ACC: Tim Tebow

ACC's lunchtime links

November, 27, 2009
11/27/09
12:30
PM ET
Gearing up for the rivalry games.
  • Injured Duke backup quarterback Sean Renfree might not participate in any of the Blue Devils' spring drills, but coach David Cutcliffe hopes to have his future starter ready to go by the start of the 2010 season. Of course, they'd like to make sure starter Thaddeus Lewis is healthy for Saturday's season finale against Wake Forest. And despite a deep thigh bruise that's been bothering him, Lewis isn't one to quit. And he's got the Duke record books to prove it.
  • History says that Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen has a tough road ahead. Check out this factoid from today's Washington Times:

From 1990 to 2008, coaches in BCS conferences (and their forerunners) who were in their jobs for at least four years have combined for 40 seasons of at least nine losses. Of those, only 17 returned for another season.

  • Bud Foster is getting his defense prepared for Virginia's trick plays this week.
  • Here's a position-by-position breakdown of the Clemson-South Carolina game.
  • FSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher has made significant improvements to the Seminoles' offense, it just hasn't shown up yet against Florida.
  • The Noles' defense will have to show up, too, on Saturday. The best way to stop Tim Tebow? Keep him off the field.
  • Miami could be without injured key veteran starter Jason Fox on the offensive line on Saturday against South Florida.
  • Virginia Tech linebacker Cody Grimm has impressed just about everyone who has seen him play this year.
  • When it comes to teams in the state of Florida playing each other, you can always count on a recruiting subplot, and Miami-South Florida has a good one.
  • Tufts offensive coordinator Jay Civetti didn't hesitate when called upon to fill in for his ailing mentor, NC State offensive coordinator Dana Bible.
  • UNC coach Butch Davis says that Russell Wilson, with the exception of C.J. Spiller, "is the most dynamic player in our league."
  • Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson is trying to keep everyone level-headed about the rivalry against Georgia.

ACC mailblog

November, 27, 2009
11/27/09
11:00
AM ET
Thanks for all of the happy Thanksgiving notes in the mailbag this week. Back at ya ...

Leon in Virginia writes: Hi heather, i think that your going to be wrong about the South Florida- Miami game. Miami may be weak on defense but i still think there D will be able to hold South Florida's offense. Miami should have a couple of key players back on defense this week anyways right? I also think that Jacory will have a better game than South Florida's QB. Like most the games this year i predict Jacory to lead the Canes to a 38 21 win. There's to much fire power on there offense for south Florida, whom I think has a weaker D than Miami, to handle.

Heather Dinich: Well, I'll tell you our Big East blogger, Brian Bennett, picked Miami to win that game. He thinks Miami's D will be too much for B.J. Daniels. He might be right. I thought Miami had too much firepower for North Carolina, and I was wrong on that, and Jacory has been inconsistent this year, though he has shown more than capable of taking the team on his back. But the Canes just haven't looked too convincing lately, and the fact that this game is on the road will make it difficult.


Dimitri in Atlanta, Ga. writes: Hi Heather,I am a frequent reader of your blogs. They are great. I have a question for you. According to this post about Miami being among the teams for the BCS consideration. What has to happen for Miami to get in as a BCS at-large?Thanks,Dimitri

HD: Thanks for reading, Dimitri. I knew somebody would ask about that. The only reason Miami is included in that list is because with a win over South Florida, the Canes have a chance to finish among the top 14 in the BCS standings, and that's where a team has to be ranked in order to be considered for a BCS bowl. (Miami is currently No. 17). More than anything, it's to let folks know they're trying to be as fair as possible and all 14 of those teams will be considered, but the reality is that Miami will more than likely wind up in one of the ACC's bowl tie-ins.


Alan in Savannah, Ga. writes: Would a two loss Georgia Tech still be considered for a BCS bid before the 3 loss teams mentioned in Tuesday's BCS press release: USC, LSU, and Miami?Thanks

HD: Yes, but they automatically qualify for the Orange Bowl if they win the ACC championship game. If they lose and are still ranked among the top 14, which I'd assume they would be, they Georgia Tech could still be taken for an at-large BCS bid.


Richard in Tallahassee writes: Heather, I know it's a long shot for FSU to beat UF on saturday, but what do YOU think is the key in order for FSU to pull the upset? I can sit here and critique EJ Manuel as a freshman all I want, but when it all comes down to it, I think that our D needs to be able to force TO's and force Tebow into throwing in 3rd and long situations, am I right when I say that?

HD: Richard, yes, that's a great start. The defense need to force the Gators into mistakes, which isn't impossible, but one other thing I think needs to happen is offensively. What made Manuel's debut at Wake so impressive was all of the help he got around him. If he could get that again, it would take some pressure off him. His receivers need to run the right routes, and they need to have that running game going. But I think you're right -- the key is the defense.


A Yellow Jacket in Atlanta writes: Do you think Jonathan Dwyer, Morgan Burnett, Demariyus Thomas and Derrick Morgan will leave GT early to join NFL? I certainly hope they don't!!! If they do come back for their senior year..and with an improved defense, do you think GT could be national title contenders next year?

HD: Morgan hasn't made up his mind yet -- I spoke with him on Monday -- but if I had to pick one guy who would leave early, it would be him. Our guys think he's a top five pick. It would be silly for him not to start getting paid. As for the other guys, it depends on what they're hearing -- how high they'll go. I don't think Burnett has had the season he's capable of this year. Thomas should be regarded as one of the best receivers in the country, despite the limited touches. And I'm not sure what Dwyer is thinking right now. It's a long shot, but if they're all back, there's no reason why the Jackets shouldn't be in contention for the NC. Look how close they are this year.


Will T in Tuscaloosa writes: I think ECU is bowl eligible at 7-4, meaning UNC would not be the state's "only bowl eligible team"

HD: Fair enough, Will, and you're right, the Pirates are going bowling, but I've got ACC tunnel vision here in the blogosphere, so when I wrote that, I was only referring to the teams in the conference. Thanks, though, for the clarification.


Antonio in Athens, Ga., writes: Heather I am a Clemson alum/fan and was wondering if you would be at the ACCCG? If so you have to come by the Clemson Club tailgate before the game. I will be the one with all the orange on, keep up the good work.

HD: Of course I'll be there, Antonio, thanks, and I'll be sure too keep my eye out for the guy in "all the orange." Shouldn't be too hard to find.

Video: Big men on campus

August, 20, 2009
8/20/09
2:45
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ESPN.com's Pat Forde talks about Syracuse naming Greg Paulus its starting QB and Bobby Bowden's comparisons of Tim Tebow and Charlie Ward.

ACC's lunchtime links

August, 19, 2009
8/19/09
12:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Mmm. Links.

Miami defensive end Adewale Ojomo had surgery Tuesday morning for a broken jaw and could miss the season opener. Was he sucker punched? There seem to be conflicting reports.

Tim Tebow? Pshh. He ain't got nothin' on Charlie Ward.

There's an overall attitude change at Florida State, and the players' are the ones calling the meeting for it.

Steven Friday is a guy who will come in handy on Saturdays for the Hokies this year.

Georgia Tech safety Cooper Taylor's versatility makes him the perfect wolf.

When UNC coach Butch Davis talks about turnovers, the team listens. It's a proven formula for winning.

BC freshman defensive tackle Dillon Quinn is learning as fast as he can, so he can help the Eagles at one of the spots they need it most -- up front. The ideal situation would be to redshirt Quinn, but the staff might not have that luxury.

NC State will be without third-string tight end Mario Carter for at least the season opener after knee surgery. The Pack is about mid-way through its summer camp, and still looking for answers at a few positions.

Virginia has one important rule for its receivers: If you don't block, you don't play. Lesson learned for Raynard Horne.

Wake Forest joined the ACC injury club on Tuesday when receiver Terence Davis went down with a torn ACL. That could provide a way to get Skylar Jones on the field.

Aside from Jacoby Ford, Clemson's receivers have been an inconsistent group.

Clemson fans, meet 'Kyle Korn'

July, 31, 2009
7/31/09
5:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Maybe that is the best option for Clemson coach Dabo Swinney -- a hybrid quarterback that includes the best qualities of both Kyle Parker and Willy Korn. Swinney joked at ACC media days that he was announcing "Kyle Korn" as his starting quarterback.

Parker has the stronger arm of the two (Swinney called it a "rocket"), but Korn can run and is the more experienced of the two.

"There's really more similarities than differences, which is a good thing for us," Swinney said.

One of the many things Swinney picked up this offseason on his trip to visit with the Texas staff is that Mack Brown told him he likes to get his second-team players in every game, usually on the third series. Swinney seemed to like that idea, and it could be a good way to find some separation at quarterback if the summer isn't enough time for that.

"I'm as anxious as you all are," Swinney said. "The team wants to see it be a fair competition. It's got to be fair, and it's got to be a competition. You can't fool these cats. They know."

Finding a starting quarterback is just one of several challenges Swinney will face in his first season as Clemson's full-time head coach.

"I've got enough to deal with," Swinney said. "I wish I had Tim Tebow. It would make my job a lot easier."

ACC mailblog

July, 10, 2009
7/10/09
11:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

You asked, I answered ...

Brandon in Columbia, S.C., writes: Heather, Do you believe C.J. Spiller has a legitimate chance to be in the Heisman mix this year? I know it will be hard, considering Tebow, McCoy, and Bradford all returned. However, Spiller is a game changer like no other in college football. What can Clemson do PR-wise to up his stock and get everyone talking?

Heather Dinich: Brandon I think the task falls to Dabo Swinney and the offensive line, not the Tigers' PR department. In order for Spiller to even be in the conversation, he has to get the ball more, which I expect him to do. But because of the very names you mentioned returning, his odds are a long shot.


Bob K in Atlanta writes: Heather, how many ACC games will you be attending this fall? Any involving the Yellow Jackets?

HD: I usually go to a game every weekend, Bob. Last year I doubled up on Thursday/Saturday games a few times, too. There's also a Monday night game this year that has caught my interest. And considering the high expectations for the Jackets this year, I'm pretty sure Atlanta will be one of my destinations unless I catch them on the road somewhere.


Mitchell in Atlanta writes: Hey HD first off great blog, keep up the good work. Quick question, I live in SEC country and I keep telling these fans that in three or less years the ACC will be as good if not better than the SEC, what do you think about that?

HD: I think don't push it, Mitchell. There's no question the ACC is getting better, and much of that is a product of better coaches. The conference is closing the gap, albeit slowly. I think the ACC stands a good chance to be among the top three in the country this year. But as good or better than the SEC? Let's wait til' Florida State and Miami beat Florida, Virginia Tech beats Alabama and anybody knocks off LSU. Kudos to Georgia Tech for taking the first step against Georgia.


Gabe in Wheaton, Ill., writes: Hey HD,I love the blog, it's been my saving grace over the summer so far. I read the article you had today in your lunchtime links about Luckett potentially coming back to the Hokies this next year and it made me wonder, how good can the Hokie's receiving core be? As a VT fan I'm really encouraged to see what they can produce since they are also bringing Dillard back from injury, and all of last years freshman have solid game experience. On top of that you've got a much improved offensive line and a quarterback who has also improved his passing game. How good can they be? Also, who do you think will have the best WRs in the ACC? Thanks again for all your hard work!

HD: No doubt this group should be better, but my expectations for the passing game are somewhat tempered until I see that improvement. Dyrell Roberts had a great spring, but the coaches really liked what Xavier Boyce did, so much so he was named one of the top two newcomers of the spring. And don't forget about Marcus Davis, Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin. There should be some good competition there this summer. With Tyrod Taylor's improvement and their consistency, this group has the potential to be part of one of the most effective offenses in the ACC. There are no excuses this year. As for the best wide receivers in the ACC? My first reaction is to say Miami. Guys like Demaryius Thomas at Georgia Tech and Jacoby Ford at Clemson stand out, but Miami might be the deepest.


Adam in Gaithersburg, Md., writes: Heather,If the NCAA keeps FL. States penalty and Coach B gets the 14 wins knocked from his record, do the other coaches or teams get the wins back on their records?

HD: Nope. Nothing that happens to FSU will affect its opponents' records. That's the difference between vacate and forfeit.

Counting down the ACC's top 30 players: No. 11

June, 19, 2009
6/19/09
4:01
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

No. 11. Sean Spence, LB, Miami, 6-0, 211

Spence
Why he's here: He's a hard hitter, just ask Tim Tebow. As a true freshman, Spence recorded his first career sack against the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner. Although Spence came to Miami a little undersized, he still packs quite a punch, and he has since bulked up a bit, so the hits will just keep on coming.

Spence earned the ACC's Defensive Rookie of the Year award after he finished third on the team during the regular season with 62 total tackles and led all Miami linebackers with 7.5 tackles for loss. He started eight of the 12 games he played in, and made the most of his opportunity when teammate Colin McCarthy suffered a season-ending injury.

Spence returned his first career interception for a touchdown against Florida State and forced a fumble in the final minutes of regulation at Virginia which helped the Hurricanes to an overtime win. He posted a career-high 10 tackles against Florida State and had five or more tackles in eight games.


No. 12 Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina
No. 13 Thaddeus Lewis, Duke
No. 14 Bruce Carter, North Carolina

No. 15 Vince Oghobaase, Duke
No. 16 Stephan Virgil, Virginia Tech
No. 17 Jacoby Ford, Clemson
No. 18 Dekoda Watson, Florida State
No. 19 Nate Irving, NC State
No. 20 Chris Chancellor, Clemson
No. 21 Kam Chancellor, Virginia Tech
No. 22 Christian Ponder, Florida State
No. 23 Anthony Castonzo, Boston College
No. 24 Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson
No. 25 Sergio Render, Virginia Tech
No. 26 John Russell, Wake Forest
No. 27 Riley Skinner, Wake Forest
No. 28 Vic Hall, Virginia
No. 29 Da'Rel Scott, Maryland
No. 30 Matt Bosher, Miami

Friday Mailblog

May, 1, 2009
5/01/09
5:36
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Technically, I'm still in the nation's capital. Frankly, I'm tired of politics. So let's get back to football before we call it a day.

FSUsBiggestFan writes: Hey HD, Just curious to see what your rankings of the toughest schedules are in the ACC ting year 1 being toughest 12 being easiest, think you can do a post on that? and do you know where we can find the national rankings? Thanks Heather, keep up the good work!

Heather Dinich: Thanks for reading, man. I actually answered your question back in February, when the schedules were announced, but no harm bringing it up again. If I had to do it over (now that I've had two months to mull it over), I might switch Virginia Tech with Georgia Tech. The fact the Hokies didn't schedule any FCS schools is impressive.


Chris F. in Monmouth, IL, writes: My question for the mailblog is: Which teams do you see emerging as the ACC's superpowers the next few years? Will Virginia Tech be a regular in the Orange Bowl over the next few years or will Florida State and Miami reign supreme once again? Who do you see in the 2011 ACC Title game?

HD: Tough, tough questions, Chris, because so many teams are making improvements. Florida State and Miami are recruiting national championship-caliber players. At least for the last two years, Virginia Tech HAS been a regular in the Orange Bowl, but I think that trend will change. Georgia Tech, UNC and NC State are on the rise. As for 2011, I'm going to go with Miami and Florida State.


Patrick from Georgia Tech writes: HD, Hey, love the blog. I have sort of a hypothetical question for you. Let's say that Dwyer has a Heisman like year. Do you think the voters will shy away from him because of the system he plays in, like some say what happened to Colt Brennan? Also, I am tired of all QB Heisman races...

HD: I don't think the voters would penalize a player because of the system he plays in, but I think they'd shy away from him if, say, Tim Tebow has another Heisman-worthy season, or Colt McCoy.


And finally, a comment from Donny, in Coconut Grove, Fla.: Hey Heather! Just a couple of things: First, as far as "Spring Names to Remember" I think you have to take Mike James over Kendal Thompkins. From all reports he came in with a worker's mentality and was making big plays like the vets from day one. He's also got the physical attributes of an older back: weighs 215-220, benches 350 (most of ALL Miami skill position players). Add that to how injury prone Javaris is and he's going to see some solid pt next year. Second, a few thoughts on Jimmy Graham's announcement. I don't see a problem with him competing for a starting job as a receiving tight end. He ran a 4.6 40 this spring (even if that's a 4.8 in pads it would be fine), and from watching him on the court he's got the hands. It will, however, be difficult to get him blocking well. At 6'8", it's hard to get experienced ends to lower their pad level enough, let alone a virtual newby. Lastly, I hate to rub it in, but it feels so good. At this rate FSU isn't going to have any receivers left and will have to revert to a power I or a T formation next season!

HD: The one comment I'll address is Mike James -- he's got a lot of guys in front of him, and I'm told he could be a redshirt candidate.

Virginia Tech's Williams gives offense a boost

April, 13, 2009
4/13/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Ryan Williams is exactly what Virginia Tech needs -- somebody whose play and personality could give an otherwise dreary offense a caffeinated boost.

Williams did that in the Hokies' scrimmage on Friday, not only with his 122 yards and bedazzling 80-yard touchdown on eight carries, but also with his enthusiasm. He can't stop smiling, and it's contagious. Just as important was the fact the offensive line paved the way for him. Granted, much of the rushing yards came against the second- and third-team defenses, but the Hokies' offense needed some life breathed into it, and Williams did that.

If Virginia Tech truly is going to contend for a national championship this season, odds are he's going to have to do it again. The 103rd best total offense isn't going to cut it against the likes of Florida, Texas and Oklahoma.

So much attention is placed on Florida quarterback Tim Tebow that the Gators' defense, which ranked fourth in the country in scoring defense and ninth in total defense, often doesn't get enough credit. The Gators are the blueprint for a national champion, and for too long, Virginia Tech has only had half of the equation -- Bud Foster's defense. Williams' performance in the first scrimmage was reason to believe the Hokies' offense is capable of much more this fall -- and he's fighting for the No. 2 spot at tailback behind Darren Evans.

While it wasn't an easy decision -- those on staff will tell you Williams was good enough to play last year -- redshirting Williams in 2008 not only gave him a year to prepare and learn the offense, but it also made him hungry to get on the field and show what he can do. That, in turn, will make the players around Williams better -- including the record-setting back in front of him.

Sure, it's still early -- very early -- but 80 yards on the first carry is indicative that Virginia Tech's offense got an upgrade this spring, and he comes with a smile.

The ACC name game

March, 31, 2009
3/31/09
9:14
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Even if you don't want to know or care to know, odds are you know who Tim Tebow is. Soccer moms know who Tim Tebow is. And just about every college football fan across the country knows Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, and Terrelle Pryor. They're what you call household names.

Does the ACC have any this year?

Does the casual college football fan really know who Mark Herzlich is? How about Travis Benjamin? Christian Ponder? More players in the ACC are in the midst of making names for themselves in 2009 than living up to the hype.

Here are the top three big-name players returning to the ACC in 2009, the closest the conference has to "household names:"

1. Tyrod Taylor -- He led the Hokies to a win in the Orange Bowl, so you'd think everyone knows Virginia Tech's No. 1 quarterback by now, but 2009 will be the first full season -- starting with Wednesday's first spring practice -- that Taylor isn't looking over his shoulder to see Sean Glennon waiting in the wings.

2. C.J. Spiller -- He was the "Lightning" half of the backfield that last year included James Davis ("Thunder") and at least in August 2008 was regarded by many as one of the best backfields in the country. He turned down the NFL draft and will now be the focal point of the Tigers' offense.

3. Jonathan Dwyer -- In a little over a season, Dwyer has totaled 1,831 career rushing yards. He surpassed the 100-yard mark 10 times in his career, including nine of 13 games last season when he led the ACC in rushing with 1,395 yards. He was named the ACC's player of the year as a sophomore and averaged 7 yards per carry.

Coming up next ... three players who, by the end of 2009, everyone will know.

SEC: Super Enviable Conference

March, 17, 2009
3/17/09
10:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com'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.

ACC needs to recruit better quarterbacks

January, 21, 2009
1/21/09
12:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

If people are content with the ACC being a defensive league, they will have to be content with it being an average league.

If the conference is going to take the next step, it needs to recruit better quarterbacks.

Yes, defenses win championships, but in college football there are two components essential to winning and winning big -- offensive and defensive line play, and a standout quarterback. Save for Matt Ryan last year, the ACC hasn't exactly been a quarterback factory. Michael Vick and Ken Dorsey don't count.

In this decade, you can count Ryan, Matt Schaub (Virginia, 2004 NFL draft), Philip Rivers (NC State, 2004 draft), Ron Curry (UNC, 2002 draft), Charlie Whitehurst (Clemson, 2006 draft), Adrian McPherson, (FSU 2005 draft), and Joe Hamilton (Georgia Tech, 2000 draft) as the best the ACC had to offer at the position. The last time Florida State was truly great, it had two Heisman Trophy quarterbacks in Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke.

This is the conference that brought Drew Weatherford and Sean Glennon to its media day in August, two quarterbacks who, through no fault of their own, were used as backups this season.

Can Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor, Miami's Jacory Harris, FSU's Christian Ponder or NC State's Russell Wilson emerge as the league's next great quarterback? They're all good and have potential, but none of them seem to have the true wow factor that will bump them up to that elite level. Of course, they're not all running Mike Leach's offense, either. Some of the offenses in the ACC are so simplistic, it's hard for quarterbacks to flourish.

Many of the coaches in the league have committed to a defensive philosophy, and there's nothing wrong with that -- just look at how the Ravens, the Steelers and the Eagles advanced as far as they did. But an elite quarterback backed by, say, a Virginia Tech-caliber defense would do wonders to truly separate a team like the Hokies from the rest of the pack. Florida won the national title because it was ranked among the top 20 FBS schools in offense AND defense.

If you look at the teams that were in contention for the national title this year, they all had one thing in common -- excellent quarterback play. Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy -- all ranked among the top six in the country in pass efficiency. You have to scroll down the list to No. 41 until you find Russell Wilson, the first ACC quarterback listed.

Forget Heisman winner, the ACC needs to start with a legitimate Heisman contender at quarterback.

Ponder vs. Tebow: An unfair comparison

November, 26, 2008
11/26/08
3:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said that in another year, quarterback Christian Ponder "might be where Tebow is."

As in, Florida's Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow.

Tebow vs. Ponder: By the Numbers
Below is a look at Florida QB Tim Tebow (2007) and Florida State QB Christian Ponder's (2008) passing and rushing stats in their first season as a starter:
TEBOW PONDER
234COMP154
350ATT273
66.9PCT56.4
3,286YDS1,747
32TD12
210RUSH106
895YDS390
4.3AVG3.7
23TD7

"He can run the ball and throw it, and he's very intelligent and is making some good strides," Bowden said of Ponder. "It looks like he's about a year behind, though, in production."

A light year, maybe.

That's not a knock on Ponder, it's just a fact -- Tebow was in a league of his own last season and single-handedly revolutionized the quarterback position. There simply is no comparison for a quarterback who set the NCAA record for most rushing touchdowns in a single season by a quarterback. Tebow was the only player in FBS history to rush AND pass for at least one touchdown in 14 straight games. And he was doing it against SEC opponents.

If there is a quarterback out there who is mentally and physically tougher than Tebow, he would have won the Heisman last year.

Comparing what Tebow did in his first season as starter and what Ponder is doing in his is unfair.

As a sophomore in 2007, in his first season taking over the offense from Chris Leak, Tebow ran for 23 touchdowns and threw for 32 more, with just six interceptions. As a redshirt sophomore, in his first season taking over for Drew Weatherford, Ponder has scored four rushing touchdowns and thrown 12, along with 11 interceptions.

There is no question he has shown some promise this season, but like many first-year quarterbacks, Ponder has been inconsistent. He was down against Boston College (three interceptions, completed less than 50 percent of his passes), and up against Maryland (no interceptions, only five incompletions).

Where Tebow and Ponder are similar is their ability to run. Ponder has 106 carries for 390 yards and four touchdowns. This season, Tebow has 121 carries for 427 yards and 11 touchdowns. He hasn't had the numbers he did a season ago because the Gators haven't needed him to. There are more playmakers to take some pressure off Tebow. Florida State, on the other hand, is too dependent upon its running game.

The two Atlantic Division opponents who took away the Noles' running game -- Boston College and Wake Forest -- won.

Ponder, who has already graduated, has a very bright future at Florida State and will only get better with experience. He has already proven capable of running the Noles' offense effectively, and will be more productive as he recognizes coverages quicker.

Even though it will be hard not to compare the two quarterbacks on the field in Tallahassee on Saturday, the best measure of Ponder's growth will come next year. Not against Tebow, but against his own performances from this season.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 14

November, 26, 2008
11/26/08
10:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

It's the final week of the regular season, and there's no lack of things to keep an eye on, starting with the most important: Who's going to Tampa?

1. The Atlantic and Coastal Division crowns. If Boston College wins, it's in. Same with Virginia Tech. Both of those teams have home-field advantage. If they lose, Georgia Tech and Florida State will win their respective divisions.

2. Bowl eligibility. Last call for anyone still interested in extending their season. NC State, Virginia and Clemson all have that opportunity. If any one of them succeeds, it will be the first time in league history the ACC has had nine teams qualify for a bowl game.

3. SEC vs. ACC. Here it is, the ACC's chance to go 4-0 against the SEC (quit laughing) with wins over Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. There's a decent chance the league represents at 2-2, with its best win being over Georgia. In order for that to happen, though ...

4. Watch how the Bulldogs defend the triple option. They had a bye week to prepare for it, and will have home-field advantage, but will they have the discipline? Georgia has the No. 10 scoring defense in the SEC but is holding opponents to 104.5 rushing yards per game.

5. FSU defensive end Everette Brown vs. Tim Tebow. Brown has been a man on a mission this season, and three times this year has had at least three sacks in a game. Will he be able to get to the Heisman Trophy winner?

6. Boston College quarterback Dominique Davis. How he fares in place of injured starter Chris Crane will go a long way in determining how far the Eagles can go.

7. Miami's defense. Can the Hurricanes regroup from their embarrassing performance against Georgia Tech in time to stop a surging NC State offense, led by quarterback Russell Wilson?

8. UNC linebacker Chase Rice. He'll take over for injured linebacker Mark Paschal, the Tar Heels' leading tackler whose season ended with a spine injury in the 41-10 loss to NC State.

9. Duke's offense. Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis is expected to return, so the Blue Devils should be more productive than they were last week at Virginia Tech.

10. How Clemson fares without injured bandit end Ricky Sapp. The Tigers' pass rush struggled to begin with, and it is likely to struggle even more without Sapp.

Week 14 predictions: Atlantic, Coastal Division winners

November, 26, 2008
11/26/08
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Well, here it is folks, the final predictions for the regular season. This batch obviously includes the two teams that will go to the ACC Championship Game. So far, I'm 59-29 (67 percent) on the season. This week I'll be heading to Chestnut Hill to see if BC can git er done. I think the Eagles will. Here are the picks:

Duke 23, UNC 20 (OT) -- The Blue Devils haven't quit yet, and the Tar Heels are trying to regroup from their worst loss of the season and the devastating news that linebacker Mark Paschal likely won't play football again.

NC State 28, Miami 24 -- The Pack is on a roll and will have home-field advantage against a Miami team recently humbled by Georgia Tech. NC State is playing for a bowl game and can get there with Russell Wilson.

Boston College 17, Maryland 14 -- The Eagles are playing for the Atlantic Division crown, and can get it if they keep the game plan simple, run the ball and continue to play great defense.

Georgia Tech 21, Georgia 20 -- Yes, you read that correctly. Georgia's defense isn't disciplined enough to stop Paul Johnson's offense, as evidenced by the way it struggled against Kentucky's option. Jackets' quarterback Josh Nesbitt is as healthy as he's been in a while and it will make the difference.

Florida 31, Florida State 21 -- This game will be closer than many people expect, but Christian Ponder hasn't caught up to Tim Tebow yet and FSU's defense won't be able to catch up with him or Percy Harvin.

Virginia Tech 10, Virginia 7 -- The 12th man will win this one for the Hokies, but they'll need some help from the defense and Macho Harris again.

South Carolina 23, Clemson 21 -- The better defense will overcome the emotion in Death Valley, so long as Steve Spurrier doesn't try every quarterback on his roster.

Wake Forest 14, Vanderbilt 10 -- And that's with two defensive touchdowns. Both for the Deacs. These teams are mirror images of each other -- all defense.

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