen players from ACC schools were named Wednesday to the 2012 National Football Foundation Hampshire Society for their academic achievement.

The society is in its sixth year, and it honors those from all divisions of college football who maintained a minimum 3.2 GPA throughout their college careers.

Here's the list of ACC honorees:

DB Hampton Hughes (BC)
P Dawson Zimmerman (Clemson)
S Matt Daniels (Duke)
TE Cooper Helfet (Duke)
K Will Snyderwine (Duke)
CB Johnny Williams (Duke)
OT Zebrie Sanders (FSU)
RB Roddy Jones (Georgia Tech)
TE John Calhoun (Miami)
QB Spencer Whipple (Miami)
OT Mikel Overgaard (NC State)
K Robert Randolph (Virginia)
LS Collin Carroll (Virginia Tech)
WR Danny Coale (Virginia Tech)
TE Chris Drager (Virginia Tech)
OG Michael Hoag (Wake Forest)

Labor Day links

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Happy Labor Day. In case you haven't noticed, I'm not laboring very hard until the Maryland-Miami game tonight. See you in CP?

Miami QB competition far from over

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Miami quarterback Stephen Morris kinda sorta won the starting job by default this month -- not that he doesn’t deserve to start the season opener against Maryland on Monday night.

Still, consider Miami’s quarterback competition far from over.

[+] EnlargeStephen Morris
Andrew Shurtleff/US PresswireStephen Morris will get the start for Miami Monday night against Maryland.
“We have two or three practices during the bye week there,” said coach Al Golden, whose team won’t play again until the Sept. 17 matchup against Ohio State. “We'll let them compete. Again, the competition was really close, obviously got skewed towards the stretch. It looked like one was going to be ineligible. We didn't know if he was going to be reinstated. That competition abruptly ended. We'll continue it after this game.”

Golden said the competition was literally dead-even when the eligibility of quarterback Jacory Harris came into question.

“We hadn't even had the second scrimmage and news started breaking and Jacory's name was mentioned,” Golden said. “At that point we basically had to abort the competition, if you will, and make sure that Stephen was ready. Stephen was certainly up to the challenge. … I think the bottom line was that Stephen really came on strong last four or five practices, certainly the last scrimmage, then really we turned the reins over to him last week and early this morning once the news came down.”

The good news for Miami is that Morris has been preparing all summer as if he were the starter, and he could have very well won the job on his own in spite of the NCAA investigation. The bigger concern for the Hurricanes at the position is the depth. Harris isn’t even traveling with the team, so Spencer Whipple is the next man up, followed by A.J. Highsmith, if anything happens to Morris.

Whipple has completed 6 of 12 career passes for 54 yards and two interceptions.

“Whip is steady. He's smart. A coach's son. Really bright,” Golden said. “He carries it over to the game. He's the kind of guy who, even though he doesn't get as many reps during the preseason, he's been getting a lot of reps over the last five or six practices. He can operate the offense despite not getting the reps because he knows it so well. He is a quick learner, and he is smart.”

Morris started the final four games of the 2010 season, and actually led the team with a 125.01 efficiency rating and 206.7 yards per game. Regardless of how well he fares against Maryland, though, he will have to win the job again in order to start against Ohio State.

Canes release new depth chart

March, 22, 2011
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Miami has released its second depth chart of the spring, and the most noticeable change is at quarterback, where Jacory Harris has moved back to the No. 1 spot, followed by Stephen Morris and Spencer Whipple. (And Miami fans aren't sure whether to celebrate or panic.)

Running back Storm Johnson has moved up to the No. 1 spot, and LaRon Byrd and Travis Benjamin are once again the top receivers.

Defensively, redshirt freshman Travis Williams is in the top linebacker spot Ramon Buchanan used to occupy before he was suspended this week. Sophomore Eduardo Clements, who played primarily on special teams in 2010, has moved from running back to cornerback.

Strong safety Ray-Ray Armstrong is back at No. 1 after being limited at the beginning of spring ball but is now back to full participation. True freshman cornerback Thomas Finnie is apparently the real deal. It was surprising to see a true freshman in a starting role on the first spring depth chart, but he has maintained his hold on that spot. Linebacker Jordan Futch has moved from the middle to outside.

Miami QBs embracing competition

March, 11, 2011
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CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Miami quarterback Jacory Harris, a genuinely good guy who unfortunately might be best known for his 39 career interceptions, learned an important stat about picks last season -- Dan Marino threw 50 of them in his career at Pitt.

(Technically, Jacory, Marino actually threw 69 interceptions during his collegiate career.)

“I did not know that,” Harris said with a smile. “I’m pretty sure I’m not going to throw 50 picks by the time I’m done. If anything, Dan Marino is going to be a Hall of Fame quarterback in the NFL. That goes to show that you can still be a great quarterback. You still have to cut down on mistakes, but Coach [Jedd] Fisch is someone who doesn’t even want to talk about interceptions. If you throw one, don’t even worry about it, go on to the next play. That’s something we’re not even allowed to talk about in the meeting rooms. I feel the same way: If you talk about them, you bring them back up. That’s how the game goes. You’ve got to make some mistakes sometimes in order to learn.”

[+] EnlargeJacory Harris
AP Photo/Alan DiazMiami quarterback Jacory Harris is learning to be a more vocal leader on and off the field.
All three quarterbacks at Miami have learned a major lesson this offseason -- things are different under first-year coach Al Golden, and the starting job is up for grabs. (Seriously.) There has been a genuine competition amongst Harris, Spencer Whipple and Stephen Morris since the 2010 season ended, as evidenced by the pre-spring depth chart. Whipple, previously the third-string quarterback, was No. 1. Harris was second, followed by Morris.

Harris is the most experienced of the three, and it’s also his last chance at redemption. As a senior, the embattled quarterback has been through it all -- starting as a true freshman, a concussion that sidelined him for the majority of the second half of the 2010 season and a turnover tendency that has made any other quarterback available the No. 1 choice of Miami fans. Last year, he internalized all of it and reached the lowest point of his career.

Now, with his teammates pushing him to be better, it’s hard to catch Harris without a smile -- no matter what the depth chart might say.

“It’s been a big learning experience,” he said. “Since the Virginia game, it’s taught me to look at things in a positive way. After that game and through the injury and finishing the season, I was kind of down, at the lowest point probably in my career. I felt like everything was going wrong. At the start of the new year, I made my goal to stay positive about everything, no matter what it is. To always smile, even when things are going wrong, and to find some light in everything.”

And to not look back.

Fisch said he told Harris he doesn’t want to judge him on past performances.

“What we’re going to work with Jacory on is understanding and mastering what we want him to do, not what he’s done in the past, not what he’s done in high school, not what he’s done in college,” Fisch said. “He has to understand the offense we’re asking him to run and he has to work under those parameters.”

Morris has a strong arm and the confidence to go with it, but he’s a baby-faced sophomore still in need of instruction and development. In six games last year, he threw seven touchdowns and nine interceptions.

“Me and Jacory are just good friends and we understand the competition on the field is solely on the field,” said Morris, who said he has been cleared for full participation since suffering an ankle injury during Sun Bowl practices. “Off the field, it’s back to being a family. I can’t lie: It has been rough at times. Obviously, for anybody who’s competing for a job, but you’ve just got to sit back and pray and realize we’re in this together. We’re going after the same job, and no matter who gets the starting job, I’ll be behind the person and whoever will be behind me.”

Right now, both Harris and Morris are behind Whipple, who was rewarded for finishing slightly ahead of the other two quarterbacks in the offseason ranking system.

“It drove a lot of the players in the offseason,” said Whipple, whose father, former Miami offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, was not retained by the current staff. “Everyone wanted to work really hard and show the coaches what they had and where they stood in terms of the depth chart. Now it’s a whole new process going through spring ball and a whole new grading system. Some guys who were starters maybe aren’t starting now but maybe they learned lessons about hard work, so it worked out for everyone. Everyone understood what was going to happen.”

And there hasn’t been any animosity between them. Instead, it’s made them better. Harris said he “sensed” the change coming on the depth chart because he knows Golden wants to see more leadership qualities from him.

“I’ve always been a guy who just sits back and watches things, or tries to lead by example,” Harris said. “Sometimes leading by example isn’t always the right way to go. Sometimes you have to put your foot down and say stuff. With the ranking system, it kind of helped bring that out of me. It’s like, ‘Jacory, you’re not going to get put any higher than you are unless you open up your mouth and lead this team.’ It really helps. I appreciate everything.

“I’m real confident in everything I’m doing right now, even though we have a new playbook, new system, everything. It just feels like I’m in tune with everything. I study the playbook, watch film; I’m just going out there trying to help this team. I don’t want things to happen like in the past. I just want to make sure that we have a successful year.”

And a career filled with fewer mistakes than Marino.
CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Miami had its second spring practice under coach Al Golden on Tuesday afternoon, and a few things stood out:

  • Quarterbacks Jacory Harris and Spencer Whipple were both wearing green jerseys worn by first-team offensive players and took snaps with the first team.
  • True freshman defensive back Thomas Finnie was wearing a black jersey, designated for the starters on defense, for the second straight practice.
  • Offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson lost about 35 pounds, and yet he is still massive. The offseason conditioning program has truly transformed him.
  • Golden said a lot of the leadership from the offseason program has carried over. Ryan McNamee, the Canes' director of player development, told me that the players have done everything this staff has asked them to.
  • It's just plain fun to watch the offensive line go against the defensive line because of the two coaches involved. Defensive line coach Jethro Franklin and offensive line coach Art Kehoe are two of the more colorful personalities on staff.
  • There was a lot of teaching of technique and fundamental work, like positioning of hands, leverage, ball security, etc.

ACC's lunchtime links

March, 7, 2011
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Tournament? What tournament?

Al Golden sends message with depth chart

March, 4, 2011
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Miami fans are going to do a triple-take when they look at Al Golden's spring depth chart, which was released Friday afternoon. Yes, Spencer Whipple is listed as the first-string quarterback.

That's not a typo.

This depth chart is less of an indication of what the Hurricanes' lineup will look like on Labor Day and more a reward for the players who worked the hardest this offseason. Golden has said all along that the players who worked the hardest in the offseason would be rewarded with spots at the top of the depth chart.

Apparently, he wasn't kidding.

Other notable changes:
  • Thomas Finnie, a true freshman who enrolled in January, is listed as a starting cornerback.
  • Seantrel Henderson is listed as the No. 2 left tackle, though Golden has said Henderson has increased the effort over the past week.
  • John Calhoun, who hasn't played a lot and has contributed mainly on special teams, is suddenly a starting tight end.
  • Golden sent a message to Tommy Streeter that four other receivers are working harder right now.
  • JoJo Nicolas, who moved from safety to corner, is already starting at corner.
This morning we looked at the main recruiting needs for the Atlantic Division. Here are the priorities for each team in the Coastal Division:

DUKE

Offensive line: The Blue Devils will have to replace one starter in center Bryan Morgan, and it’s still a relatively young group, but with several redshirt sophomores on the roster, the staff wants to load up two grades behind them to fully stock the position for the future.

Defensive line: This has always been Duke’s deficiency, which means it will always be a priority to catch up and build depth. The Blue Devils will have to replace two starters in Wesley Oglesby and Patrick Egboh. Noseguard Charlie Hatcher will be a redshirt senior.

Cornerback: Duke only loses one starter, cornerback Chris Rwabukamba, but it’s another position that has been weak and needs better athletes.

GEORGIA TECH

Offensive line: The early departure of Nick Claytor to the NFL didn’t help the depth, but there were still several young players who gained valuable experience and others who redshirted to help the depth. While no true freshman is likely to make an immediate impact, the staff is still looking to build the numbers up front.

Linebacker/defensive line: The Jackets need to find more athletes who are suited for Al Groh’s 3-4 scheme. Fast athletes who are versatile enough to play a hybrid role, with the ability to move in space, will be a priority in this class.

MIAMI

Quarterback: With Jacory Harris being a senior, A.J. Highsmith moving to defense, and Spencer Whipple struggling in what little time he has played, the position needs a boost. It didn’t help that Teddy Bridgewater reneged on his commitment.

Linebacker: This is a position former coach Randy Shannon had put an emphasis on building, and there are young players and depth, but it was also a veteran group in the 2010 two-deep, with mainly juniors and seniors.

Wide receiver: The upperclassmen did all of the work in 2010, with Leonard Hankerson leading the way. Travis Benjamin, Aldarius Johnson and Laron Byrd will all be seniors. An influx of young talent is needed.

Defensive end: The staff is looking to improve the depth here, get stronger up front, and build upon the success from 2010. Marcus Robinson, Adewale Ojomo, and Micanor Regis will all be seniors.

NORTH CAROLINA

Tailback: Injuries depleted this group in 2010, and Anthony Elzy, Johnny White and Shaun Draughn were both seniors. Ryan Houston was able to redshirt and will return as a fifth-year senior, but the Tar Heels need more dependable runners and a foundation for the future.

Defensive line: The Tar Heels have to prepare for some departures, especially on the interior, where all four players on the two-deep roster in 2010 were juniors.

Secondary: UNC will have to replace three starters in the secondary this spring, and three backups this year were juniors. Because of the NCAA investigation, this is a group in which backups had to develop quickly, so there are some experienced younger players, but the group still needs to reload.

Tight end: The loss of Zach Pianalto and his backup, Ed Barham, leaves the position thin.

VIRGINIA

Offensive line: With starting right guard B.J. Cabbell gone, starting center Anthony Mihota a senior, and starting left guard Austin Pasztor a senior, the staff has to prepare for some departures. Morgan Moses and Oday Aboushi are talented young players, but the rotation needs more of them.

Defensive line: End Zane Parr’s decision to leave early for the NFL draft hurt the position’s depth, and the Cavs will also have to replace John-Kevin Dolce at tackle. Three other players in the two-deep will be rising seniors, and with Virginia switching back to a 4-3 defense under Mike London, the Cavs have to rebuild up front.

Secondary: Cornerback is of particular concern, as Chase Minnifield will be a senior, and starter Mike Parker will graduate.

VIRGINIA TECH

Running back: The early departures of Ryan Williams and Darren Evans to the NFL left David Wilson as the only tailback with any significant experience. Overall, the Hokies have four tailbacks on their current roster.

Defensive line: The Hokies will have to replace redshirt senior starters Steven Friday and John Graves, and starting left end Chris Drager will be a redshirt senior this year.

Wide receiver/tight end: Starters Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale will be seniors, and tight end Andre Smith will graduate.

Secondary: Half the players on the two-deep roster against Stanford were either juniors or seniors, and the Hokies will have to replace rover Davon Morgan and cornerback Rashad Carmichael.
If ever there was a time for Maryland to beat Miami -- on the road, no less -- this would be it.

The Terps are hot, Miami is not.

Maryland has turned around its 2-10 2009 season and became bowl eligible with its 62-14 win over Wake Forest this past weekend. The Terps enter Saturday’s game in a tie with NC State for second place in the Atlantic Division. The Hurricanes not only lost to Virginia on the road last weekend, they also likely lost their starting quarterback, Jacory Harris, who suffered a concussion. The Canes will turn to a true freshman who was on the path to redshirting, Stephen Morris, while Maryland has a quarterback who is making his case for rookie of the year in Danny O'Brien.

[+] EnlargeDanny O'Brien
AP Photo/Nick WassDanny O'Brien has thrown seven touchdown passes in the past two games.
The Terps are still expecting the best from Miami.

"They are coming off a difficult loss, so we know that they are going to come into the game fired up,” linebacker Alex Wujciak told reporters at the team’s weekly news conference. “They have great athletes on offense from wide receiver to tight end and three good running backs. Whichever quarterback plays is going to be good and we saw that with their freshman coming in and playing well against Virginia. We have to be prepared no matter what quarterback plays."

Right now, it’s likely to be Morris, who shook off some butterflies in his first collegiate appearance against Virginia and accounted for three fourth-quarter touchdowns in the 24-19 loss. Morris had gone from fourth-string quarterback to first in a matter of minutes. Backup A.J. Highsmith was injured, and third-string quarterback Spencer Whipple threw two interceptions in six pass attempts.

“That shows a lot of promise on what we’ve done with [Morris], and how recruiting him shows what we see in him,” Miami coach Randy Shannon said. “He’s a guy that everybody thinks is a quiet guy, but around his teammates he’s happy-go-lucky, a get-after-it kind of guy. On the football field, his presence is unbelievable.”

It’s going to have to be if Miami is going to stay in the ACC race. The Hurricanes can’t afford another conference loss, even if it does come to an Atlantic Division opponent, and they still need one more win to become bowl eligible. A win would give Maryland a 7-2 record and a 4-1 start in ACC play for the first time since 2006.

Maryland and Miami have played each other just once since 1987 -- a 14-13 Maryland home win in 2006. There is more recent familiarity, though, as Maryland defensive coordinator Don Brown worked with Miami offensive coordinator Mark Whipple at UMass.

“It’s going to be interesting,” Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. “I’m sure that there is a lot of familiarity, and that may be a good thing or it could be detrimental. I know that knowing someone so well, you can over-plan at times. But I know that they are very good friends; I think they talk with one another once a week, throughout the year, not just during football season.”

Brown’s defense has shown a lot of improvement in his second season. Maryland held Wake Forest, which was averaging 206.6 rushing yards per game, to minus-3 yards on the ground (the lowest total by an opponent in 11 years). The Terps have held each of their past four opponents under 100 rushing yards. Miami, meanwhile, has been racking up the yards but not the points. Miami is coming off its lowest scoring output of the season.

“We had 177 yards rushing, but we need points,” Shannon said. “Let’s face it: We’re running the ball well, but we need points. Like I said earlier, if we’re doing all the discipline things off the field and in the classroom, we need to take it on the field. That’s the thing that’s disappointing me -- we’re not transitioning that onto the field. Those penalties have been hurting us, hurting the drives. We get a 26-yard run, bring it back, or we get down to the 5-yard line, and bring it back. Those are things that really get you in bad situations that you don’t want to be in.”

Situations like having to beat Maryland in order to stay in the ACC race.
Miami quarterback Jacory Harris won't practice today, and Stephen Morris is likely to start on Saturday against Maryland, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Morris gave the staff reason to be confident in him when he threw three fourth-quarter touchdowns in the 24-19 loss at Virginia. Now that he has a week to prepare and knows his next opponent, Morris should be more composed, but freshmen mistakes are to be expected.

The bigger problem for Miami right now is depth. With Harris and backup A.J. Highsmith injured, Morris and Spencer Whipple are the only two healthy quarterbacks on the roster. Whipple threw two interceptions in six passes at Virginia. The offensive line needs to be at its best in protecting Morris on Saturday, and the staff will also have to simplify its offense and scale back a bit in order to make Morris comfortable and put him in positions to succeed.
Welcome, November, when seasons are made and broken. Here’s a look back at Week 9 and a look ahead at this week:

The good: Refuse-to-lose teams. Boston College, Virginia and Duke all showed some toughness and determination this past weekend, winning games few outside their programs gave them a chance to win. The Eagles won their first game since Sept. 11, Duke won for the first time since beating Elon in the season opener and Virginia knocked off its first ranked opponent since October 2008.

The bad: Miami’s quarterback situation. Starter Jacory Harris suffered a concussion in the loss to Virginia and is questionable for Saturday’s game against Maryland. Backup A.J. Highsmith is still hindered by a hand/wrist injury. Spencer Whipple threw two picks in six pass attempts. Stephen Morris had an encouraging performance, but the staff had to burn his redshirt eight games into the season to discover it.

[+] EnlargeRenfree
AP Photo/Gail BurtonSean Renfree accounted for three touchdowns in the win over Navy.
The ugly: North Carolina’s win over William & Mary. The Tribe controlled most of the game, and the Tar Heels trailed 17-7 after three quarters to former backup quarterback Mike Paulus. UNC lost the turnover battle 2-1, but converted on two key fourth downs.

The play: Trailing 24-21 on fourth-and-inches, NC State quarterback Russell Wilson rolled to his right on a play-action fake and found tight end George Bryan wide open in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown against Florida State.

The playmaker: Duke quarterback Sean Renfree. He threw for 314 yards and a touchdown and ran for two more in the Blue Devils’ 34-31 win over Navy. Even more impressive was the fact he completed 28 of 30 pass attempts, a school single-game record. He tied a school record when he completed his first 16 passes of the game.

Top three games of Week 10:

Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech: Everyone in the Coastal Division should be watching this one on Thursday night, as Miami, North Carolina and the Jackets all need the Hokies to lose if anyone else is going to have a chance at the division title. It’s going to be tough for Georgia Tech’s defense, as Virginia Tech has the nation’s No. 14 scoring offense at 37 points per game.

NC State at Clemson: This game has lost some of its luster after Clemson lost to BC 16-10, and also lost its leading rusher, Andre Ellington, to a toe injury. The Wolfpack should be confident and favored in this game, but NC State has no margin for error and can’t take the trip to Death Valley lightly. It only needs to look back to the loss to East Carolina for a reminder it’s not invincible.

North Carolina at Florida State: The Tar Heels are physically bruised, while the Seminoles’ egos took a hit in their 28-24 loss to NC State. Both T.J. Yates and Christian Ponder have made costly turnovers recently, and while it’s an inter-divisional game, neither team can afford another ACC loss.
Miami quarterback Jacory Harris suffered a concussion in the second quarter of the Hurricanes’ 24-19 loss to Virginia on Saturday and is questionable for next week's game against Maryland, coach Randy Shannon said in a teleconference Sunday.

If Harris is unable to play on Saturday, Stephen Morris will start.

“Jacory’s doing fine right now,” Shannon said. “Our medical team, they’ve done a great job of evaluating and making sure that Jacory is OK. The process of when Jacory’s going to be playing will be up to our medical staff.”

Backup quarterback A.J. Highsmith couldn’t play against Virginia because of an injury to his left hand, which has been “really, really bothering him,” according to Shannon. Highsmith’s status for Saturday is also questionable.

“We’d love to have him back, but at this point in time we don’t know if he’ll be able to make it back,” Shannon said.

Third-string quarterback Spencer Whipple, son of offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, entered the game but was benched after he threw two interceptions in six pass attempts. The staff decided to burn Morris’ redshirt. He completed 9 of 22 passes for 162 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

“It was tough, but we were trying to win the game,” Shannon said of the decision to burn Morris’ redshirt. “A.J. has been having this hand injury that has affected him, and we played Spencer, but we felt like now was the time for Stephen Morris to get a shot. He had a little bit stronger arm and we went to him. He did some nice things in the game. It was great to see him get three touchdowns.”

Shannon said Harris is “a little sore, but he’s in a great mood.”

“We’re talking to him, and joking around with him, things like that,” Shannon said. “He’s never been through it, but right now he’s feeling great. He’s feeling great now, but you’ve got to take this slowly and don’t try and force anything back. You’ve got to make sure you’re doing all of the things we ask of you. He was in great spirits this morning.”

Jacory Harris out for the game

October, 30, 2010
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Miami quarterback Jacory Harris will miss the rest of the game, according to a school spokesman. There was no official diagnosis. A.J. Highsmith, who was the No. 2 quarterback, has been out with a hand/wrist injury. After Spencer Whipple threw two interceptions, the Canes started the second half with Stephen Morris and burned his redshirt in the process. Miami's quarterback situation is currently a disaster. Virginia leads the Hurricanes, 17-0.

Halftime thoughts on early games

October, 30, 2010
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A few quick thoughts on the two noon games:
  • Miami had three turnovers on three straight possessions. No, Miami doesn't have an answer behind Jacory Harris. It has to be an uncomfortable situation for the Whipple family, as offensive coordinator Mark Whipple watches his son Spencer complete passes to Virginia. The Cavaliers lead 14-0.
  • Admit it, Miami fans, you miss J12.
  • For FSU and Miami -- two of the league's three ranked teams in the BCS standings -- to lose in the same weekend would be bad, very bad, for the ACC.
  • Can anyone in this league get through a game without turning it over?
  • BC leads Clemson 16-10 at the half, the first time the Eagles have led at the break since their win against Kent State on Sept. 11. Can they keep it up? They can if Clemson's running game continues to be stifled. Montel Harris already has 111 yards.
  • If you're surprised by any of this, don't be. This is how the ACC rolls. There is no great team. There is no consistent team. And this is what it adds up to.
  • BC and Virginia deserve credit for refusing to collapse. They're both still looking for their first conference wins, they're both pretty much out of their respective conference races, and yet they're both playing as if their respective division titles were on the line today.
  • If these games are setting the tone for the ACC today, UNC better watch out for William & Mary.

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