College Football Nation: Ricky Sapp
Paul Abell/US PresswireAldarius Johnson was one of 12 ESPNU 150 players in Miami's No. 1-rated 2008 class.
Here's a reminder at how highly ranked several teams in the ACC have repeatedly finished since 2006, according to ESPN.com's Scouts Inc. rankings. You can click on the year to go to the full ranking. I mentioned a few of the top players in each class who were facing high expectations at the time, or players who weren't facing many expectations and have since proved otherwise (see: Virginia Tech).
No. 6 FSU (Myron Rolle)
No. 13 Clemson (C.J. Spiller, Jamie Cumbie, Ricky Sapp)
No. 17 Miami (Kylan Robinson)
No. 23 Maryland (Pha'Terrell Washington, Drew Gloster)
No. 24 Virginia Tech (Rashad Carmichael, Nekos Brown, Kam Chancellor)
No. 25 UNC (Aleric Mullins, Johnny White)
No. 9 Miami (Robert Marve, Allen Bailey)
No. 11 UNC (Quan Sturdivant, Marvin Austin)
No. 14 Georgia Tech (Jonathan Dwyer, Derrick Morgan, Josh Nesbitt)
No. 15 Virginia Tech (Tyrod Taylor, Blake DeChristopher, Barquell Rivers)
No. 18 Clemson (Willy Korn, Scotty Cooper, Marcus Gilchrist)
No. 25 Florida State (Brandon Paul, Markish Jones)
No. 1 Miami (Sean Spence, Jacory Harris, Aldarius Johnson)
No. 2 Clemson (DaQuan Bowers, Kyle Parker, Jamie Harper)
No. 12 FSU (Zebrie Sanders, E.J. Manuel, Nigel Carr)
No. 15 Virginia Tech (Ryan Williams)
No. 20 NC State (Mike Glennon, Brandon Barnes)
No. 7 Miami (Ray Ray Armstrong, Mike James)
No. 8 FSU (Greg Reid, Jacobbi McDaniel)
No. 13 UNC (Bryn Renner, Donavan Tate, Jheranie Boyd)
No. 18 Virginia Tech (Jayron Hosley, David Wilson, Logan Thomas)
No. 19 Clemson (Tajh Boyd, Bryce McNeal)
AP Photo/Mark HumphreySpiller finished with 172 yards and one touchdown in Clemson's win.
Turning point: With 11:33 left in the game, Clemson linebacker Kavell Conner forced a fumble, and Jarvis Jenkins recovered it at Kentucky’s 19-yard line for the first turnover of the game. Three plays later, Spiller scored on an eight-yard touchdown run. It gave the Tigers the 21-13 lead, an edge they would not relinquish.
Stat of the game: Time of possession was 20:15 to 9:45 in the first half, in favor of Kentucky. One way to keep the ball out of Spiller’s hands was to keep him off the field, and Kentucky was able to do that in the first half. Not the second.
Player of the game: Spiller. Clemson could not have done it without him in the second half, and Kentucky could not stop him. He finished with 172 all-purpose yards, set the school record for consecutive touchdowns in a game, and scored what would be the touchdown that sealed the win. It was quite a grand finale for the senior.
Unsung hero of the game: Fullback Chad Diehl. He was the lead blocker for Spiller and Jamie Harper, both of whom scored touchdowns in the game. On third-and-goal with about five minutes left in the first half, Harper punched in a one-yard touchdown run when Diehl knocked safety Calvin Harrison over to pave the way. It gave Clemson a 14-10 lead, the Tigers’ first lead of the game.
What it means: Clemson redeemed itself for back-to-back losses to rival South Carolina and Georgia Tech, and proved that it took this game seriously despite their disappointment about not playing in a BCS bowl. That’s a credit to first-year coach Dabo Swinney for once again getting the team focused and back on track. While it was a celebratory farewell to super seniors like Spiller and Jacoby Ford, it was also a sneak peak at the future, as Harper showed a lot of promise and was key in the win. Seniors like Spiller earned the first bowl win of their career, and set a strong foundation for 2010. The Tigers also avoided another embarrassing ACC loss to a mediocre SEC team and improved the ACC’s bowl record to 1-2.
Record performance: Spiller’s touchdown in the fourth quarter set a school-record 14 straight games with at least one touchdown.
QB -- Christian Ponder, Florida State
RB -- Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech
RB -- Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech
WR -- Demaryius Thomas, Georgia Tech
WR -- Donovan Varner, Duke
TE -- George Bryan, NC State
TE -- Michael Palmer, Clemson
OL -- Jason Fox, Miami
OL -- Anthony Castonzo, Boston College
OL -- Rodney Hudson, Florida State
OL – Sergio Render, Virginia Tech
OL -- Cord Howard, Georgia Tech
K -- Matt Bosher, Miami
Spc -- C.J. Spiller, Clemson
DL -- Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech
DL -- Robert Quinn, North Carolina
DL -- Nate Collins, Virginia
DL -- Ricky Sapp, Clemson
LB -- Cody Grimm, Virginia Tech
LB -- Luke Kuechly, Boston College
LB -- Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina
LB -- Alex Wujciak, Maryland
CB -- Kendric Burney, North Carolina
CB -- Brandon Harris, Miami
S -- DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson
S -- Deunta Williams, North Carolina
P -- Brent Bowden, Virginia Tech
There is still plenty worth watching …
1. Georgia Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. ACC fans have seen this before. Remember when Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams fumbled in the fourth quarter in the loss to UNC? Thomas had an equally costly drop last weekend against Georgia. How he responds and rebounds will be key. If he learned anything from Williams, Thomas should be OK, but the Jackets will need their top target focused.
2. Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt’s pass plays. Paul Johnson has proven he’s not afraid to throw it deep, but Nesbitt completed just 1 of 7 passes for 17 yards on attempts of throws greater than 10 yards last weekend against rival Georgia. For the season, Nesbitt has completed 33.3 percent of his passes (21-of-63) greater than 10 yards for four touchdowns and four interceptions. Two of those completions, though, came late in the regular-season game against Clemson, and for the Tigers, it was costly. Clemson was not efficient on third-and-long in the last meeting.
3. Fourth downs. Johnson has developed a reputation for going for it on fourth down -- just ask Wake Forest. The Jackets have been successful on 13 fourth-down conversions this year, 56.52 percent of the time. Clemson is fifth in the country, though, on stopping fourth downs, holding opponents to just 4-of-15 (26.67 percent).
4. Pure talent. This will be the highlight of the game, as it features three of the ACC’s top five rushers in Jonathan Dwyer, C.J. Spiller and Nesbitt. Defensively, Georgia Tech safety Morgan Burnett has 14 career interceptions, and Clemson’s DeAndre McDaniel has eight this year. Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan has 17 tackles for loss, and Clemson’s Ricky Sapp has 13. Both Sapp and Morgan rank in the top five in the ACC.
5. Time of possession. Georgia Tech leads the country in time of possession with 34:03 per game. Nobody holds onto the ball longer. And yet the first time these two teams met, Clemson’s defense forced eight three-and-outs in 13 possessions. The Tigers have been one of the few teams able to get Paul Johnson’s offense off the field. Clemson had seven straight three-and-outs in the last meeting. Whether the Tigers can have a repeat performance will go a long way in determining the winner.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Clemson first-year defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has said that sack numbers don't necessarily indicate how much pressure a quarterback is under during a game, and he's right.
But fans like the stats, and so do Clemson's defensive ends.
Bandit end Ricky Sapp and end Da'Quan Bowers apparently have a little behind-the-scenes competition going on, with the goal of totaling 10 sacks apiece this season. It's a lofty goal for a team that didn't have anyone surpass two last year, but it's not impossible -- especially considering Steele's desire to get after the quarterbacks and the fact his system will only help the front four flourish.
Only Sapp, who went to the same high school as Bowers, refuses to be bested by his younger teammate. Sapp said the duo is "very interested" in where each other will finish in the final stat category for sacks. Last year, Sapp finished with two while Bowers had one.
"He will not beat me in sacks," Sapp said, shaking his head with a smile. "I will not let him beat me in sacks. It's not going to happen. If he has nine, I'll have 10."
Sapp, who was Clemson's best player in terms of putting pressure on the quarterback for most of 2008, suffered a torn ACL in the 10th game at Virginia and missed the final three games. He said he's about 95 percent healed and is expected to be ready for the 2009 season opener. Sapp had played in 36 straight games before he was hurt.
"Everything happens for a reason," Sapp said. "I'm hoping this year is my big finale. I guess we'll find out."
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- During a group photo shoot for the players on Sunday at the ACC Football Kickoff, Clemson bandit end Ricky Sapp asked Virginia Tech tight end Greg Boone what it felt like to wear his ACC championship ring -- the third one. Boone's bling was impossible to miss.
"He said it felt good," Sapp said, almost wistfully.
Clemson, the team that at this time a year ago was expected to be a formidable opponent for Alabama and cruise through the ACC to make some noise on the national level, has officially switched places with the Hokies, who now bear the brunt of the league's expectations.
Clemson, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Georgia Tech -- quite frankly, nobody around here seems to care much who it is, just as long as somebody in the ACC is a legitimate national title contender. It's exactly what this conference needs to give its reputation a boost.
An NCAA-record 10 ACC teams were bowl eligible in a crazy, competitive and unpredictable 2008 season, and the conference took a step forward in polishing its image. There is still plenty of progress yet to be made, though, said ACC commissioner John Swofford, who added the ACC has "unlimited potential."
"I think if you really step back and take a look at the conferences a year ago, top to bottom, we may well have been the deepest conference in the country a year ago," Swofford said. "What we didn't have is a team or two involved in the national championship race down the stretch. I think that has a lot to do with how a conference is perceived competitively, maybe more than it should. But the fact of the matter is it does have a lot to do with that."
Swofford said that once teams are involved in the national championship race and win certain games outside the conference, "then I think that our league will receive the kind of respect it deserves."
The Hokies are the front-runners to win the Coastal Division title, and should be a preseason top-10 team, but it's not as if they're strangers to the top of the BCS standings. Boone remembers what was lost in 2007 when the Hokies were humiliated 48-7 at LSU. That season, the Tigers bumped Virginia Tech to No. 3 in the final BCS standings.
Can Virginia Tech be the team the conference can depend on?
"We have been that team," Boone said, "we just didn't win the games we should have."
Of course, Virginia Tech isn't the only team with the hope -- or the potential -- to make a splash on the national stage. In fact, the Hokies are going to have a difficult time getting through their conference schedule unscathed, let alone the lone nonconference schedule in the league that doesn't include an FCS team. It's the parity in the ACC, the players say, that makes title talk so difficult.
"I think that's why the ACC is so competitive -- because everybody wants to take that role and become that leader of the pack," said Miami offensive tackle Jason Fox. "I think we're really close. [The freshmen] have had a year under their belt, we have a great senior class, great senior leadership, and we've got two great coordinators. ... We're getting all the pieces together."
It's a rebuilding challenge both Miami and Florida State are facing simultaneously, and many say it's the resurrection of those two programs alone that can make the difference.
"For the ACC to really be a top-tier conference, there needs to be some people fighting for that national championship and being top five," said FSU quarterback Christian Ponder. "But the problem is, the ACC is so competitive and the ACC is also known for great defenses, so it's hard to really get up there. But I think we're close. There's a bunch of good teams this year that are getting better, getting up to that top tier, so we'll see. Florida State has a lot of potential. Virginia Tech should be ranked high up there. There's a lot of potential in the conference."
The question is when that potential will be realized.
North Carolina coach Butch Davis has told his players that they should want to play "when the blimp is in the sky," meaning it's a nationally televised game that holds postseason consequences. UNC defensive end E.J. Wilson said the Tar Heels are building the program into a national contender, but in order for the league to be taken seriously, they've got to have some company.
"I do agree with that because you have the Pac-10, who has USC, which is competing for a national championship almost every year, then you have the SEC, and they have four or five teams every year that's competing for it," said Wilson. "So in order for us to get talked about in the same respect with those conferences and be mentioned in the same breath with those, we have to have a few teams -- not just one team -- consistently every year competing for the national championship. We need to get more teams that can actually be successfully on the national level and not just around here."
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
There are some teams in the ACC that are stacked at a particular position or positions -- meaning there's not just depth there, but depth and legitimate all-conference talent. Here's a quick look at who in the conference is simply loaded:
UNC front seven: All four starters return on the defensive line, and there is outstanding depth both there and in the secondary. On the line, tackle Cam Thompson is coming off his best season at UNC, tackle Marvin Austin and end E.J. Wilson both started the majority of games last season, and Robert Quinn had 6.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles.
Linebackers Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant both started every game last season, and the position is the deepest it's been in recent years. Carter led the team with 11 tackles for loss and Sturdivant led the nation with 87 solo tackles.
Georgia Tech secondary: Morgan Burnett, Rashaad Reid, Mario Butler, Dominique Reese, and Cooper Taylor all have experience, and the group also welcomes back Jerrard Tarrant from a suspension.
Boston College secondary: The Eagles return DeLeon Gause, Wes Davis and Roderick Rollins, who have combined for 32 career starts. This should be the best group BC has had in a while.
Clemson defensive line: The Tigers return three starters across the front, and coach Dabo Swinney has said this unit could be the strength of the entire team. Ricky Sapp is the leader, senior Kevin Alexander is a returning starter, and there are really three starters returning for the two defensive end positions, including DaQuan Bowers, who started six games last year and finished with 47 tackles, the most among the linemen.
Miami wide receivers: Travis Benjamin, Aldarius Johnson, Thearon Collier, LaRon Byrd, Kendal Thompkins, Tommy Streeter ... the Hurricanes could field a team that consists entirely of receivers.
Florida State offensive line: The Noles are oozing with talent here. Tackle Andrew Datko, guard Rodney Hudson and center Ryan McMahon combined to start all but one game last season. What was the youngest offensive line in the FBS last season could be one of the best this year. For the first time since 2004, all five starters return.
Wake Forest offensive line: The Demon Deacons return eight offensive linemen with a total of 118 career starts among them. Jeff Griffin and Joe Birdsong are Wake's returning starters at tackle while Barrett McMillin and Joe Looney each started at guard in 2008. Russell Nenon, who started the season at guard, moved to center at midseason following an injury to Trey Bailey. Bailey returns after fully healing from a broken ankle. The Deacons also welcome back Chris DeGeare who missed the 2008 season while getting his academics in order.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Regardless of whether it was for injuries, suspensions, academics -- whatever -- not everyone was present and accounted for this spring. There were a few players who were missing who will be desperately needed to make a comeback this fall. Each team had at least one:
Boston College: Linebacker Mike McLaughlin -- He is still very questionable for the fall, but his return from an Achilles injury would be a huge boost to a position that lacks depth. Wide receiver Clarence Megwa broke his leg in the Clemson game last year and missed the rest of the year and spring, but could be a key returnee.
Clemson: Bandit end Ricky Sapp -- He missed the Gator Bowl and sat out the spring getting over a torn ACL he suffered in the first half against Virginia. He will be a prime pass-rusher for the Tigers and is Clemson's best player when it comes to putting pressure on the quarterback.
Duke: Defensive tackle Vince Oghobaase -- The Blue Devils' leader on the defensive line missed the spring with an injury, but ranks second among active ACC players in both career tackles for loss (29.0) and quarterback sacks (11.5), trailing only N.C. State's Willie Young (32.0 and 12.5). Oghobaase has started all 36 games over the past three years, compiling 128 tackles.
Florida State: Linebacker Dekoda Watson -- He missed the spring after offseason elbow surgery, but should be one of the Noles' top defenders. He ranked fourth on the team with 46 tackles last year.
Georgia Tech: Center Dan Voss -- He was the starter last year, and if his labrum isn't fully recovered (which it should be), aerospace engineer major Sean Bedford moves to the top of the depth chart. Not that there's anything wrong with a super smart center.
Maryland: DT Dion Armstrong -- The Terps had a host of key players miss the spring, but Armstrong, who was out for academic reasons, is at a position in need of some help. It's unclear, though, if Armstrong's academic situation will extend into the summer. Also at defensive tackle for Maryland is Travis Ivey. The coaches raved about his improved play and leadership during the spring, and the offensive line was having a tough time containing him. But he got a concussion in the fourth week and missed the rest of the spring. He also had a scheduled shoulder surgery at the end of the spring.
Miami: LB Colin McCarthy -- Miami needs depth at linebacker and McCarthy was playing well last season before a shoulder injury caused him to miss the remainder of the season, starting with the FSU game. He had shoulder surgery.
North Carolina: Free safety Deunta Williams -- He had wrist surgery in January and missed the spring, but should be ready for the fall. He started all 13 games in 2008 and ranked fifth on the team with 65 tackles (55 solo).
NC State: Strong safety Javon Walker -- He's actually missed the last TWO springs and last season with a knee injury, but will be cleared by the fall and is being counted on very heavily in the secondary.
Virginia: Right guard B.J. Cabbell -- He missed spring ball due to knee surgery, but started 12 games last year. The junior is expected back in August.
Virginia Tech: DE Jason Worilds -- Worilds missed the spring after shoulder surgery for an injury that kept him out of the Orange Bowl. End is one of the few positions the Hokies have that lacks depth. Worilds started in 12 of 14 games last year and had eight sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss. The Hokies will also need the return of guard Sergio Render, who missed the spring following shoulder surgery.
Wake Forest: CB Brandon Ghee -- Ghee suffered a sprained knee on the very first day of spring and missed the remainder of practice. The Deacs will need Ghee healthy this fall as he is the only returning starter in the secondary. Starting nose tackle Boo Robinson has also been bothered by a bad back and didn't play this spring.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
It's the final week of the regular season, and there's no lack of things to keep an eye on, starting with the most important: Who's going to Tampa?
1. The Atlantic and Coastal Division crowns. If Boston College wins, it's in. Same with Virginia Tech. Both of those teams have home-field advantage. If they lose, Georgia Tech and Florida State will win their respective divisions.
2. Bowl eligibility. Last call for anyone still interested in extending their season. NC State, Virginia and Clemson all have that opportunity. If any one of them succeeds, it will be the first time in league history the ACC has had nine teams qualify for a bowl game.
3. SEC vs. ACC. Here it is, the ACC's chance to go 3-0 against the SEC (quit laughing) with wins over Florida, Georgia and Vanderbilt. There's a decent chance the league represents at 2-1, with its best win being over Georgia. In order for that to happen, though ...
4. Watch how the Bulldogs defend the triple option. They had a bye week to prepare for it, and will have home-field advantage, but will they have the discipline? Georgia has the No. 10 scoring defense in the SEC but is holding opponents to 104.5 rushing yards per game.
5. FSU defensive end Everette Brown vs. Tim Tebow. Brown has been a man on a mission this season, and three times this year has had at least three sacks in a game. Will he be able to get to the Heisman Trophy winner?
7. Miami's defense. Can the Hurricanes regroup from their embarrassing performance against Georgia Tech in time to stop a surging NC State offense, led by quarterback Russell Wilson?
8. UNC linebacker Chase Rice. He'll take over for injured linebacker Mark Paschal, the Tar Heels' leading tackler whose season ended with a spine injury in the 41-10 loss to NC State.
9. Duke's offense. Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis is expected to return, so the Blue Devils should be more productive than they were last week at Virginia Tech.
10. How Clemson fares without injured bandit end Ricky Sapp. The Tigers' pass rush struggled to begin with, and it is likely to struggle even more without Sapp.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
The rankings have been a revolving door for ACC teams this season, and this week was no different. Considering the numbers Patrick Stevens of the Washington Times points out, Georgia Tech, Boston College and Florida State should all be a little nervous this weekend.
With his win over rival UNC on Saturday, NC State coach Tom O'Brien is now 4-0 this season against team from within the state and says he has "the best football program in the state. Without question."
Heading into its season finale against Vanderbilt, Wake Forest is still looking for answers on offense. All season, the biggest question has been up front for the Deacs.
Don't ask Virginia coach Al Groh about whether his son, offensive coordinator Mike Groh, will be back in 2009. He has no problem blowing that question off. One thing is for sure, Mike Groh didn't tell his players to surrender the ball to Clemson. Once again, Virginia beat itself, and the Cavaliers have now had more turnovers -- 29 -- than they have had in a single season since 1996.
Clemson's defense took a huge hit with the loss of bandit end Ricky Sapp, who is out for what little is left of the season with a partially torn ACL.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson's defense was dancing. Heading-bobbing to the hip-hop played between each break.
Until Georgia Tech B-back Jonathan Dwyer stopped the music.
All it takes is one missed assignment and Georgia Tech's big-play capability can suck the life out of even the most energized defense. That's exactly what happened in the second quarter when Dwyer burst for a 31-yard run on a third-and-16.
Clemson bandit end Ricky Sapp was ready for this game. Sapp has been out there bouncing up and down, waiving his hands in the air to get the crowd into it. His enthusiasm has been contagious throughout the entire Tigers' defense, and they have made key stops on third down.
But Georgia Tech's defense has been better. Safety Morgan Burnett squashed a flash of momentum with the Yellow Jackets' third interception of the first half. Clemson has turned it over four times, and they're lucky they only lost one of three fumbles.
It hasn't mattered that Dabo Swinney is now the coach, or that Willy Korn started at quarterback, because this is still the same offensive line Tommy Bowden had to work with a week ago. And it hasn't been able to keep Georgia Tech's defensive line out of its backfield. Jacoby Ford and James Davis each has negative yards rushing.
Clemson has 79 yards of total offense, and unless Swinney goes ahead and lines up at left tackle, there's not going to be any miracles in the second half.
Meanwhile, Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt looks off. He hasn't played since the first quarter of the Mississippi State game and his timing seems off.
Clemson freshman running back Jamie Harper (you remember, the poor kid who will forever be remembered as the freshman who fumbled his first snap against Alabama?) is playing well in the absence of injured star C.J. Spiller.
The fans aren't booing like they were the last time I was here (second half against Maryland), and it's a packed house. They seem to have some patience, despite a mostly bumbling offensive performance.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
In a word, quarterbacks. They're the plotline of the week. Check it out:
1. Virginia Tech's quarterbacks: The staff has kept this under wraps all week, and neither Tyrod Taylor nor Sean Glennon were available for interviews. With the offensive line's pass protection still struggling (they've allowed six sacks so far), will Taylor get more snaps than Glennon again?
2. NC State QB Russell Wilson: How Wilson responds in his first game back since suffering a concussion will go a long way in determining how long the Pack can hang with Clemson. Wilson threw just five passes against South Carolina, so this will be like his season opener again, only in Death Valley.
3. Virginia QB Marc Verica: He's never thrown a pass in a college game before, but will start on the road against Connecticut in place of Peter Lalich. He played one series against USC, but is said to be the most athletic of the Cavaliers' three quarterbacks.
4. Clemson DE Da'Quan Bowers: The standout freshman has impressed Tommy Bowden enough to earn his first career start and will bring some pressure on Wilson. He's the only one on the team who has recorded a sack.
5. Duke WR Eron Riley: He's listed as probable with a "leg" injury, but he will need to be 100 percent if the Blue Devils are going to have a chance against Navy. His connection with quarterback Thaddeus Lewis is how the Blue Devils "almost won" this game a year ago.
6. Florida State's offensive line: This is the last chance for Rick Trickett to figure out who goes where before Wake Forest rolls into town, and he hasn't been entirely pleased so far. An injury to backup center A.J. Ganguzza has forced right guard Will Furlong to practice as a second center.
7. Former track stars in College Park: Cal's Jahvid Best and Maryland's Da'Rel Scott should provide some highlight-worthy runs. Both rank in the top seven nationally in rushing yardage. Scott has had two straight 100-yard rushing performances and Best had two runs of at least 80 yards against Washington State.
8. Tough tacklers in Death Valley: Clemson safety Michael Hamlin and NC State linebacker Nate Irving are tied for the conference lead in tackles with 11.5 per game. Hamlin had a career-high three interceptions against The Citadel and Irving had 13 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery against William & Mary.
9. Clemson's do-it-all Jacoby Ford: Tommy Bowden said Ford had his best week of practice catching the ball and wants to be known as a receiver as much as he is as a returner and a runner. The staff wants to get the ball in his hands this week.
10. Georgia Tech's defensive scheme: Enough about the offense. Check out what the Yellow Jackets are doing under first-year coordinator Dave Wommack and how he has tweaked the scheme. It allows the front four a little more freedom. And those guys are very good.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Not only did the Tar Heels snap a 20-game out-of-state losing streak, but UNC also made Rutgers look bad in the process. There were all kinds of firsts for North Carolina under Butch Davis in Thursday night's nationally televised game, but it wasn't the first time the team couldn't have done it without Brandon Tate.
Odds are it won't be the last.
UNC proved in the second half it's a better team than what it showed in the season opener against McNeese State.
We now return to your regularly scheduled programming ... "Peter's Story" ...
Todd Lalich, the father of UVA quarterback Peter Lalich, called Jerry Ratcliffe of the Charlottesville Daily Progress and gave a public vote of support for UVA coach Al Groh. Said Todd Lalich:
"I would tell any parents out there that has a football recruit that Virginia is interested in, that if they want their boy to turn into a man, they should send them to Al Groh," Todd Lalich said. "Fans might not like [Groh's] X's and O's, or the way he deals with the media sometimes, but I am incredibly impressed with the way Al handles his players."
Lalich also told Ratcliffe that the decision to leave Lalich behind for the UConn game came from "on high," not from Groh. In this story, though, it sounds like Groh made the call. Regardless of who made it, Ratcliffe disagrees with this decision, and said "this just isn't right."
There is more to this story (there always is). It's important to remember that urine tests reportedly support Lalich's statement that he did not use drugs or alcohol while on probation. (It's also possible that he was dehydrated on the day he was scheduled to take the test and couldn't, um, produce the sample).
UVA's starting quarterback -- its team leader -- was on probation. Yes, it was for something some of us may be all-too familiar with -- underage possession or purchase of alcohol (not that I'm condoning it, just saying welcome to college) and athletes have played football while accused of far worse. They've also been suspended for far less.
If you ask me, this whole disaster couldn't have worked out any better for Virginia. The coach gets a pat on the back, the administration looks like it won't tolerate wayward behavior, and the quarterback got to play against USC and beat Richmond.
And now, it's out of their hands because the court will likely decide whether or not Lalich plays against Duke.
For now, it's Marc Verica's turn. What do we know about UVA's new starter, other than he hasn't thrown a pass yet for UVA?
Moving on ...
- Florida State will make public today its written response to the NCAA, the last communication between the two before FSU appears before the NCAA infractions committee on Oct. 18.
- In addition to losing tight end Anthony Hill, who will miss the Clemson game with a muscle pull in his chest, NC State just lost backup Matt Kushner for the season with a knee injury. Is there a Fight Club after practices in Raleigh? Never mind, you do not talk about Fight Club.
- Miami quarterback Robert Marve has some ties to his next opponent, whom he is excited to beat.
- Did you go to the Miami/Florida game? If you did, did you stay outta the klink? There were 50 people arrested and 121 fans ejected from that game, the most arrests at a Florida football game in the past three years.
- A former USC player will get his first career start on Saturday against Cal when he lines up at free safety for the Terps in place of an injured Terrell Skinner.
- The Hokies woes on the offensive line are back. It all goes back to what went wrong last year -- pass protection.
- Georgia Tech might be without its top wide receiver, who has an undisclosed injury.
- Clemson might be without Ricky Sapp, but the "coaches continue to be coy" about it.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Caulton Tudor says this is the time for Butch Davis to shine. The Tar Heels lost this game two seasons ago, but a win tonight could "turn UNC's fortunes around." This game will be about more than just football, though.
- Elsewhere in the state of North Carolina, Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson said he's ready to make his comeback against the Clemson Tigers.
- It looks like Da'Quan Bowers has earned the starting nod for this game, and Kevin Alexander has moved to the "bandit end" position to replace injured starter Ricky Sapp. All of that can be found at the end of this story about Durrell Barry. Clemson is expected to use three redshirt freshmen offensive linemen on Saturday.
- What's up with suspended Florida State defensive lineman Budd Thacker? Something, but Bobby Bowden won't tell. If he's back for Wake Forest, it will definitely help the Noles.
- Georgia Tech is still working on learning the triple option, but once they figure it out, look out.
- In case you missed it last night, Peter Lalich will not play against Connecticut. Two thoughts on this -- well, OK, three: 1. Good move. 2. Should've done it last week. 3. I love the line in this story "seldom used" to describe Marc Verica, whose bio in the media guide reads: 2007 -- Did not appear in any games. 2006 -- Redshirted. Yeah, I'd say that's seldom.
- I watched the Miami/Florida game last weekend on a TV. Apparently most of you did, too.
- Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer has left his spot in the tower and is getting in a few faces at practice this week. And Bryan Stinespring is" challenging their manhood." Where is highly touted RB Ryan Williams? It looks like he might steal Tyrod Taylor's redshirt.
- It looks like leather lungs will be starring in the next Under Armour commercial for the Terps.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
"I'll have Coach Meyer's back on anything," Tebow told reporters. "To say something like that about Coach Meyer isn't true at all," Tebow said after Monday's practice. "If you want to talk about him, you should definitely talk about a lot of other coaches before Coach Meyer. You can talk about running the score up, I don't care. They are paid to stop us; [offensive coordinator Dan] Mullen is paid to score. They don't do that, oh well. But you don't have to talk about Coach Meyer as a person and getting into recruits and all that stuff, that's not necessary."
I don't know about you, but I think these guys should play more often.
Elsewhere in the league ...
- UNC hasn't won outside its own state since 2002, but the Tar Heels have a chance this weekend at Rutgers. Can Butch Davis improve upon his 0-6 road record?
- Frank Beamer isn't the only one with a headache over his quarterback situation.
- Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski might prefer to have another option at quarterback right now. The Boston Globe says Chris Crane" had a bad game. Poor decisions, poor execution."
- Shame on NC State fans for booing Daniel Evans.
- It looks like Duke has a young, new playmaker.
- So does Clemson. Might Da'Quan Bowers start? His cousin, Ricky Sapp, says Bowers is ready.
- Even with about 20 newcomers making their debut against Western Carolina, both of Florida State's coordinators had more reasons to smile than they did a year ago.