NCF Nation: Caleb Rowe

What to watch in the ACC: Week 11

November, 7, 2013
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Clemson and Georgia Tech have the weekend off. The other 12 ACC teams take the field for Week 11, which includes two nonconference contests, with one serving just slightly bigger than the other.

Here is what to keep an eye on as we enter the home stretch in the ACC:

1. FSU looks to avoid letdown: The Seminoles have a lot to lose the rest of the way, starting Saturday in Winston-Salem, N.C., where they lost two years ago. It is telling, in a good way, that the word "adversity" has been thrown around so much in regard to Florida State's most recent contest. It was a 41-14 win against a previously undefeated and seventh-ranked Miami team. And its quarterback, despite whatever criticisms were lobbied his way, finished with an adjusted total QBR of 94.6, sixth best in the nation for the week. If this team ever got its act together …

2. Wake adjusts to life without Campanaro: Wake Forest is without all-time leading receiver Michael Campanaro, probably for the season, after the redshirt senior broke his collarbone in a loss at Syracuse. Coach Jim Grobe was honest about how difficult things now are offensively without Campanaro, who, despite missing the first game of the season, had 67 catches -- or 52 more than Jonathan Williams and Sherman Ragland III, the Demon Deacons' next-highest catchers, with 15 apiece.

[+] EnlargeMarquise Williams
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesCan Marquise Williams lead North Carolina to a bowl game?
3. Marquise Williams' time at UNC: Bryn Renner's North Carolina career is over because of a detached labrum and fracture in his non-throwing shoulder suffered in a win over NC State. He had split plenty of time lately with Williams, who started the Virginia Tech game, but now it is the redshirt sophomore's chance to carry the Tar Heels to the postseason. They can inch a step closer toward with a win over Virginia that would make them 4-5. Williams has completed better than 60 percent of his passes this season for 537 yards with six touchdowns and three picks, adding 201 yards and a score on the ground.

4. C.J. Brown's return: Maryland is on the brink of its first bowl berth under third-year coach Randy Edsall, and the expected return of its quarterback should provide a big boost against Syracuse. Caleb Rowe has been so-so in Brown's place as starter, going 1-2. Brown's return after a concussion and then a "trunk injury" cannot come at a better time for a Terrapins team that has dropped three of four, though he will have to adjust to a receiving corps that has been decimated by season-ending injuries to Stefon Diggs and Deon Long.

5. Terps honor former Cuse halfback: Kudos to Maryland, which will pay tribute Saturday to Wilmeth Sidat-Singh, who was barred from the Syracuse-Maryland 1937 game because he was black. Orange players will wear No. 19 decals on their helmets in memory of Sidat-Singh, whose family will join both schools' athletic directors and Maryland pioneer Darryl Hill between the first and second quarters for an on-field tribute. Sidat-Singh had joined the Army after Pearl Harbor and was in the first graduating class of the group later known as Tuskegee Airmen. He was killed on a training flight in 1943 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

6. Duke looks to finish strong: Whether it is fair to criticize the Blue Devils' late-season slide last season, the fact remains that they went winless after clinching bowl eligibility in 2012. Things are different this time around, especially with a defense playing night and day from earlier this season and with the Coastal Division potentially up for grabs. Duke will need to keep its foot on the pedal as it comes off a historic win and a bye week to face a desperate NC State team that has dropped four straight and remains winless in ACC play.

7. Logan Thomas looks to rebound: Virginia Tech's redshirt senior quarterback was unusually defiant this week when speaking to reporters in Blacksburg, Va., about criticism that has come his way. Thomas had appeared to turn a corner midseason but his turnovers woes have bubbled to the surface these last two weeks, as he threw four picks in a loss to Duke and threw two more, and lost two fumbles, in a loss at Boston College. Still, a strong performance at a Miami team coming off its first loss of the season could play the Hokies right back into the thick of things in the Coastal Division race.

8. Crawford, Miami look to rebound: It's Dallas Crawford's time to step up, as the Hurricanes will turn to the redshirt sophomore first after losing Duke Johnson for the season. In looking to rebound from its loss No. 1 and maintain control of the Coastal Division, coach Al Golden said all three backs will probably see time in the first quarter Saturday against Virginia Tech. Crawford is expected to get the bulk of the carries after rushing for 294 yards and nine touchdowns so far this season.

9. ND-Pitt theatrics: Will it be like the four-overtime game from 2008? The ugly 15-12 contest from 2011, a game that, fittingly, featured 666 total yards of offense? Or last year's triple-overtime near upset? When the Irish and Panthers take the field, craziness ensues, and who knows what awaits a prime-time audience at Heinz Field in a game featuring two banged-up teams.

10. Pitt's offense looks to get it together: The Panthers defended the option well in recent weeks, holding Navy and Georgia Tech to 24 and 21 points, respectively. But the offense simply has to score points after breaking the 21-point plateau just once in its past five games, against Old Dominion (35). The run game in particular has struggled, tallying minus-5 yards last week against the Yellow Jackets, but the passing game could use some big plays as well.

Happy Halloween in the ACC

October, 31, 2013
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Happy Halloween! Or, as I like to call it, Movember Eve.

For the second consecutive year, I have gone with the highly-original costume of wearing a "Hello, My Name Is" sticker, writing in the word "Maybe."

You guys and gals all go/went to ACC schools and are smart, so you can figure out what to, ahem, "Call Me." (I actually got the idea from my aunt, who should start charging for her ideas.)

Anyway, let's turn our attention to the people and schools we cover here in the blog. And to you, the readers. You guys blew up the Twitter feed yesterday with great pumpkin carvings, a majority of which can be found here.

There are plenty of tricks and treats to hand out through the season's first nine weeks, and what better day to do that than today?

Without further ado …

[+] EnlargeEric Ebron, Antonio Crawford
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsDon't sleep on the Tar Heels, as North Carolina could be ready to go on a season-ending winning streak.
Freddy Krueger: One team not to sleep on in this final month? North Carolina. Yes, the Tar Heels' 2-5 record is hardly intimidating, but their schedule was very front-loaded. UNC just routed Boston College, and its remaining games are at NC State, against Virginia, at Pitt, against Old Dominion and against Duke. You don't think they could go 4-1 down the stretch and clinch a bowl bid?

Jason Voorhees: Miami is the team that just won't die. The Hurricanes had turned the ball over four times in three straight contests before Saturday's game against Wake Forest … and still won all of them. They then found themselves trailing throughout the afternoon against the overmatched Demon Deacons but still managed to escape victorious in the final minute. Miami has a 7-0 record to show for all of its closecalls, though playing like this is simply no way to live.

Cursed: This isn't your 2012 Maryland team, but it is hardly a healthy one, either. Things were going so great this season for the Terrapins after their 4-0 start and No. 25 spot in the AP poll. Then they met Florida State, losing quarterback C.J. Brown to a concussion in the process. Then they lost top receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long for the season. Linebacker Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil and defensive back Dexter McDougle are also done for the year. Maryland is 1-3 over its last four games, though it put up a nice effort against No. 9 Clemson with Caleb Rowe under center and should still go bowling for the first time in the Randy Edsall era.

Graveyard: Virginia Tech's defensive backfield is where all quarterbacks' throws go to die. The Hokies have picked off a nation-best 17 passes this season, even without Antone Exum for all but this past weekend's contest against Duke, and despite having freshmen Brandon Facyson and Kendall Fuller see extended time. Even in the loss to the Blue Devils, the Hokies managed to come up with four interceptions.

Paranormal activity: A two-hour rain delay in the season opener at Scott Stadium portended what was to come: Virginia's 19-16 win over BYU. The win becomes more of a headscratcher by the week, as the Cavaliers have won just one game since and find themselves at 2-6 and 0-4 in ACC play. The Cougars, meanwhile, are 6-2 and were so dominating in their win over Texas that Mack Brown fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz in the aftermath. Strange times, indeed.

Boo: That is what quarterbacks and offensive linemen must think every single time they see Aaron Donald line up across from them. The Pitt defensive tackle is second in the nation with 1.9 tackles for loss per game (13.5 total), and his 1.1 sacks per game rank fifth nationally (eight total). He also has 26.5 career sacks, the most among active college football players. Donald is one of just two defensive tackles to be named a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, given to the nation's outstanding defensive player of the year.

And, because we can never have enough fun, let's take a look at what some of the conference's notable characters are dressing up as tonight:

  • Jameis Winston is MC Hammer. Because, after routing Clemson, he did say that Florida State was "too legit to quit." And because this.
  • David Cutcliffe is David Copperfield. And for his most recent trick, Cutcliffe has made Duke bowl-eligible in consecutive seasons! A program first!
  • Jimbo Fisher is Nick Saban. I know I'm not the only one who sees the facial resemblance. And Fisher's Seminoles have looked a lot like Saban's Crimson Tide this year, to understate it.
  • Steve Addazio is Jesse "The Body" Ventura. This is not up for debate.
  • Duke Johnson is Saul Goodman from "Breaking Bad." Looking for a big kickoff return? Need an insurance touchdown to clinch an upset victory over Florida? Trailing Wake Forest two different times in the fourth quarter with a perfect season on the line? Better call Duke, who has pulled all sorts of tricks up his sleeve to bail Miami out and help lift the Hurricanes to a 7-0 start.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 9

October, 24, 2013
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With only Syracuse on a bye this week, there will be plenty to keep an eye on in the conference. Here’s a look at what to watch in Week 9, in no particular order:

1. Florida State flashback: All eyes will be on the pregame scene in Tallahassee, where former Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden will make his first return to Doak Campbell Stadium since he was ousted following the 2009 season. Bowden will plant the famous spear at midfield, and nearly 400 former players are expected to attend the No. 2-ranked Seminoles’ game against NC State. "There's no nerves," Bowden told ESPN.com’s David Hale. "I'm excited about it, getting to see a lot of people."

[+] EnlargeBrandon Mitchell
Lance King/Getty ImagesBrandon Mitchell has been out since the opener for NC State.
2. Brandon Mitchell's return: While Florida State will be celebrating the return of its legendary coach, the Wolfpack will be celebrating the return of its injured starting quarterback. Mitchell broke his left foot in the season opener and hasn’t played since. He won the job over Pete Thomas this preseason, and his athleticism seemed to fit first-year coach Dave Doeren’s no-huddle offense well. He’ll face one of the toughest defenses in the country, though, on Saturday.

3. Wake’s hopes at an upset: The Demon Deacons are on a roll, having won back-to-back Atlantic Division games, and while the Canes lead the series 7-3, all three of Wake’s wins have come at Miami. Wake is looking to snap a six-game losing streak against ranked teams -- and Saturday is the 67th anniversary of the program’s win over No. 4 Tennessee, the highest-ranked team Wake has ever defeated. If the Deacs can continue to get the ball to receiver Michael Campanaro and play stingy defense, they could have a chance. Especially considering …

4. Miami’s ball security: You’ve heard it a million times this week. Miami has turned it over 12 times in the past three weeks. The Hurricanes the only team in the country to have at least four turnovers in three consecutive games this season and the first since East Carolina in 2011. Miami has also had four red-zone turnovers in its past three games. Meanwhile, Wake’s defense forced three turnovers in the Deacs’ victory over Maryland last week. Speaking of the Terps, watch out for …

5. Maryland’s quarterback controversy: It’s C.J. Brown OR Caleb Rowe listed as the starter on this week’s depth chart for Saturday’s game against Clemson, and coach Randy Edsall has played coy about Brown’s status since last week. Edsall said the indecision on his starter is health-related, not performance-related, but wouldn’t specify what’s wrong with Brown. Brown struggled in last week’s loss at Wake Forest, and Edsall said it was because of an injury unrelated to the concussion Brown suffered against Florida State. Stay tuned for which QB will be leading the Terps’ offense against a stingy Clemson D.

6. UNC’s run defense: Miami gashed the Tar Heels for 234 yards on the ground last week -- and that was with their leading rusher, Duke Johnson, sidelined for three quarters and four turnovers from the Canes. Boston College makes its living on the running game, led by senior Andre Williams, who leads the ACC and ranks fifth nationally in rushing yards per game (139.7).

7. Clemson’s rebound: Last week’s 51-14 home loss to Florida State was humbling and devastating to the Tigers. It knocked them out of the national championship picture, all but ruined quarterback Tajh Boyd's chances at winning the Heisman Trophy, and put them behind the Seminoles in the ACC race. How will the Tigers respond on the road? They’ve got more talent than the depleted Terps, but emotion could be a factor early.

8. Virginia Tech’s secondary: Veteran cornerback Antone Exum is expected to finally return for Saturday’s home game against Duke, more than eight months after he had offseason surgery to repair his ACL and a bone fracture. Exum was cleared Sept. 30, but he and the staff have played it cautious. Senior CB Kyle Fuller has broken up 10 passes in seven games and ranks fourth in the nation in passes defended (1.71 per game). They will come in handy against quarterback Duke, which is averaging 269 passing yards per game.

9. Replacement receivers: The ACC will be missing three of its top receivers, with Maryland’s Stefon Diggs and Deon Long and Miami’s Phillip Dorsett all out with injuries. Levern Jacobs will step in at the slot position in place of Diggs, and redshirt freshman Amba Etta-Tawo will take over Long’s spot. With Dorsett out at Miami, that likely means an increased role for Malcolm Lewis, who is listed as a backup at two spots, and true freshman Stacy Coley, who is listed as a co-starter at wide receiver, a starting kick returner and co-starter at punt returner.

10. BC WR Alex Amidon: The Eagles can do more than just run the ball, and Amidon needs just 144 receiving yards to become BC’s all-time leading pass receiver. He has three 100-plus yard receiving games this season and a school-record 10 for his 39-game collegiate career.

ACC Power Rankings: Week 8

October, 21, 2013
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There was a definite shake-up in the ACC hierarchy this weekend, as No. 5-ranked Florida State went to Death Valley and humbled No. 3-ranked Clemson 51-14 on Saturday night. The Seminoles, led by their unflappable 19-year-old quarterback, Jameis Winston, dominated the Tigers from start to finish. For the first time this season, the ACC has a new No. 1:

1. Florida State (6-0, 4-0 ACC, last week: 2): The defense was the storyline, as the Seminoles flustered veteran quarterback Tajh Boyd into what was easily the worst outing of his career. He threw two picks and just one touchdown and completed only 46 percent of his passes. Florida State converted two turnovers into touchdowns early and never looked back. The Noles host NC State this weekend, but this Florida State team is light years better than the one that was upset by the Wolfpack a season ago. There’s not even a hint of an upset brewing in Tallahassee.

2. Miami (6-0, 2-0, LW: 3): The Hurricanes didn’t look like a top-10 team on Thursday night in Chapel Hill, N.C., where they needed a game-winning touchdown from backup running back Dallas Crawford with 16 seconds left to beat a North Carolina team that has now sunk to 1-5. Miami quarterback Stephen Morris threw four interceptions and the Canes lost two of their top playmakers -- receiver Phillip Dorsett and running back Duke Johnson -- to injuries. Miami found a way to win, though, and only Wake Forest stands between the Canes and their showdown with the rival Noles in two weeks. Expect both to be undefeated for that game.

3. Clemson (6-1, 4-1, LW: 1) : If Clemson had lost to FSU in a close, hard-fought game, it wouldn’t have taken so much criticism, but because the Tigers lost so convincingly, it’s clear the gap between Florida State and Clemson was as wide as the lopsided score indicated. Clemson’s chances at a national title were devastated, along with Boyd’s Heisman Trophy hopes, all in four quarters. The spotlight has shifted to Florida State while the Tigers try to regroup on Saturday at Maryland.

4. Virginia Tech (6-1, 3-0, LW: 4): The Hokies had a bye week to prepare for Duke on Saturday, but they have quietly continued to work their way up the conference standings this fall. Quarterback Logan Thomas has made significant strides and cut down on his interceptions, and the defense continues to look like one of the best in the country. The matchup in Miami should determine the Coastal division winner this fall, and if the Canes continue to turn it over at this disconcerting rate, it’s the Hokies’ title to lose.

5. Georgia Tech (4-3, 3-2, LW: 11): The Yellow Jackets played as if they had something to prove on Saturday, ending a three-game losing streak with a complete pummeling of Syracuse. Georgia Tech scored seven rushing touchdowns in a 56-0 rout of the Orange. It was the program’s biggest margin of victory in an ACC game. The Jackets need to win three of their next five to become bowl eligible, and a road trip to struggling Virginia is up next.

6. Pittsburgh (4-2, 2-2, LW: 6): It wasn’t exactly a flawless performance in a 35-24 win against Old Dominion, but the Panthers took care of business, and their only two losses are to Florida State and Virginia Tech, two of the top teams in the ACC right now. The Panthers got what they needed from Isaac Bennett, who ran for a career-high 240 yards and three touchdowns. They’re going to have to sharpen their game, though, for back-to-back road trips to Navy and Georgia Tech.

7. Duke (5-2, 1-2, LW: 7): The Blue Devils didn’t quit on the road, and they’re just one win away from bowl eligibility for the second straight season under coach David Cutcliffe. Duke overcame a 22-0 deficit at Virginia to scrape its way back to a 35-22 win. It was a remarkable comeback by Duke and an utter meltdown by the Hoos. Duke has now won three straight heading into Saturday’s game at Virginia Tech.

8. Wake Forest (4-3, 2-2, LW: 10): The Deacs have hit their stride offensively, and receiver Michael Campanaro continues to be the face of the team. Wake’s defense, though, was a highlight in the its win over Maryland, and the team has helped keep its bowl hopes alive. Wake Forest will face a tough test this week, as it has to travel to undefeated Miami.

9. Maryland (5-2, 1-2, LW: 5): Not only do the Terps seem to have a quarterback controversy between starter C.J. Brown and backup Caleb Rowe, but they’ve also got injuries to two of their top receivers in Stefon Diggs and Deon Long. Brown was benched in the loss to Wake Forest and replaced by Rowe, but neither of them could overcome a gritty performance by the Deacs’ veteran defense. What once seemed like a guaranteed return to the postseason has now become a shrinking window with no margin for error.

10. Boston College (3-3, 1-2, LW: 9): The Eagles have lost three of their past four but have developed a reputation as one of the toughest teams in the ACC nonetheless. Two of those losses have come to Atlantic division leaders FSU and Clemson. The Eagles had a bye week to prepare for their road trip to North Carolina, and, considering how poorly UNC has played this season, the Eagles have a good shot at their second league win.

11. Syracuse (3-4, 1-2, LW: 8): It’s been an unpleasant introduction into the ACC for the Orange, to say the least. Georgia Tech put on a clinic against Cuse on Saturday, and the defense went into shutdown mode. Terrel Hunt has struggled, completing 43.1 percent of his passes against league opponents. The Orange have a much-needed bye week before facing Wake Forest on Nov. 2.

12. NC State (3-3, 0-3, LW: 12): Like BC, the Pack has lost three of its past four. The difference is that NC State is still winless in conference play under first-year coach Dave Doeren. Starting quarterback Brandon Mitchell is expected to return for Saturday’s game at Florida State, his first time playing since he broke a bone in his left foot in the season opener.

13. North Carolina (1-5, 0-3, LW: 13): The Tar Heels got their best defensive performance of the season on Thursday night against Miami, and tight end Eric Ebron put on quite an audition for the NFL scouts in attendance, but the Tar Heels couldn’t stop the run and are now off to their worst start since 2006. UNC has lost four straight and will try to rebound on Saturday at home against BC.

14. Virginia (2-5, 0-3, LW: 14): After squandering a 22-point lead at home against Duke on Saturday, Mike London’s career is seemingly hanging by a thread. Whether the Hoos can win another game is a legitimate question, and, despite the administration’s continued support for London, there doesn’t seem to be any way he could survive a 2-10 season.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 8

October, 17, 2013
10/17/13
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The moment is almost here. Florida State-Clemson is the highlight of this weekend's ACC lineup, and of the conference's season. National title implications, Heisman Trophy implications and much more are on the line Saturday night in Death Valley. Here's what to look for in that contest and everywhere else in the league this weekend, which gets a head start tonight in Chapel Hill, N.C.

1. Miami's ball security. The Hurricanes are a top-10 team and 5-0. But an overlooked aspect through this start has been just how sloppy they have been with the ball in recent weeks. Miami has turned the ball over four times in each of its last two contests, and it needs to be sharper offensively coming out of the bye week as it faces a nearly desperate North Carolina.

[+] EnlargeBryn Renner
Mike Zarrilli/Getty ImagesNorth Carolina hopes the return of Bryn Renner will help the Tar Heels get closer to their potential.
2. Bryn Renner's return. The UNC quarterback missed the Virginia Tech game two weeks ago because of a foot injury but will play against Miami. Marquise Williams was solid in Renner's spot and could see more time, but the Tar Heels need their veteran presence back as they look to shake the cobwebs from a 1-4 start and emerge from the bye looking more like the team that had Coastal Division title dreams entering Larry Fedora's second season. Their all-black uniforms -- part of their "Zero Dark Thursday" billing -- should be something to watch, too.

3. Terrel Hunt looks for breakout ACC performance. The Syracuse quarterback ran away with the starting job in strong outings against Wagner and Tulane, but he has struggled against Clemson and NC State. He threw for less than 100 yards in each contest, though he did rush for 92 yards and a touchdown in the win over the Wolfpack. Still, Hunt must continue to grow and the offense has to continue to evolve after relying so much on the veteran ground game.

4. Georgia Tech D hopes for turnaround. The Yellow Jackets felt they turned a corner when they shut down UNC late last month to get to 3-0. But they have dropped three in a row since, giving up 38 or more points in each of the last two contests. Of course, throwing a pick-six in each of the last two games doesn't help matters, either, but Georgia Tech desperately needs a stronger performance from its defense to get back on track and be in position for a bowl berth.

5. C.J. Brown back leading Maryland. To be fair, Caleb Rowe played well last week against Virginia, but the Terrapins' offense operates at a different level with Brown in charge. Back from a concussion suffered at FSU, Brown will look to build off his nearly 64 percent completion percentage and help Maryland clinch bowl eligibility against Wake Forest, no small feat for a program that had just six total wins in coach Randy Edsall's first two seasons.

6. Duke's D looks to keep it going. The Blue Devils made a bit of a statement in their 35-7 win over Navy, their second straight game generating pressure up front. They will look to do that again this weekend against a struggling Virginia squad, though ACC offenses have not been kind to Duke in the past year. The Blue Devils have not won a league game since last Oct. 20 and have given up at least 38 points in every ACC contest since then.

7. Virginia looks for playmakers in the passing game. David Watford may have come of age at Maryland in defeat, but he needs some help from his receivers. Tight end Jake McGee leads the Cavaliers with 27 catches for 233 yards and two touchdowns, but no receiver has reached the 20-catch mark. Virginia ranks 104th nationally in passing yards and must improve on offense after coming up just short against the Terrapins in a game that was closer than most expected it to be. The offense gave itself a chance at the end and did not give the ball away all game.

8. Can Pitt establish the run? For as much success as the Panthers have had through the air, their ground game has been M.I.A. through the season's first five games, ranking 105th nationally. They have tallied just eight and 23 yards, respectively, in their last two games against Virginia and Virginia Tech. Old Dominion and Navy these next two weeks should provide Pitt nice opportunities to gain some traction in the run game.

9. Famous Jameis' big moment. Everything about Jameis Winston says that he loves the spotlight. But the redshirt freshman sensation has never been tested the way he will Saturday night, as FSU's ACC and national title hopes rest on his right shoulder in the first major test of a career that looks destined for greatness. Can Winston handle the Death Valley atmosphere, and can he exceed the ridiculous expectations that have been placed on him since Week 1? He could be racking up some hardware if he plays anything like he has so far.

10. Spotlight again shines on Death Valley. "College GameDay" is back at Clemson for the second time this season in what is arguably the biggest regular-season game in ACC history. It's another chance for Tajh Boyd to make a Heisman stand, but the onus may ultimately fall on the Tigers' much-improved defense, which has a pass rush that leads the nation in sacks per game. The defense will look to do everything it can to rattle Winston early and solidify this squad as a legitimate national title contender with its second top-5 win of the season.

ACC weekend rewind: Week 7

October, 14, 2013
10/14/13
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We are all pumped for this weekend's matchup between the ACC's two highest-ranked teams. But before we move ahead, let's take one final look back at the weekend that got us here in the ACC.

[+] EnlargeClemson
Tyler Smith/Getty ImagesClemson survived an upset bid by Boston College.
The good: As mentioned before, we still have this weekend's showdown to look forward to. That's because Clemson avoided … well, you know. Steve Addazio and Boston College deserve all the credit in the world for challenging everyone in conference play so far, and they are not taking solace in any type of moral victories. That said, the Tigers averted a crisis by coming back from a fourth-quarter deficit and pulling out a 24-14 home win Saturday. Now they get a shot at Florida State this coming weekend, in a game with national title and Heisman Trophy implications on the line.

The bad: NC State looked to be in a pretty good situation as recently as two weeks ago, as it had just blown out Central Michigan after taking a pretty good shot at Clemson. A relatively easy slate that featured upcoming games against Wake Forest and Syracuse made a 5-1 start seem like a real possibility, with who knows what else to come. Instead, the Wolfpack have dropped both of those games, the most recent coming in Saturday's 24-10 home loss to the Orange. Florida State awaits after a bye. Maybe, maybe if the Seminoles beat Clemson, they will be prime for a letdown -- and we all know how potent NC State can be against FSU in such a situation -- but the path to bowl eligibility looks a bit more difficult now than it did just a short time ago for a program that is now 0-3 in conference play.

The ugly: Georgia Tech is similar to NC State in the quick turnaround department. The Yellow Jackets have followed three straight wins with three straight losses, the latest a 38-20 defeat Saturday at BYU. A defense that looked so much better through three games under new coordinator Ted Roof has now given up 83 points over its last two games, though it has not been helped out by an offense that has thrown a pick-six in each of those contests. Still, it may be time to wonder if this team will go bowling, considering it has a back-loaded schedule that features Clemson and Georgia, along with the fact that one of its remaining games is against FCS Alabama A&M, the second of Tech's FCS opponents this year (Elon, Week 1), meaning it needs seven wins to be postseason eligible.

The return: Anthony Boone returned after missing three games with a broken collarbone and delivered the best performance of his career, hitting on 31 of 38 throws for 295 yards and three touchdowns in Duke's 35-7 win over Navy. Boone filled in for Brandon Connette, who hurt his ankle this week and forced Boone, the Blue Devils' original No. 1 quarterback, back into action (Boone found out about the decision just minutes before kickoff). Boone's completions, attempts and passing yards were all career highs for 4-2 Duke.

The nation's best ... defense? Yes, it is a fair question to ask in Blacksburg, Va., especially after watching what Virginia Tech did to Pitt in its 19-9 victory to win its sixth straight contest and gain bowl eligibility for the 21st straight season -- one year after needing to win its final two games to reach the postseason. The Hokies sacked Panthers quarterback Tom Savage eight times, had 10 tackles for loss and held Pitt to just 210 yards of total offense. Virginia Tech now ranks No. 4 nationally in total defense, first in total sacks, tied for first in interceptions and tied for seventh in turnovers forced. Quarterback Logan Thomas' improved play makes this team much more complete, too.

The rebound: OK, so it was just a 27-26 win over Virginia, arguably the conference's worst team. But for a Maryland team coming off a 63-0 loss at Florida State, well, it will take the victory, win No. 5 on the season. The Terrapins were also playing without quarterback C.J. Brown (concussion), but backup Caleb Rowe stepped in and completed 18 of 34 passes for 332 yards and a touchdown. They notched a win over one of their oldest rivals in what was the last meeting for the foreseeable future (the Big Ten-bound Terps have played the Cavaliers every single year since 1957).

The history: Yes, Saturday's win in Raleigh, N.C., was noteworthy for Syracuse, as it marked the Orange's first win in ACC play. It came just a week after their conference debut, in which Clemson did whatever it wanted inside the Carrier Dome in a Tigers rout. Syracuse once again got a huge boost from its ground game, with Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley each eclipsing the 100-yard mark as the team tallied 362 rushing yards. A struggling Georgia Tech team awaits, followed by Wake Forest and Maryland. So the chance for the Orange to build some momentum off this win will be there, though they will need better quarterback play.

The quote: Clemson's Vic Beasley, on this weekend's showdown with Florida State, via the Charleston Post and Courier's Aaron Brenner: "It may be the biggest game in ACC history. We don’t know. But our goal is to win a national championship."

What we learned in the ACC: Week 7

October, 13, 2013
10/13/13
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Here’s a look at five lessons learned in the ACC in Week 7, in no particular order:

Clemson can win with its defense. This is the biggest difference with the Tigers this year, and the reason they are still in the hunt for the national title heading into Week 8. For the second time this season, the defense found a way to win when the offense wasn’t clicking for four quarters. Led by national sack leader Vic Beasley, Clemson’s defense was the difference in its 24-14 win over visiting Boston College. Much like NC State did, the Eagles gave Clemson quite a scare. Clemson scored just three points in the first half against BC, but the game changed when Beasley scooped up a fumble by quarterback Chase Rettig and ran it back 13 yards for a touchdown.

[+] EnlargeJerome Smith
Liz Condo/USA TODAY SportsJerome Smith helped power Syracuse's offense to 362 rushing yards.
Virginia Tech is shaking the shadow of 2012. Last year, it took 12 games for the Hokies to reach this milestone. This year, after reeling off six straight wins since its season-opening loss to Alabama, Virginia Tech is bowl eligible for the 21st straight season. With a 19-9 win over Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech is back in familiar territory, and further proving that last year was an anomaly, not the beginning of a trend. The Hokies have shown enough improvement on offense that they’re once again front-runners to win the division along with Miami. Virginia Tech’s defense was simply dominant against Pitt, yet another sign of improvement from a year ago, when Pitt’s offensive line had the upper hand. The Hokies are once again atop the division standings and can continue to stay there if they can continue to avoid turnovers.

Syracuse’s running game deserves respect. For the second straight game, the Orange have racked up more than 300 yards on the ground. Say what you will about NC State’s defense, but the Cuse did it against No. 3-ranked Clemson, too. Syracuse’s ability to run the ball was key in the Orange’s 24-10 win at NC State, the program’s first ACC win as a member of the conference. Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley each ran for more than 100 yards and a touchdown as the Orange finished with 362 yards on the ground. Smith finished with 140 yards and ran for a 1-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Gulley ran for 132 yards and the 18-yard go-ahead score with 6:13 left. It was the first time Cuse has had two 100-yard rushers in a game since last year’s New Era Pinstripe Bowl win against West Virginia. Quarterback Terrel Hunt also added 92 rushing yards and a touchdown.

Duke can play a complete game. With the defense on lockdown against Navy’s option offense and quarterback Anthony Boone back in the starting lineup, the Blue Devils finally put together a complete four quarters. With all due respect to backup Brandon Connette, there’s a reason Boone is the starter. Duke is a different team with him in the lineup. In his first start since suffering a fractured collarbone against Memphis on Sept. 7, Boone threw three touchdowns and completed a remarkable 31 of 38 pass attempts. Equally as impressive was Duke’s defense, which has long been the program’s Achilles' heel. Clearly having played Georgia Tech a few weeks earlier helped with the preparation. Navy had three turnovers in its lowest-scoring output of the season. Duke went 4-0 against its nonconference opponents and is looking more and more like a bowl team.

The Terps can still win without C.J. Brown. With Brown sidelined with a concussion for what could be the last in the series against rival Virginia, backup quarterback Caleb Rowe and the rest of the offense came through in a 27-26 win over the Hoos. In his first start of the season, Rowe threw for a career-high 332 yards and completed 18 of 34 passes and one touchdown. There were plenty of other offensive answers, too, as Brandon Ross had 169 all-purpose yards, and Deon Long and Stefon Diggs both finished with just under 100 receiving yards each. It was Maryland’s first home win against UVa since 2005, and with the win, Maryland (5-1) has already surpassed last year’s win total.
You’ve heard the saying that time heals all wounds?

Well, in Maryland’s case, time healed all quarterbacks.

One year after an unfathomable rash of injuries to four quarterbacks devastated Maryland’s starting lineup, the Terps are finally strong again – not to mention deep – at the position. Starter C.J. Brown, who missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in August, is once again at the top of the depth chart. It’s not just his name, though, that should have Maryland fans excited.

Perry Hills, who also tore his ACL last year, is back.

Caleb Rowe, who tore his ACL, is back.

It’s quite a turnaround from last fall, when the Terps were down to their fifth-string quarterback – scout team linebacker Shawn Petty. Now, Hills is able to run and will be cleared by August. Rowe has been cleared to participate in 7-on-7 drills. Most important, Brown has been cleared for everything.

“All of those guys will be healthy,” coach Randy Edsall said. “It will be great competition. It will be good to have all of them out there, and when you bring Shane [Cockerille] into the mix, it will be more than adequate at that position.”

Brown was involved in practices and 7-on-7 drills this spring, but he wasn’t allowed to have any contact. He has been granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA and so still has two years left to play. He entered last fall as the projected starter, but this will be his first full season as a starter. In 2011, Brown pushed former quarterback Danny O’Brien for the starting job and started five games. He led the team with five rushing touchdowns that year and finished second in rushing yards. Once he was injured last summer, many immediately wrote the Terps off, but Maryland surprised the ACC with a gritty and relentless effort into November.

Now, with Brown back and the core of the group returning, the Terps are already better off than when they finished 2012.

Edsall said he has no concerns about Brown’s status heading into the fall, despite the fact it has been so long since he has taken a meaningful snap.

“You could see the progression and the progress he was making throughout the spring in those drills,” Edsall said. “I was very pleased. You could see the confidence he was gaining each time he was out there, and now that we’re involved into doing conditioning and lifting with our eight hours per week, he’s doing well. There’s not going to be any limitation, there’s not going to be any hesitation I know on his part. I’m not concerned about him. He has really worked extremely hard to put himself in the best possible position to be as healthy and as sound as he can be, so no, there’s no hesitation on my part. I don’t believe we’ll see any hesitation on CJ’s part, either.”
Maryland opens spring practice Saturday, with plenty of questions on both offense and defense. I had a chance to catch up with coach Randy Edsall earlier this week to preview the spring. Here is a little of what he had to say.

Going into the spring what’s your No. 1 priority?

RE: I want to get everybody to do their job, and to do their job to the best of their ability. Offensively, it’s to make sure that we’re going to take advantage of our playmakers and at least come out with eight offensive linemen we feel really good about and see how Ricardo (Young) can do handling all the snaps he’s going to get. Then defensively, for us to come out as a swarming, tough physical defense in terms of trying to find out who our best 11 are and then work to create a top 22.

You mentioned Ricardo, obviously taking the majority reps with C.J. Brown still limited. How do you approach building the chemistry you need on offense and getting everything done to prepare for the fall knowing you don’t have your starting quarterback?

[+] EnlargeMaryland's Randy Edsall
Howard Smith/US PRESSWIRERandy Edsall and Maryland begin spring practice on Saturday.
RE: Hopefully from a 7-on-7 standpoint, C.J. gets some of that work. That will be great, but if not, just being on the field and having the presence and seeing things -- there’s going to be plenty enough time between the summer and preseason practice in order to develop chemistry and consistency that we would want out of all those guys.

So the backup job is wide open for competition with Ricardo, and then Caleb Rowe and Perry Hills when they come back?

RE: There’s no question.

In terms of the running back situation, I know Justus Pickett transferred, and Wes Brown is out with an injury. Do you have concerns over depth?

RE: Brandon Ross is going to be the guy who’s the No. 1 guy in the spring, and then Albert Reid, and Joe Riddle, and then we also have Kenny Goins. Kenny is a guy who can be a running back and/or a fullback. Wes had a shoulder done, then had ankle done from an old high school injury, so he’ll be ready to go come the fall. We’ll have four guys there, and then Kenny’s a guy that can carry the ball, too.

What will you work on this spring to try and get the run game going?

RE: That to me all starts up front with the offensive line and I really feel like going into the spring you’ve got Mike Madaras at left tackle, De’Onte Arnett at left guard, then you have Sal (Conaboy) and Evan Mulrooney at center, Andy Zeller at right guard, and Nick Klemm at right tackle. And Silvano Altamirano is a guard, and Ryan Doyle at tackle. My biggest thing is I want to find at least three tackles, three guards and we have two centers that have played. Now we have to get more consistent and do a better job up front. In terms of who we’ll have at quarterback, who we’ll have at running back, who we’ll have at wide receiver gives us some weapons from a skill position. Now we have to do is make sure we’re consistent up front, so that to me is the biggest thing offensively this spring is the offensive line and getting them to be more consistent with their assignments, more consistent with their technique and fundamentals and developing that cohesiveness with guys playing together and hopefully guys staying healthy.

You mentioned the skill position players you do have. At receiver, you’ve got this abundance of talent and depth. How do you see the competition playing out?

RE: Deon Long and then Amba Etta behind him right now. Amba showed us a lot last year and we redshirted him. There we’ve got to have tremendous competition and guys with the ability to make plays. Then on the other side, you’ve got Nigel King, who came on at the end of the year last year, made some plays against North Carolina, and then another freshman Malcolm Culmer, whom we redshirted and then you have Stefon (Diggs) as a slot guy. It gives you a lot of opportunities to get the ball in peoples’ hands who can make something happen after they catch it. Those are the things we have to do to make sure that we find guys who can make the plays on the ball and distribute that. We’ve got some weapons there. So if people want to load the box, you’ve got to make sure we can throw it and catch it, and if they want to worry about some of the receivers we have, then you’ve got to have the ability to run the football.

Is this the best group of talent and depth you’ve had at the skill positions?

RE: Yeah I think so. That’s where we have to get everybody to understand that yeah, they do have ability but they have to go out there and work hard each and every day. If they do that, we’ve got the ability to make a lot of things happen. We’ve got to get the people up front on the offensive line to be really tough, sound, good technicians and competing every play. If we do that, then because of the running backs and because of the receivers we have, that can make their job a little bit easier.

Defensively, you’re losing a lot of your leaders. Where are you looking for the leadership on that group?

RE: We played a lot of people on defense last year so it’s not like we’re going in with guys who haven’t played a whole bunch. But now guys like Dexter McDougle, Jeremiah Johnson, Cole Farrand, Darius Kilgo, Matt Robinson, who we’re going to make him an outside linebacker as opposed to a safety, and then Keith Bowers. Those are the guys that have to step up from a leadership standpoint. And then guys like Quinton Jefferson, who played last year as a true freshman. He has to be more productive for us this year and then Anthony Nixon is back, so it’s just a matter of other guys stepping up in those roles. The thing is, we’re going to be playing in the same scheme, so they’ll be better from that standpoint. They’ll be a year older more, a year more mature, a year stronger. But that’s the thing: who are going to be those leaders?

What’s the strongest part of the defense?

RE: The one thing I take a look at in terms of up front, I really think Darius Kilgo has a chance to take his game to another level. Quinton Jefferson, him and Justin Anderson fighting it out at the one end and then Keith Bowers and, Roman Braglio -- a young man with a tremendous motor that we redshirted last year. We’ve got to get one of the safety spots shored up, between Sean Davis and A.J. Hendy and then I think at the corner, Will Likely and Alvin Hill, you may see them because they have a lot of skill set. They can find a way to get on the field, whether as a nickel or dime package. I think the strength of defense is the athletic ability and the ability to be able to run. That’s something that’s going to help us.
Maryland's string of season-ending ACL tears continued this past weekend when starting middle linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield suffered the same injury on a running play with 2:20 remaining in the second quarter of Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech.

The school announced on Monday that Hartsfield will miss the rest of the season. Quarterbacks C.J. Brown, Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe also tore their ACLs this year.

“This is another tough loss for the program,” coach Randy Edsall said in a prepared statement. “Demetrius is a captain and has been a leader of this defense both on and off the field. I feel terrible for him because I know how much the game means to him. To have his senior year cut short is just disheartening. We will be here to support him through the rehab process and help him with his transition towards the next stage of his career.”

Hartsfield leads the team with 78 tackles this season. He has also totaled seven tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, one interception and two fumble recoveries. His 338 career stops rank 10th nationally among active players and 15th in school history.
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland true freshman linebacker Shawn Petty made his debut as the Terps' starting quarterback, and while he did an admirable job considering the circumstances, it wasn't enough to keep pace with the Jackets. Here's a look back at Georgia Tech's 33-13 win:

It was over when: Maryland's fourth quarterback of the season suffered a season-ending injury in Week 9. When true freshman Caleb Rowe went down in last week's loss to Boston College, the Terps ran out of scholarship quarterbacks and had to turn to Petty, who just two weeks ago was a scout team linebacker. He was sacked on the first play of the game, and the rest is history.

Game ball goes to: Georgia Tech linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu. He finished second on the team with six tackles, including three sacks for a loss of 24 yards. He also had one forced fumble and a fumble recovery -- his first of the season. His first tackle for loss of the season came on the Terps' first offensive play of the game.

Stat of the game: With Petty in at quarterback, Maryland threw for more yards (115) against Georgia Tech this year than it did in last year's loss to the Jackets (87). Petty completed 9 of 18 passes for 115 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Last year, with C.J. Brown and Danny O'Brien, the Terps completed 6 of 24 passes for 87 yards.
Maryland coach Randy Edsall said he doesn’t feel “jinxed.”

Instead, he called four season-ending injuries to four different quarterbacks in the past three months “a little bit unlucky.”

[+] EnlargeRandy Edsall
AP Photo/Steve HelberRandy Edsall has led the Terrapins to a .500 record, despite losing four quarterbacks to injury.
Ya don’t say.

“I’ve never seen anything like it, and the severity of the injuries,” said Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, whose team will face the Terps in Byrd Stadium on Saturday. “I’d have to think back through the years, where someone might be down to a fourth guy in a position for a week or two, but I’ve never seen that many season-ending injuries.”

On Saturday, the Jackets will see Maryland’s latest quarterback -- Shawn Petty, a true freshman linebacker who played quarterback in high school. There simply are no more scholarship quarterbacks available on the roster. What’s amazing about the Terps is that it hasn’t mattered much -- they’ve still been in every game this year, thanks to one of the ACC’s best defenses. Edsall has done a remarkable job this season of keeping his players believing. Instead of being wide-eyed and shocked by his improbable promotion to starting quarterback, Petty is ready to try to keep the job, according to Edsall.

“When I went to him last week and told him we were going to put him at quarterback, his eyes kind of lit up,” Edsall said. “I think it's something about that position. Once you've been a quarterback, you always want to be a quarterback. I think what Shawn has in mind is he wants to do very, very well so he can stay at quarterback.”

If Maryland could actually get a quarterback to stay at quarterback, it would be a win for the Terps, regardless of what the scoreboard says.

Caleb Rowe, who was the last scholarship available on the roster, made it through all four quarters of last week’s loss to Boston College, but not before tearing his ACL. Maryland was facing a third down on the second-to-last play in the game when Rowe came out of the pocket, ran the ball, and felt his leg buckle as he went down.

“When he got up, I saw him, he didn't get up right away, kind of got on one knee,” Edsall said. “I saw he had a problem. He was limping a little bit. In my mind I'm thinking, ‘We’ve got to get Shawn ready to go.’

“The trainers came to me and said he was OK. He went in the last play. But overnight it stiffened up on him, swelled on him. We got the MRI on Sunday and found out he tore his ACL.”

And Petty found out he was the next starter.

When Petty starts on Saturday, Maryland will become one of seven schools to have started three different quarterbacks this season (also Southern Miss -- 4; and Colorado State, Kentucky, Minnesota, Tulane and Utah -- 3).

It’s not like Petty has never thrown the ball. He was an All-Met selection at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Md. As a quarterback, he threw for 1,300 yards and 15 touchdowns, and ran for 550 yards and 10 touchdowns. Fellow true freshman Brian McMahon, a tight end, will back up Petty. McMahon also played quarterback in high school.

“He knows how to handle the huddle, everything else,” Edsall said of Petty. “Big things for him are in terms of the terminology, all those things. Again, maybe the checks that we have in.

“We started last week, we started to build a package for him a week ago,” Edsall said. “You add to it and you see how much he can handle. We'll have a game plan and packages ready to incorporate him on Saturday, what he does best, what the other guys do well.”

Quarterbacks aren't the only thing Maryland is running short on these days. Jersey numbers are tough to come by, too. Petty will still be wearing his No. 31 on Saturday, and McMahon will still be in No. 87.

"Doug Flutie wore No. 22," Edsall said. "It’s an eligible number to play that position so we are going to keep them in those jerseys because we really don’t have any other numbers to put them in. All of the other numbers are taken. It will be a little bit different. It will give everyone something to talk about.”

Like a true freshman linebacker under center isn't enough.

Happy Halloween in the ACC

October, 31, 2012
10/31/12
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Happy Halloween, ACC fans! Andrea and I decided to have a little fun today with some spooky stuff in the ACC. We see you guys out there dressed up as officials …

Cursed: Maryland’s quarterbacks. It’s the only way to explain it. Some sort of hex. Following the transfer of Danny O’Brien to Wisconsin, starter C.J. Brown tore his ACL. His backup, Perry Hills, then tore his ACL. Backup Devin Burns also suffered a season-ending injury, and then -- as if all of that weren’t enough of a spell -- true freshman Caleb Rowe also suffered a season-ending ACL injury. Coach Randy Edsall called it unlucky. Spooky if you ask me.

[+] EnlargeDavid Cutcliffe
Peter Casey/US PresswireThis season, coach David Cutcliffe and Duke have been scaring opponents for a change.
Back from the dead: Duke. The Devils have done it. For the first time since 1994, Duke is bowl eligible. Not only have the Blue Devils reached the six-win mark, they also have a chance to win the Coastal Division. With a 6-3 record (.667) Duke is off to its best start in five seasons under head coach David Cutcliffe. The Blue Devils have compiled a 5-0 record at Wallace Wade Stadium this season, matching the school record for home victories in a season. They’re alive.

Graveyard: Virginia. Bury ‘em. The Cavaliers have officially replaced Boston College at the bottom of the ACC power rankings, and have lost six straight heading into Saturday’s road trip to NC State. They have yet to win an ACC game, and haven’t won since Sept. 8. Nobody in the country ranks worse than Virginia in turnover margin. It’s been a hard fall after last season’s success. Odds are the Hoos don’t get back up again this season.

Scary movie: Pitt 35, Virginia Tech 17: Nobody but Pitt wants to watch this horror flick again. The Hokies had four turnovers. Logan Thomas had one touchdown and three interceptions against a defense that managed just one sack and no turnovers through the season's first two weeks. Virginia Tech had just 59 rushing yards. Pitt jumped out to a 21-0 lead. The Hokies were manhandled up front on both sides and allowed the Panthers 537 total yards.

Nightmare in Carter-Finley Stadium: NC State 17, FSU 16. That was not a bad dream, Seminoles fans, that was a national championship dream dying in Raleigh. Nobody expected that to happen, not after FSU jumped to No. 3 in the rankings after its win against Clemson. Not after NC State struggled so badly in losses to Tennessee and Miami. But Tom O'Brien knows how to cast a spell at least once a season. Double Double, toil and trouble ... bring me FSU on the double! His players responded, rallying from a 16-0 halftime deficit to score the game-winning touchdown pass on fourth down with 16 seconds remaining. Poof!

Thriller: Speaking of the Wolfpack, NC State has probably been involved in more thrillers than any team in the country. The Wolfpack have gone down to the wire in four straight games. The thrills began at Miami on Sept. 29, when NC State overcame a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to tie the game with 1:58 to go, only to lose when Miami scored a touchdown with 19 seconds remaining. The following week came the biggest thriller of all, the upset of FSU. Then, they beat Maryland when Terps kicker Brad Craddock missed a 33-yard field goal with 2 seconds left. Last week, they lost to North Carolina when Giovani Bernard returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown with 13 seconds left.

Trick or treat (high stakes game): NC State at Clemson, Nov. 17. For the Tigers to keep their Atlantic Division hopes alive, they must win this game. NC State already took Florida State down this year, but the Wolfpack have had a much harder time beating both teams in the same season. NC State won this matchup last year in decisive fashion, 37-17 so you know Clemson will be looking for revenge.

Jack-o-Lantern: Georgia Tech. Will the light come on for this team in time to make a bowl game? The Jackets have to win three of their final four to keep one of the longest bowl streaks in the nation alive. Georgia Tech has gone bowling 15 straight years, but faces an uphill climb with this remaining schedule: at Maryland, at North Carolina, Duke and at Georgia.
Maryland's defense has been its strength all season -- especially with back-to-back-to-back season-ending injuries to starting quarterbacks.

In Saturday's 20-17 loss to Boston College, the Terps couldn't make the stops when it mattered most, as Chase Rettig completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Johnathan Coleman with 52 seconds left to give Boston College its first FBS and ACC win of the season. The victory snapped a five-game losing streak for the Eagles and helped them avoid their worst start since 1989.

It was a valiant effort, though, by Maryland true freshman quarterback Caleb Rowe, whose rapid ascension up the depth chart came at the expense of injured teammates C.J. Brown, Perry Hills and Devin Burns. Rowe, once a fourth-string QB who planned to redshirt, completed a 66-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs midway through the fourth quarter to give Maryland a 17-13 lead. The Terps couldn't hang onto it, though.

Rowe completed 23 of 42 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns, but also had three interceptions.

It was a much-needed win for Boston College, whose only win until today was against Maine. If BC wins out, it could still get to a bowl game. Considering No. 5-ranked Notre Dame is still on the schedule -- not to mention road trips to Wake Forest and NC State, plus a home game against Virginia Tech, it seems unlikely. The same can be said for Maryland.

The Terps are in a much better position than BC at 4-4, but two more wins will be hard to come by with Atlantic Division leaders FSU and Clemson still on the schedule. The Terps really needed that win to boost their hopes of reaching bowl eligibility after a 2-10 season. The Eagles, on the other hand, just needed a win.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 9

October, 25, 2012
10/25/12
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Here is a look at what to watch in the ACC in Week 9.

1. Can Clemson break its Thursday night jinx? The Tigers travel to play Wake Forest Thursday, and one thing you will continue to hear throughout the day leading up to the game is how bad they have played on Thursday nights. Clemson is 1-9 in its past 10 Thursday night appearances, with its lone win coming at NC State in 2005. One of the more recent losses came to Wake Forest, 12-7 in 2008. That was the last win for Wake Forest in the series. You should also note that Wake Forest is 4-0 in Thursday night games on ESPN.

2. The best in North Carolina? The annual rivalry game between NC State and North Carolina has arrived. NC State, leader in the Atlantic, will try to extend its winning streak over the Tar Heels to six straight. North Carolina enters off a tough loss to Duke and is 0-2 against state teams this year, also losing to Wake Forest earlier in the season. Coach Larry Fedora wanted to get the attention of his players headed into this game so he had the locker room decorated in red. By the way, Duke has early bragging rights, with a 2-0 record against state teams; Wake Forest is 1-1. This is NC State's first game against an ACC team from North Carolina. The Wolfpack and Blue Devils do not play this year.

[+] EnlargeDabo Swinney
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesDabo Swinney will try to get Clemson a rare Thursday night win. The Tigers are 1-9 in their past 10 Thursday night appearances.
3. Can Duke compete with Florida State? Duke leads the Coastal Division while Florida State still has its eyes on winning the Atlantic, but the big question is whether or not the Blue Devils have what it takes to beat the Seminoles. Becoming bowl eligible has its perks, of course, but beating Florida State for the first time while retaining its lead in the Coastal would be huge. Florida State is 17-0 in the series and has won those contests by an average score of 50-16. Florida State's smallest margin of victory is 19 points -- winning 25-6 in 2007.

4. How does Maryland handle a new QB? The Terps have just been snake-bitten at quarterback, testing their depth at the position. Starter Perry Hills is done for the season with a torn ACL, leaving Maryland scrambling with a real shot at bowl eligibility. Coach Randy Edsall hasn't said who will start, but he is expected to play Devin Burns and Caleb Rowe. It's not as if Maryland has a reliable ground game to help out -- though Wes Brown had a great game last week with 121 yards and a touchdown.

5. Does that mean Boston College has a better chance at its first FBS win? The Eagles have had their share of struggles, but they are the favorite over the Terps in Las Vegas. They are at home for the first time since Sept. 29, and they are facing a team with major questions at quarterback. Still, coach Frank Spaziani has had to deal with his own questions about his future. Losing a very winnable game will only make those questions grow louder.

6. Run D vs. Run O in Atlanta. The game between BYU and Georgia Tech presents your classic matchup between one great rushing offense and one great rushing defense. In this case, Georgia Tech ranks No. 3 in the nation in rushing offense, and BYU ranks No. 8 in the nation in rushing defense. The Cougars were a few plays away from upsetting Notre Dame last week, but they have really struggled to find any consistency on offense this year. BYU ranks No. 87 in the nation in scoring offense, and that could play right into the hands of a Georgia Tech defense making strides in its reconfigured scheme.

7. Can Michael Campanaro help Wake Forest? The Deacs have really struggled offensively since Campanaro went down with a broken hand against Duke. Last week, they had 213 total yards of offense in a win over Virginia, their fewest in an ACC win since 1966. In the past two games without him, Wake has scored 30 total points. So coach Jim Grobe is hopeful that a less-than-100 percent Campanaro is better than no Campanaro at all.

8. North Carolina secondary vs. Bryan Underwood and Quintin Payton. The Tar Heels are going to have to keep an eye on Underwood and Payton. Underwood has caught a touchdown pass in a school-record seven straight games. Underwood has 22 catches on the season, but eight of them have gone for scores. Payton, meanwhile, leads the team in receptions and yards and has come up with huge plays for the Wolfpack.

9. Florida State without Chris Thompson. The Seminoles have lost their leading rusher for the season, a big blow when you consider just how well he had been playing in his return from a broken back. But coach Jimbo Fisher is confident in the depth behind Thompson, and will rely on Devonta Freeman, James Wilder Jr. and Lonnie Pryor to shoulder the load. Florida State did fine with Freeman and Wilder against Miami, but there's no question the Noles were much more effective rushing the ball this year with Thompson in the lineup.

10. Bowl watch. NC State (5-2) becomes bowl eligible with a win over North Carolina; Boston College (1-6) will officially be eliminated from bowl contention with a loss.

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