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Friday, November 14, 2008
What to watch in the ACC, Week 12


Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Sorry for the slow start today -- late night, early morning, long flight. I'm back in Maryland for another game that will have implications on the conference standings. Since the next stop is College Park, Md., let's start there with what to watch this week in the ACC:

1. Maryland's run defense against UNC tailbacks Ryan Houston and Shaun Draughn: After allowing Virginia Tech tailback Darren Evans a school-record 253 rushing yards last week, Maryland tweaked its defensive line. The Tar Heels, though, are coming off one of their better performances in the running game and finally have everyone healthy and blocking for them.

2. North Carolina's pass defense against Maryland quarterback Chris Turner: Turner has been his most productive against ranked teams, and without a consistent running game, he has had to be. The Tar Heels are tied with Boston College for the national lead in interceptions with 18.

3. The ever-changing ACC standings: Maryland can still win the Atlantic Division if it wins out, and now that Virginia Tech lost, North Carolina can do the same. Miami needs UNC to lose, and Wake Forest needs the Terps to lose.

4. Wake's turnover happy defense against NC State quarterback Russell Wilson: The Demon Deacons win games in large part by creating turnovers, and that's something Wilson just doesn't do often. The Deacs' ability to fluster him and contain him will be key to their chances of winning.

5. Boston College's front seven against Florida State's running game: The Seminoles have depended more on their running game this season than in recent years and have gotten a surprisingly good effort from their young offensive linemen. A large task is looming, though, in defensive tackles B.J. Raji and Ron Brace.

6. Florida State's ability to force Chris Crane into mistakes: The Seminoles have been getting a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks this season, and the Eagles have struggled the most when Crane has turned the ball over.

7. Clemson wide receiver Aaron Kelly: He needs just 10 receptions to become the ACC's career leader and should get a few steps closer to that against the Blue Devils.

8. Wake Forest kicker Sam Swank: It's possible that Swank, one of the nation's most prolific kickers, could make his comeback this week. Reports out of Winston-Salem are that Swank finally kicked a football in practice this week.

9. NC State linebacker Nate Irving: The Wolfpack's top playmaker on defense is getting better every week. He missed three full games with the ankle injury he incurred against ECU and then re-injured it after just 16 snaps against FSU. Irving played a total of 37 snaps leading up to the Duke game. He played 82 snaps against and had 10 tackles and caused a fumble. Not bad for a "rusty" Irving.

10. Duke linebacker Michael Tauiliili: In order for the Blue Devils to have a chance in Death Valley, the ACC's leading tackler is going to have to play a huge role in slowing down the Tigers' top playmakers.