NCF Nation: Mike Teel

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Ever look at your team's schedule when it's first announced and wonder aloud WHY its lineup includes teams like Toledo, Temple, Eastern Illinois and Central Michigan? Wish your team was playing Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff? Well, if you could schedule one nonconference opponent for every team in the ACC, who would it be? Today is revealing our fantasy matchups.

Based on competition, style of play, coaching matchups, previous history -- whatever -- here's who I'd like to see the ACC play:

BOSTON COLLEGE vs. PITT -- Why keep playing Kent State when you can get this old Big East series renewed? Pittsburgh leads the series 13-16, and the two programs used to play almost every year for three decades. They haven't met, though, since 2004, and two of the last three games have gone into overtime.

CLEMSON vs. GEORGIA -- It's a natural rivalry that provided some of the best games of the 1980s, but the two programs haven't met since the 2002 and 2003 seasons, both season-opening losses for Clemson. This series actually will be renewed in 2013 and 2014.

DUKE vs. SOUTH CAROLINA -- This matchup is based purely on the coaching matchup: Former Duke coach Steve Spurrier vs. former SEC offensive wizard David Cutcliffe. These programs met regularly from the 1950s through the 1980s, but haven't played since a 24-24 tie in 1991. When Spurrier led Duke to the ACC title in 1989, he opened the season with a 27-21 loss to South Carolina.

FLORIDA STATE vs. NEBRASKA -- Let's go old-school here -- the Charlie Ward offense vs. the Blackshirts' defense. In the late 1980s and '90s, these were powerhouse programs. Now they're both trying to regain their status among the nation's elite. Let's get back to the days when FSU won in Lincoln, 18-14, and shocked everyone. Or like it was in 1993, when FSU played Nebraska in the national title game in the Orange Bowl and used freshman Scott Bentley's late field goal to win 18-16.

GEORGIA TECH vs. ALABAMA -- The Crimson Tide had the No. 2 rushing defense in the country last year, and Georgia Tech the No. 4 rushing offense in the country. All of the Jackets' skill players return, and Alabama has nine starters back on defense. This was once a rather lopsided series, but they haven't played since the early '80s. This is also a great coaching matchup.

MARYLAND vs. PENN STATE -- There is such a hatred amongst Maryland fans for Penn State. Why? Maybe because the Nits owned the Terps when they used to play on a regular basis. Or maybe it's because Penn State loves to pluck recruits out of Ralph Friedgen's backyard. Let's get these neighboring recruiting rivals to settle it on the field.

MIAMI vs. OHIO STATE -- Terrelle Pryor vs. Jacory Harris. Bring it, Big Ten. Two young quarterbacks, both with tailbacks they like and receivers who are on the rise. They've both got what should be improved offensive lines and similar questions on defense. This was never a big series -- they've only played three times and haven't met since 2002 -- but it will be exciting to watch these two young quarterbacks who might someday be in the same Heisman race together.

NORTH CAROLINA vs. LSU -- Despite doubling its win total from 2007 to 2008, North Carolina still has something to prove, and playing teams like Connecticut and East Carolina isn't the way to do it. Beating LSU in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff is.

NC STATE vs. MICHIGAN -- Honestly, I want to see a rematch of NC State / Rutgers with a healthy Russell Wilson, but Mike Teel is gone, so let's start the ACC/Big Ten challenge in the other revenue sport, shall we? Now is the time to play the Wolverines, while they're in transition, but any win over Michigan is worth bragging about. Tom O'Brien vs. Rich Rodriguez would be an intriguing coaching matchup.

VIRGINIA vs. OKLAHOMA STATE -- Al Groh is known for his defense, and this is the kind of team that would challenge him in a way that Mike Leach's Texas Tech team did in the Gator Bowl. Last year, the Cowboys ranked in the top 10 nationally in scoring, total offense, rushing and pass efficiency, generating more than 3,100 yards both through the air and on the ground.

VIRGINIA TECH vs. USC -- Let's see how good Bud Foster's defense is against this stable of running backs. Rival Virginia took on the challenge last year. How much better would the Hokies fare? If Virginia Tech wants to contend for a national title, this is another great measuring stick.

WAKE FOREST vs. PURDUE -- The Deacs actually know how to schedule nonconference games. Teams like Navy and Vanderbilt are perfect challenges, along with a program like Baylor. Purdue would be an interesting BCS matchup, though, because of the similar style offenses. They haven't met since 2003, and the Deacs are 1-4 in the series, but both teams have changed significantly since they last played.

Posted by's Brian Bennett

Twenty-seven Big East products had their name called over the weekend in the NFL draft. Three league schools had their best drafts ever.

Cincinnati had six players taken, the most of any Big East team and the most in program history. The previous school record had been five, which happened in 1998, 1960 and 1947. The Bearcats were one of only nine schools to have six or more players drafted this year.

Connecticut had never had a player taken in the first two rounds of the draft before Saturday. Four Huskies went in the first two rounds this year, including the school's first-ever first-rounder, running back Donald Brown.

Rutgers had a record-setting five players drafted, including the Scarlet Knights' first-ever first-rounder, wide receiver Kenny Britt. The most Rutgers had ever previously had drafted in one year was three, in 2007.

Here's a rundown of all the league draft picks and some commentary:


Player, Position, Round, Team

Connor Barwin, DE, 2, Houston Texans

• DeAngelo Smith, DB, 5, Dallas Cowboys

Brandon Underwood, DB, 6, Green Bay Packers

Mike Mickens, DB, 7, Dallas Cowboys

Trevor Canfield, OG, 7, Arizona Cardinals

Thoughts: Kind of surprising that Mickens went after Underwood and Smith, when he was generally regarded as the best pro prospect of the three for most of his career. The fifth round is lofty territory for a punter, but Huber is that good.


Player, Position, Round, Team

• Donald Brown, RB, 1, Indianapolis Colts

Darius Butler, DB, 2, New England Patriots

Will Beatty, OT, 2, New York Giants

Cody Brown, OLB, 2, Arizona Cardinals

Thoughts: We thought UConn would have a huge day, and the Huskies sure did.


Player, Position, Round, Team

Eric Wood, C/OG, 1, Buffalo Bills

George Bussey, OT, 5, New England Patriots

Thoughts: Bussey didn't get much pre-draft buzz, but the Patriots must have liked the former walk-on who became a three-year starter and All-Big East performer. Wood will play guard for the Bills.


Player, Position, Round, Team

LeSean McCoy, RB, 2, Philadelphia Eagles

Scott McKillop, LB, 5, San Francisco 49ers

LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB, 7, Arizona Cardinals

Derek Kinder, WR, 7, Chicago Bears

Thoughts: OK, Pitt fans. How do you feel about McCoy going to Philly? Will you still root for him? Getting McKillop in the fifth round seems like a steal.


Player, Position, Round, Team

• Kenny Britt, WR, 1, Tennessee Titans

Mike Teel, QB, 6, Seattle Seahawks

Jason McCourty, DB, 6, Tennessee Titans

Courtney Greene, DB, 7, Seattle Seahawks

Tiquan Underwood, WR, 7, Jacksonville Jaguars

Thoughts: I didn't think Teel would get drafted, but good for him. The Titans and Seahawks must have liked Greg Schiano's program.

South Florida

Player, Position, Round, Team

Tyrone McKenzie, OLB, 3, New England Patriots

Thoughts: Despite all that Florida talent, the Bulls had the smallest draft class in the Big East.


Player, Position, Round, Team

Tony Fiammetta, FB, 4, Carolina Panthers

Ryan Durand, OG, 7, Tennessee Titans

Thoughts: Durand was another guy who wasn't on many mock draft boards. There were some good fullbacks in the Big East, including Pitt's Conredge Collins and Louisville's Brock Bolen. But Fiammetta was the only one drafted.

West Virginia

Player, Position, Round, Team

Pat White, QB/WR, 2, Miami Dolphins

Ellis Lankster, CB, 7, Buffalo

Pat McAfee, K, 7, Indianapolis

Thoughts: Can't wait to see how the Dolphins, who showed a lot of creativity on offense last year, use White.

Prominent players who went undrafted:

Hunter Cantwell, Louisville

Greg Isdaner and Mortty Ivy, West Virginia

Jamaal Westerman, Rutgers

• C.J. Davis, Pittsburgh

Julius Williams, UConn

Big East lunchtime links

March, 24, 2009

Posted by's Brian Bennett

• Cincinnati backup quarterback Zach Collaros is playing shortstop on the Bearcats' baseball team and will be pulling double duty when football spring practice begins next week, Bill Koch writes in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

• Syracuse opened practice in near-freezing temperatures and renewed an old tradition, Donnie Webb Syracuse Post-Standard. The Orange gathered around to burn an old pair of practice shoes to symbolize erasing the past.

Fullbacks will be a focus of West Virginia's first spring practice, Mike Casazza writes in the Charleston Daily Mail.

"We're starting off the spring with short yardage," Bill Stewart said. "That's orders from the boss, focus on short yardage. We're going to work hard at that. I think the personnel is going to get better and remedy some of the things from last year that could have helped us win some more football games."

• A lack of offensive linemen may mean that South Florida uses three-man lines in its spring game, Greg Auman notes in the St. Petersburg Times.

• Mike Teel finds himself in unfamiliar terrain, uncertain about his football future, Tom Luicci writes in The Star-Ledger.

Posted by's Brian Bennett

Spring is a time for renewal, and in college football, replacing.

It's sometimes jarring to go to a team's first spring practice and see new players wearing the familiar numbers of past legends. But the constant influx of new names and faces is part of what makes the sport great.

Several teams in the Big East face some major retooling projects this spring. Here's a look at the five biggest shoes to fill in the league:

  Charles LeClaire/Getty Images
  Jarret Brown, who was 2-0 when filling in for Pat White, will likely take over as starter.

1. Pat White, West Virginia: How do you replace an icon? White may go down as the best player in Mountaineers' history, and his singular talents dictated an entire offensive philosophy. At least Jarrett Brown has some experience at filling in for White. The senior has started two games in his career when White was hurt and won both, including a 41-39 triple-overtime victory over Rutgers to end the 2006 regular season. Brown isn't as fast as White, but he's big (6-foot-4, 220 pounds), has a strong arm and won't be asked to run as much in a more pass-friendly offense. Brown needs to have a strong spring, or he could face a challenge from hotshot incoming recruit Eugene Smith this fall.

2. LeSean McCoy, Pitt: McCoy scored 21 touchdowns, rushed for 1,403 yards and was a threat to break off a huge run on every play for the Panthers. Now he's gone after two spectacular seasons, and there's no experienced back on the roster. The job is wide open, and this spring will give players like Shariff Harris, Kevin Collier and Chris Burns a chance to show what they can do. Incoming freshmen Dion Lewis and Ray Graham will be given a look this summer, as well. Coach Dave Wannstedt isn't afraid to play a true freshman at tailback if he's ready.

3. Donald Brown, UConn: Brown not only led the nation in rushing in 2008, he basically was the entire Huskies offense by the end of the year. It's highly unlikely that one replacement will be able to match his 2,000-plus rushing yards. But Connecticut does have some options in the backfield. Jordan Todman, a smaller, shiftier runner than Brown, showed real promise as a freshman by averaging nearly six yards per carry and scoring three touchdowns. Senior Andre Dixon actually led the team in rushing as a sophomore but was curiously absent most of '08, even before his late-season DUI arrest. He'll be a factor if he's meeting the necessary off-the-field requirements. UConn will likely spread the ball around more in its new offensive scheme this year.

4. Mike Teel, Rutgers: Kenny Britt also leaves a big void at receiver for Rutgers, but the Scarlet Knights will find some playmakers. What they need most is a quarterback who can direct the offense and be a leader on and off the field, as Teel was. Teel had his problems at times, but he was also a three-year starter who threw for more than 6,500 yards and 45 touchdowns in his final two seasons. This is another competition that will be fun to watch in the spring and again in the summer. Senior Dom Natale and freshman D.C. Jefferson will get the bulk of the reps in the spring and try to get a leg up. When fall camp opens, all eyes will turn to celebrated recruit Tom Savage, and senior Jabu Lovelace will be back from a leg injury.

5. Scott McKillop, Pittsburgh: McKillop led the Big East in tackles his final two seasons and was the league's defensive player of the year in 2008. His ability to always be in the right place formed the backbone of Pitt's defense. Now someone else will have to man the crucially important middle linebacker spot. Senior Steve Dell, who served as McKillop's understudy last season, and sophomore Max Gruder will get first crack at winning the job. If they're not up to the task, Wannstedt may look to incoming freshman Dan Mason to fill McKillop's shoes.

Posted by's Brian Bennett

Looks like the University of Rhode Island is becoming Rutgers Lite.

Four Scarlet Knights players have reportedly transferred to the FCS school. What's the connection? Rhode Island's coach is Darren Rizzi, who was Greg Schiano's associate head coach before taking over the Rams.

The players who have left RU for URI are quarterback Chris Paul-Etienne, tight end Tom Lang, cornerback Robenson Alexis and defensive back Rob Cervini. None of the four received significant playing time with the Scarlet Knights, but Paul-Etienne was the backup quarterback to Mike Teel for a time before being passed up by Dom Natale.

Cervini provided the biggest contribution of the four; as the holder on kicks during the Bowl, he scored the game's first touchdown on a fake field goal as Rutgers went on to beat NC State 29-23.

Posted by's Brian Bennett

How will the 2008 Big East football season be remembered? Here are my top 10 memories from this year.

1. Cincinnati's orange crush: I attended a couple of Bearcats games in the 1990s as a college student and can remember how deserted and dreary Nippert Stadium was in those days. So to see the place stuffed with fans and people running onto the field and throwing oranges in anticipation of a BCS bid -- twice -- stands as my indelible memory of the '08 season. Sure, the celebration was premature in the Pitt game. But in other ways, it was a long time coming.

2. The Donald's stiff-arm: No one player put his team on his back quite like Connecticut running back Donald Brown. He had eight games of at least 150 yards rushing and three games over 200 yards. His 2,083 yards placed among the top 10 seasons all-time among FBS running backs. What I'll remember most is how he'd get into the open field, extend one of his powerful arms to the head or chest of a defender and just push him away as he dashed ahead for a bigger gain.

3. LeSean McCoy's burst: The Pittsburgh star tailback wasn't bad either, with 1,488 yards and 21 touchdowns. He did it with a little more style and flair than Brown. No player was more explosive upon finding a small opening. And when there was a lane to the end zone, McCoy always seemed to find another gear. He may have tried to force the big play too much at times, but when it was there, it was breathtaking to watch.

4. West Virginia 31, North Carolina 30: The Meineke Car Care Bowl had a little bit of everything, from wild offensive bursts to key turnovers to Tar Heels' receiver Hakeem Nicks' acrobatic catches. But what I'll remember most is how Pat White finished his college career in style by showing us something new -- 332 passing yards -- and then being his usual humble self afterward. It was the perfect end to an astonishing career.

5. Rutgers 54, Pittsburgh 34: I was in the Papa John's Cardinal Stadium press box for Louisville-South Florida at the same time as this game was going on, and since I didn't have access to watch it on TV, I was following the score on ESPN's GameTracker. I couldn't believe what I was seeing even as I called out the updates to other reporters -- "Mike Teel just threw another TD!" Rutgers nearly equaled its point total from the entire season in one game, and it was the start of one of the more remarkable turnarounds in recent college history.

6. Syracuse 24, Notre Dame 23: Speaking of shocking results. I remember watching this in the press box at Nippert Stadium, where everyone was gathered around the TV before the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh game to see the Orange complete their comeback in South Bend. They won less than a week after the school announced coach Greg Robinson would be fired, and then Robinson and his players displayed class by pausing for the Notre Dame alma mater. No matter your loyalties, you had to feel good for the long-suffering program at that point.

7. Maikon Bonani's debut: South Florida may have had a disappointing season once it reached Big East play, but I didn't see a more exciting game all year than the Bulls' 37-34 thriller over Kansas. And the best story line was the team's freshman kicker, who made his college debut earlier in the game and then drilled a 43-yarder as time expired. For a moment there, anything seemed possible for the Bulls.

8. Victor Anderson's arrival vs. Kansas State: The Louisville freshman ran for 176 yards and three touchdowns on just 18 carries on a Wednesday night in September. Watching his speed and shimmying up close, you knew a star had been born.

9. Bill Stewart's press conferences: The homespun West Virginia coach was liable to wax on for 20 minutes at a time, almost always including his love for the "ol' Blue and Gold" in there somewhere. He'd call players by their numbers instead of names or refer to them as "that rascal." Sometimes he'd even confuse everyone with long-lost references. But it was always entertaining, and no coach seemed happier just for the opportunity to talk about his team.

10. Mardy Gilyard meets Garrett Monroe: Another image I'll take with me from this season happened when Cincinnati's Gilyard crashed into the stands and ran into the 7-year-old Monroe. After Monroe cried, Gilyard stayed with the boy and hugged him, momentarily turning the youngster into a celebrity. That act showed Gilyard's compassion and led to more people finding out about his pretty amazing background. Stories like that are the ones that stick with you.

What were some of your best memories from the 2008 Big East season?

Posted by's Brian Bennett

Donald Brown, Connecticut: The Big East offensive player of the year ended his college days in style, rushing for a career-high 261 yards and eclipsing 2,000 yards for the season in UConn's 38-20 International Bowl win over Buffalo.

Pat White, West Virginia: White added one final indelible moment to his incredible career by throwing for a career-best 332 yards and completing 26 of 32 passes with three touchdowns to lead the Mountaineers to a 31-30 Meineke Car Care Bowl win over North Carolina. He also rushed for 55 yards.

Mike Teel, Rutgers: The senior finished with yet another 300-yard passing day, completing 22 of 37 passes for 319 yards and two scores as Rutgers beat NC State, 29-23, in the Bowl.

Matt Grothe, South Florida: In his best performance in several weeks, the junior quarterback went 17-for-24 for 236 yards and threw three touchdowns and no interceptions in the 41-14 magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl rout of Memphis. Grothe played less than three quarters in that game as well.

Pat Lazear, West Virginia: Buried on the bench earlier in the year, the sophomore linebacker came up with the biggest defensive play in the Meineke game, intercepting North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates with less than two minutes left.

Kenny Britt, Rutgers: The junior receiver piled up 119 receiving yards on just six catches, including a 42-yard score, in the win over NC State. Britt finished as the Big East's career leader in receiving yards before declaring for the NFL draft.

Mardy Gilyard, Cincinnati: In an otherwise dreary offensive effort by his team, Gilyard had seven catches for 158 yards in the Bearcats' 20-7 loss to Virginia Tech at the FedEx Orange Bowl.

Robert McClain, Connecticut: The safety came up with several big hits and made Buffalo receivers gun shy as the Huskies limited the Bulls' high-flying passing attack to just 213 yards.

Posted by's Heather Dinich

For two consecutive seasons, injuries have been the story of NC State football under Tom O'Brien, and the Bowl was a microcosm of that frustration.

 Marvin Gentry/US Presswire
 Without Russell Wilson in the second half, the Wolfpack's offense sputtered.

Quarterback Russell Wilson, arguably the most valuable player on NC State's roster and the best quarterback in the ACC, sprained his knee in the first half of a 29-23 loss to Rutgers, and NC State fans once again were left to wonder what might have been.

Those who have been paying attention to NC State this season know how valuable Wilson was to his team -- he was the catalyst behind the Wolfpack's remarkable second-half surge -- but football fans catching him for the first time witnessed the dramatic drop-off in NC State's offense without him. (Mike Glennon should help the position's depth next year).

Wilson entered the bowl game having thrown 226 passes without an interception. His backups, Harrison Beck and Daniel Evans, combined to throw three interceptions in the second half of the Bowl.

It's been a long season for Wilson, who began preseason camp as one of five quarterbacks competing for the starting job. He was also dealing with the illness of his father, who suffered a stroke in early August. Still, Wilson won the starting job, but suffered a concussion in the first game. He missed the following game and was reinjured while leading the Pack to an upset of East Carolina and missed another game.

This is the trend at NC State.

In 2007, O'Brien's first season in Raleigh, 13 starters missed time because of injuries, including six starters who missed multiple games. This year, Wilson was one of 13 starters again who missed multiple games because of injuries. It's a big reason why NC State started the season 2-4.

A healthy NC State, though, is a very good NC State. Just ask Rutgers, who was trailing 17-6 in the first half after Wilson completed 11 of 23 passes for 186 yards and one touchdown. He also finished as the team's leading rusher with eight carries for 46 yards. (And no, that's not necessarily a good thing).

Even when opposing defenses are disciplined against NC State, Wilson gives them headaches with his ability to make things happen with his feet. He is tremendous at improvising outside the pocket, and got his team out of jams against Rutgers on a few third-and-long situations.

NC State's defense did a good job of putting pressure on Mike Teel and mixing up coverages, but Rutgers adjusted in the second half and became more effective as the Wolfpack began to unravel offensively. Even when NC State's defense did its job, though -- like Clem Johnson's interception -- the offense threw it right back to Rutgers.

The four turnovers were the difference in the game, but so was the injury to Wilson. Then again, who knows what might have been?

Had everyone stayed healthy, NC State's entire season might have been different. If Wilson can stay healthy, NC State's 2009 season will be different.

Posted by's Brian Bennett

The Bowl was like Rutgers' season in a nutshell. Shaky start, tremendous finish.

 Marvin Gentry/US Presswire
 Mike Teel threw for 319 yards and two scores for the Scarlet Knights.

The Scarlet Knights (8-5) outscored NC State 23-6 in the second half to win the game 29-23 at Birmingham's Legion Field. They ended the season with seven straight victories after a 1-5 start.

The biggest key to this in-game turnaround was an NC State injury. Freshman quarterback Russell Wilson had the Scarlet Knights' defense on its heels in the first half with his mobility and deft passing. The kid is really, really good and is going to be something special over the next couple of years. But Wilson injured his knee late in the first half and was not able to play after guiding his team to a 17-6 halftime lead.

No longer having to worry about the quarterback scramble, Rutgers brought pressure against replacement Harrison Beck in the third quarter, and the Wolfpack (6-7) barely moved the ball. Third-stringer Daniel Evans came in for the fourth quarter and led a touchdown drive, but Greg Schiano dialed up a change to a three-man front and zone coverage on a key third down. Evans didn't read it and threw an interception. Wilson was picked off only once all season; Beck and Evans combined to toss three interceptions in this game.

Mike Teel had 319 yards and two touchdowns for Rutgers, and like he did during the season, played much better in the second half. The senior quarterback was a touch off early in the game, thanks in large part to the pressure NC State's defense managed to apply. Teel's offensive line did a better job of giving him time in the second half, and the results were much the same as they were for the last several weeks.

Receiver Kenny Britt, playing perhaps his final game before declaring for the NFL draft, became the Big East's career leader in receiving yards with six catches for 119 yards. He caught the game-winning score from 42 yards out, less than a minute after NC State took its last lead.

Rutgers has now won three straight bowl games, which is really something since before this stretch the program had never won a single one in its 139-year history. The Scarlet Knights should be one of the favorites in the Big East next year, though they must fill huge voids that will be left by Teel, Tiquan Underwood, Britt (if he leaves) and others.

The Big East is now 3-0 in bowl play and 2-0 against the ACC (and the state of North Carolina). Cincinnati will try to give the league a clean sweep over the ACC in the FedEx Orange Bowl against Virginia Tech.

Should Rutgers be in the final Top 25? I think so. Few teams played better in the last two months.

Posted by's Brian Bennett

Rutgers and NC State are mirror images heading into this afternoon's Bowl, Aditi Kinkhabwala writes in the Bergen Record. Mike Teel set a good example for the players that will follow him as Scarlet Knights quarterback, Brendan Prunty says in the Star-Ledger.

• Cincinnati's defense, a unit of mix-and-match parts, has been the team's backbone all season, Bill Koch writes in the Cincinnati Enquirer. The Bearcats will end up selling 13,000 of their 17,500 allotted tickets to the FedEx Orange Bowl, Koch reports. That's not too great, but the same story says Virginia Tech has sold only 5,000. And a lot of fans no doubt have bought tickets outside of the schools because prices are so cheap in the scalpers' market.

• Pitt defensive lineman Rashaad Duncan, in talking up his own unit to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Paul Zeise, may have provided Oregon State a little bulletin board material for Wednesday's Brut Sun Bowl. Take a listen:

"[Oregon State's offensive line] is a tight unit and seem to know where they are at. But the thing I see when I watched them is that I don't think they have faced a defensive line like us. I mean, the last defensive line they played like us was Penn State and the results speak for themselves.

"Like [Southern California], for instance, they had some big [defensive linemen] guys, but they weren't as quick as us. They might have been as strong us, but they are not as quick as us. Like I said, I don't think [Oregon State] has faced anyone like us and that will be our plan, to surprise them [with athleticism]. If not, if they want to make it a fight, we'll strap it up like we do."

This might be the last time a Big East team plays in the Sun Bowl for a while.

• West Virginia cornerback Brandon Hogan's illness remains a secret, Mike Casazza writes in the Charleston Daily Mail. Bill Stewart has nothing to apologize for in his first season at the helm of the Mountaineers, Mickey Furfari says in the Times West Virginian. Bowl preview

December, 29, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

WHO TO WATCH: NC State linebacker Nate Irving. He's the heart of this team's defense and one of the best linebackers in the ACC. The Wolfpack are 4-0 since Irving's return from an ankle injury and he has posted 41 tackles during that span. He is tied for third on the team with 77 tackles despite missing three games.

WHAT TO WATCH: Quarterbacks. NC State's Russell Wilson and Rutgers' Mike Teel are the catalysts behind their teams' remarkable late-season surges. Wilson has thrown 226 consecutive passes without being picked off -- a school record and the longest active streak in the nation. Wilson, who has thrown just one interception this season, threw his lone pick in the first half of the Clemson game on Sept. 13.

WHY TO WATCH: Rutgers and NC State finished the regular season as two of the hottest teams in the country. Both teams have turned their seasons around in the second half, as NC State started 2-4 and finished 4-2. NC State is in a bowl game for the first time under second-year coach Tom O'Brien and the first time since 2005. Bowl preview

December, 29, 2008
Posted by's Brian Bennett

A brief primer on today's Bowl (ESPN, 3 p.m. ET):

What to watch: Rutgers was 1-5 at one point, while NC State stood at 2-6. Each made stunning turnarounds to get to this game and are among the hottest teams in the country. The Scarlet Knights have been piling up points through their deep passing attack. Watch today to see if their vastly improved offensive line can give quarterback Mike Teel time to find his targets downfield, and whether NC State's secondary -- which grabbed eight interceptions in its final three regular-season games -- will go after some of those long throws.

Who to watch: Teel and Kenny Britt. Teel put up astounding numbers in the second half of the season, throwing 13 touchdown passes in two games alone. His favorite target is junior wide receiver Britt, a nightmarish matchup for defensive backs who might be playing his final collegiate game.

Why to watch: This promises to be much more interesting than either team's record would indicate, with two red-hot quarterbacks matching up in Teel and NC State's Russell Wilson. The Big East will try to go 2-0 against the ACC in bowl season and 3-0 overall. And what else are you going to watch on a Monday afternoon?

Posted by's Brian Bennett

The Courier-Journal's Eric Crawford takes an in-depth look at Louisville's fall from the 2007 Orange Bowl to two straight bowl-less seasons and where the Cardinals are headed from here.

• Cincinnati leaves today for the FedEx Orange Bowl, Jeremy Peter writes in the Cincinnati Enquirer.
• Mike Williams has yet to enroll for the spring semester at Syracuse, Donnie Webb notes in the Syracuse Post-Standard.
• West Virginia's speed could surprise North Carolina, Mike Casazza writes in the Charleston Daily Mail. Linebacker Reed Williams is ahead of schedule in his recovery, Dave Hickman notes in the Charleston Gazette.
• Keith Sargeant of the Home News Tribune has more on Mike Teel's interesting journey this season for Rutgers.
Posted by's Brian Bennett

It's time for our next round of bowl picks, which for the Big East means the Meineke Car Care Bowl on Saturday, the Bowl on Monday and the Brut Sun Bowl on Wednesday. Away we go ...

North Carolina 23, West Virginia 16: Never bet against Pat White in a bowl game; he's 3-0 and nobody gave him or his team a shot at beating Georgia or Oklahoma. While the Tar Heels aren't nearly as imposing as those former BCS foes, they are the wrong kind of matchup for the Mountaineers: a fast, athletic defense that can choke off the option with special teams that can cause problems. West Virginia's offense really struggled in the last two weeks of the season against similarly tough defenses from Pittsburgh and South Florida. Despite White and Co.'s big-game experience, North Carolina will beat its third Big East team of the season before a pro-Heels crowd in Charlotte.

Rutgers 34, NC State 20: The two Team Turnarounds meet in Dixie in maybe the best bowl showdown ever between a 7-5 club and a 6-6 one. Both played extremely well down the stretch, and you could argue that the Wolfpack played a tougher slate in the final month than Rutgers did. But there's no doubting how dominant the Scarlet Knights have been, and of the two quarterbacks who did their own revolutions, I like the senior Mike Teel better than the freshman Russell Wilson. Teel and Kenny Britt go out in style in Birmingham.

Pittsburgh 31, Oregon State 27: With Jacquizz Rodgers questionable for the game, Oregon State will have to find other ways to score. As bad as the Beavers' defense played in the season finale against Oregon, you have to wonder how they'll stop the Big East's top scoring team and LeSean McCoy. My guess is they won't. And if you're into the motivation aspect, Pitt is thrilled to be in El Paso, while Oregon State had its sights set on the Rose Bowl. The Panthers get their 10th win and set themselves up for a high 2009 preseason ranking.

Last week: 1-0

Season record: 47-23 (67 percent)

What to watch in the ACC bowls

December, 24, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Here are a few things to watch in the pre-New Year's Day ACC bowls:

1. The ACC's win-loss record. With seven of the 10 games being played between Dec. 27-Dec. 31, this is the conference's chance to make a statement and show how far it has come since last year's two-win postseason. So far, so good, as Wake Forest got the ACC off to a 1-0 start.

2. North Carolina's defense against Pat White. The Tar Heels couldn't beat Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and White is even more dangerous. In addition to his 135.64 pass efficiency rating, White has also accounted for 83.5 rushing yards per game.

3. Wisconsin's time of possession. The Badgers best chance of winning this game is by running the ball repeatedly, wearing out FSU's defense and controlling the clock. It's what they've done all season, as Wisconsin is No. 22 in the nation in time of possession with 31:22. If the Seminoles can contain P.J. Hill, they should come out on top.

4. Miami quarterback Jacory Harris. He won when starter Robert Marve was suspended in the season opener and will have to do it again, as Marve is suspended for the Emerald Bowl. Harris has proven before he can win games, as he came off the bench and accounted for five touchdowns against Duke. But he has also looked cold and uncomfortable at times in the formula Randy Shannon has used him in. He has completed 60.8 percent of his passes for 1001 yards, six interceptions and 10 touchdowns.

5. Miami's run defense. The Hurricanes will need to play better than they did against NC State, when they allowed 219 yards on the ground. Cal running back Jahvid Best finished the regular season with 1,394 rushing yards and will be playing about six miles from his campus.

6. NC State quarterback Russell Wilson vs. Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel. Both have led their teams to impressive late-season rallies, and one will be the difference in this game. Wilson has a 134.28 passer rating and has thrown just one interception this season. Teel is 16th in the nation in passing efficiency at 148.53.

7. Georgia Tech's rushing offense vs. LSU's rushing defense. This is the key statistical matchup in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, as the Yellow Jackets rank third in the nation with 282.3 rushing yards per game, and LSU is No. 17 in the nation in rushing defense, with 105.7 yards per game and just 3.3 yards per carry.

8. Boston College quarterback Dominique Davis. He's trying to rebound from a subpar performance in the ACC championship game and has been working hard to improve his pocket presence. He'll face a tough Vanderbilt defense.

9. BC's non-offensive touchdown streak. The Eagles are tied for first in the country with eight non-offensive touchdowns, and have scored on either defense or special teams in seven straight games, the longest streak in the nation. Can they keep it going until the end?

10. UNC's record-setting receiver, Hakeem Nicks. Nicks needs one more touchdown to set the school record with 10. One more would also equal the career record of 19. He also needs five more receptions to break the UNC career record of 177, and is just 58 yards shy of moving into 12th place on the ACC's career receiving list.