NCF Nation: Chris Crane

Posted by's Heather Dinich

This was Vanderbilt's day, Vanderbilt's feel-good story.

Boston College lost to an inspired opponent that won its first bowl game in 53 years.

  Andy Lyons/Getty Images
  BC quarterback Dominique Davis struggled in 16-14 loss to Vanderbilt in the Music City bowl.

As good as Boston College played on defense -- a stifling effort in the 16-14 defeat -- the Eagles will remember their mistakes instead.

Boston College had two costly 15-yard penalties in the fourth quarter that led to the game-winning field goal, and three turnovers -- two interceptions and a fumble -- while Vanderbilt didn't surrender the ball once or commit one single penalty.

Vanderbilt needed three quarterbacks and a fluke touchdown to win the game. The Commodores got one of their touchdowns on a fumbled punt that bounced off of safety Paul Anderson's leg and into the end zone, where Vandy recovered it.

It was an unfortunate ending that is likely to overshadow an otherwise impressive season, considering what coach Jeff Jagodzinski had to work with. The Eagles' four-game winning streak in November that led to the Atlantic Division title and a spot in the ACC championship game has since faded into the background and has been replaced by back-to-back season ending losses in arguably the most important games of the season.

With the loss to Vanderbilt, Boston College's streak of eight straight bowl wins came to an end, but this is a team most outsiders never gave a chance to even compete for the ACC title. The Eagles were picked to finish fourth in their division because they lost Matt Ryan. They finished 2007 without a running back on the roster, and had to replace several key starters on defense.

Their offensive struggles and ability to win games on defense defined them this season, but weren't enough to finish the job. Rookie quarterback Dominique Davis has struggled since taking over for injured starter Chris Crane, and his last interception sealed the win for Vanderbilt. It didn't help that center Matt Tennant, arguably the Eagles' top offensive lineman, left in the second quarter with an elbow injury.

Offensive coordinator Steve Logan tried to help Davis out by putting all-conference tight end Ryan Purvis in the backfield and throwing checkdown passes to him. Simple routes, simple throws helped. But they got away from the short passing game, and that pressured Davis into uncomfortable throws. He struggled with his accuracy, just as he did in the ACC championship game.

Still, it was only his third career start, and unlike last year, Jagodzinski will head into spring practice with running backs to choose from.

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster was impossible to miss.

Following a key sack last Saturday that helped Virginia Tech beat rival Virginia and advance to the ACC championship game, Foster sprinted down the sideline, almost knocking over wide-eyed running backs coach Billy Hite along the way.

"That's definitely coach Foster," defensive end Jason Worilds said. "He wears his emotions on his sleeves and he's not going to hide how he feels. And what you saw was exactly how he felt."

Foster's defense reflects his passion, and Saturday's ACC championship game will reflect the strength of the entire league this season -- defense. Both Virginia Tech and Boston College boast two of the nation's top 10 defenses, while their offenses rank no better than 94th out of 119 FBS teams.

They will meet for the second straight season in the title game in large part because of their defenses' big-play capabilities. In a game that features two teams with relatively anonymous offensive playmakers, two names that have gotten a lot of attention this season are the defensive coordinators.

Foster and Boston College defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani are two of the best in the ACC, and both have had to overcome obstacles to get to Tampa. The Eagles lost starting defensive end Alex Albright and linebacker Brian Toal to season-ending injuries, and the Hokies had to replace seven starters on defense. Yet both of their units have been relied upon to win games for them this season and will be again on Saturday.

"Defensively, they haven't changed much over the years," said Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski. "They're very solid. I mentioned this when we played them the last time, that Bud Foster is one of the best defensive coordinators in the country. His defenses are always in the top 10, regardless of who he's got playing. He does a great job with their scheme."

This is the fourth time in two seasons these teams have met. Virginia Tech beat the Matt Ryan-led Eagles 30-16 to win the ACC title. Spaziani said it's at the point where they're too familiar with the Hokies. They've got too much game film to study.

"I'd rather just play them once," Spaziani said. "When we play them once a year and we're fortunate enough to beat them, we're happy. Playing them twice is like double jeapordy."

Especially since the Eagles have already won once. Boston College won this year's regular-season game 28-23 on Oct. 18.

"We know what to expect," said Boston College receiver Brandon Robinson, who caught four passes for 97 yards in that game. "They're going to play a lot of man, a lot of switch, and their defense thrives on turnovers. That's one thing we've got to keep to a minimum."

That's one thing they didn't do in October. The Eagles were able to overcome five turnovers, four of which came from former starting quarterback Chris Crane. Backup quarterback Dominique Davis will start his second game of his career on Saturday in place of Crane, who broke his collarbone against Wake Forest.

"He's going to come to play," said Worilds. "He's a big-time athlete. For him to come in there and start after Chris Crane went down and lead his team to a W is very impressive."

Offensively, Virginia Tech has been dependent upon the running game this season because of so many inexperienced wide receivers. The Hokies are expecting a long day against a rushing defense that has held each of its past five opponents to under 100 yards rushing. That's attributed in large part -- literally -- to BC's two 300-plus pound tackles, B.J. Raji and Ron Brace.

"They are hard to move out of there," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "You just better plan to work all day against those guys, because it's not easy."

Boston College has won both regular-season games against the Hokies, but is still searching for the program's first outright league championship.

"There's huge motivation," said safety Paul Anderson. "We definitely don't want t lose to them again, especially in a game like this. We want that ring this year."

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Well, the regular season is over and it took all 14 weeks to figure a few things out. Here's what Saturday revealed in the ACC:

Virginia Tech and Boston College will play for the ACC title. Again. Both teams took care of business at home on Saturday. The Hokies clinched the Coastal with their win over rival Virginia and BC won the Atlantic Division with little threat from Maryland. It's the second straight season they'll face each other in the ACC Championship Game, but both teams are vastly different from last year's. They are both young on offense and heavily dependent upon their defenses, but earned their way to the title game by beating the teams they had to. BC closed its regular season with four straight wins while the Hokies won three of their last four.

For the first time in ACC history, more than eight teams qualified for bowl eligibility. With NC State and Clemson both winning this weekend, that makes 10 bowl-eligible teams from the ACC fighting it out for nine guaranteed spots. The inaugural Eagle Bank Bowl is guaranteed one of those teams, and the Wolfpack would make sense there, but would also be a good fit for the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte. Clemson will be an attractive team to several bowls, and that will likely bump a few others like Maryland and perhaps even North Carolina down in the pecking order. It's also possible a 10th team can be picked up by another bowl looking to fill a spot like the Independence Bowl. I'll do a more extensive breakdown of the bowl scenarios tomorrow.

The gap between Florida State and Florida looms large, but the gap between Georgia Tech and Georgia was erased. To be fair, Florida is in a class all by itself, and could very well be the best team in the country. But coach Bobby Bowden wanted to know how much the Noles had closed the gap from last year's drubbing and now he has his answer -- they didn't. At Georgia Tech, though, Paul Johnson did something in his first season that hasn't been done in the previous seven. Not only did he beat a ranked rival from the SEC, but he did it on the road with an old-school offense and 26 points in the third quarter.

Boston College backup quarterback Dominique Davis is efficient enough to win the ACC title. Davis proved in his first start he is capable of managing the offense without turning the ball over. He completed 12 of 24 passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns. He's not as mobile as Chris Crane, but he might be more accurate. Offensive coordinator Steve Logan did a good job of putting Davis in a position to succeed, and he was clearly more comfortable after having a week to prepare. As long as the staff doesn't ask him to do too much, they get another good running game out of freshman Montel Harris and the defense continues to dominate, Davis is capable of winning another game as their starter.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney legitimized himself as a candidate for the head job. Swinney did exactly what he was hired to do on an interim basis -- win and get the team bowl eligible. His 31-14 drubbing of rival South Carolina punctuated a turnaround few could have possibly imagined at midseason. According to the Columbia State, Swinney is expected to meet with athletic director Terry Don Phillips this afternoon, and a team meeting has been scheduled for 3 p.m.

Posted by's Heather Dinich

 Elsa/Getty Images
 Billy Flutie, the Boston College backup quarterback and nephew of Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie, threw for a 9-yard touchdown on a fake field goal to help Boston College to a a 28-21 victory over Maryland.

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Not only isn't this Matt Ryan's team, it's not even Chris Crane's team anymore.

What Boston College doesn't have, though, has never mattered this season, and it didn't matter in Saturday's 28-21 win over Maryland.

Boston College won the Atlantic Division without Ryan, without a veteran running back, and with its backup quarterback. The Eagles did it with one of the nation's stingiest defenses and a group effort on the day it mattered most. For the second straight season, the Eagles will face Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game.

It's the same result, but this year is much different.

There are no Ryan-esque superstars on this Boston College roster, which is why those within the program agreed this year's trip to the ACC title game is even more gratifying than last year's.

It's also why nobody outside the Yawkey Athletics Center expected Boston College to be here.
"That's the best part of it," said coach Jeff Jagodzinski, who is in his second season. "The guys believed they could. That's the whole thing about coaching, getting your guys to believe they can do it. It doesn't matter who's on the field. They're all wearing gold helmets. We had four starters out and it didn't matter. They didn't flinch, they just kept playing.

"When they believe, and the coaches believe, you've got a chance," Jagodzinski said. "Our kids fought. We didn't have to count on anybody this year to help us get into the game. They kept earning themselves into the championship game by winning."

The Eagles closed their regular season with four straight wins. It's the second straight season for Jagodzinski with at least nine wins, as last year's team finished 11-3, the first team to win 11 games since 1940. They can reach that mark again with an ACC title and Orange Bowl win.

As the final seconds ticked off the clock in Alumni Stadium, there was one fan behind the BC bench holding out an orange, a symbol that once seemed highly unlikely for this undermanned offense.

Starting quarterback Chris Crane, a fifth-year senior in his first season leading the offense, broke his collarbone last week in the win at Wake Forest. He was the fourth starter the Eagles lost to injury this season, along with linebacker Brian Toal, defensive end Alex Albright and receiver Clarence Megwa. It was up to backup quarterback Dominique Davis to lead the offense to the Atlantic Division title in his first career start. He managed the offense well without turning the ball over and finished with a career-high 134 yards passing and two touchdowns.

And as usual, he got some help.

BC scored on offense. They scored on defense, and they scored on special teams. There was even a player named Flutie involved. Billy Flutie, the nephew of BC legend Doug Flutie, completed the first pass of his career -- a nine-yard touchdown on a fake field goal. It was something they had practiced all week.

(Read full post)

3Q update: BC 21, Maryland 7

November, 29, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- During a TV timeout, BC linebacker Mark Herzlich was jumping around and waving his arms in the air with an energy the rest of his teammates picked up on before stopping Maryland on yet another third down.

This defense has been too much for the Terps to handle. Maryland can't seem to go forward without going backwards, too, and much of that is because of Herzlich and his teammates up front. BC is controlling the line of scrimmage and, in turn, the game. The offense actually seems more effective with Dominique Davis running it. He isn't as mobile as Chris Crane, but he might be more accurate.

Maryland bit on the fake field goal attempt and Billy Flutie's nine-yard touchdown pass finally put some distance between the Eagles and the Terps. It was the first career completion for Flutie, and the first career reception for Jordon McMichael.

Boston College is now one quarter away from claiming the Atlantic Division title, and Maryland doesn't appear to be getting in the Eagles' way.

1Q update: BC 7, Maryland 7

November, 29, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Boston College and its backup quarterback marched right down the field on this Maryland defense. The biggest question coming into this game was how Dominique Davis would handle the offense after taking over for injured starter Chris Crane, and so far, so good.

It took Maryland a while to find its offense, but once it did, it realized it was in the passing game. If the Terps are going to win, they're going to have to do it in the air, because the running game isn't going anywhere against the Eagles. The Terps' offensive line has to do a better job of protecting Chris Turner than it did against FSU, and they've already allowed one brutal sack. On the flip side, BC is going to win with its running game. Davis has shown he can get out of a jam with his feet.

Maryland is without star receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, who has a leg injury, but they're getting some help from their other receivers. Torrey Smith's 43-yard reception set up the score that tied the game at 7.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 14

November, 26, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

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

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

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

3. SEC vs. ACC. Here it is, the ACC's chance to go 3-0 against the SEC (quit laughing) with wins over Florida, Georgia and Vanderbilt. There's a decent chance the league represents at 2-1, with its best win being over Georgia. In order for that to happen, though ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Florida State coach Bobby Bowden does not want to know.

His game against rival Florida kicks off in Tallahassee at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. His program's fate in the ACC this season will be determined at the same time in Chestnut Hill, Mass., and there's not a dadgum thing he can do about it now.

The only chance Florida State has of representing the Atlantic Division in the Dec. 6 ACC championship game is if Maryland beats Boston College, and Bowden said he wants zero score updates from that game while he's facing the Gators.

"I really don't want to hear about it," Bowden said emphatically. "I don't want any distractions in this ball game. It's one of those things I can't control. I'd hate to be playing Florida, and be playing a darn good game, and everybody's got their mind in it, and all of a sudden somebody comes and gives me that score and my kids divert their attention."

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson will also be "a little occupied" on Saturday. His game against rival Georgia is at noon in Athens. At the same time, his program's destiny in the Coastal Division will be determined in Blacksburg, Va. The only way the Yellow Jackets can advance to the ACC title game is if Virginia Tech loses at home to rival Virginia.

"It's going to be what it's going to be," Johnson said. "I learned a long time ago not to worry about things you can't control. In my mind, after the Miami game we guaranteed at least co-champs of the Coastal Division. Of course, we'd like to have a chance to play in the championship game, but we've done all we can in ACC play. We are going to focus on Georgia Saturday at noon and whatever happens, happens."

This year in the ACC, anything can happen, and anything did -- for the past 13 weeks. That's why it's still possible for 11 of the 12 teams to become bowl eligible, and the division winners won't be determined until the final quarters of the regular season.

Despite injuries and inconsistent play at quarterback, Boston College and Virginia Tech have both put themselves in this situation with their stingy defenses. The Eagles have scored a non-offensive touchdown in six straight games, and lead the nation with 23 interceptions. Virginia Tech is 109th in the nation in total offense and eighth in total defense. Both teams have also gotten some help along the way from the inconsistent play of their league counterparts.

Regardless of how they did it, Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said the important thing is the Hokies control their own destiny and can play in their third ACC title game in four years.

"It's been a tough schedule, probably the toughest schedule we've had, and probably played with the youngest football team we've had," Beamer said. "Regardless of how we've done it, I think it's been a lot of hard work by this staff and these players, and we're in a position right now if we win one game to get to the championship game. That's what pleases me."

Boston College will turn to backup quarterback Dominique Davis, who took over for Chris Crane last week at Wake Forest after Crane broke his collar bone. He is the fourth starter the Eagles have lost this season, but BC has been able to overcome just about everything this year. It's been an impressive run for a team that had to replace first-round draft pick Matt Ryan, and didn't have one running back to choose from this past spring.

"I'm very satisfied about the status of our program right now," BC coach Jeff Jagodzinski said. "That's the kind of guys we have here. ... I'm really pleased at the way our guys have fought and found a way to win."

And if they do it again this weekend, Bowden might be one of the last to know.

ACC internal affairs

November, 25, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

No, it's not Wednesday. The schedule is all off this week because of Thanksgiving, so pay attention, or you might miss something like, say, predictions. Here is this week's inside look at the ACC:

UNC: UNC coach Butch Davis said he'll know by today who his starting quarterback will be. He and the staff met Sunday evening and studied game film of Duke, along with their own tape of the loss to NC State to figure out whether Cam Sexton or T.J. Yates gives the Heels the best chance to win.

Davis said Yates had some mechanics break down in his throwing motion that weren't evident during the week of practice. He said the speed of the game Saturday contributed to that.

"I think it's things T.J. can certainly work on," Davis said.

VIRGINIA TECH: Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer won't say a word about his quarterbacks this week, other than both are healthy enough to play, and he has only made two players available to the media this week. On Monday's weekly teleconference, Beamer said the muzzle on his players isn't to prevent any more divisive locker-room comments like last week, when linebacker Purnell Sturdivant criticized Bryan Stinespring's offense for being too predictable. It's to "keep our mind on Virginia." He said the locker room is not divided.

"Our team is very much together, and I know all our thoughts and all our efforts need to go to beating this Virginia team," Beamer said. "I think we are a together football team."

DUKE: Coach David Cutcliffe said that physically his team was beat up coming out of Blacksburg on Saturday, but not emotionally, despite the 14-3 loss to the Hokies.

"I've never been around a more unselfish team, a team that plays any harder than this team does," Cutcliffe said. "It's really unselfish. No finger pointing, nobody blaming anybody, 100 percent together."

Cutcliffe had to restructure the offense around backup quarterback Zack Asack, who threw the ball just nine times, four of which were interceptions. Asack was effective in the triple-option, but lacks some confidence now after the Devils' passing game was ineffective. Cutcliffe said he is "very hopeful" quarterback Thaddeus Lewis (ankle) can rejoin the team on Saturday against UNC, and that Lewis remains to get treatment.

FLORIDA STATE: Safety Darius McClure, who tore cartilage in his left leg while celebrating his first career interception in the loss to Boston College, returned to practice on Monday night -- an appearance that surprised even coach Bobby Bowden.

"When he got hurt, everybody thought [he'd be out for the year] and he was out there working out a little bit," Bowden told reporters. "I just saw him working there at the end. I'm not sure how much he was getting. He didn't look real bad."

McClure, who missed about a week, said he is "feeling good."

"When I jumped up, I landed on somebody's foot and my knee went out," he said. "It felt pretty good running around today."

BOSTON COLLEGE: The staff is working with backup quarterback Dominique Davis as much as time permits this week to usher him along as quickly as possible. Coach Jeff Jagodzinski said starting quarterback Chris Crane will not need surgery on his broken collarbone, but that the recovery time will be at least six weeks.

"I feel bad for him," Jagodzinski said. "That's four starters this year not playing."

And yet the Eagles are still in a position to win the Atlantic Division and advance to the ACC Championship Game for the second straight season with a win over Maryland on Saturday in their home season finale. Not everyone is surprised by that.

"I anticipated being right where we're at," Jagodzinski said.

ACC power rankings

November, 24, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Separation has occurred in the standings, but not necessarily on the field.

Eight teams in the league combined for a total of five offensive touchdowns this past weekend, and none of those eight scored more than one offensive touchdown. Three teams -- Virginia, Duke and Maryland -- didn't get into the end zone. The only team ranked in the top four this week that was held to one offensive touchdown is Boston College.

Five teams turned the ball over at least four times, with UNC leading the way with six.

So the separation between No. 1 and No. 12 in this league isn't exactly overwhelming. Three of the top four teams won on the road, and two of them -- Florida State and NC State -- didn't turn it over once.

This week's top teams in the ACC were rewarded for playing complete games:

1. Georgia Tech -- The Yellow Jackets ran all over Miami, which couldn't stop the triple-option or B-back Jonathan Dwyer. With the win, the Yellow Jackets kept themselves in contention for the ACC Championship Game.

2. Boston College -- The Eagles are now down to their backup quarterback, Dominique Davis, after starter Chris Crane broke his collar bone. They'll have home-field advantage for the season finale this week against the Terps, and need just one win to return to the ACC title game.

3. Florida State -- The Seminoles dominated every phase of the game in College Park, and will now face rival Florida while hoping for a BC loss.

4. NC State -- The Wolfpack have won three straight behind the play of quarterback Russell Wilson, and this past weekend he got an equally impressive performance from the defense against rival UNC. The Pack needs to beat Miami to become bowl eligible.

5. Miami -- The Hurricanes squandered an opportunity in Atlanta, and snapped their five-game winning streak. They'll be playing for the bowl reps this weekend at NC State, not the ACC championship.

6. Virginia Tech -- The Hokies were stifled by the Duke defense, and have to beat Virginia at home this weekend in order to play in Tampa. For the first time all season, a receiver caught a touchdown pass.

7. Maryland -- The Terps couldn't take care of business on senior night in Byrd Stadium, and now they'll be playing for their bowl selection on Saturday in Atlanta. It's a road game against a ranked team, and nothing is on the line in terms of the ACC race, so odds are they'll play lights out.

8. Wake Forest -- The Demon Deacons scored two defensive touchdowns against BC, and had kicker Sam Swank back, but still found a way to lose the game and any hope of playing in the ACC Championship Game. They'll finish the season against Vanderbilt.

9. North Carolina -- The Tar Heels fell out of the rankings, and out of contention for the ACC championship. Six turnovers were the root of their problems against NC State.

10. Clemson -- The Tigers are one win away from a bowl game, but can't count on four turnovers from South Carolina this weekend to help them get there.

11. Virginia -- It's hard to believe this team once looked like it was a sure bet to win the Coastal Division. Since turning their season around with four straight wins, the Cavs have now lost three straight and have to win in Blacksburg this weekend just to get to a bowl game.

12. Duke -- The Blue Devils made progress with their four-win season and have a chance to beat UNC this weekend, especially if quarterback Thaddeus Lewis returns and the defense plays like it did in Lane Stadium.

Posted by's Heather Dinich

There are a couple of passes, a few decisions Boston College quarterback Chris Crane would like to take back. Consider them "freshman mistakes," even though they were made by a fifth-year senior.

 Getty Images
 Chris Crane has made impressive strides as the Eagles' starting quarterback.

Crane, who spent the majority of his career like many BC fans -- watching Matt Ryan -- is in the midst of his first and last season as the Eagles' starting quarterback. It hasn't been easy, and has it been flawless, but Crane's progression has been good enough to put Boston College in contention for the Atlantic Division title heading into Saturday's game at Wake Forest.

The Eagles need two more wins to earn their second straight trip to the ACC Championship Game. It's a chance for Crane to do something his glorified predecessor did not -- win the title.

"I would love to have another year to be able to play, and see how well I could do once I got a little experience, but that's not the card I was dealt," said Crane, who has already graduated. "I'm just trying to take this last year and go out on a high note. We still control our own destiny, so I feel like I have to grow and develop exponentially each week. The team needs me to do that, and I need to do that for myself. Since I only get one year, I hope it can be lasting."

Crane has managed the offense better in the Eagles' back-to-back wins over Notre Dame and Florida State, and has cut down on his turnovers. In a span of two weeks this season -- against Virginia Tech and North Carolina -- Crane threw six interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns. A fourth was brought back to the Eagles' 1-yard line, and a fifth led to another touchdown.

In the Sept. 6 loss to Georgia Tech, Crane had two interceptions and a fumble -- all in the second half. Coach Jeff Jagodzinski continuously faced questions about playing backup Dominique Davis early in the season, but Jagodzinski never put the offensive struggles entirely on Crane's shoulders. Still, Crane knew the pressure was on to perform better.

(Read full post)

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Welcome to the if-then world of the ACC, where there are still enough scenarios remaining to make your head spin.

1. Mathematically, Maryland has the best shot at winning the Atlantic Division. The Terps can still afford one more loss. Try and follow this: IF Maryland loses to Florida State, and Wake defeats Boston College, and Maryland beats Boston College, then Wake, Maryland and FSU would be tied, but Maryland would win because it has the better divisional record.

IF Maryland beats FSU and Boston College loses, then it's over. Maryland clinches the division on Saturday. But, IF both Maryland and Boston College win on Saturday, then the season finale in Chestnut Hill will be a playoff for the trip to Tampa. Wake Forest is still alive, but barely breathing. The Demon Deacons need FSU and Maryland to lose and then get some help from tiebreakers.

2. Miami controls its own destiny in the Coastal Division. IF Miami beats Georgia Tech on Thursday AND North Carolina loses, then the Hurricanes would clinch the division. Technically, five teams are still in it in the Coastal Division. Virginia Tech has a decent shot if it wins its last two games against Duke and Virginia, AND Miami loses to Georgia Tech.

3. It's very possible one or both of the division winners will have three conference losses. That's not necessarily a good thing. It's average, and it's reflective of the entire conference. The more the ACC beats itself up, the harder it will be to have a team climb to the top of the BCS Standings. The ACC has arguably been the most competitive conference of the year, and it has made for an exciting, entertaining season. But odds are fans would trade it for one or two very good teams capable of representing the ACC on the national stage.

4. Don't underestimate Boston College. I did, and boy was I wrong. The Eagles dominated the line of scrimmage, took away Florida State's running game, and quarterback Chris Crane managed the offense effectively. Montel Harris ran the ball like he had something to prove, and BC played a complete game in all four phases -- coaching included. FSU's five suspensions had nothing to do with its loss. The Eagles had everything to do with it. BC is two wins away from a trip to Tampa.

5. NC State isn't done yet. The Pack proved they're still capable of winning football games and haven't given up, and could play a big role in how the race turns out. NC State still has UNC and Miami on its schedule, and is still playing for bowl eligibility. With everyone healthy, including quarterback Russell Wilson, it's a different team.

Posted by's Heather Dinich

  • Simply "managing the game" worked for Chris Crane and Boston College against Notre Dame, but it won't cut it at Florida State. The BC defense will need some help in Tallahassee this weekend.
  • Maryland's revamped defensive line is bigger, but will it be better?
  • NC State quarterback Russell Wilson is making a case for being the best quarterback in the league.
  • Florida State's Louis Givens is making a name for himself on special teams, but the walk-on had an interesting path onto the Seminoles' field.
  • Just when things were starting to look up for Duke football, the fun for the seniors is almost over.

What to watch in the ACC, Week 12

November, 14, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by's Heather Dinich

This post would be much easier if every week it was what we didn't learn in the ACC, because as far as the ACC championship race is concerned, it was another Saturday that revealed little. So I'll touch a bit on how Saturday affected the standings, but will have more of a focus on individual teams.

1. It's a three-team race in both divisions heading into Week 12. North Carolina, Miami and Virginia Tech are the Coastal Division leaders, while Florida State, Wake Forest and Maryland lead the Atlantic. They're all two-loss teams. That said, the teams with three losses still can't be ruled out. What makes life difficult now for Georgia Tech is the fact that all three of its losses are to Coastal Division opponents. Count Clemson, NC State and Duke out. A three-loss team might make it to Tampa, but not a four-loss team. And of the three of them, Duke still has the best chance to make it to a bowl game.

2. Maryland has more problems than its inconsistency. The Terps had the leading rusher in the ACC and couldn't get positive yardage on the ground. Not only couldn't the Terps create turnovers, they also couldn't stop the run when they knew it was coming again and again. Virginia Tech was averaging 280 yards per game, and racked up 400 against Maryland. And it's never a good sign when the head coach is calling out his defensive coordinator on national television.

3. Boston College doesn't need an outstanding offense to win football games. The Eagles have an outstanding defense to rely on instead, which is why they are still in the mix in the Atlantic Division. BC quarterback Chris Crane didn't have to get fancy, all he had to do was manage the offense without turning it over.

4. The ACC is turnover happy. Boston College forced Notre Dame to hand it over five times, Wake Forest forced four Virginia turnovers, and Georgia Tech gave it to North Carolina three times. Wake Forest, North Carolina and Virginia Tech are all ranked among the top 10 teams in the nation in turnover margin, and Boston College and Duke are tied at 27. Boston College and North Carolina are tied for the national lead with 18 interceptions each. Wake Forest and Georgia Tech both have 15.

5. Virginia Tech has an offense. No, it's not called the Spread HD. More like the Run DE. Darren Evans proved he is capable of leading the Hokies' running game, especially when he gets good blocking from the receivers, tight ends and linemen. The question now for the Hokies is how they'll handle their quarterbacks once Tyrod Taylor is 100 percent. Sean Glennon wasn't flawless, but he did enough to win, took some sacks for the team and didn't turn the ball over.