NCF Nation: E.J. Manuel

Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award, his first national award of the season.

He beat out fellow finalists Matt Barkley of USC, EJ Manuel of Florida State, AJ McCarron of Alabama and West Virginia's Geno Smith to win the award.


Which player will win the 2012 Heisman Trophy?


Discuss (Total votes: 351,208)

To be eligible, quarterbacks must be nearing completion of their college eligibility or be a fourth-year junior on schedule to graduate with the recruiting class he signed with.

Klein carried Kansas State to an 11-1 record and its first Big 12 championship since 2003 by throwing for 2,490 yards and 15 touchdowns, adding 22 more touchdowns on the ground with 890 rushing yards.

Klein was also named a finalist for the Heisman Trophy on Monday.

"Collin is not just a tremendous athlete and leader on the field, but an MVP off the field as well, who repeatedly has been recognized for his numerous contributions to the community and to the spirit of sportsmanship," said John C. Unitas Jr., president of The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation.

Big 12 Heisman Watch: Week 6

October, 2, 2012
We've played five weeks of football, and here are the Big 12's best hopes at bringing the Heisman back to the league for a second consecutive season.

1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: Smith played one of the best games we've seen in a long time in a 70-63 win over Baylor, and finds himself all alone and way ahead of the pack in the Heisman race. If voting happened today, Smith might collect every No. 1 vote from across the country. Who else is even in the mix at this point? Smith has four more touchdown passes than anybody else and leads the passer rating statistic by more than 20 points. At this point, he's playing even better than RG3 did a year ago. There's a lot of football left to play, and Smith has a lot of tough opponents ahead. This race is far from over, but there's no doubt about the front-runner right now.

2. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: Klein was off last week, but he's definitely in the mix for this race, too. He won't be able to make any moves this week against Kansas, but his stock probably will parallel Kansas State's record. Klein isn't able to put up the type of numbers Smith can.

3. David Ash, QB, Texas: Ash looks like a new man this year, and debuts on the Big 12 Heisman Watch this week after a 300-yard game with a handful of clutch throws in a 41-36 win over Oklahoma State on the road. So far, Ash is second in the Big 12 in passer rating and second in completion percentage, with the league's second-best touchdown-interception ratio. Ash has 10 scores and threw his first interception on Saturday in Stillwater.

4. Casey Pachall, QB, TCU: Pachall got stuck in a downpour Saturday night, and had his worst game in a long time. The Frogs got the win, but you can't take a lot from Pachall's numbers, which didn't affect his stock all that much. For now, TCU is just hanging around. Pachall's stock will either skyrocket or crash and burn on the final half of TCU's schedule.

5. Tavon Austin, WR/KR, West Virginia: Austin leads the Big 12 with 48 catches and he's third in the league with 560 yards. He has been quiet this year in the return game, but to this point, Stedman Bailey's probably been even better than Austin. Still, without return yardage, Bailey's got no shot to win. Justin Blackmon has taught us this. The Biletnikoff, though? Bailey's in the driver's seat.

Here's how I voted in this week's ESPN Heisman Watch, a weekly poll of 15 ESPN experts and analysts:
  1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
  2. E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State
  3. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
  4. De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
  5. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia

Big 12 Heisman Watch: Week 5

September, 25, 2012
Here are the Big 12's best hopes for the Heisman through four weeks of football:

1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: Smith is the front-runner for the entire race, and with that come a whole lot of eyes. He has yet to throw an interception this year and has accounted for 13 touchdowns. Smith completed 30-of-43 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-21 win over Maryland. His completion percentage came down to earth, but he was still pretty good, despite being pressured more than he had all season. The reason: WVU's running game stalled without Shawne Alston.

2. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: Klein helped engineer the Wildcats' 24-19 win over Oklahoma with another solid game, even if his numbers aren't going to turn any heads. He's easily in the national top five for the Heisman after completing 13-of-21 passes for 149 yards and running 17 times for 79 yards and a touchdown.

3. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia: Austin had his best game of the year in the win over Maryland, catching 13 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns, earning the Big 12's player of the week honors. Austin's start/stop acumen was on display, and he's easily the quickest guy in the Big 12.

4. Casey Pachall, QB, TCU: Pachall makes his debut on our Big 12 Heisman Watch. It's still early for the Frogs, but despite some turnover issues in the red zone, Pachall has been really, really good and really underrated on the national scene so far this season. He completed 21-of-32 passes for 305 yards and three touchdowns and an interception last week. Pachall is completing 76 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns, and the interception was his first of the season.

Here's how I voted in our ESPN Heisman Watch this week, a panel of 15 voters that previews the award each week:
  1. Geno Smith, QB, WVU
  2. EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State
  3. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
  4. De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
  5. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia

What we learned about Irish in bowl game

December, 30, 2011
1) Another quarterback controversy awaits: Dayne Crist beat out Tommy Rees going into 2011, then lost his job after one half. Andrew Hendrix replaced Rees after the first half of the last regular-season game, and neither impressed in shared action during the Champs Sports Bowl. Freshman Everett Golson sat out this season and figures to compete in the three-man offseason race that can play a big role in determining Notre Dame's 2012 season and beyond.

2) Turnovers are killer: Evidently this wasn't learned, as Notre Dame began its season with a goal-line fumble and five-turnover performance in a loss and ended it with a pair of end-zone interceptions that proved costly in a game in which offensive opportunities were hard to come by.

3) The front seven has bright days ahead of it: Five sacks, seven tackles for loss and four hurries have to get Notre Dame fans excited about the future of the front-seven, especially the young defensive line. In their first years playing, Aaron Lynch, Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix all stood out, making life miserable for E.J. Manuel and the Florida State offensive line for three quarters. Throw in the return of Manti Te'o next season and the pass rush could be lethal.

4) Special teams actually played in ND's favor: Few expected that given the teams' performances in the regular season. But Michael Floyd's 41-yard punt return was 38 yards more than Notre Dame's net punt return yards on the season, George Atkinson had a 37-yard kick return to open the second half that set up a touchdown drive and Ben Turk pinned FSU at the 1 when Notre Dame needed him to most. Of course, a 77-yard return by Lamarcus Joyner stings, but Notre Dame's defense made sure the Seminoles got only three points out of the field position.

Irish season ends just like it began

December, 29, 2011

ORLANDO, Fla. -- One team surrendered five sacks, averaged 1.4 yards per rush and gave up a defensive touchdown.

This was the other coach after the game:

"We turn the ball over. And we cannot win football games at the highest level if we continue to turn the ball over. The coach has got to get better. The players got to get better and we have to solve this issue if we're going to be an elite football team."

That was Brian Kelly, because his Notre Dame team gave up four sacks, gave the ball away three times -- including two end-zone interceptions -- and was actually outgained by 10 yards in a Champs Sports Bowl that was anything but an offensive clinic.

Florida State emerged on the winning end of an 18-14 contest Thursday, bouncing back from an atrocious first half and a two-touchdown deficit to rattle off 15 points in the final quarter and finish 9-4 on the season.

Thirty minutes before the final horn, it looked like the Seminoles would have trouble even getting on the board.

Four sacks, two false-start penalties and a fumble that Irish safety Zeke Motta returned 29 yards for the half's lone score highlighted a less-than-inspiring offensive performance. Much of the third quarter played out in similar fashion, though Dustin Hopkins did manage a 42-yard field goal to get Florida State on the board -- after a 77-yard kickoff return was followed by a four-play, minus-3 yard drive.

But EJ Manuel scraped together the game's most impressive drive just as the third quarter was winding down, taking the Seminoles 84 yards in 10 plays, the last of which -- an 18-yard touchdown pass to Bert Reed -- kicked off a fourth quarter that the Irish will want back.

The second half of Notre Dame's two-quarterback system, Andrew Hendrix, threw an interception to Nigel Bradham three plays later, and Manuel capitalized two plays after that by connecting with game MVP Rashad Greene for a 15-yard score to make it 15-14. Greene finished with 99 yards on five catches.

[+] EnlargeTerrence Brooks
AP Photo/John RaouxThis interception by Terrence Brooks, right, ended Notre Dame's chances at a late comeback.
Field position, poor punting and a facemask penalty allowed Notre Dame to begin its second-to-last drive at Florida State's 28, but the Irish's chance went out the door when Tommy Rees' pass for the double-covered John Goodman was picked off in the end zone by Terrence Brooks.

Rees took the Irish to the Florida State 4 on the their first drive of the game, but was picked off in the end zone that time by Lamarcus Joyner.

Notre Dame entered with the plan to play both sophomore quarterbacks, and Rees saw most of the action. He completed 16 of 27 passes for 163 yards and a highlight-reel worthy touchdown, which Michael Floyd hauled in from five yards out after ripping the ball away from Greg Reid, bobbling it five times and hanging on for good while absorbing a hit from Bradham. Both Floyd (upper-body injury) and Reid (concussion) were hurt on the play and did not return.

Hendrix, who was used sparingly throughout the season, finished 3 of 8 for 24 yards.

"It's all those things -- frustrating, disappointing," Rees said. "It's not something you can hang your head on, though. As a quarterback and a leader you got to keep your head up regardless of the situation and be there for your teammates. The worst part is sending your seniors off with a loss, and a game that we had an opportunity to win makes it that much worse."

Kelly laughed at the notion that he started at Notre Dame in 2010 as an offensive guy -- "Well, I guess I'm not an offensive guy" -- and said earlier that the unit has some catching up to do after the performance his defense put forth.

"It's nice to be able to talk about a Notre Dame football team that plays championship defense, because they did that today," Kelly said. "Now we've got to get our offense obviously to play that level as well, and that will be the next step for our football program, is getting our offense to play at the same level that our defense is evolving to."

Coming off an 8-5 campaign, Notre Dame entered 2011 with BCS-bowl hopes and a quarterback controversy. On its first drive of the season, a goal-line fumble portended a two-week opening stretch that saw two close losses, 10 total turnovers and postseason goals all but go up in flames.

More than 16 weeks later, the campaign ended in a turnover-plagued slugfest that saw Notre Dame's final chance get picked off in the end zone.

"We see it as we could've run the table this year," Floyd said, "but with our mistakes and not being disciplined at certain times, we fell short."

Instant analysis: FSU 18, Notre Dame 14

December, 29, 2011

ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida State scored 15 points in the final frame to storm back and beat Notre Dame 18-14 to win the Champs Sports Bowl. Here's how it went down:

Turning point: In a less-than-two-minute span to start the fourth quarter, Florida State made up for the first three. EJ Manuel hit Bert Reed for an 18-yard score, Nigel Bradham picked off Andrew Hendrix on the ensuing drive and Manuel then hit Rashad Greene for a 15-yard score to make it 15-14 with 13:18 left. Twelve quick points after just three through the first 45 minutes were enough for the Seminoles.

Stat of the game: Pick your poison: Ten combined penalties or four combined turnovers? This game was sloppy on both ends for three quarters, and Florida State was able to capitalize on the miscues at the end and come out victorious.

Player of the game: Greene proved a tough man to stop in the second half. He finished the game with five catches for 99 yards and a touchdown, including an outstanding 42-yard grab that he bobbled and hung onto near the sideline on a third-and-6 in the fourth quarter. (It was challenged and upheld.)

Second guessing: Tommy Rees threw two interceptions in the end zone and might have had a third if not for a spectacular touchdown grab by Michael Floyd. In a game that was dominated by both defenses, Notre Dame simply could not afford to give away its precious few opportunities.

What it means: Florida State got its ninth victory and will likely finish the season ranked. Notre Dame falls to 8-5, its same record as last season, and questions will continue to mount about the quarterback position, which has nearly as many questions to end the season as it did to begin.

Record performance: Jamoris Slaughter's two sacks were two more than he had his entire career and were a Champs Sports Bowl record. The 68,305 in attendance made up the bowl's biggest crowd since it moved to Orlando.

Less than two minutes later, FSU leads

December, 29, 2011
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Florida State entered the fourth quarter trailing 14-3. Naturally, it has scored two touchdowns in the first 1:42 of the final frame, giving the Seminoles a 15-14 lead with 13:18 left.

E.J. Manuel hit Bert Reed for an 18-yard strike on the quarter's first play, Nigel Bradham picked off Andrew Hendrix four plays later and, just like that, Manuel hit Rashad Greene with a 15-yard touchdown pass on the drive's second play.

For a game lacking in offense most of the way, we have ourselves a thriller here with just more than 13 minutes left.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Bowl season has found its best play of 2011.

Michael Floyd's 5-yard touchdown grab was anything but simple, as Tommy Rees' fade pass was underthrown and nearly picked off by Greg Reid. Floyd managed to pry it loose from Reid before engaging in a juggling act — all the while absorbing a hit from Nigel Bradham just as he secured the ball.

Touchdown, Irish.

Floyd's 100th catch of the season made it 14-0 Notre Dame, which is anything but your conventional two-score lead in a game that has lacked for offensive fire power.

The Seminoles appeared to be on the verge of closing the gap after Lamarcus Joyner's 77-yard kickoff return, but the offense followed with a three-and-out that was punctuated by a — you guessed it — sack of EJ Manuel, this time by Aaron Lynch for a loss of 15.

Dustin Hopkins kicked a 42-yard field goal to get FSU on the board and cut the lead to 14-3.

The Irish offense, meanwhile, went with both quarterbacks on its first drive of the half, putting Andrew Hendrix in at the 23 yard line. He carried it three times for 18 yards before Rees entered at first-and-goal from the 5, setting up the touchdown play.

George Atkinson deserves credit for setting the Irish up so well with a 37-yard kickoff return to open the half, as well as stopping Joyner from going all the way on the ensuing kickoff.

Halftime: Notre Dame 7, FSU 0

December, 29, 2011
ORLANDO, Fla. — Notre Dame's offense was actually in position to score twice, which gives it the slight edge over Florida State's attack right now. Fittingly, a defensive touchdown has been the difference through 30 minutes so far.

Turning point: Manti Te'o hit Devonta Freeman, forcing the ball loose. Zeke Motta scooped it up and went 29 yards untouched for the only score of the game, giving Notre Dame a 7-0 lead. The play was all the more significant after the Irish gave away their chance earlier, as Tommy Rees threw an interception into the end zone on first-and-goal from the 4. Honorable mention goes to Michael Floyd's drop of a deep ball thrown by Rees on first-and-10 from the Irish 37.

Stat of the half: Floyd returned the game's first punt 41 yards, setting the Irish up at the Seminoles 37-yard line. Considering Notre Dame notched just three total yards in punt returns all season long, this takes the cake as best stat of the half.

Best player in the half: Jamoris Slaughter has a pair of sacks, a Champs Sports Bowl record. Really, the entire Notre Dame defensive front deserves a share of this honor. The Irish have sacked E.J. Manuel four times and have made life miserable for the Seminoles' offense, which also has a pair of false starts and is responsible for the game's only touchdown — just not in its favor. The Irish offense has not fared much better, actually getting outgained, 104 yards to 91. Rees has been sacked twice. Andrew Hendrix saw action on just one series.

FSU offense struggling mightily

December, 29, 2011
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Four sacks, two false starts, one surrendered touchdown and 3.16 yards per play.

Not the best first half for Florida State's offense.

E.J. Manuel's 23-yard pass to Kenny Shaw helped the Seminoles reach 79 yards of offense this half, but Manuel has been running around like a madman as the Notre Dame front-seven makes its presence felt in the backfield.

As a team, FSU has 9 rushing yards on 14 carries.

Chad Abram's sneak on a fake punt went for nearly 4 yards, but that came up inches short of a first down.

The Seminoles need to get creative if they ever want to move the ball with any sort of consistency the rest of the way.

1Q: Notre Dame 7, FSU 0

December, 29, 2011
ORLANDO, Fla. -- A red zone turnover, an Aaron Lynch penalty ... typical Notre Dame game, right?

Not so fast.

Manti Te'o forced a Devonta Freeman fumble and Zeke Motta scooped it up and scored a 29-yard touchdown to provide the difference after the first quarter, as the Irish lead Florida State 7-0. The score came one play after Tommy Rees fired a pick to Lamarcus Joyner in the end zone on first-and-goal.

Andrew Hendrix entered on Notre Dame's third series and brought the Irish to the Seminoles' 30 before David Ruffer's field goal attempt sailed wide right.

Defensively, the Irish front-seven has made life miserable for E.J. Manuel, recording a pair of sacks and forcing the Seminoles to fight for every yard. They have just 18 total yards so far and will need to make some adjustments if they want any hope of handling Notre Dame's pass rush.

Champs Sports Bowl keys

December, 29, 2011
The prediction is in the books. Now let's look at the keys for Notre Dame in Thursday's Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Fla.

1. Stay disciplined. Fair catch the punt if you have any doubt. Channel that edge after the whistle. Defense and special teams are the name of the game for FSU, and Notre Dame will play right into the Seminoles' hands if it can't protect the ball or aids the Seminoles offensively with penalties.

2. Protect Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix. FSU's defense is ranked sixth nationally and fourth in scoring. It also ranks ninth in sacks, averaging three per game. The Irish offensive line has to withstand the Seminoles' lethal pass rush, and Rees and Hendrix have to show a strong presence in the pocket and get rid of the ball when they're in trouble.

3. Bring the rush. Ethan Johnson said he's 110 percent after resting the sprained right ankle that sidelined him for four games this season. Stephon Tuitt appears to have recovered from an illness that forced him to miss the past two games. Florida natives Louis Nix and Aaron Lynch (an FSU decommit) are pumped to play in their home state against a team from Florida. And did we mention FSU's offensive line? The Irish pass rush should have a field day against a Seminoles offense that amassed just 95 total yards in its regular-season finale against Florida.

Three keys for Oklahoma in Tallahassee

September, 15, 2011
Oklahoma heads to Florida State this weekend for the game of the week. What has to happen for a Sooner victory?

I'm so glad you asked.

1. Keep contain on EJ Manuel early. Manuel likes to pass first. Don't think otherwise. But are his accuracy and efficiency good enough to beat Oklahoma on their own? He had a nice game against Virginia Tech's stout defense last year (23-of-31, 288 yards, TD, 2 INT) but if Oklahoma's linebackers let Manuel beat them with his legs too, it could be a long day for the defense. That's true of plenty of running quarterbacks, but Manuel is a much more balanced passer than the majority of scramblers. If the Sooners get burnt early with broken plays and end up having to assign a defender to constantly spy Manuel, he's got the ability to beat them with his arm.

2. Don't make the big mistake. As it stands, Oklahoma has about a 60-70 percent chance of winning this game. The turnover battle is important in any game, sure, but for a favored team on the road with a lot on the line, it's doubly important. Oklahoma survived a pick-six from Landry Jones at Oklahoma State last year with the Big 12 South in the balance. It might not be as fortunate this time. Maybe the big mistake is another turnover that turns into points. Maybe it's awful punt coverage on the always dangerous Greg Reid. Either way, plays like that shift momentum, and if Oklahoma wins the turnover battle in this game, that 60-70 percent chance only grows. If it's the opposite? Well, you know.

3. SHHHHHHHH. The crowd at Doak Campbell Stadium is going to be jacked. This is one of the biggest games in recent program history, and a whole lot is on the line. A win validates Florida State's rise and stamps them as a national title contender after last year's 10-win season -- Jimbo Fisher's first season at the helm. Seminoles fans know that. They want that. The Sooners will hear it early. The best way to counter it? Take the ball from the snap, score on the opening drive and quiet the crowd. Florida State did it to Oklahoma last year. Here's guessing the Seminoles don't bounce back with 44 consecutive points for a blowout win like Oklahoma did in 2010.

Chick-fil-A Bowl

December, 6, 2010
South Carolina Gamecocks (9-4) vs. Florida State Seminoles (9-4)

Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

South Carolina take by SEC blogger Chris Low: South Carolina had only played one game indoors in its entire history prior to last Saturday’s 56-17 loss to Auburn in the SEC championship game.

Now, the Gamecocks (9-4) will play their second game indoors in less than a month, as they return to the Georgia Dome to face Florida State on Dec. 31 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Merely getting to the SEC championship game was an accomplishment for the Gamecocks when you consider they’d never previously been. Their performance would suggest they didn’t belong, but a lot of that had to do with Auburn.

South Carolina has some of the finest young talent in the SEC in freshman running back Marcus Lattimore, sophomore receiver Alshon Jeffery and sophomore cornerback Stephon Gilmore, although Gilmore is coming off a rough outing in the SEC championship game.

When Lattimore has had big games this season, the Gamecocks have won.

Defensively, they’ve been shredded through the air and were again against Cam Newton and Auburn last Saturday. But they’re good up front and led the SEC with 39 sacks this season. Their undoing has been giving up too many big plays, and they’ve also been an inconsistent tackling team.

Florida State take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: Overall, it’s been an impressive season for Florida State, considering the Seminoles won nine games, finished 6-2 in the ACC, won the Atlantic Division and played for the league title in Jimbo Fisher’s first year as a head coach.

Still, this is the consolation prize for the Seminoles, the runners-up in the ACC championship game, and it’s not going to get any easier. Florida State’s defense, which has made significant strides this year under first-year coordinator Mark Stoops, couldn’t find an answer for Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor in the 44-33 loss to the Hokies. It’s going to have to find one for standout South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore and receiver Alshon Jeffery.

The Seminoles rank No. 2 in the nation sacks and are No. 17 in tackles for loss, but really struggled to get Virginia Tech off the field on third downs. Florida State has also had problems at quarterback, where starter Christian Ponder missed the title game because blood was found in the fluid drained from his elbow last week. Backup E.J. Manuel threw for almost 300 yards but had two interceptions in his place.

FSU was also held to just 53 rushing yards against Virginia Tech, so there are plenty of areas for improvement heading into the final game of the season, but also much to build on for next year.

ACC power rankings: Week 12

November, 15, 2010
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

This might be a first. Has to be. I can’t remember another time that there wasn’t any movement in the power rankings. This is the exact same lineup from a week ago, and yet we still don’t know for sure who’s in the ACC championship game. Half of the equation appears to be solved with Virginia Tech’s hold over the Coastal Division standings, but it’s not over until the Hokies win one more game. Congrats to the Atlantic Division for redeeming itself from last week. Florida State, Maryland and NC State all took care of business and kept things interesting. In the Coastal Division, so did Miami. Georgia Tech? Not so much. Here’s a look at how the ACC stacks up heading into Week 12:

1. Virginia Tech (8-2, 6-0 ACC; LW: No. 1): The Hokies further distanced themselves from the rest of the ACC with their 26-10 win against North Carolina. The Hokies need only to win one of their final two games to clinch the Coastal Division, but they’ve got a tough road trip at Miami looming. Virginia Tech will have to play better against the run more consistently in this game in order to win.

2. NC State (7-3, 4-2 ACC; LW: No. 2): Led by another impressive performance by quarterback Russell Wilson, the Wolfpack picked apart the Wake defense in a 38-3 win. NC State can win the division if it wins out, but first has to get past rival North Carolina in Chapel Hill this weekend. Tom O’Brien has won the past three games against Butch Davis, but this year, there’s more on the line.

3. Florida State (7-3, 5-2 ACC; LW: No. 3): After losing back-to-back heartbreakers in the previous two weeks, the Seminoles found a way to come out on top – kicker Dustin Hopkins. A week after missing the game-winning field goal in the loss to North Carolina, Hopkins redeemed himself with a 55-yard game-winner as time expired against Clemson. The Seminoles are back atop the Atlantic Division standings heading into Saturday’s game at Maryland.

4. Miami (7-3, 5-2; LW: No. 4): The Hurricanes kept their slim Coastal Division hopes alive by beating Georgia Tech for the second straight year, but the Hurricanes have to win out and hope the Hokies lose their next two games in order to win the division. Miami hosts Virginia Tech on Saturday and will need another strong performance from the running game.

5. Maryland (7-3, 4-2; LW: No. 5): Maryland’s offense is hitting its stride at just the right time, thanks in large part to quarterback Danny O’Brien. The Terps were able to snap Virginia’s three-game winning streak in the series, and they did it in Charlottesville, keeping their ACC title hopes alive. Maryland needs to win out in order to win the division, but the Terps close out their schedule with their top competition, starting Saturday against the Seminoles.

6. North Carolina (6-4, 3-3 ACC; LW: No. 6): Despite an impressive performance by backup running back Anthony Elzy, the Tar Heels were doomed by their season-high six turnovers in the loss to Virginia Tech. They’ll have to settle for a bowl game as a consolation prize this year, but even that is an accomplishment considering the off-field distractions the program has had to overcome. Of course, playing the role of spoiler for rival NC State this weekend would also be gratifying for the Heels.

7. Clemson (5-5, 3-4; LW: No. 7): The Tigers couldn’t make the stops when they had to (namely in the second half when FSU quarterback E.J. Manuel started running the option), and once again, there were problems in the kicking game. A missed field goal and a blocked field goal came back to haunt the Tigers in the fourth quarter. Their hopes at defending their division title were also blocked.

8. Georgia Tech (5-5, 3-4; LW: No. 8): The Yellow Jackets couldn’t stop Miami’s quartet of running backs, nor could they force rookie quarterback Stephen Morris into any critical mistakes. The Yellow Jackets are still searching for bowl eligibility and have now lost three straight games for the first time under coach Paul Johnson.

9. Boston College (5-5, 3-4; LW: No. 9): Frank Spaziani’s defense rose to the occasion again, as defensive end Max Holloway got his hand on Duke quarterback Sean Renfree’s fourth-down pass to preserve the Eagles’ win. They’re one win away from bowl eligibility now with Virginia and Syracuse – both beatable teams – still on the schedule.

10. Virginia (4-6, 1-5; LW: No. 10): The Cavaliers scored on a fake field goal, but that was the highlight of their offensive performance. The defense couldn’t keep D.J. Adams out of the end zone, or slow down quarterback Danny O’Brien. Virginia lost its chance at becoming bowl eligible in Mike London’s first season.

11. Duke (3-7, 1-5; LW: No. 11): The Blue Devils will have to wait another year for another chance at the postseason, as the loss to Boston College put them out of contention for bowl eligibility. Duke can still make a foundation to build upon by closing its season with wins against Georgia Tech and rival North Carolina.

12. Wake Forest (2-8, 1-6; LW: No. 12): The Deacs appeared to make a little bit of progress – at least defensively early when they were able to hold NC State in a 3-3 tie, but the game is four quarters, not one. They’ll catch Clemson when the Tigers are down this week, but it will be tough for Jim Grobe’s team to match that talent and speed.