NCF Nation: Logan Thomas

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Frank Beamer took a seat before a crowded corner at the ACC Kickoff last week and asked the assembled reporters how they were doing, anticipating exactly what was coming his way.

Then came the first question. About Beamer's quarterback situation. Because of course it did.

"That would be a good start," the longtime Virginia Tech coach quipped, before conceding that, yes, he would rather have that position settled by now, and yes, a decision about a starter will come quickly once fall practice commences.

[+] EnlargeMichael Brewer
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsTexas Tech transfer Michael Brewer could be the front-runner to replace Logan Thomas at Virginia Tech.
Logan Thomas' three-year reign as the Hokies' top signal-caller is over, for better or for worse. Now it is up to a half-dozen other quarterbacks to duke it out for the right to turn around a program beset by a rather uneasy two-year slide following eight straight double-digit-win seasons.

Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer is the most decorated quarterback of a group that also includes freshmen Chris Durkin, Travon McMillian and Andrew Ford, along with upperclassmen Mark Leal and -- if the preseason media poll is to be believed -- ACC player of the year candidate Brenden Motley, who was a surprise entry among the league's five-player contingent receiving votes.

Brewer, Durkin and McMillian all arrived following the spring, so Beamer has not had a chance to watch any of them throw live on campus. But the 28th-year Hokies head coach insists that the supporting cast he has coming back eases the transition that normally comes with finding a starter so late in the game.

"I think we're ahead of the last couple years in the fact that I think we're further along in getting our running game back where it needs to be," Beamer said. "I think last couple of years we haven't been able to run it quite as well as we're used to at Virginia Tech, and I think having some experience on the offensive line, some backups that are really athletic, young kids that are athletic -- I think we're going to be more explosive at wide receiver. I think our tight ends, we've got about three guys that could block you but they can move out and maybe get matched up on the safety.

"I think the running backs are going to be more solid. Trey Edmunds was really coming along great and we expect him to get back, but a couple more guys there. So I think having people around that quarterback makes it a lot easier than what it's been the last few years, so that's the way I see it."

No quarterbacks emerged from the pack during the spring, and Beamer did little to talk around the fact that, despite not seeing Brewer, the former Red Raider who has a leg up on everyone else by almost any measure.

Brewer, whose addition Beamer attributed to second-year offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, has 13 games of experience in two seasons of play in Lubbock, Texas, completing 41 of 58 passes for 440 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. The acclimation process for him, as Beamer said, is not like that of a freshman.

"We've got a couple freshmen that we're really high on," Beamer said. "But I think it's really hard for a true freshman to come in there. Lot of stuff going on."

Though the same could be said for the quarterback situation itself, receiver Willie Byrn thinks the offense has adjusted to the initial uncertainty that presented itself this summer without familiar faces running the unit.

"This year we've had to work with everyone, from the oldest guy down to the freshmen that just got on campus, and you've got to treat them all the same and you've got to learn all their tendencies and what they want to do," Byrn, a redshirt senior, said. "So it's been fun. It's going to continue to be fun, and I think this competition between them is only going to bring out the best in not only the starter but the backup and the second backup and so on and so forth."
The dust has settled after the NFL draft, and it was another solid showing by the ACC. Overall, the league had 42 players selected, the second most in ACC history and the second most by any conference this year (trailing only the SEC’s 48).

[+] EnlargeSammy Watkins
Elsa/Getty ImagesFormer Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins was the first ACC player selected (No. 4 overall) in the NFL draft.
Four of the first 14 players selected in this year’s draft came from the ACC, led by Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins (No. 4 overall to the Buffalo Bills) and UNC tight end Eric Ebron (No. 10 to the Detroit Lions). Five ACC players were taken in the first round and 10 more were selected in the second and third rounds.

For the second straight year, Florida State led all ACC schools in players drafted. Seven Seminoles were selected throughout the weekend, starting with wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin in round 1 by the Carolina Panthers and ending with linebacker Telvin Smith in round 5 by the Jacksonville Jaguars. In the past two years, Florida State has had 18 players drafted by NFL teams.

Of course, it wasn’t just strength at the top for the ACC. All 14 programs had at least one player selected this year, including five apiece from Clemson and North Carolina and four from Boston College.

New addition Louisville, which officially enters the ACC next month, had four players selected this year, including three (Calvin Pryor, Marcus Smith and Teddy Bridgewater) in the first round.

Three ACC quarterbacks were selected, led by Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas (No. 120). Pitt’s Tom Savage (No. 135) and Clemson’s Tajh Boyd (No. 213) were also taken.

Duke corner Ross Cockrell was taken with pick No. 109 by the Bills, becoming just the third Blue Devils player drafted since 2001. He was also the highest-selected Duke defensive player since Mike Junkin was taken fifth overall in 1987.

Miami had three players selected over the weekend (Brandon Linder, Pat O'Donnell and Seantrel Henderson), extending its streak of consecutive years with at least one player drafted to 41. Florida State and Virginia extended streaks of their own to 32 years.

Of the ACC underclassmen who declared for this year’s draft, four went undrafted. FSU running back James Wilder Jr. inked a free-agent deal with the Cincinnati Bengals, Syracuse running back Jerome Smith signed with the Atlanta Falcons and NC State defensive lineman Carlos Gray signed with the Green Bay Packers.

Among other notable undrafted free agents in the league, former Miami quarterback Stephen Morris signed with Jacksonville, UNC quarterback Bryn Renner inked a deal with Denver, FSU receiver Kenny Shaw signed with Cleveland, Tar Heels offensive lineman James Hurst signed with the Ravens and former BC quarterback Chase Rettig signed with Green Bay.
No. 17 UCLA beat Virginia Tech 42-12 on Tuesday in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. A few quick hits:

It was over when: Sensational true freshman linebacker Myles Jack of UCLA intercepted a Mark Leal pass and pranced 24 yards for a pick-six with 13:22 to play in the fourth quarter to give the Bruins a 28-10 lead. It came on the heels of 12-play, 85-yard drive that provided breathing room for UCLA and turned up the heat on Leal, the Virginia Tech backup who replaced Logan Thomas after the senior took a big hit from linebacker Jordan Zumwalt in the second quarter.

Game ball goes to: Sophomore quarterback Brett Hundley of UCLA, who rushed for touchdowns of 7 and 86 yards in the first half. Hundley then completed 6 of 6 throws for 80 yards on the Bruins’ 85-yard drive that ended early in the fourth quarter after the Hokies cut the lead to 14-10. Hundley rushed for 161 yards and two scores on 10 carries and completed 16 of 27 passes for 226 and a pair of touchdowns.

Stat of the game: 28. That’s the Bruins’ point total in a span of less than nine minutes in the fourth quarter to bust open a close contest.

Unsung hero: Zumwalt, the senior man in the middle of the UCLA defense. The rookie Jack, who also plays running back, and senior Anthony Barr get most of the publicity among a stellar group of UCLA linebackers. But Zumwalt on Tuesday made an impact as significant as any defender with 10 tackles, an interception in the fourth quarter and the big hit on Thomas.

What UCLA learned: The Bruins continue to progress under second-year coach Jim Mora, reaching 10 wins for the first time since 2005. If Hundley returns for a third season at the helm, UCLA has a potential Heisman candidate next year.

What Virginia Tech learned: The athleticism needs to improve. The Hokies, even if Thomas had remained upright, likely would have succumbed to UCLA’s speed and playmaking ability in the second half.

Hyundai Sun Bowl preview

December, 31, 2013
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No. 17 UCLA (9-3) and Virginia Tech (8-4) meet on Tuesday in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. Here are a few keys:

Who to watch: Start with UCLA’s dynamic duo at linebacker, senior Anthony Barr and freshman Myles Jack. Barr benefited from turning down a chance at the NFL a year ago, developing into one of the nation’s best at his position. Jack needed no such time. He also played running back for the final four games of the year, rushing for four touchdowns as he earned the Pac-12’s offensive and defensive rookie of the year honors. For Virginia Tech, the best chance to move the football comes through the air, but talented quarterback Logan Thomas must avoid interceptions. He threw 13 this season in 12 games.

What to watch: Virginia Tech is shorthanded without its leading rusher, Trey Edmunds, who suffered a broken leg in the season finale, a 16-6 win over Virginia. The Hokies struggled to run the ball with Edmunds, so what happens without him? On defense, top cornerback Kyle Fuller is likely out with a groin injury for Tech. Fellow corner Antone Exum will sit with an ankle injury. Against a pair of freshmen in coverage, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley could have a big day throwing to Shaquelle Evans and Devin Fuller.

Why to watch: It’s two name-brand programs in El Paso, but in what direction are these programs headed? The Bruins, under second-year coach Jim Mora, are trending up regardless of the outcome on Tuesday as they seek a 10-win season for the first time since 2005. The Hokies lost three of their final five games this season after struggling to a 7-6 finish a year ago under 27th-year coach Frank Beamer.

Prediction: UCLA 28, Virginia Tech 14. The Hokies don’t have enough firepower to get into a scoring duel with UCLA, so look for the bowl-savvy Beamer to search for a few nontraditional ways to even this matchup. But expect the Bruins and Hundley to shake free in the second half.
The ACC has a record 11 teams playing in bowl games this season, and that means plenty of showcase opportunities for the league’s stars. But dig into the matchups and five players have the most on the line as the ACC looks to build its résumé during bowl season.

Terrel Hunt, QB, Syracuse
Texas Bowl (Dec. 27 vs. Minnesota)

[+] EnlargeLogan Thomas
AP Photo/John BazemoreVirginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas has thrown 16 touchdown passes and been intercepted 13 times this season. Can he finish his career with a bowl win?
With a new quarterback and a new coach, it was clear this would be a year of transition for Syracuse, but the Orange weathered the storm of an 0-2 start to reach a bowl game for the third time in four years. The turning point came in Week 3 when Hunt took over for a struggling Drew Allen at quarterback. Hunt accounted for eight TDs against Wagner and Tulane, but the rigors of the ACC proved more difficult. In conference games, Hunt completed just 57 percent of his throws, with just three touchdowns to go with eight interceptions. But his last two games (a one-point loss to Pitt and a 34-31 win over BC) were his best (66 percent completion, 3 TDs, 1 INT), and the Orange hope that growth will continue into the bowl game against Minnesota. Hunt is a dangerous runner, but as Syracuse looks to finish strong and build momentum toward 2014, his progress as a passer offers ample reason for optimism.

Andre Williams, RB, Boston College
AdvoCare V100 Bowl (Dec. 31 vs. Arizona)

Williams will get another chance to leave a final impression. The senior left the Eagles' regular-season finale at Syracuse, a game they ended up losing, with a shoulder injury, but he is expected to be fine by the time his team takes the field in Shreveport, La. The early exit -- nine carries for 29 yards -- likely cost him whatever extra votes he could have picked up in the Heisman Trophy race, but now he'll have a chance to further improve his draft stock. Williams has been all over the place in the past few weeks -- from a media tour in Bristol, Conn., to awards shows in Orlando, Fla., and New York. And he might meet his match when facing the Wildcats. Their star running back, Ka'Deem Carey, is the only player in the nation who averages more carries per game (29.27 to 27.42).

Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
Hyundai Sun Bowl (Dec. 31 vs. No. 17 UCLA)

The Hokies need to score more than usual if they are to upset the Bruins, who rank 23rd nationally in points per game (36.5). The defense has been the backbone of Virginia Tech, ranking fourth in total defense and eighth in scoring D, but it will need help. Enter Thomas, the talented senior who has failed to meet many outside expectations the past two seasons. The victim of shoddy receiver play earlier this fall, Thomas delivered his best performance in what was arguably his team's most important ACC game, completing 25 of 31 passes for 366 yards and two touchdowns last month at Miami. He will need better protection up front in his collegiate finale -- sacked 11 times in the last two games -- and will probably shoulder a bigger burden with his legs, as leading rusher Trey Edmunds suffered a broken right tibia in the regular-season finale.

Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
Discover Orange Bowl (Jan. 3 vs. No. 7 Ohio State)

This is it for the Tigers' signal-caller, who has rewritten a large portion of the ACC record book but, as the narrative goes, has failed to deliver in the big games. Boyd's two worst showings this season came in Clemson's two losses: versus Florida State and at South Carolina. He is just 1-5 against those schools as a starter, despite owning a remarkable 127 total career touchdowns to his name. And he returns to the Orange Bowl, where he fared OK two years ago (282 total yards, 2 TDs, 3 TOs) but was completely upstaged by West Virginia's offensive explosion. Now he gets one more shot to deliver a strong performance against a big-time opponent in the Buckeyes, whom he passed on in favor of Clemson while coming out of high school.

Telvin Smith, LB, Florida State
VIZIO BCS National Championship (Jan. 6 vs. No. 2 Auburn)

If Jameis Winston has been the face of Florida State’s team all season, Smith has been its heart. The senior linebacker is the Seminoles' emotional leader, the biggest talker on the practice field and on game day. While teammates laud his off-the-field exploits, Smith's role on the field against Auburn will be far more significant. The Tigers will want to run the ball early and often, and Smith will be at the forefront of FSU’s effort to slow them down. For two years, Smith platooned at middle linebacker because he was far more effective against the pass than the run, but he has blossomed this season, leading Florida State with 75 tackles, including 9.5 for a loss. With Timmy Jernigan creating havoc up front, Smith has snuffed out runners routinely, and Florida State’s first-team defense hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown all season. Of course, Auburn has more rushing touchdowns than any team in the country, so the challenge for Smith and the Seminoles defense will be far bigger in Pasadena than anything they’ve seen so far.

Ranking the ACC bowls

December, 10, 2013
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The ACC has a record 11 teams in bowl games. Some matchups are more attractive than others. So how do they all stack up against each other? What is the most intriguing game to watch? The least? Heather and I are here to help. Here is our attempt to rank the 11 ACC bowl games from best matchup to worst.

1. VIZIO BCS National championship: No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 2 Auburn (8:30 p.m., Jan. 6, ESPN). This game is at the top of the list for obvious reasons. The ACC finally has a team back in the national championship game, and the opponent is from the SEC. Completely fitting, considering the ACC is measured up against the SEC on a yearly basis. Two big keys to watch -- will Jameis Winston carve up a so-so Auburn defense? And how will the Noles handle the Tigers' ground attack?

[+] EnlargeBoyd
AP Photo/Richard ShiroTajh Boyd and Clemson would like to erase some bad memories of their last trip to the Orange Bowl.
2. Discover Orange Bowl, No. 12 Clemson vs. No. 7 Ohio State (8:30 p.m., Jan. 3, ESPN). We love the quarterback matchup in this game between Tajh Boyd and Braxton Miller. Boyd actually chose the Tigers over the Buckeyes, so that adds another layer. The Ohio State defense has faltered down the stretch, so this could be an opportunity for Boyd and Sammy Watkins to come up big on a big stage and erase memories of the last time they played in Miami.

3. Russell Athletic Bowl, Miami vs. No. 18 Louisville (6:45 p.m., Dec. 28, ESPN). This ranks as one of the top matchups among all non-BCS games. Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was nearly a Hurricane, but decommitted from the program after Randy Shannon was fired following the 2009 season. Bridgewater has since become one of the top quarterbacks in the nation and could be playing his last game for the Cardinals. Chances are he will have opportunities to make big plays on a mediocre Miami defense.

4. Hyundai Sun Bowl, Virginia Tech vs. No. 17 UCLA (2 p.m., Dec. 31, CBS). This is a huge opportunity for Virginia Tech to shut down one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country in Brett Hundley. This also is a big opportunity for Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas to end his career on a high note and perhaps get NFL scouts to take notice. But the Hokies are going to have to contend with UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr, who has 20 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and five forced fumbles this season.

5. Advocare V100, Arizona vs. Boston College (12:30 p.m., Dec. 31, ESPN). What's not to love about the matchup between Doak Walker finalists Ka'Deem Carey and Andre Williams? Williams, a Heisman finalist, leads the nation with 2,102 yards this season; Carey has 1,716 yards -- and at least 100 yards in every single game he has played in this year.

6. Chick-fil-A Bowl: No. 24 Duke vs. No. 21 Texas A&M (8 p.m., Dec. 31, ESPN). We thought about moving this game a tad higher, but we kept it here because we believe Texas A&M is going to win by double-digits. That's not to take anything away from the way Duke has played this season. It's more a commentary on how good Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans are for the Aggies' offense. Texas A&M does not have a great defense so Duke has to capitalize on each opportunity it gets to put points on the board.

7. Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Georgia Tech (3:15 p.m. Dec. 30, ESPN). This is a chance for the Jackets to try and redeem themselves after losing the regular-season finale to SEC rival Georgia. Ole Miss lost its last two games of the season and couldn’t muster more than 10 points in each game. Georgia Tech doesn’t exactly have a hard time scoring, but it has only won one bowl game in the past eight. Expect the Rebels’ defense to be prepared.

8. Belk Bowl: North Carolina vs. Cincinnati (3:20 p.m. Dec. 28, ESPN). The Tar Heels have lost three straight Belk Bowl games to (former) Big East members Boston College, West Virginia and Pitt. Cincinnati has a strong defense, and won last year’s Belk Bowl against Duke, but the Tar Heels are excited to be playing in Charlotte and back in a bowl after serving a one-year postseason ban.

9. Texas Bowl: Syracuse vs. Minnesota (6 p.m. Dec. 27, ESPN). The Orange haven’t had much luck against the Big Ten this year, starting out 0-2 with losses to Penn State and Northwestern. The bigger problem for Cuse will be Minnesota’s defense, which is No. 27 in the country and holding opponents to 22.3 points per game. Syracuse is barely averaging that (22.8) on its own.

10. Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman: Maryland vs. Marshall (2:30 p.m. Dec. 27, ESPN). The Terps get a home game in nearby Annapolis, but they’ll face a Marshall team that lost to Virginia Tech in three overtimes. Offensively, Marshall is averaging a Conference USA-best 43.0 points per game, the seventh-highest total nationally, and is averaging a league-high 502.3 yards per game of total offense.

11. Little Caesars Bowl: Pitt vs. Bowling Green (6 p.m. Dec. 26, ESPN). Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson is on his way to Wake Forest after leading the program to its first MAC championship in 21 years. The Panthers, who have struggled to protect quarterback Tom Savage all season, will face a defense that ranks No. 5 in the nation at 14.8 points per game. Pitt will counter with the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year, Aaron Donald.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 12

November, 14, 2013
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We've already reached Week 12 of the season, with just two regular-season weekends left. Thankfully we have a Thursday night game to help kick things off. Here's what to watch in that contest and more in this weekend's ACC lineup.

1. Georgia Tech D looks to keep it going. The Yellow Jackets had an extra week to prepare for Clemson, though they have regained their edge defensively in a three-game winning streak. They held a Pitt team that ended up beating Notre Dame to just 10 points, and they shut out Syracuse back on Oct. 19 to kick-start this little run. A win would put Georgia Tech right in the middle of things in this wild Coastal Division race.

[+] EnlargeRoderick McDowell
MCT via Getty ImagesClemson RB Roderick McDowell is a little under the radar, but he's averaging nearly 100 yards a game over the Tigers' last four contests.
2. Clemson run game. Remember the Tigers? Everyone seemingly forgot about these guys after the Florida State game, but they, too, are back after a bye for a Thursday night home game against Georgia Tech. Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins have been their normal selves, but Roderick McDowell's play in recent weeks could prove helpful against an option offense. McDowell has three touchdowns over his last two games, and he is averaging 95.75 yards per contest in his last four outings.

3. BC goes for bowl-eligibility. Boston College's turnaround in Year 1 under Steve Addazio has been among the nation's biggest surprises. Andre Williams carried the Eagles to their first road win of the season last week, and he will likely be relied upon again as BC goes for win No. 6 and tries to keep NC State winless in ACC play.

4. Marquise Williams. The North Carolina offense is his, and he did not disappoint last week in throwing, rushing and catching touchdowns for a win over Virginia. The Tar Heels are riding a three-game winning streak into Pittsburgh, where the Panthers ended Notre Dame's BCS bowl hopes last week.

5. Pitt's D looks for another strong outing. The Panthers played respectable defense against option offense in consecutive weeks -- good enough to win -- before finally breaking through in the win last week over the Irish. They forced three turnovers and now find themselves also a win away from a second-straight bowl berth under Paul Chryst if they can fend off UNC at Heinz Field.

6. Logan Thomas tries to finish out strong. Thomas answered his critics emphatically last week in a big win at Miami, as he connected on 25 of 31 passes for 366 yards with two touchdowns and no picks. He will look for another strong outing against Maryland on Senior Day, as he can help change the narrative around his career with the Hokies, who are also right in the middle of the cluttered Coastal Division race.

7. Syracuse D tries to slow down FSU. The Orange shut out Wake Forest and held Maryland to a field goal in last week's 20-3 road win. Now they, too, are -- tell me if you've heard this before -- a win away from bowl-eligibility, though the challenge will be just a bit more difficult Saturday against the No. 2 Seminoles.

8. Winston bouncing back. The first real test Jameis Winston faced all season? A negative off-field headline, which came Wednesday. There is no use speculating at this point, and Syracuse isn't Clemson or Miami. But how Winston responds to his first real dose of controversy will be a storyline that follows him for as long as the ongoing investigation lasts.

9. Can Miami ground game recover? One game without Duke Johnson yielded unfavorable results for the Hurricanes, who gained just 28 rushing yards as a team in the 42-24 home loss to Virginia Tech. Dallas Crawford led Miami with 37 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, but he and the rest of the backfield will need to do more if the Canes hope to escape Durham with a win.

10. Duke's D looks to continue hot streak. The Blue Devils cannot stop turning the ball over on offense. Fortunately for them, their defense has turned a corner during this five-game winning streak, forcing eight turnovers themselves in their last two outings and giving up just 14.75 points per contest over their last four. Duke is 7-2 but wants more in a matchup with Miami that has major division implications, something that probably would have sounded laughable as far as a month back when looking ahead on the schedule.

ACC predictions: Week 12

November, 14, 2013
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Last week saw a few upsets in the ACC, costing Heather a little more than Andrea. Heather went 4-3 on the week after picking Maryland, Notre Dame and Miami to win. Andrea went 5-2, correctly picking the Hokies to upset the Canes. Andrea now has a one-game lead in the overall standings with a 67-18 mark. Plenty of time for Heather to walk away with the highly coveted, extremely prestigious ACC predictions trophy.

Now on to the picks!

Thursday night

Georgia Tech (6-3, 5-2) at No. 8 Clemson (8-1, 6-1), 7:30 p.m., ESPN. #GTvsCLEM. Recent history suggests this game is going to be close, so expect the same this season. Both teams have plenty on the line in this one, which is the final ACC contest for each. The Yellow Jackets need a win to stay in contention for the Coastal Division crown. Clemson needs a win to stay in contention for an at-large BCS berth. Georgia Tech's defense is much better than the group that allowed Clemson to rack up 601 yards of total offense a year ago, but the Tigers’ defense is better than it was a year ago, too. Tajh Boyd will find a way to make enough plays on this D. He needs three touchdown passes to break the ACC career mark of 95 set by former NC State All-American Philip Rivers (2000-03).

AA picks: Clemson 38, Georgia Tech 33

HD’s pick: Clemson 35, Georgia Tech 28

Saturday

NC State (3-6, 0-6) at Boston College (5-4, 2-3), 12:30 p.m., ESPN3. #NCSTvsBC. The Wolfpack have not been able to find a way to win games in the fourth quarter this season. They continue to struggle with quarterback issues, the biggest reasons why they remain winless in ACC play. Meanwhile, BC has found ways to win the last two weeks in the fourth quarter and now stands one victory away from bowl eligibility. The Wolfpack are getting several key players back on their defensive front, but Andre Williams seems like an unstoppable force right now. Williams needs 256 yards to break Mike Cloud's single-season school record for rushing yards.

AA picks: Boston College 24, NC State 21

HD’s pick: Boston College 28, NC State 21

North Carolina (4-5, 3-3) at Pitt (5-4, 2-3), 12:30 p.m., ESPN3. #UNCvsPITT. Both teams have experienced a youth movement of sorts this season. Twelve true freshmen have played for Pitt, and the Panthers are led in seven statistical categories by freshmen. Meanwhile, 24 of North Carolina's 32 touchdowns this season have been scored by freshmen or sophomores. Young players like Ryan Switzer, Bug Howard, T.J. Logan and Khris Francis have been critical to North Carolina's recent turnaround. With an improving defense, North Carolina has not given up nearly as many big plays over its three-game winning streak: only 12 of 46 "big plays" given up have come during this streak. The Tar Heels are on a hot streak, and that continues against a Pitt team that might have a letdown following an upset of rival Notre Dame.

AA picks: North Carolina 28, Pitt 24

HD's pick: Pitt 24, North Carolina 21: The Panthers are confident from their win against the Irish, and this is the win they need to become bowl eligible in front of a home crowd. More importantly, quarterback Tom Savage was sacked only one time by Notre Dame -- a huge improvement in the pass protection. Pitt’s offense is taking care of the ball well and will continue to open up the play-action against UNC with a strong running game. Another big reason the Panthers get it done? Defensive tackle Aaron Donald. He’ll make himself comfortable in the Tar Heels’ backfield.

Maryland (5-4, 1-4) at Virginia Tech (7-3, 4-2), 12:30 p.m., ESPN3. #MDvsVT. Well look who has played its way back into the Coastal Division race? None other than the familiar Hokies, who are riding high off an impressive win at Miami. Logan Thomas had one of the best performances of his career, and the run game was outstanding. Virginia Tech hopes to carry that momentum against the Terps, who are on a three-game losing streak. A sputtering Maryland offense is not going to be able to do much against the No. 3-ranked defense in the country.

AA picks: Virginia Tech 30, Maryland 10

HD’s pick: Virginia Tech 31, Maryland 13

Syracuse (5-4, 3-2) at No. 2 Florida State (9-0, 7-0), 3:30 p.m., ABC. #CUSEvsFSU. Everybody already has penciled in wins for Florida State the rest of the way out, but the Seminoles are going to have to guard against complacency if they want a spot in the national championship game. Syracuse has shown improvement with its run game and on defense over the last two weeks. In five wins this year, the Orange are averaging 244.4 yards rushing. To have any shot at the upset, Syracuse is going to have to maintain that average. That is a tall task.

AA picks: Florida State 49, Syracuse 13

HD’s pick: Florida State 42, Syracuse 10

No. 23 Miami (7-2, 3-2) at Duke (7-2, 3-2), 3:30 p.m., ESPNU. #MIAvsDUKE. Miami is not going to lose three straight games. It doesn't matter how bad its defense has looked over the last two weeks or how badly it missed Duke Johnson against Virginia Tech. That game got out of control because of special teams miscues that put Miami in a hole from the outset. Duke has its own issues to deal with on offense, with nine turnovers over its last three games, all wins. A big reason has been the play of the defense, which has forced nine turnovers over the same stretch. Miami simply has way more talent on offense than anybody the Blue Devils have faced this season, and Stephen Morris will find a way to get Miami back in the win column.

AA picks: Miami 30, Duke 21

HD’s pick: Duke 28, Miami 24: Going out on a limb here, but it’s not a typical week in the ACC if there isn’t at least one shocker. The main reason for this pick, though? Duke has an honest-to-goodness belief it can win. The Blue Devils went on the road and beat Virginia Tech. There’s no reason they can’t beat an average Miami team at home if they play smart, disciplined, mistake-free football. Sure, Miami has more “athletes,” but right now, Duke has the better defense and all of the momentum it needs for its second upset of the season.

ACC weekend rewind: Week 11

November, 11, 2013
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Florida State is now in full control of its championship destiny. Miami needs to get its act together. Duke is delaying interest in basketball season in Durham (OK, probably not) and several surprise teams are making their pushes toward the postseason. All that and more in our ACC weekend rewind:

The good: Let's face it: The ACC's surest path toward national respect is by winning it all, something it has not come close to doing in recent years. And, fair or unfair, the only way an ACC team was going to become a serious player in that title conversation this year was if Alabama or Oregon lost. So Stanford's Thursday night shellacking of the Ducks was surely celebrated by the folks of Tallahassee, Fla., who then watched their beloved Florida State Seminoles punctuate the weekend with a 59-3 stomping of Wake Forest. The formula is simple now for FSU: Just win, something the program has been doing with relative ease so far this season.

[+] EnlargeFlorida State Seminoles
Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images/AP ImagesFlorida State's defense throttled Wake Forest as the Seminoles continued their BCS title run.
The good, pt. II: Play the way the Seminoles' defense did Saturday in Winston-Salem, N.C., and you get a second category in your honor. They held the Demon Deacons' quarterbacks to a total QBR of zero for the game, the first time that has happened for a team in a game this season. They forced seven turnovers, picking off six passes while returning turnovers for touchdowns on consecutive plays. Wake Forest's three quarterbacks combined to complete seven passes to their own players, which was just one more than they completed to FSU defenders. As our David Hale noted, from the 7:15 mark of the first quarter to the 10:31 mark of the second, FSU ran four offensive plays and scored 28 points.

The bad: Miami entered Tallahassee last weekend as a top-10 team looking to make some noise if it could manage a respectable showing against the rival Seminoles. Two games later, and the Hurricanes have seen their Coastal Division frontrunner status fly away after consecutive losses to FSU and Virginia Tech, which turned three key Miami special teams gaffes into 21 points, resurrecting their own chances at making the ACC title game. Kudos to Logan Thomas for putting consecutive forgettable outings behind him by completing 25 of 31 passes for 366 yards with two touchdowns and no picks.

The ugly: Virginia's 45-14 loss at North Carolina was its seventh straight loss, its most in a single-season since 1981. The Cavaliers had little margin for error to begin with, but did themselves no favors by surrendering a pick-six and a punt return for a score to the resurgent Tar Heels, who have now won three straight games and are knocking on the door of bowl eligibility at 4-5 after a 1-5 start. Craig Littlepage has voiced his support for Mike London so far this season, but you have to wonder how much that will change with each passing loss.

The clutch: Sure, ruining Notre Dame's national title hopes in South Bend, Ind., last year would have been sweeter. But Pittsburgh's 28-21 home upset of the No. 23 Fighting Irish was nonetheless a high mark for the program, which recorded a signature win for second-year coach Paul Chryst and delivered the Irish's BCS bowl hopes an early knockout blow. Ray Vinopal keyed a strong defensive performance for the Panthers, coming up with a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions and forcing a fumble early. Now Pitt is just one win away from bowl eligibility with three games remaining.

The hat trick: Andre Williams outdid himself in Boston College's 48-34 win at New Mexico State, as he broke the 200-yard mark for the third time this season. Williams set an Eagles single-game record with 295 yards rushing on 30 carries, including a go-ahead 80-yard score and a game-sealing 47-yard touchdown on the next possession. What more can you say about the senior? He now leads the nation in rushing yards with 1,471. His 163.4 rushing yards per game are also a national best, nearly 11 full yards per game clear of the No. 2 man, Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey. BC is now 5-4, three wins past last season's total and, more importantly, a victory away from bowl eligibility.

The hat trick, pt. II: Duke redshirt freshman DeVon Edwards had a day for the ages, recording two pick-sixes -- one of 25 yards, the other of 45 -- on back-to-back NC State plays within 16 seconds of each other and returning a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown in the Blue Devils' 38-20 win, their fifth straight victory. Edwards became the first Duke player with two pick-sixes in a game since Leon Wright against Army in 2009 and became the first Blue Devil to return a kickoff for a score since Jabari Marshall against UConn in 2007. Edwards was named the national defensive player of the week by the Walter Camp Football Foundation for his efforts. He added 10 tackles, too.

The brick wall: So, it's unlikely that anyone will confuse this year's Syracuse defense with 2011 Alabama, 2008 USC or any other greats of recent memory. But after losing to Georgia Tech 56-0 the Orange have been on a roll, pitching 113 straight minutes of shutout ball over the past two-plus games before Brad Craddock's 23-yard field goal got Maryland on the board with 1:10 left in the third quarter Saturday. That would be all the Terrapins could manage in a 20-3 loss to an Orange team now 3-2 in its first season of ACC play and 5-4 overall, just one win shy of bowl eligibility. Syracuse forced four turnovers and held Maryland to 292 yards of total offense, though the challenge gets amplified just a bit this weekend when it travels to Florida State.

The class act: Hats off to Marquise Williams, who became North Carolina's starting quarterback for the rest of the season after Bryn Renner underwent season-ending shoulder surgery this week. Williams, normally No. 12, wore Renner's No. 2 in honor of the injured senior, and he completed 15 of 28 passes for 185 yards with two touchdowns and one pick while adding 46 rushing yards and another touchdown in the Tar Heels' win over Virginia. Oh, and he caught a 29-yard touchdown pass for good measure, with Quinshad Davis it to make Williams the first North Carolina quarterback to catch a touchdown pass since 1984, when Kevin Anthony did the same against Virginia.

The headaches: Good luck trying to sort out the potential scenarios for a Coastal Division winner after Virginia Tech's upset of Miami and Duke's win Saturday, which helped leave the division with four teams with two losses apiece. And good luck trying to sort out all of the possible bowl destinations for a number of ACC teams after a week in which conference newcomers Pitt and Syracuse inched their way closer to postseason play with upset wins to get to five victories apiece. Boston College got to five wins, too, while Maryland remains at five after the loss to the Orange. North Carolina is making a push at 4-5 and on a three-game winning streak, and there are already six bowl-eligible teams. So yes, there could be 11 teams bowling in the ACC this winter. Not bad.

What we learned in the ACC: Week 11

November, 10, 2013
11/10/13
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What did we learn in the ACC in Week 11? Glad you asked.

1. Florida State controls its national championship destiny. The nation watched No. 3 Oregon lose to No. 5 Stanford on Thursday, then saw No. 2 Florida State completely dominate Wake Forest 59-3 Saturday to clinch a spot in the ACC title game. There is little doubt the Seminoles will remain at No. 2 when the BCS standings are released later Sunday. Nor is there any real doubt Florida State is one of the best teams in the country, not after a third win this season by 50 or more points. Florida State has won all nine of its games by double figures and got big-time contributions from its defense and special teams against the Deacs. The Noles ended up with six interceptions -- nearly the same number of Wake Forest pass completions (seven). There are other unbeaten teams lurking, namely Ohio State and Baylor, but Florida State is in control of its championship destiny.

[+] EnlargeVirginia Tech
Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/Getty ImagesVirginia Tech left Miami lying helpless and reinserted itself into the Coastal Division race.
2. The Coastal, however ... up for grabs! If you thought this weekend would provide a much clearer picture in the Coastal, then you do not truly know ACC football. Four teams have two conference losses each -- Miami, Virginia Tech, Duke and Georgia Tech. So start getting yourselves reacquainted with the tiebreaker scenarios that seem to come into play just about every season. The Hokies put themselves back into the thick of the race with a 42-24 win over Miami on a rainy Saturday night, thanks to a mistake-free performance from Logan Thomas and some pretty shoddy special teams play from the Canes. Duke sat on the brink of disaster against NC State, trailing 20-17 with 6:37 to go. The Blue Devils benched starter Anthony Boone after an uneven performance. Brandon Connette delivered the game-winning drive, then DeVon Edwards sealed the win with back-to-back pick-6s. Georgia Tech was off and needs a win over Clemson on Thursday night to keep its hopes alive. The lucky winner to emerge from this muddled mess gets to play Florida State in the ACC championship game.

3. Miami falling back to earth. We all saw the warning signs that Miami was not as good as its ranking when it struggled to beat North Carolina and Wake Forest in back-to-back weeks. Now the Canes are back to reality after consecutive losses to Florida State and Virginia Tech. Miami was able to get away with turnovers early in the season, but the Hokies made them pay for their mistakes. Two early fumbles on special teams led directly to 14 Virginia Tech points, and Miami could never seem to recover. Perhaps most disheartening for Miami -- the loss was the worst defensive performance of the season, against an offense that ranks among the worst in the nation. The Hokies scored more points and gained more yards on the Canes than the Noles did last week. Miami has given up 400 yards or more in four of its last five games. And the run game without Duke Johnson? Miami ended up with 28 yards rushing, its lowest total since gaining 29 against Florida State last year.

4. Breakthrough win for Pitt. It was easy to doubt the Panthers heading into their game against Notre Dame. They entered the contest off back-to-back losses, and their run game was nearly nonexistent. But something about the Irish brings out the best in Pitt, which came oh-so-close to pulling the upset in each of the previous two seasons. Well, the Panthers finally broke through Saturday night, forcing three turnovers and getting inspired play from their offensive line and Tom Savage in a 28-21 win. It certainly helped Pitt's cause that Notre Dame's Stephon Tuitt was ejected on a questionable targeting call early in the game, further depleting an injury-riddled group. But Pitt earned this win. The Panthers moved one victory away from bowl eligibility and gave coach Paul Chryst victories over ranked teams in consecutive seasons.

5. Bowl mania. Six teams are already bowl eligible, but the ACC could have as many as 11 by the time the season ends. Four teams have five wins: Maryland, Syracuse, Pitt and Boston College. North Carolina has four wins but has won three straight after a 1-5 start and is now in contention to get to six. How did the ACC get here? Syracuse once again used its power run game in a 20-3 win over Maryland, winning its second straight contest. Boston College also used its power run game to win a tricky contest over New Mexico State. We know what Pitt did Saturday. Interestingly enough, Maryland might have the worst chance of becoming bowl eligible out of this group. While North Carolina is on an upswing, the Terps have lost three straight following a 5-1 start with games remaining against Virginia Tech, Boston College and NC State. There are winnable games in that bunch, but not if Maryland commits four turnovers the way it did against Syracuse. Key injuries on both offense and defense have severely hampered this squad.

ACC helmet stickers: Week 11

November, 10, 2013
11/10/13
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How about a few helmet stickers for a job well done:

Boston College running back Andre Williams. The best rusher in the ACC topped himself in a 48-34 win over New Mexico State. Williams ran for a career-high 295 yards, setting the school single-game rushing record. Montel Harris set the old mark of 264 yards in 2011. Williams now owns two of the top three single-game marks in school history. His performance late in the game was outstanding. With the game tied at 34, Williams scored the game-winning touchdown on an 80-yard run. He added a 47-yarder on the next possession to officially put the game out of reach. Williams has three 200-yard games this season.

Duke safety DeVon Edwards. The redshirt freshman became the only FBS player in the last 10 years with three non-offensive touchdowns in a game in a 38-20 win over NC State. Edwards scored on a 100-yard kickoff return and then returned two interceptions for scores on back-to-back offensive plays. The 100-yard kickoff return tied for the second longest in Duke history. His 218 total yards ranks second all-time among Duke freshmen in a single game (Desmond Scott, 259 yards against Wake Forest in 2009).

Florida State defense. The Seminoles had perhaps the most dominating defensive performance in the ACC this season, forcing seven turnovers and scoring twice in a 59-3 win over Wake Forest. The Noles tied a school record with six interceptions -- one returned for a touchdown. Jalen Ramsey also returned a fumble for a touchdown, giving the Noles five defensive scores this season, tied for the most since 2007. Freshman safety Nate Andrews, making his first career start, had two interceptions (including the score) and forced the fumble Ramsey returned for the TD. Wake Forest had a Total QBR of 0, the only team this season with a team Total QBR of 0 in a game. Florida State has now forced a turnover in 14 straight games.

North Carolina QB Marquise Williams. North Carolina players dedicated their game against Virginia to quarterback Bryn Renner, lost for the season with a shoulder injury. Williams paid the ultimate tribute, wearing Renner's No. 2. He then went out and had a monster game, with passing, rushing and receiving touchdowns in the 45-14 win. Williams completed 15 of 28 passes for 185 yards; rushed 16 times for 46 yards; and caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Quinshad Davis. He is the first Carolina quarterback to catch a touchdown pass since Kevin Anthony in 1984 -- against Virginia.

Pitt safety Ray Vinopal. The Panthers may not have beaten No. 23 Notre Dame 28-21 without Vinopal, who had two critical interceptions in the fourth quarter to key the impressive win. On the first, Vinopal intercepted Tommy Rees in the end zone to end one drive. On the second, he returned his interception down to the 5, setting up the game-winning Panthers score. Vinopal also had a forced fumble early in the game, making him solely responsible for all three Irish turnovers.

Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas. For the second straight week, Thomas had over 400 yards total offense. But in a 42-24 win over Miami, the number that stood out was zero. Thomas combined his terrific passing game -- 25-of-31 for 366 yards and two scores -- with no turnovers. That has been the familiar bugaboo the last two weeks, both losses. Thomas had eight turnovers next to his name. But against Miami, he had his best game of the season with his team's Coastal Division hopes on the line. Thomas came through big time.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 11

November, 7, 2013
11/07/13
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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.

ACC predictions: Week 11

November, 7, 2013
11/07/13
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Heather got back at AA in Week 10, making the right call with Boston College over Virginia Tech and North Carolina over NC State. Bravo to a 5-1 week. AA came up 3-3, so we are all square again at 62-16 overall. Let's see what Week 11 has in store.

No. 2 Florida State (8-0, 6-0) at Wake Forest (4-5, 2-4), noon, ABC. #FSUvsWAKE. The Noles clinch a spot in the ACC title game with a win over Wake Forest. It is tough to anticipate this one being much of a game, especially with Wake receiver Michael Campanaro out. The Deacs did nothing offensively without him last week against Syracuse (a team that lost 59-0 against Georgia Tech), and coach Jim Grobe concedes he has nobody on his roster to fill those shoes. Not only that, Wake Forest has a run game that ranks last in the ACC. It is going to be a long day for the Deacs.

AA picks: Florida State 54, Wake Forest 6

HD picks: Florida State 48, Wake Forest 10

Virginia (2-7, 0-5) at North Carolina (3-5, 2-3), 12:30 p.m., ESPN3. #UVAvsUNC. The Tar Heels have gotten themselves back into bowl contention with two straight wins, but they must play the rest of the season without quarterback Bryn Renner. The good news is Marquise Williams has played in the past four games, so at least he has experience under center. More good news for UNC this week: UVa is a bad football team, having lost six straight games. The Hoos have given up more than 1,000 yards of offense in their past two losses combined.

AA picks: North Carolina 34, Virginia 17

HD picks: North Carolina 24, Virginia 14

Syracuse (4-4, 2-2) at Maryland (5-3, 1-3), 3:30 p.m., ESPN3. #CUSEvsMD. As experts picking games every week, Syracuse has easily been the toughest team to predict throughout the entire season. One week after getting shut out at Georgia Tech, the Orange were the ones delivering the shut out to Wake Forest. Syracuse has won away from home just once this season and has yet to get any consistency out of the quarterback position. Meanwhile, quarterback C.J. Brown is healthy again for the Terps. Brown will be the difference in the game, and Maryland becomes bowl eligible for the first time since 2010.

AA picks: Maryland 23, Syracuse 20

HD picks: Maryland 24, Syracuse 10

Boston College (4-4) at New Mexico State (1-8), 3:30 p.m., ESPN3. #BCvsNMSU. The Eagles get to follow up their impressive win over Virginia Tech with a 2,300-mile trip to its first game in New Mexico. Ever. Not exactly the type of trek that a team from a power conference ever wants to make, let alone in November. Having said that, the Eagles have an opportunity to win for the first time on the road this season and inch closer to bowl eligibility against one of the worst teams in FBS. New Mexico State coach Doug Martin served as BC offensive coordinator a season ago, but there won't be much the Aggies can do to slow down Andre Williams. New Mexico State is giving up a whopping 312 yards per game on the ground.

AA picks: Boston College 35, New Mexico State 7

HD picks: Boston College 49, New Mexico State 6

NC State (3-5, 0-5) at Duke (6-2, 2-2), 4 p.m., ESPNU. #NCSTvsDUKE. Some anticipated NC State could struggle this year with a new head coach and so many veterans gone. But not many could have expected the Wolfpack to start 0-5 in league play and fall a notch below in-state rival Duke. Injuries have been a big culprit, but so has an inability to make plays with the game on the line. NC State has more quarterback drama to deal with as well. Duke, meanwhile, had a week to enjoy its win over Virginia Tech and bowl eligibility for a second straight season. The Blue Devils were not great on offense in that win, but expect a completely healthy Anthony Boone to bounce back.

AA picks: Duke 30, NC State 16

HD picks: Duke 45, NC State 14

Virginia Tech (6-3, 3-2) at No. 11 Miami (7-1, 3-1), 7 p.m., ESPN. #VTvsMIA. Both teams come in off losses but remain in contention to win the Coastal Division. As Heather pointed out earlier in the week, it's gut-check time for both teams. The Hokies continue to have one of the best defenses in the country. It's the offense that has cost them in the past two games, as Logan Thomas has turned the ball over eight times. AA thinks Miami is going to struggle against this defense without Duke Johnson, and Thomas will redeem himself with a solid game. A solid game means Thomas won't have four turnovers. Miami has not won back-to-back games in the series since winning three straight from 2000-02. AA picks: Virginia Tech 21, Miami 20.

HD picks: Miami 28, Virginia Tech 17: Even without Johnson, the Canes will be able to run the ball with Dallas Crawford, and they’ll make fewer mistakes than turnover-prone Virginia Tech. The Hokies simply have too many questions marks on offense and not enough playmakers surrounding the embattled Thomas. Virginia Tech hasn’t fared well against ranked opponents, and that trend will continue on Saturday.

No. 23 Notre Dame (7-2) at Pitt (4-4, 2-3), 8 p.m., ABC. #NDvsPITT. It is really tempting to pick Pitt to upset the Irish given the recent history between the two teams and all the injuries Notre Dame has on its defense. But Pitt has done little to nothing offensively since its wild 58-55 win over Duke in September. In the five games since, Pitt is averaging 269 yards per game. Its run game has been nearly nonexistent. Against Georgia Tech last week, the Panthers were held to minus-5 yards rushing. Against Virginia and Virginia Tech, the Panthers managed a combined 31 yards on the ground. Pitt was able to run on Notre Dame last year. But it won't be able to this time around.

AA picks: Notre Dame 27, Pitt 20

HD picks: Notre Dame 24, Pitt 21

ACC weekend rewind: Week 10

November, 4, 2013
11/04/13
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Florida State once again made its case as a national title contender. North Carolina showed that its postseason hopes are still very much alive. And we likely said some unfortunate goodbyes to a couple of the ACC's biggest playmakers Saturday, as they went down with tough injuries. Here is one last look back at the week that was in the conference:

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
AP Photo/Phil SearsJameis Winston helped Florida State win and stay in the national title conversation.
The good: The ACC's biggest claim toward national respectability remains alive, as Florida State again looked like a national title contender in its 41-14 win over Miami. The Seminoles are up to No. 2 in the BCS standings after passing their biggest remaining regular-season test with flying colors. If Jameis Winston's night -- 21-of-29 passing for 325 yards, a touchdown and two picks -- is to be considered an "off" one, then we should all pity the remaining defenses on FSU's schedule once he gets his act together.

The bad: What's gotten into Virginia Tech? The Hokies had looked like a squad with a legitimate shot at being the second-best team in the conference, but have lost two in a row to Duke and Boston College as they enter a must-win game at division rival Miami. Logan Thomas turned the ball over four times, including a costly pick-six in the fourth quarter that gave the Eagles a lead they would never relinquish. The defense struggled to contain Andre Williams and the BC rushing attack, which gained 196 yards.

The ugly: Duke Johnson's season is over after the Miami running back went down with a broken right ankle on a fourth-down play late in the third quarter of the Hurricanes' loss at Florida State. Michael Campanaro broke his collarbone in Wake Forest's 13-0 loss at Syracuse and is out four to six weeks. Given that timetable, and the possibility that the Demon Deacons may not make a bowl game, there is a chance we may have seen the last of the fifth-year senior in a Wake Forest uniform, which would be an unfortunate ending for a guy who became the school's all-time receptions leader just two weeks earlier.

The turnaround: Boston College has already doubled its win total from last season under new coach Steve Addazio, who just keeps pushing after his team gave Florida State and Clemson all it could handle earlier in the season. It all came together in Saturday's win over Virginia Tech, with the defense making plays, Chase Rettig effectively managing the offense and Andre Williams being Andre Williams. A 34-27 win has the Eagles at 4-4 and in striking distance of bowl eligibility with four games left to play.

The awakening: North Carolina won at rival NC State 27-19 for its second straight win after a 1-5 start. While the Wolfpack are searching for answers at 0-5 in ACC play, the Tar Heels find themselves with new life as they enter a stretch of games against Virginia, Pitt, Old Dominion and Duke. It has been said in this space before but it is worth repeating: A 3-1 stretch in those games is very possible, which would be a remarkable turnaround for a team that seemingly could not do anything right through the season's first half.

The history: Tajh Boyd had a pretty nice day at the office at Virginia, completing 24 of 29 passes for 377 yards with three passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown and one interception through one half and one series played. He also improved to 4-0 in games against teams from his home state. The 59-10 Tigers win marked the Cavaliers' second defeat by that score this season (Oregon). Boyd became the ACC's career leader in touchdowns accounted for, as his 33-yard touchdown pass to Sammy Watkins less than 90 seconds into the game broke a tie at 112 touchdowns with Philip Rivers. Boyd had a 96-yard touchdown strike to Watkins early in the third quarter, the longest pass of his career.

The postseason-bound: Georgia Tech's 21-10 win over Pitt gave it a third straight win after a three-game losing streak. The Yellow Jackets clinched bowl eligibility for the 17th straight season, becoming the sixth ACC team to win six games so far this season. Syracuse's win over Wake Forest, meanwhile, has the Orange at 4-4 and making a late push for the postseason, and only Virginia has been eliminated after suffering its seventh loss Saturday. There will be plenty of postseason implications throughout most of the ACC's remaining games.

The freak: His team fell to 4-4 after losing its second straight game, but we must recognize Aaron Donald for his ridiculous stat line in Pitt's loss at Georgia Tech. The defensive tackle had 11 total tackles (all solo), two forced fumbles, one sack and an outstanding six tackles for loss, the most by an FBS player this season. To put that into perspective, the Yellow Jackets ran 63 offensive plays Saturday. As my dear friend Jerry DiPaola notes, that meant nearly 10 percent of its snaps ended in a Donald tackle behind the line of scrimmage.

What we learned in the ACC: Week 10

November, 3, 2013
11/03/13
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Here's a look back at five lessons learned in the ACC, in no particular order:

1. The Coastal Division is wide-open. With Miami and Virginia Tech losing Saturday, there are plenty of scenarios in the Coastal Division race. It's still the Canes' division to lose, as they're the only team remaining with just one ACC loss, but they end the season with four straight division games, including a home game against Virginia Tech this week. With the Hokies' loss to Boston College, their game against the Hurricanes is basically an elimination game. If Miami loses to Virginia Tech, confusion will ensue. Right now, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Duke are all tied with two ACC losses each. With Pitt's loss to Georgia Tech on Saturday, the Panthers lost their best shot at staying relevant in the race.

[+] EnlargeAllen Hurns, P.J. Williams
Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/MCTMiami was tied 7-7 with FSU after Allen Hurns' touchdown catch, but the Noles were too strong.
2. Miami ran out of magic. For three straight weeks, the Canes found a way to overcome double-digit deficits and win. Not against the Noles. Miami finally ran into a superior team that brought the Canes back to reality with a 41-14 loss. Earlier this week, Miami coach Al Golden told ESPN.com that Florida State lost 11 NFL draft picks and was able to reload, and his program isn't there yet. Golden has the program heading in the right direction, but Saturday was a reminder that it's not there yet, and that rival FSU still has the upper hand between the two programs. It was also yet another example of just how dominant the Noles are this year.

3. Wake Forest is in big trouble. Not only did the Deacs lose to Syracuse 13-0, but they also lost their best offensive player, receiver Michael Campanaro. Campanaro broke his collarbone and will miss four to six weeks, according to a school spokesman. With that projected timetable, he is likely to miss the rest of the regular season. Wake Forest has games remaining against No. 3 Florida State, Duke and Vanderbilt. The Deacs have a bye on Nov. 16. Saturday was a game Wake really needed to win to keep its bowl hopes alive. Now, the Deacs need to win two of their last three, and it seems unlikely -- especially without "Camp."

4. Virginia Tech isn't getting better -- but BC is. For the second straight week, Virginia Tech turned it over four times in a loss, this time to Boston College. Following the season-opening loss to Alabama, Virginia Tech reeled off six straight wins and appeared to have turned the page on last year's subpar season, but back-to-back losses against Duke and Boston College -- two programs that combined for eight wins last year -- have been a not-so-subtle reminder that the problems persist. BC deserves credit for its 34-27 win, but Logan Thomas was picked off twice and fumbled twice, leading to 17 points for BC. The Eagles, though, are clearly a different team under Steve Addazio. It finally was reflected in the win column.

5. Larry Fedora remains a step ahead of NC State. For the second straight season, Fedora beat rival NC State, and this time he did it in Raleigh. It was UNC's first win in Carter-Finley Stadium since 2005, and Fedora became just one of four coaches to beat NC State twice in his first two tries. North Carolina has its problems this year, but NC State isn't one of them. The Pack are still winless in conference play in the first season under Dave Doeren.

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