NCF Nation: Brandon tate

ACC's lunchtime links

March, 18, 2009
3/18/09
12:30
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Miami is on spring break, so you'd think the Canes wouldn't be in the news -- think again.

Miami and Notre Dame are flirting with the idea of playing each other again. Ah, the good old days of "Catholics vs. convicts."  Hey, I didn't make it up.

UNC receiver Brandon Tate said he still expects to be drafted, despite the fact he's still rehabilitating his knee and couldn't work out for scouts on Tuesday.

The whole FSU/NCAA sanctions story has been written to death, but it's hard to ignore when the university president accidentally calls Samford a "dip____" school. Whoops. Apparently T.K. Wetherell got a little "wound up."

The injury to backup quarterback E.J. Manuel leaves Christian Ponder the only scholarship quarterback on FSU's roster this spring.

Here are a few questions facing the ACC this spring, and a few answers.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

They're young. They're inexperienced. They're ... green.

In keeping with our St. Patrick's Day theme, here's a look at the "greenest" units on each team in the ACC:

BOSTON COLLEGE -- If Dominique Davis wins the starting quarterback job, he's got a whopping three full games of starting experience to fall back on, and that's three more games than Justin Tuggle, who is also competing for the job.

CLEMSON -- The Tigers will be youngest at quarterback, where either sophomore Willy Korn or redshirt freshman Kyle Parker will inherit the offense.

DUKE -- The Blue Devils have to replace three starters on their offensive line and returning sophomore Kyle Hill moved from guard to tackle.

FLORIDA STATE -- Without Preston Parker, Greg Carr and likely Taiwan Easterling and Corey Surrency, the Noles will depend heavily upon a green group of receivers.

GEORGIA TECH -- Having lost three of four starters on the defensive line, it's easily one of the greenest groups in the whole conference.

MARYLAND -- Maryland lost five starters from its defensive front seven, but defensive tackles Travis Ivey and Dion Armstrong ended the year as starters and linebacker Adrian Moten had three starts.

MIAMI -- The Canes are still young everywhere, but remember quarterback Jacory Harris has only started two games and his backups have no collegiate experience.

NORTH CAROLINA -- The Tar Heels lost their top three receivers and will be counting heavily on inexperienced players to replace Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Tate and Brooks Foster.

NC STATE -- The Wolfpack needs to replace both offensive guards in John Bedics and Meares Green, who combined for 43 starts.

VIRGINIA -- Outside linebacker Denzel Burrell is the only returning starting linebacker in the Cavaliers' 3-4 defense.

VIRGINIA TECH -- The Hokies have to replace two starting linebackers in Brett Warren and Purnell Sturdivant.

WAKE FOREST -- The Demon Deacons have to replace three starters at linebacker, including Butkus Award winner Aaron Curry.

Pre-spring ACC power rankings

February, 9, 2009
2/09/09
11:46
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

With the NFL departures announced, and signing day officially over, it's time for a re-ranking heading into spring football. Keep in mind things change during spring practice -- some players get hurt, some win position battles, but here's the first early peek at how the ACC might fare in 2009:

1. Virginia Tech -- The ACC and Orange Bowl champs return 16 starters, and there are high expectations for an offensive backfield that will contain shifty quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and tailbacks Darren Evans and Ryan Williams. If the defense maintains its tradition without Victor "Macho" Harris, the Hokies could be a top 10 team.

2. Florida State -- The defense took some hits -- the most notable being the loss of defensive end Everette Brown -- but should have enough experience to compensate for it. The offensive line should be one of the best in the conference and give returning quarterback Christian Ponder and tailback Jermaine Thomas plenty of help. The question is the depth at receiver after the loss of Preston Parker, Greg Carr, and probably Corey Surrency. FSU also loses Lou Groza award winner Graham Gano.

3. Georgia Tech -- Overall, this team will be experienced and deeper -- it will return every starter at the skill positions -- but the Yellow Jackets must reload on the defensive front and improve on the offensive line. There will be three new starters on the defensive line, and Tech lost two senior starters on the offensive line. There are 25 players on the roster, though, who have at least one career start.

4. Miami -- Coach Randy Shannon brought in yet another outstanding recruiting class, and playing so many true freshmen in 2008 should help this season. There shouldn't be any quarterback drama this season, and Jacory Harris should only improve under first-year coordinator Mark Whipple. Defensive coordinator is still a question mark, though.

5. North Carolina -- Never count out a Butch Davis-coached team, but the Tar Heels will be a question mark until a new batch of receivers proves otherwise. Brooks Foster, Brandon Tate and Hakeem Nicks accounted for 114 receptions in 2008, and all three have left for the NFL. Safety Trimane Goddard is arguably the biggest loss on defense.

6. NC State -- If the Pack stay healthy -- something they haven't been able to do for the past two seasons -- NC State could be the sleeper in the Atlantic Division. It has to replace tight end Anthony Hill and running back Andre Brown, though, and 2007 leading receiver Donald Bowens will miss spring practice because of knee surgery.

7. Clemson -- Speedy playmakers C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford are back, but they'll be under the direction of a new quarterback and a new offensive coordinator. Let's see how the Tigers do without any expectations for a change.

8. Maryland -- The Terps graduated 30 seniors and junior receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey left for the NFL. One of the biggest question marks is how they'll fare up front after the graduation of three starting offensive linemen, including All-ACC center Edwin Williams. The defense, which loses four starters from its front seven, will be led by first-year coordinator Don Brown.

9. Wake Forest -- The good news for the Deacs is the offensive line should better, and they return veteran quarterback Riley Skinner. The bad news is they'll sorely miss some of the best defensive players the program has had in recent years, along with kicker Sam Swank.

10. Virginia -- If quarterback Jameel Sewell makes a smooth transition back into the lineup and quickly learns the new offense, the Cavs could surprise some people this season. They'll have to replace all three starters at linebacker, though, and will miss starting receivers Kevin Ogletree and Maurice Covington, as well as leading rusher Cedric Peerman.

11. Boston College -- Consider this a rebuilding year for the Eagles. The loss of defensive tackles B.J. Raji and Ron Brace will have an effect up front. With a new staff, a small recruiting class and a young starting quarterback, the only direction for BC to head is up.

12. Duke -- The Blue Devils have arguably one of the league's top quarterbacks in Thaddeus Lewis, but he won't have Eron Riley to throw it to this season. Duke also loses ACC-leading tackler Michael Tauiliili at linebacker. Still, the Blue Devils should take another step forward in their second season under David Cutcliffe.

ACC's lunchtime links

December, 23, 2008
12/23/08
12:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Here's a look at what's going on around the league today: 

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Virginia's ascension from bottom to top is complete. The Cavaliers answered the one question still hanging out there: Can they win on the road? Not only did they manage that, but they did it against one of the better teams in the ACC, and they did it on Georgia Tech's homecoming. It's time for Al Groh to start to get some serious ACC Coach of the Year consideration. And it's time for everyone to stop grouping Maryland's loss to Virginia in the same sentence as the Terps' loss to Middle Tennessee. Could Maryland have played better at UVa? Absolutely. In retrospect, though, that day should be more about what Virginia did than what Maryland didn't. That game started a four-game winning streak for Virginia that has since boosted the Cavs from the bottom of the league standings to the top this week. That said ...

The Coastal is still confusing, but Miami, Virginia and Virginia Tech have an edge. Despite Miami's back-to-back wins and Virginia being the hottest team in the division right now, it's still anybody's game. Try and follow this: Miami lost to North Carolina. North Carolina lost to Virginia. Virginia lost to Duke. Duke lost to Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech lost to Virginia. Virginia Tech is the only team in the division that hasn't lost to another Coastal Division opponent. And Virginia still plays Miami and Virginia Tech. The teams hurting the most right now are Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Duke, which each have lost two division games.

Florida State and Maryland have separated themselves from the rest of the Atlantic Division. Finally. Some front-runners. Maryland is actually in a better position because, with its win over NC State this weekend, it still doesn't have any losses to Atlantic Division opponents. FSU isn't as fortunate because of its early loss to Wake Forest. The Seminoles need to win out in order to win the division, and for that to happen, they're going to have to beat the Terps on Nov. 22. The Seminoles are the only one-loss (overall) team remaining in the ACC.

North Carolina can still win -- and win big -- without injured star Brandon Tate. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks knew he had a breakout performance in him and he was a major reason why the Tar Heels became bowl eligible for the first time in four years. Cam Sexton has also proved to be a winning alternative to injured starter T.J. Yates. Their 24-point second quarter was the most productive period they've had in eight years. They finally put it all together in what coach Butch Davis called their "most complete game of the season." Impressive, because it came with an incomplete roster.

Duke is different. I know, it doesn't sound like a newsflash, but in order to really see that the Blue Devils weren't stuck in their old ways, they had to win a game after losing a few. Not only did they come back from back-to-back losses, they did so on the road against a much-improved SEC team trying to become bowl eligible for the first time since 1982. Oh, and it was homecoming, too. David Cutcliffe can join Groh on the list of Coach of the Year candidates. He is 6-0 against Bobby Johnson as a head coach. The Blue Devils' biggest problem might be keeping him.

ACC helmet stickers: Week 9

October, 26, 2008
10/26/08
12:15
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

North Carolina wide receiver Hakeem Nicks -- His four touchdowns sparked an offense that had been missing Brandon Tate and led the Tar Heels to a 45-24 win over Boston College. He finished with eight catches for 139 yards and three touchdowns, and he also ran for another score.

Virginia tailback Cedric Peerman -- He rushed for 118 yards, including the game-winning touchdown over a ranked Georgia Tech team that was playing its homecoming game. He also caught five passes for 55 yards in the 24-17 upset.

Duke's defense -- The Blue Devils had four sacks and three turnovers, including Chris Rwabukamba's interception at the Duke 1-yard line that sealed the win over Vanderbilt with 38 seconds remaining. They beat Vanderbilt on the road despite 250 yards of total offense.

Florida State receiver Greg Carr -- His height and his hands were the difference in the Seminoles' 30-20 win over Virginia Tech. The 6-foot-6 receiver had three catches for 100 yards, including two impressive grabs on long pass plays that led to a pair of third-quarter touchdowns.

Maryland running back Da'Rel Scott -- He had his best game since the season opener, and when he was injured in the fourth, his leadership and words to backup Davin Meggett kept the momentum going in the rainy win over NC State. Scott finished with 23 carries for 163 yards and a touchdown.

ACC's internal affairs

October, 22, 2008
10/22/08
11:34
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

MARYLAND -- The Terps made an adjustment last week on the offensive line that worked -- starting Bruce Campbell at left tackle. Maryland's line has done a better job with its pass protection in recent weeks, but the staff knows NC State likes to pressure the quarterback and create turnovers. They're particularly wary of defensive end Willie Young. Against Wake Forest, Maryland was able to do something it hadn't in a long time, and that's depend on the passing game to set up the run. The goal this week is to get better at run blocking.

FLORIDA STATE -- The Seminoles' No. 1 priority at practice this week has been preparing to stop shifty Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor. As defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews pointed out, some of Florida State's most skilled defenders had trouble tackling Taylor last year. Andrews has emphasized not creating vertical or lateral seams in their rush lanes and preventing Taylor from getting out in space. Defensive tackle Kendrick Stewart said the "tackles have to push and get pressure and push him out to the ends so we can contain him."

NORTH CAROLINA -- Butch Davis is still looking for some help in alleviating some of the sting of losing injured starting receiver Brandon Tate. He moved running back Greg Little back to his original position of receiver last week before the Virginia game, but Little only had about two-and-a-half days of the transition, and Davis said "we were pushing him and pushing him, how much can you learn, how much can you get back into that role?" The Tar Heels also lost running back Anthony Elzy, who fractured his scapula at Virginia, and will be out for six weeks. UNC will need all of the offensive production it can get, as Davis said Boston College's front seven "look like the Chicago Bears."

MIAMI -- This is exactly why Randy Shannon needs to name the best young quarterback his starter, and could be the reason he is wavering on doing it. Maybe, just maybe, he's afraid to lose one of them. But Jacory Harris' father is right. Eventually, either his son or Robert Marve is going to grow tired of competing for the job every year when they could be the starter at another program. Both have said the right things publicly, but it's no secret Harris would like to start, too, and Marve said he wouldn't mind a shot at the no-huddle offense Harris got at Duke.

GEORGIA TECH -- The Yellow Jackets are "back to normal" with their two quarterbacks, Josh Nesbitt and Jaybo Shaw, who haven't been quite themselves lately because of injuries. Nesbitt, who suffered a pulled hamstring against Mississippi State on Sept. 20, looked rusty last week at Clemson and coach Paul Johnson agreed, but said it wasn't too bad for someone who hasn't played in four weeks. "I think Josh would be the first guy to tell you that he could have played better," Johnson said. "For a guy that has only played in three games and been out for four weeks, it was a little bit like starting over. The thing about Josh Nesbitt is that he is such a competitor. He does not want to lose. Did he get every read right? No, but he finds a way to make plays. He has a calm confidence about his ability and doesn't get rattled. The more he plays, the better he will get."

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

One thing that doesn't really count for this list but that Boston College fans should be aware of is that former quarterback Matt Ryan will be on the sideline Saturday. The Falcons are off. Here's what to watch on the field this weekend:

1. Clemson interim head coach Dabo Swinney. He has already taken a different approach than his predecessor with Saturday's "Tiger Walk," but he'll also be calling the plays along with recruiting coordinator Billy Napier. How much different will Clemson's offense look without Rob Spence?

2. Clemson quarterback Willy Korn. The fans have been clamoring for Korn, and now they've got him. It doesn't matter if Brett Favre is back there, though, if the line can't protect him. We'll see if Korn's mobility can provide the spark the offense needs.

3. Wake Forest in the red zone. The Demon Deacons have been inside the 20-yard line 23 times and have scored just nine touchdowns. They have the worst red zone offense in the ACC, and have just one offensive touchdown in two league games.

4. Maryland wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. Coaches throughout the league will tell you he's one of the most talented receivers in the ACC, but he has yet to reach his potential. He didn't have one catch against Clemson, and the Terps will need more from him in the second half of the season.

5. Turnovers in Charlottesville. North Carolina will pounce on opponents' mistakes, and Virginia can't afford to give away any freebies. UNC has scored three touchdowns off interceptions.

6. It's all about the Benjamins, baby. Miami true freshman Travis Benjamin leads the Hurricanes with 569 all-purpose yards, and is 18th nationally in punt return average with 14 yards. But Duke's punt coverage unit is one of the best in the nation, allowing just 3.86 yards per return.

7. Holes left by injured UNC receiver Brandon Tate. Brooks Foster has three starts at wide receiver this season, including against Virginia Tech, when the Heels went with a three-wide receiver set. Hakeem Nicks will handle the kickoff returns and Kendric Burney the punt returns.

8. Boston College's rushing defense. The Hokies have been hanging on with their running game and are averaging 174.7 yards on the ground, but the Eagles are holding opponents to just 99.8. Of the Hokies' 15 touchdowns this season, 13 have come on the ground.

9. Miami quarterback Robert Marve. He threw three interceptions in a shaky performance last week against Central Florida, but has completed 65 percent of his passes in two road games this season.

10. Boston College quarterback Chris Crane. The Hokies have a better pass defense (185 yards per game) than NC State (260.2), and Crane will have a tough time repeating his impressive peformance. Defensive end Orion Martin has had a sack in each of the past three games.

ACC Week 8 predictions

October, 16, 2008
10/16/08
11:16
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Finally. Not only is everyone playing this weekend, but they're all going to beat up on each other. Here's the forecast for Week 8:

Florida State 28, NC State 21 -- The Seminoles' smothering defense will be too much for Russell Wilson and the Pack to overcome, but the Noles will get their best shot because of the prime-time home game. The probable return of NC State linebacker Nate Irving should help, obviously depending on how much he plays.

Georgia Tech 21, Clemson 10 -- The Yellow Jackets will win it up front and take away the Tigers' running game, which is exactly how other teams have beaten Clemson. The news of Tommy Bowden's departure is still too fresh for the team to completely regroup and move forward.

Wake Forest 21, Maryland 20 -- Coaching, the Deacons' defense and Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner will be the difference in this game. Jim Grobe has gotten the most out of his players every weekend while coach Ralph Friedgen has wondered if anyone is listening to him.

North Carolina 24 at Virginia 21 -- The opportunistic Tar Heels are on a roll and Butch Davis will have them ready, even without Brandon Tate. Virginia quarterback Marc Verica should have a humbling experience against the nation's leader in interceptions and turnovers.

Miami 24, Duke 21 -- This is a good shot for the Hurricanes to get their first conference win. The Blue Devils couldn't do anything against the Georgia Tech defense, and the Hurricanes are an equally stingy team.

Virginia Tech 14, Boston College 10 -- This is going to be a defensive struggle, but Chris Crane won't have the same kind of success he did against NC State because the Hokies' defense won't allow it.

ACC midseason report

October, 15, 2008
10/15/08
11:17
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Three things stand out about the ACC at the midpoint of the season: First, the league isn't as bad as it appeared in Week 1. Second, the defenses are dominating and third, it's time for some separation.

The ACC is 32-10 against its nonconference opponents, and Clemson's woes aside, the loss to Alabama seems less damaging when the Crimson Tide is ranked No. 2 in the nation. No, the ACC is not the best BCS conference, but good luck finding one that's more competitive from one through 12. The league has been impossible to predict, from Maryland's losses to Middle Tennessee and Virginia, to Clemson's utter meltdown.

Youth and quarterback changes have overtaken the league, and Florida State seems to be ahead of Miami in the race to resurrect their once-mighty programs. Still, the Seminoles are one of a handful of teams with a chance to win the Atlantic Division.

None of the teams have emerged as clear frontrunners to win the ACC championship. If the title game were played today, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech would be the Tampa-bound teams, and only the Hokies were predicted as preseason favorites. Even Virginia Tech, though, which holds a comfy 2-0 edge over its Coastal Division opponents, has shown its vulnerabilities. Considering how wide-open the league is, it would have been the perfect opportunity for Clemson to take advantage of it.

Instead, teams like North Carolina and Georgia Tech have. Here's a look at how the league has fared so far:

BIGGEST SURPRISE: Georgia Tech. Paul Johnson is two wins shy of bowl eligibility in his first season (two wins are over FCS opponents, and only one counts towards bowl eligibility). Johnson is winning with a new offense, a new defense and one of the youngest rosters in the ACC. The Jackets were picked by the ACC media to finish fourth, and instead are off to their first 5-1 start since 1990.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Clemson is easily the biggest bust of the year. Once ranked No. 9 in the nation, the Tigers have since lost three games, their head coach and their offensive coordinator. Injuries to the offensive line made an already tough job even more difficult for assistant coach Brad Scott, and it has had an impact on the entire offense.

MIDSEASON OFFENSIVE MVP: UNC wide receiver Brandon Tate. No, this is not a sympathy vote. He earned it with his ACC-leading 163.7 all-purpose yards per game. Tate finished his injury-shortened career as the NCAA's all-time leader in combined kick return yards with 3,523. Through the first six games, Tate had 376 receiving yards, 305 kickoff return yards, 158 punt return yards and 143 rushing yards.

MIDSEASON DEFENSIVE MVP: Georgia Tech defensive tackle Vance Walker. The spotlight is on Michael Johnson, but Walker has been the top performer on one of the nation's best defensive lines, and is a first-round draft pick. He consistently gets the job done, has six tackles for loss and epitomizes the Yellow Jackets' defense -- underrated.

MIDSEASON COACH OF THE YEAR: Frank Beamer. Few realized just how little the Hokies had to work with this season, and in addition to the depleted roster he started with, Beamer also lost running back Kenny Lewis Jr., safety Davon Morgan, receivers Zach Luckett, Ike Whitaker and Brandon Dillard to suspensions and injuries. He made the right call at quarterback in the face of criticism and has Virginia Tech at the top of the Coastal Division once again.

BOWL BOUND: Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Florida State, Boston College, Maryland, Clemson, Miami

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

It's hard to find something that's not about Tommy Bowden today.

Here are five possible candidates to be the Clemson Tigers' next head coach. Sign me up, too. What other profession lets you shake hands and walk away with $3.5 million for not doing your job? No wonder Bobby Bowden says his son will be fine, and that he's probably already in Panama City.

Speaking of the other Bowden ...

If you're paying attention to the ongoing saga known as Florida State's academic scandal, you need to know about this woman: Brenda Monk.

The other news overshadowed in the ACC yesterday was UNC's loss of star playmaker Brandon Tate, who is taking a positive approach to his season-ending knee injury. But can the rest of the Tar Heels keep winning without him?

ACC Power Rankings

October, 13, 2008
10/13/08
11:07
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

1. Virginia Tech (5-1, 2-0 ACC) -- The Hokies can't hurt themselves when they're sitting at home on the weekend, but last week's No. 2 can when it barely squeaks by Gardner-Webb.

2. Wake Forest (4-1, 2-0) -- The Demon Deacons move up a notch for their gritty win over Clemson. In order to stay here, though, Wake is going to have to take advantage of its opportunities in the red zone against Maryland, and get Sam Swank healthy.

3. North Carolina (5-1, 1-1) -- The Tar Heels have proven they'll find a way to win. Can they continue to do it, though, if playmaker Brandon Tate isn't cleared to return after the MRI on his knee?

4. Florida State (4-1, 1-1) -- The Seminoles also had a bye week and maintain their spot from last week. Quarterback Christian Ponder has taken ownership of the offense and the Noles have one of the best defenses in the league.

5. Georgia Tech (5-1, 2-1) -- They Yellow Jackets still won, albeit 10-7, and they were playing with their third-string quarterback. Can't drop them too far. Yet.

6. Boston College (4-1, 1-1) -- We'll find out more about the Eagles this weekend when they host Coastal Division leader Virginia Tech. Right now, though, BC is as much in the mix for the ACC title as anyone.

7. Maryland (4-2, 1-1) -- The bye week couldn't have come at a better time for the Terps, as they need to figure out which team they want to be in the second half of the season -- the one that lost to Middle Tennessee and got hammered by Virginia, or the one that showed up in the second half against Clemson.

8. Miami (0-2, 3-3) -- At least the Hurricanes won. That's more than you can say for Clemson. Still, quarterback play is a question mark and injuries throughout the roster have slowed the team's progress.

9. Clemson (3-3, 1-2) -- And you think Miami has issues at quarterback? Now the Tigers will face Georgia Tech with a rookie instead of a record-holder. Hey, give the fans what they want.

10. Virginia (3-3, 1-1) -- The Cavaliers creep up a notch over Duke, as they have looked better in their past two weeks than the Blue Devils did in their loss to Georgia Tech.

11. Duke (3-2, 1-1) -- They had a bye week to get back to the fundamentals, and coach David Cutcliffe seemed convinced his team is better than the one that showed up in Atlanta. We'll see if their efforts at practice will translate onto the field, this time against Miami.

12. NC State (2-4, 0-2) -- The Wolfpack were also off last week in preparation for a tough game against Florida State. Arguably no team needed more time to heal.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

The ACC is definitely defensive: North Carolina couldn't get in the end zone in the first half, Wake Forest has had trouble scoring from as close as the 2-yard line, and Miami held UCF to 78 total yards. And what would Georgia Tech have done if its defense didn't hold Gardner-Webb to just seven points, or get a hand on the final field goal attempt? The touchdown-less Florida State-Wake Forest game last month was a foreshadowing of what this league would be about. Three teams -- Florida State, Boston College and Georgia Tech -- are among the top six teams in the country in total defense. Add Wake Forest and Miami in the top 20.

The Tar Heels are ahead of schedule in the rebuilding process -- If this is what they're capable of without their starting quarterback and top playmaker Brandon Tate, what can they do when everyone is healthy? Heck, will T.J. Yates even get his job back? UNC hasn't been the most prolific team on offense, but the Tar Heels have become experts at capitalizing on opponents' mistakes -- and forcing them into it. UNC further padded its stats as the nation's leader in interceptions (14), picking off Jimmy Clausen twice. What it's lacked on offense, the Tar Heels have compensated for with special teams and defense.

Virginia is to be taken seriously -- The Cavaliers caught some attention with their win over Maryland, but this weekend proved they have made legitimate progress. The talent on this team is plentiful -- Cedric Peerman, Kevin Ogletree, the linebackers, and offensive tackle Eugene Monroe is an NFL lineman. They had to come together as a team, though, to find their identity, which could be determined as relentless.

Georgia Tech's offense doesn't work without its top two quarterbacks and the right offensive line -- Third-string quarterback Calvin Booker isn't suited for Paul Johnson's offense, and didn't help that he was playing behind an offensive line that has struggled all season. The more Johnson recruits, the better suited the line will be to execute the triple option. With Jaybo Shaw and Josh Nesbitt sidelined with injuries, the Yellow Jackets didn't look anywhere near a Top 25 team -- not in a too-close-for-comfort 10-7 win over an FCS team. Yikes.

Clemson is officially the biggest bust of the season -- Not just in the ACC, but possibly on a national level, too. We're talking about the No. 9-ranked team in the preseason (admittedly too high), but still a team loaded with talent -- a roster other coaches throughout the country would love to borrow from for one Saturday. And yet the Tigers have not been able to do anything with it, instead playing themselves into obscurity and almost out of the Atlantic Division race for sure.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Here's a quick look at what happened throughout the ACC today:

NORTH CAROLINA 29, NOTRE DAME 24:This was by far the best game in the ACC this weekend, and it went down to the wire. UNC deserves credit for finding a way to win each week, and this time they did it without their top playmaker, Brandon Tate. The Tar Heels definitely got some help from Notre Dame's turnovers, but deserve credit for forcing some of them. North Carolina proved itself worth of a spot in the top 25. This is one team you don't want to make mistakes against.

GEORGIA TECH 10, GARDNER-WEBB 7: Brutal. The Yellow Jackets took a step back and played terribly against an FCS opponent. It should have been a win they got with their eyes closed -- even with their third-string quarterback -- and it came down to the wire. They had to wait to exhale until three seconds left in the game, when Derrick Morgan tipped a 43-yard field goal attempt. They won, but didn't entirely avoid embarrassment.

MIAMI 20, UCF 14: The young Hurricanes got what they needed, but didn't look too impressive in the process. Miami can use inexperience and injuries as an excuse, but should still be further ahead in the development process midway through the season. Is offensive coordinator Patrick Nix limited by what the young players can't do? If so, how much of a grace period does the staff get to prepare them?

VIRGINIA 35, ECU 20: Kudos to the Cavaliers. They've proven to be a legitimate contender in the Coastal Division, and made the statement that their win over Maryland was a foreshadowing of their potential, not a fluke. The entire team has done exactly what coach Al Groh asked, and that's to rally around the heart of this team -- Cedric Peerman.

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- I don't know if I expressed exactly how big of a deal this game is to both Navy and Air Force. It's a pretty big deal.

The two battle -- along with fellow military academy Army -- for the Commander In Chief trophy, a piece of hardware that is given to the military academy that has dominated the other two in a round-robin affair.

For five years, Navy has horded the trophy, but for the first time in that span, Air Force got an extra week to prepare for the Midshipmen's run-heavy offense.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Greetings from Kenan Memorial Stadium, one of the prettiest settings for college football anywhere (though not always home to the prettiest football over the years).

Two schools that could potentially make the Final Four in basketball this season are trying to reach new heights in football. Connecticut is ranked 24th and is hoping to improve to 6-0 for the first time since it moved up to FBS in 2002. North Carolina is hovering on the edge of the polls and would have a good shot at cracking the Top 25 if it can take down its second Big East team of the season.

The Tar Heels have a more explosive offense with Brandon Tate and Hakeem Nicks, the top two receivers in the ACC. They're averaging 31 points a game, which is second in the conference.

Connecticut is a more deliberate team that likes to pound it on the ground with the nation's leading rusher, Donald Brown. UNC is giving up about 140 rushing yards per game but the Tar Heels have a big defensive line, anchored by 330-pound Cam Thomas. They'll need to stuff Brown near the line of scrimmage, because once he's able to get into the secondary and make his cuts, he's very hard to bring down.

The wild cards here are at quarterback, with Cameron Sexton and Zach Frazer making their first starts of the season. For Frazer, it's his first start ever after he came in to lead UConn to victory at Louisville last week following Tyler Lorenzen's foot injury. It will be really interesting to see how Randy Edsall decides to attack with Frazer, whether he keeps it simple or tries to get aggressive to utilize Frazer's strong arm.

Lost in the news of Lorenzen's injury last week was tight end Steve Brouse's broken leg. The Huskies will go with senior Martin Bedard at the position and bring backup left tackle Dan Ryan in as an extra tight end in short-yardage situations.

Weather: Low 70s and blue skies, with the temperature expected to drop into the low 60s during the game. I'm not sure what it is, but every game I've been to so far this year has had incredible weather.

Officials: We have a Big East crew, led by referee Jeff Maconaghy.

It should be an interesting game. Much more to come throughout the evening ...

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