NCF Nation: Josh Haden
Before we get into November, here’s a look at what the last week in October revealed in the ACC:
1. Georgia Tech stands alone. After Virginia Tech’s loss to North Carolina on Thursday night, there is a new, undisputed heavyweight in the Coastal Division -- and the entire ACC for that matter. Georgia Tech should be the ACC’s lone representative in the top 15 of the BCS standings later today, and after USC’s loss to Oregon, the Yellow Jackets made a case for being the nation’s best one-loss team. With its eight wins, Georgia Tech has been the most consistent team the conference has to offer this year, and there’s no reason the Jackets shouldn’t win their final three games against Wake Forest, Duke and Georgia.
2. North Carolina and FSU aren’t done yet. UNC’s offense showed dramatic improvement in the win over Virginia Tech, and once again, Florida State showed a gritty come-from-behind effort to keep itself in the running for the Atlantic Division standings. Both programs could go out as winners in November and extend their season with a bowl game -- scenarios that seemed unlikely just a week or two ago.
3. Duke is the best it’s been in over a decade. It’s official. Duke fans thought last year was big with four wins and one ACC victory. Well, this year they should be ecstatic with three straight conference wins for the first time since 1994. It's also the first time Duke has earned three road wins since 1994, and the first time they've beaten two ACC opponents on the road since 1999. They need two more wins to become bowl eligible, but that’s still asking a lot from these Devils considering a road trip to rival UNC looms, along with Georgia Tech, at Miami and Wake Forest. As of right now, though, Duke is a contender for the Coastal Division, and with one loss, controls its own destiny. A win over North Carolina on Saturday would set up an elimination game on Nov. 14 against Georgia Tech.
4. Boston College is going to a bowl game -- again. It didn’t matter that Montel Harris was the only running back with any significant experience left on the roster after the transfer of Josh Haden this past week. Heck, Harris lined up in the Wildcat a few times in the win over Central Michigan. Frank Spaziani should be a front-runner for the ACC’s coach of the year as the Eagles head into the bye week with a 6-3 record, including a perfect 6-0 at home this year.
5. Miami is learning how to make a comeback. The Canes have trailed at the half four times this year -- against Virginia Tech, against Oklahoma, against Clemson and on Saturday against Wake Forest. This is still a young football team, and learning how to get out of a hole is part of the maturation process. They were able to overcome a deficit against Oklahoma, but weren’t able to seal the deal last weekend against Clemson. Not only did the Canes rebound from last weekend’s loss, but under the poise and leadership of quarterback Jacory Harris, they were able to overcome a six-point deficit at Wake Forest with a fourth-quarter comeback.
Happy Halloween, ACC fans. Here’s a look at some of the creepy things going on around the conference this year …
Haunted House: Lane Stadium is the scariest place to play in the ACC -- especially on a Thursday night -- but the Hokies were the ones who got spooked in Thursday night's 20-17 loss to North Carolina. Are you superstitious? Maybe it was the tweak to the entrance, with punter Brent Bowden's version of Enter Sandman throwing off the karma. Or, maybe it was that UNC's offense finally showed up. Either way, the loss to the Tar Heels will haunt the Hokies for a long, long, time.
|Jeff Lack/Icon SMI|
|Jonathan Dwyer and Georgia Tech’s triple option offense have been scary-good the past four games.|
Cursed Team: Boston College. Former coach Jeff Jagodzinski was fired for interviewing with the Jets. Former starting quarterback Dominique Davis transferred. Linebacker Mark Herzlich was diagnosed with cancer. Linebacker Mike McLaughlin injured his Achilles. This week, backup quarterback Justin Tuggle and backup running back Josh Haden decided to transfer. Freshman running back Rolandan Finch has been out all week with a virus. And it’s not even November yet.
Scary movie: Virginia turned the ball over seven times. The Cavaliers' new spread offense didn't go anywhere. And Virginia lost to William & Mary, 26-14, in what was the Tribe's first win against an ACC team since it beat Virginia in 1986. Odds are this is some game tape that will still turn a few stomachs in Charlottesville - not to mention in the ACC offices in Greensboro.
Trick-or-Treat: The trickiest game left for Florida State and Clemson will be when they play each other next week in Death Valley, especially if FSU wins this weekend. In the Coastal Division, Georgia Tech should be in for a treat with only Wake Forest and Duke remaining to win the division.
Boo (Boo): NC State linebacker Nate Irving. The problem in Raleigh is the defense, and while one person doesn’t make an entire unit, a player like Irving can make an entire unit better. It’s hard not to wonder how much better this defense could’ve been with Irving in the lineup this year.
Graveyard: It’s time to bury Maryland’s bowl hopes and Virginia Tech and Miami’s BCS hopes. The Terps need to win their final four games to become bowl eligible, and Virginia Tech is one of them. Teams need to have nine wins and be ranked among the top 14 in the final BCS standings in order to be BCS bowl-eligible, and after losing to Clemson, No. 19 Miami’s chances seem to have died. The same can be said for Virginia Tech, which should drop after its loss to UNC.
Night of the living dead: Florida State and Clemson have both risen from the dead in the past week and have kept themselves alive in the Atlantic Division race. After starting out with the worst record in conference play since Bobby Bowden took over the program, the Noles earned what could turn out to be a season-changing win at UNC. And Clemson redeemed itself from a loss to Maryland with back-to-back conference wins, including an overtime upset at Miami. North Carolina now has new life after its upset of Virginia Tech. And, of course, Duke appears to have rejoined the land of the living after decades of losing.
Witchcraft: C.J. Spiller. He’s got the magic to make a difference down the stretch. Spiller is a game-changer, and he’s got what it takes to lead the Tigers to the Atlantic Division title and possibly their first ACC championship since 1991. It’s why he came back for his senior season. Of course, that would mean the Tigers finally shake the Clemson curse.
Jack-o-lantern – FSU athletic director Randy Spetman is the one man in the ACC who needs a light to go off in his head. It’s his decision, according to outgoing university president T.K. Wetherell, as to whether or not Bobby Bowden stays or goes. Will Spetman let the boosters and trustees make the call for him, and turn Bowden into a pumpkin after the Florida game? Or will Bowden be allowed to determine his own retirement? Either way, it’s a scary move.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Ah, love is in the air. Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, so I figured today I'd give the ACC a little love. Forget helmet stickers. Today I've got a dozen roses -- one for each team in the conference. In this case, the rose is a reason -- one good reason why each team will have a shot at the 2009 ACC title.
|PRNewsFoto/Organic Bouquet, Inc.|
|Our ACC blogger shares some Valentine's Day love.|
Happy Valentine's Day, ACC
Love, your ACC blogger
BOSTON COLLEGE -- With four starters returning on the offensive line, and running backs Josh Haden and Montel Harris having one year of experience as true freshmen, the running game should better, and that, in turn, will help open things up for whoever wins the quarterback job.
CLEMSON -- Nine starters return to a defense that finished 13th in the country in scoring defense and 18th in total defense.
DUKE -- The return of Re'quan Boyette, the Blue Devils' 2007 leading rusher who missed all of last season with a knee injury, will lead a deeper corps of running backs and help compensate for the loss of receiver Eron Riley in the passing game.
FLORIDA STATE -- The Seminoles could have the best offensive line in the ACC in 2009.
GEORGIA TECH -- With ACC Player of the Year Jonathan Dwyer, a-back Roddy Jones, quarterback Josh Nesbitt and Louisville transfer Anthony Allen on the field, it could be one the most dangerous backfields in the ACC.
MARYLAND -- The Terps will have a veteran starter returning at quarterback in Chris Turner, and he should be more consistent in his second season in James Franklin's offense.
MIAMI -- The No. 1 recruiting class in the country a year ago will be even better as sophomores.
NORTH CAROLINA -- The Tar Heels will have a veteran defense with only two major holes to fill.
NC STATE -- The Wolfpack have arguably the best quarterback in the ACC in Russell Wilson, and should have a more dependable alternative behind him in Mike Glennon.
VIRGINIA -- A new offensive coordinator, four returning starting offensive linemen and the possible return of quarterback Jameel Sewell can only help the Cavaliers move up from their final No. 105 ranking in total offense.
VIRGINIA TECH -- The Hokies have 17 starters returning who have already won the ACC title and an Orange Bowl.
WAKE FOREST -- The return of Chris DeGeare to the offensive line, coupled with the pleasant surprise of Kevin Harris at running back, gives the Deacons reason to believe their offense won't struggle the way it did last season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- One thing is clear: Maryland hasn't given up since its loss to Florida State, even though the Terps are no longer playing for the Atlantic Division. It was a stalemate here in Alumni Stadium, where both defenses are making some critical stops, but the Eagles have the better defense and began to prove it late in the half. BC linebacker Mark Herzlich is as good as advertised.
With Ron Brace putting the pressure on quarterback Chris Turner, Herzlich got the first interception of the game. One play later, Dominique Davis threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Rich Gunnell, who was wide open. It took nine seconds to take the lead. This is how BC wins games, though, with its defense. That makes 24 interceptions this season for the Eagles, who lead the nation in that category.
Offensive coordinator Steve Logan is doing a nice job of mixing it up, as Montel Harris has received a few direct snaps, and the Eagles have been able to get some decent yardage out of both running and passing plays. Davis is doing an admirable job, and his offensive line is giving him time. Turner's is not, and it's been a difference in the game.
This is the second game I've seen Maryland have negative rushing yards (the other being at Virginia Tech). It's hard to win when you're one-dimensional and can't convert on third downs.
BC tailback Josh Haden is being evaluated for a right shoulder injury.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Here are 10 things to keep an eye on in the ACC this Saturday:
- Clemson's offensive line: Enough with the questions already. Let's see if these guys can hold their own against Alabama. The Tigers had to replace four of five starters, but these guys are not inexperienced and they're eager to prove it.
- Boston College offense: Quarterback Chris Crane will be making his first start as leader of this young group and another torch will be passed to freshman running back Josh Haden. For the first time in a while, the Eagles' receivers will be the ones bringing everyone else along.
- East Carolina upset over Virginia Tech: With possibly no Macho Harris in the mix (ankle), this becomes even more of a possibility. Odds are the Hokies get a good scare in the first half before sneaking out of Charlotte with the win.
- Virginia's quarterback: Finally. We'll find out which one of the mystery trio will start against USC. We haven't heard much about who's leading the race between Peter Lalich, Marc Verica and Scott Deke.
- Brian Toal's comeback: The BC linebacker was missed last season, and he was out for a few days last week with a pinched nerve in his trapezius, but Toal is finally 100 percent. Will he be used again in those short-yardage situations?
- Clemson freshman Da'Quan Bowers: How much of an impact will he have in his debut with the Tigers? About 25-30 snaps against Alabama will give him a chance to show us.
- Maryland's offense: With James Franklin running the show and Jordan Steffy at quarterback, how much different can this offense be? And how much will the Terps really show against Delaware?
- Virginia Tech's wide receivers: When it comes to experience, depleted is an understatement. True freshmen will have to grow up quickly. Now that we know who the Hokies' quarterback will be, let's find out who Sean Glennon's favorite target is.
- North Carolina's defense: This is the first chance we get to see the impact of first-year coordinator Everett Withers, particularly his work in the secondary. It's also the first opportunity to see how the Tar Heels replaced Hilee Taylor and Kentwan Balmer.
- Duke's first win: You wouldn't want to miss that, would you? James Madison could very easily win this game, but the excitement around that program and the high expectations of David Cutcliffe make 1-0 a real possibility.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
|Rob Tringali/Sportschrome/Getty Images|
|Jeff Jagodzinski says some things are easier for him now that he has one year under his belt.|
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- It is an absolutely perfect day here, about 77 degrees and sunny. I'm heading out to practice now, but first some excerpts from my interview with Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski Wednesday afternoon:
What have you learned about your team this summer?
JJ: They're a hard-working group of guys. They did everything I asked them to do. They stayed here both sessions of summer school. Our strength coach has put them through a workout like he's never put a team through before, just tougher, more demanding.
What was the biggest surprise of the summer, whether it was a player or a group that made significant progress?
JJ: Josh Haden did a really nice job this summer. Just being in the program since last January has really helped him. Actually, all of those guys that came in are going to have to contribute this year. They would've had a hard time doing it if they weren't here from last January.
Do you feel like your offense might be a little less one-dimensional because you're adding more of a mobile quarterback, more of a running game this year?
JJ: Let me point out something about our running game. Our short control passing game we consider runs here. Everybody was saying you didn't run the ball. Andre Callender had over 1,600 yards last year, total offense. He caught the ball ... every time he touched the ball he gained 10 yards. Now, do you want to hand it to him? Or do you want to throw it to him? That's our running game. I think that's skewed in the fact I'm not going to take it out of that quarterback's hands -- that would not be smart. But Andre still had close to 1,000 yards rushing last year. That was the best way we could use him last year.
Is Chris, though, a more mobile quarterback?
JJ: Oh yeah, we'll be able to use him in more play-action and movement type stuff more so than drop-back like we did last year, because that was not Matt's strength.
How much have you seen Chris develop as a leader, sort of taking ownership of this offense?
JJ: When you're never in that position, you can never blossom. [Offensive coordinator Steve] Logan and I were watching film the other day from his first spring scrimmage to where he is right now, it's night and day, just the way he takes command of the offense. Until you've done it, you haven't done it.
The same can be said, though, about his first season as starter, even though it's not like he hasn't played before.
JJ: He is a fifth-year freshman right now.
How much confidence do you have in that fifth-year freshman?
JJ: I've got as much confidence as I have in any starting quarterback. If he's your guy, he's your guy.
Is this an easier season for you because it's your second season?
JJ: As far as knowing what to expect it's a lot easier, and going through our guys knowing what I expect and how things are done the way I want the program to look, yeah, that was a lot easier. As a coach, it's a matter of getting the kids to buy into what you're doing and they did that early on last year and that's just continued.
How is the secondary looking?
JJ: To be honest with you, they are more athletically gifted than what we've had. As far as being football players, we're going to find out. But the guys that are taking Jamie Silva's spot are more athletically gifted than Jamie was. Jamie was an instinctive guy that made plays. We'll find out what these guys can do, [Marcellus] Bowman and Wes Davis.
Check back later for more on BC.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
After paying close attention this spring, visiting a few practices and talking with numerous players and coaches, I've come up with a revised ranking for the ACC Atlantic Division heading into summer camp. Agree or disagree, here it is:
1. Clemson -- With 14 starters returning, this is obviously the team to beat, and everyone in the ACC knows it. Here's why: They've got the best quarterback in the league in Cullen Harper, and two bruising backs in James Davis and C.J. Spiller -- not to mention a 1,000-yard receiver in Aaron Kelly. Sure, Tommy Bowden will tell you he's concerned about his offensive line, which lost four starters, but guess what? Davis and Spiller are talented enough to compensate for it. The only thing that will keep these guys from winning it all is themselves. Can they handle the hype?
2. Wake Forest -- If you haven't started believing in Jim Grobe yet, Wake up. He's the best coach in the league (sorry, Frank), and might have his best team with 16 starters returning. Quarterback Riley Skinner led the nation in completion percentage last year (72.4 percent), and Alphonso Smith is arguably one of the best corners in the country. All four guys in the secondary return. Specialist Sam Swank will be chasing the ACC's career scoring record.
3. Maryland -- Someone roll out the red carpet for James Franklin. Maryland fans and those within the program are thrilled with this hire and deservedly so. He recruited a fair amount of the Terps' top playmakers, and now he's back to teach them the West Coast offense -- a system receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey should flourish in. Ralph Friedgen is more rested now that he's not doubling up as offensive coordinator, and finally has time to act like the CEO of the program. The main concern for these guys will be how wishy-washy Friedgen is on picking a quarterback. Chris Turner has already proven himself, but Jordan Steffy had a good spring and his time is winding down.
4. Florida State -- Scheduling Western Carolina and Chattanooga was no accident. With numerous players suspended for the first three games and Wake Forest No. 3 on the schedule, these guys are going to need some time to get it together. The Seminoles could be one of the better teams in the ACC, but isn't likely to grow into that role until the second half of the season. Unfortunately for them, that's when the schedule gets tough. The biggest problem here will be the offensive line, where there's not a junior or senior in sight for the first time in school history.
5. Boston College -- This season will be tumultuous without Matt Ryan, Andre Callender, Kevin Challenger, Jamie Silva and DeJuan Tribble -- just to name a few. The good news? Offensive coordinator Steve Logan is still around. He knows what it takes to get newly annointed quarterback Chris Crane ready, and will tweak the offense to suit his strengths. It's going to take some time to develop a running game, though, as true freshman Josh Haden will be running behind an offensive line that hasn't quite come together yet. The Eagles' strength this season should be the front seven on defense.
6. NC State -- With only 11 starters returning and absolutely no answer at quarterback, it's a little too soon to be talking turnaround. The one thing Tom O'Brien has going for him is the return of tight end Anthony Hill and running back Toney Baker. Those guys, along with Andre Brown and Jamelle Eugene will help take some pressure off the quarterback. We'll see if O'Brien's revamped offensive line can pave the way for them. And let's face it: losing seven starters from a defense that was next-to-last in the ACC in total defense might not be such a bad thing.