NCF Nation: Thaddeus Lewis

QB uncertainty looms in the ACC

February, 15, 2010
At Duke, former scout team quarterback Sean Schroeder has been reciting the names of plays so he can spit them out a little easier in the huddle as the No. 1 signal-caller this spring. At Wake Forest, coach Jim Grobe would like nothing more than to say he feels good about his quarterbacks, but he hasn’t seen any of them play significant game time yet. And at NC State, backup Mike Glennon plans on working to unseat his friend and teammate Russell Wilson as the starter this spring.

[+] EnlargeMike Glennon
AP Photo/Gerry Broome Mike Glennon will get extra reps under center this spring while incumbent starter Russell Wilson plays baseball.
Bring on the competition in the ACC.

All across the conference, uncertainty looms at quarterback heading into spring practices. The biggest transitions will occur at Duke and Wake Forest, where two of the ACC’s most accomplished quarterbacks -- Thaddeus Lewis and Riley Skinner -- have graduated. Virginia is also starting from scratch to replace Jameel Sewell, and nobody on the roster but Marc Verica has experience. Maryland's Jamarr Robinson has two starts ahead of the competition. Some schools, like North Carolina and Boston College, have experienced starters returning, but have welcomed an audition from the backups. At NC State and Clemson, the position’s future depends on whether or not starters Kyle Parker and Wilson decide to pursue their baseball careers.

“My goal is to prepare to be the starter, regardless of what decision [Wilson] makes, whenever he has to make a decision,” Glennon said. “… Once spring comes around, I’ll be getting all of those extra reps I wouldn’t have been given if he was there. Every ball I throw is really an advantage to me.”

Florida State is the only school in the Atlantic Division without any questions about who the starter is, as Christian Ponder will return from a shoulder injury and has the potential to factor into the Heisman race. The Coastal Division is a little more secure, with Georgia Tech’s Josh Nesbitt, Miami’s Jacory Harris, and Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor all established and on the brink of their best seasons yet. Whether or not that gives them an edge in the conference race will depend upon how quickly the league’s rookies can catch up.

“It’s always difficult to replace a guy who had the ability [Lewis] had,” said Duke offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper. “He’s obviously very, very talented, and then the experience factor. You don’t have a four-year starter very often ever at many positions, especially at quarterback.”

Boston College is in a much better position than it was this time a year ago, as the staff had no idea who its quarterback would be until 25-year-old Dave Shinskie arrived on campus. Shinskie is the front-runner heading into the spring, but Mike Marscovetra and two true freshmen -- Chase Rettig and Josh Bordner -- are on campus and will be given a chance.

“I think there should always be competition,” said offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Gary Tranquill. “It’s Shinskie’s job, and if they can unseat him, then they can unseat him.”

Duke’s quarterback depth took a hit after Lewis graduated and his backup, Sean Renfree, tore his ACL. Renfree is expected to be the Blue Devils’ starter this fall, but he will miss all of spring drills while he recovers.

Next man up? Schroeder.

“I’m expecting to really get a hold of the offense,” he said. “I’ve got a year under my belt as a redshirt freshman. That helped a lot. I’m looking to grow from that and master the offense and different schemes we have.”

Wake Forest has to replace the winningest quarterback in school history in Skinner. Truth is, there really is no front-runner. Not when the most experienced player, Ted Stachitas, has one series against Elon to fall back on.

“It is legitimately wide open,” said quarterbacks coach Tom Elrod.

The contenders include Skylar Jones, who was moved to wide receiver last year; Stachitas, who has had two shoulder surgeries on his right shoulder but said he feels almost 100 percent; Brendan Cross; walk-on Turner Faulk; and true freshman Tanner Price.

“I can’t tell you that I’m very confident, just because we haven’t seen the guys in live fire,” Grobe said. “I don’t know that we’ll feel good about them until they get a real game under their belt. I like what we’ve got – I like the kids who are playing quarterback for us, but even in practice and the scrimmages, it’s just really hard to tell who the guys are until they get out in games that really mean something.”

The one thing Grobe can take some solace in? He’s hardly alone this spring in the ACC.

What to watch in the ACC this spring

February, 15, 2010
Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program heading into the spring:


Spring practice starts: March 18

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

• How linebacker Mark Herzlich progresses. Herzlich, who was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma cancer last May, has been going through winter conditioning with his teammates, and he plans on participating in spring drills. How quickly he regains his form will be worth watching, as he and sophomore Luke Kuechly could give the Eagles one of the most formidable linebacking corps.

• The quarterback battle. After one season, Dave Shinskie has the most experience on the roster, but he’ll get some competition from Josh Bordner and Chase Rettig, two early enrollees. There were times last season when Shinskie looked like the future of the position and there were others when he looked like any other freshman.

• Defensive linemen. For the second straight year, BC is looking for some stability up front. The Eagles have to replace left tackle Austin Giles and defensive end Jim Ramella. They return Kaleb Ramsey, Giles’ backup, and Brad Newman, Ramella’s reserve, but some young faces are likely to be seen in the rotation.


Spring practice starts: March 7

Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

• Life without C.J. Spiller officially begins. The backs behind him had a pretty good year, so there’s no need for full panic mode. Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington actually combined for a higher yards per carry average (6.1 to 5.6 yards). Clemson will also be looking to replace Spiller’s lost kickoff return yardage. The Tigers had a 13-yard advantage in average starting field position, as their start was their own 37-yard line compared to opponents’ 24-yard line. Ellington is a candidate in the return game.

• Kyle Parker’s batting average. No, really. How well Parker does this spring with the baseball team will help determine whether he remains Clemson’s quarterback or turns to the MLB draft. He didn’t have a great 2009 season, but he was still the fastest player to 25 home runs in school history. It remains to be seen this spring if he’ll become a high enough draft choice to give up college football.

• Secondary shuffling. It seems like eons ago since Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor weren’t the Tigers’ starting corners, as Butler started 40 straight games and Chancellor started 42. Butler finished his career second in school history in interception return yards. Now it’s time for a new duo. Will Marcus Gilchrist move to corner, which he’s capable of doing? Might Rashard Hall move to safety with DeAndre McDaniel?


Spring practice starts: Feb. 14

Spring game: March 27

What to watch:

• Quarterback competition. Somebody has to take over for the graduated Thaddeus Lewis, but his backup – Sean Renfree – will miss the spring with a torn ACL. Redshirt freshman Sean Schroeder should be heavily in the mix to be the starter, pending Renfree’s recovery.

• Defensive line makeover. It’s wide open. Charlie Hatcher is entrenched at nose guard, but it’s really anyone’s game. The staff might move redshirt senior Wesley Oglesby, who played the majority of his career at defensive end, inside. Other options are defensive tackle Sydney Sarmiento, a redshirt freshman, and Curtis Hazelton, who played sparingly last season.

• Johnny Williams’ move from wide receiver to cornerback. He had 31 catches in 2009 – the fourth-best on the team. Now they need his help in the defensive backfield. Duke will lose starter Leon Wright and his 10 career interceptions, and the pass defense, which allowed 215.75 yards per game, could use a boost.


Spring practice starts: March 16

Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

• Christian Ponder’s return from shoulder surgery. Ponder is expected to practice this spring, though it could be on a limited basis, at least early. He’s ahead of schedule, but the coaches won’t subject him to any risks now. Yes, E.J. Manuel is talented and played well at the end of the season, but make no mistake – Ponder is FSU’s starter and a potential Heisman Trophy candidate.

• The defense under first-year coordinator Mark Stoops. His secondary, in particular, will be interesting to watch, as will how quickly he can help the front seven generate a pass rush and plug the middle. Stoops has been a secondary coach, and the Noles lost three starters there. The fourth, Ochuko Jenije, could be pushed to retain his job.

• New faces, new opportunities. In addition to the fab freshmen who are coming in, FSU has a handful of unfamiliar players already on the roster who played sparingly or not at all. We'll see how they fit in this spring. RS-So DT Anthony McCloud and RS-So RB Debrale Smiley are both junior college transfers and former teammates. Physically, freshman linebacker Jeff Luc is already a man, but how quickly can he mature on the field? Two young wide receivers worth watching are Rodney Smith and Willie Haulstead.


Spring practice starts: March 29

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

• The defensive transformation. The Jackets will switch from the 4-3 to the 3-4 under first-year coordinator Al Groh. In addition to learning the new scheme, the staff has to figure out who goes where. Linebackers might play defensive end and vice versa, safeties might play outside linebacker. It’s anyone’s guess as to how this team lines up in the spring.

• The replacements. From Georgia Tech’s coaching staff to the new faces who will be tasked with filling in for the Fab Four -- Jonathan Dwyer, Derrick Morgan, Morgan Burnett and Demaryius Thomas -- the Jackets will need some “Hello My Name Is” tags this spring.

• The offensive line. Three offensive linemen redshirted who could start, and Georgia Tech might need them to, especially if guard Joseph Gilbert decides to transfer to pursue his MBA. The Jackets lose two starters on the offensive line, and Gilbert, who graduates this spring, would be a third if he leaves. Center Sean Bedford and tackle Austin Barrick return as seniors.


Spring practice starts: March 23

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

• The quarterback competition. Chris Turner has graduated, leaving Jamarr Robinson the top option going into the spring, but he has limited experience. The staff liked what he did when Turner was injured, but Danny O’Brien, Miami (Ohio) transfer Clay Belton and C.J. Brown will all be given an opportunity. Look for O’Brien to start the spring at No. 2 on the depth chart.

• Cornerback: Cameron Chism is the only returning starter in the secondary, but right now the staff has fewer concerns about the safeties. Maryland will have to find some bodies at corner, and Dexter McDougle, who redshirted as a true freshman last year, is one option. Michael Carter and Trenton Hughes, who was the third corner last year, are also among a handful of candidates.

• The offensive line. Losing Bruce Campbell to the NFL hurt, but the Terps also lost starter Phil Costa. Justin Gilbert, a redshirt sophomore, could inherit Campbell’s job. And there’s always Mr. Versatility -- Paul Pinegar. He has helped the Terps at both tackle spots and left guard, and this spring he’ll likely be given a shot at center.


Spring practice starts: Feb. 23

Spring game: March 27 (tentative)

What to watch:

• Tight end/offensive line: Jimmy Graham is gone, and the Canes don’t return any tight ends with any experience other than Richard Gordon, who was injured the majority of last season. Miami signed four tight ends in this recruiting class, but none of them were early enrollees. Miami has to replace three starters up front, including both tackles and the center.

• How the two young quarterbacks perform: The health of Jacory Harris was precious last year, as he had nobody behind him with any experience after the transfers of Taylor Cook and Cannon Smith. The depth has improved a bit with A.J. Highsmith, who played sparingly last year, and Stephen Morris, one of the early enrollees.

• Upgrade on the d-line? Progress up front began with the hire of Rick Petri as defensive line coach, and it’s up to Petri to help the Canes become better pass rushers. Miami will depend upon its two mainstays -- Allen Bailey and Josh Holmes. The right end position was a group effort last year, and Miami has to replace Joe Joseph and Eric Moncur.


Spring practice starts: March 15

Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

• Quarterback T.J. Yates. It’s his job to lose, and the coaching staff still has confidence in him, but Bryn Renner is waiting in the wings, and Braden Hanson will also be given an opportunity. The staff is looking for the offense to improve its passing efficiency and cut down on turnovers.

• The offensive line. It was a patchwork effort in 2009, thanks to injuries and inexperience, and will be a major key in how much UNC improves offensively this year. The Heels have to replace two starters, and Jonathan Cooper is likely to move from guard to center, and right guard Alan Pelc will miss spring drills while recovering from shoulder surgery.

• Defensive line tweaks. There aren’t many questions on a defense that should be one of the best in the country, but somebody has to replace Cam Thomas and defensive end E.J. Wilson. Tydreke Powell is the frontrunner to take over at defensive tackle and Quinton Coples at defensive end. Both were backups last year at their respective positions.


Spring practice starts: March 9

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

• Backup quarterback Mike Glennon. Russell Wilson is the starter, but he’s going to be playing baseball all spring. Keep an eye on his backup to see if Glennon can make it any more of a competition in Wilson’s absence.

• Chris Ward at punter. No, it’s not usually, the highlight of the spring, but in this case, it’s necessary. Ward is it -- he’s their only option right now, and it’s a position the Pack struggled with last year. Ward was expected to be the starter last season, but he was inconsistent. He’s definitely got the talent to be the guy.

• The recovery of linebacker Nate Irving. After being severely injured in a one-car crash last summer, Irving is hopeful he can go through spring drills. He has been lifting with the team and running with the sports medicine staff, but it’s still uncertain how limited his contact will be.


Spring practice starts: March 15

Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

• Quarterback competition. Marc Verica is the only one with any experience, and first-year offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor hasn’t been in Charlottesville long enough to evaluate any of the candidates. That’s what the spring is for, and true freshman Michael Strauss is the lone incoming quarterback on campus, so he’ll have a head start on the playbook. Of the four quarterbacks Virginia signed in this year’s class, Strauss is the only one listed as a true quarterback. The Cavs also have Ross Metheny, who redshirted last year, and Riko Smalls, who redshirted in ‘08 and was No. 2 on the depth chart when Verica was out with a concussion.

• Coaching transition. First-year coach Mike London has hired almost an entirely new staff, and they’ll bring changes in philosophy and scheme. London has said he wants to get the defense back to the traditional 4-3, and revert to the tradition of featuring the tight ends, offensive linemen and running backs.

• Running back. The Cavs will have the help up front, but they need to replace their four leading rushers in Mikell Simpson, Rashawn Jackson, Vic Hall and Jameel Sewell. The staff will look at true freshman Kevin Parks, but also have Torrey Mack and Dominique Wallace, who had just seemed to be coming on at Southern Miss when he was injured and missed the rest of the season.


Spring practice starts: March 31

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

• Revamped defensive line. The Hokies have to replace three of four starters up front. The only defensive ends with significant playing time are Chris Drager, who the staff wanted to move back to tight end, and Steven Friday. Redshirt freshmen will be given a chance – Duan Perez-Means, Tyrel Wilson, James Gayle and J.R. Collins – but they’ve never played. Isaiah Hamlette is the only other end who’s played and that was a skinny minute. At defensive tackle, Antoine Hopkins will be the frontrunner to replace Cordarrow Thompson.

• Darren Evans’ comeback. Evans, the team’s leading rusher in 2008, is working his way back from a season-ending ACL injury, and one of the biggest questions in Blacksburg is how the staff will divide the carries in such a talented backfield that includes Ryan Williams. With two returning 1,000-yard rushers, will David Wilson decide to redshirt? The spring will help him in that decision.

• The evolution of Tyrod Taylor. He’s going to be a senior, and with so many questions on defense heading into the season, the offense will be leading the way. This should be a breakout year for Taylor, who by now should have mastered the offense and should consistently be a passing threat to compliment his running abilities.


Spring practice starts: March 16

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

• The quarterback competition. It’s the most glaring hole the Deacs have to fill this spring, as they’re tasked with replacing the winningest quarterback in school history, Riley Skinner, and his backup, Ryan McManus. Redshirt sophomores Ted Stachitas and Skylar Jones, and sophomore Brendan Cross, will compete with rookie Tanner Price for the top spot.

• Offensive line. The Deacs will take a huge hit here, as seven players in the two-deep depth chart were redshirt seniors, including all four tackles. Three starters have to be replaced.

• The interior defensive line. Nose guard Boo Robinson and John Russell have graduated, and Russell’s backup, Michael Lockett, was also a redshirt senior. The Deacs are in good shape at the ends, but will need some help inside.

ACC, Russell Wilson, Darren Evans, Marc Verica, Boo Robinson, Phil Costa, Jamarr Robinson, Mike Glennon, David Wilson, Jimmy Graham, Jamie Harper, Michael Carter, Sean Renfree, Mikell Simpson, Austin Barrick, E.J. Wilson, Jacory Harris, Joe Joseph, Skylar Jones, T.J. Yates, Sean Bedford, Jonathan Dwyer, John Russell, Nate Irving, Thaddeus Lewis, E.J. Manuel, Ryan Williams, C.J. Spiller, Eric Moncur, Bruce Campbell, Demaryius Thomas, Rashawn Jackson, Cannon Smith, Tyrod Taylor, Ryan McManus, Chris Turner, Dave Shinskie, Cordarrow Thompson, Richard Gordon, Christian Ponder, Johnny Williams, Morgan Burnett, Riley Skinner, Derrick Morgan, Jameel Sewell, Allen Bailey, Mike London, Mark Herzlich, Taylor Cook, Leon Wright, Ted Stachitas, Jim Ramella, Jonathan Cooper, Mark Stoops, Cameron Chism, A.J. Highsmith, Braden Hanson, Bryn Renner, Paul Pinegar, Austin Giles, Kaleb Ramsey, CHris Chancellor, Andre Ellington, Luke Kuechly, Cam Thomas, Marcus Gilchrist, Chase Rettig, Michael Strauss, Tanner Price, Anthony McCloud, Debrale Smiley, Brendan Cross, Antoine Hopkins, Bill Lazor, Brad Newman, C.J. Brown, Charlie Hatcher, Chris Drager, Chris Hazelton, Chris Ward, Clay Belton, Crezdon Butler, Danny O\'Brien, DeAndrew McDaniel, Dexter McDougle, Dominique Wallace, Duan Perez-Means, Isaiah Hamlette, J.R. Collins, James Gayle, Joseph Gilbert, Josh Bordner, Josh Holmes, Justin Gilbert, Kevin Parks, Kyle Paker, Michael Lockett, Ochuko Jenije, Quinton Coples, Rahsard Hall, Rick Petri, Rodney Smith, Roko Smalls, Ross Metheny, Sean Schroeder, Stephen Morris, Sydney Sarmiento, Torrey Mack, Trenton Hughes, Tydreke Powell, Tyrel Wilson, Wesley Oglesby, Willie Haulstead

ACC's pre-spring power rankings

February, 10, 2010
It’s early, but it’s never too early for pre-spring power rankings -- especially since Duke kicks off spring practice on Feb. 15. Now that the NFL departures have been announced and signing day is over, it’s time for the first look at how the ACC might stack up in 2010. Keep in mind that this can -- and most likely will -- change. The ACC is all-too familiar with star players getting hurt before the season begins, and there are other factors like position battles to be won and coaching changes to acclimate to that can impact this later. For now, though, here’s how the ACC looks heading into 2010:

1. Virginia Tech – The Hokies’ spot at the top is based on their historical ability to reload on defense, but they can fall quickly if significant progress isn’t made this spring and summer in replacing six starters. In an unusual twist, the offense is in a position to keep this team in contention early.

2. Florida State – Things are different under coach Jimbo Fisher, but this ranking is based on the assumption that the defense will be different -- and improved -- under first-year coordinator Mark Stoops. The Noles will have a championship-caliber offense led by quarterback Christian Ponder, who will be playing behind a standout veteran offensive line.

3. North Carolina – This defense is scary good. It should be one of the best in the country. But visions of last year’s offense should still be dancing in John Shoop’s head. The Tar Heels aren’t far from where they need to be, though, and this defense can take them places, even with an average offense. All T.J. Yates has to do is manage the offense without turning it over, but the players around him need to improve, too.

4. Miami – If Miami is going to take the next step under coach Randy Shannon, it has to protect quarterback Jacory Harris better and improve the running game. That will be difficult after losing three starters on the offensive line and having very little returning experience at tight end. The Canes will also be under the direction of new defensive line and running backs coaches, and have one of the most difficult schedules in the conference -- again.

5. Boston College – The Eagles were in contention for the Atlantic Division until November last year, and they can do the same again if they work out some trouble spots at quarterback and build the depth at running back. The linebacker corps can be one of the best in the ACC.

6. Georgia Tech – There are too many questions to give the defending ACC champs too much credit just yet. Having lost their leading rusher, receiver and top two defenders, the Jackets have some work to do. They also have to adjust to a new defensive scheme under first-year coordinator Al Groh. Odds are the offense makes a seamless transition with Anthony Allen at B-back.

7. Clemson – Some of the most accomplished players in school history have graduated, leaving this season a true test for coach Dabo Swinney. The recruiting has gone well under his direction, and there is still plenty of talent left on the roster, but the Tigers could be without quarterback Kyle Parker if he chooses baseball, and they will have to find a way to replace the production of C.J. Spiller.

8. NC State – The young secondary will still be an issue, and the Pack will be without their starting quarterback, Russell Wilson, all spring because of his baseball obligations. The defense should improve with the return of Nate Irving, but it’s still unclear how much he’ll be able to do this spring.

9. Maryland – There’s only one way for this 2-10 team to go, and that’s up. The pressure should be on in College Park to get back to a bowl game, but the Terps have questions up front on both sides of the ball, and there should be a quarterback competition this spring.

10. Wake Forest – The Deacs are in the lower half for one big reason -- they have to replace the winningest quarterback in school history, and right now, that job is wide open.

11. Duke – The big question holding Duke back right now is the graduation of quarterback Thaddeus Lewis and the fact his backup, Sean Renfree, will miss this spring with a torn ACL. The Blue Devils also have questions on the defensive line and need to improve their running game.

12. Virginia – Progress isn’t only measured in wins and losses, and first-year coach Mike London will make progress, but until he is able to put together a few of his own recruiting classes, Cavs fans will need some patience. First, though, they need a quarterback.
Out with the old, in with the newcomers who hope to make a similar splash as their predecessors. With these five former players, it won’t be easy. Here’s a look at the ACC’s biggest shoes to fill heading into spring practices:

Clemson running back C.J. Spiller – He became the first player in college football history with 3,000 yards rushing, 2,000 yards in kickoff returns, 1,000 yards receiving and 500 in punt return yards. He left his name all over the school record books, as he established over 30 game, season and career records. He was a major reason the Tigers made their first appearance in the ACC title game.

Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner – He made a name for himself his freshman year by taking the Deacons to their first ACC championship since 1970 and earning ACC rookie of the year honors. Four years and three bowl games later, Skinner ended his career as the top quarterback in Wake Forest history.

Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan – His early departure to the NFL leaves a gaping hole up front. In 2009, Morgan had 18.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks. His career totals include 29.5 tackles for loss, 19.5 sacks, six fumbles recovered and five pass breakups.

Georgia Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas Thomas had 46 of Georgia Tech’s 78 receptions. His 1,154 receiving yards this season were the second most in Georgia Tech history, trailing only Calvin Johnson (1,202 yards in 2006). Thomas had eight of Tech’s 11 touchdown receptions and averaged a remarkable 25.1 yards per reception.

Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis – Lewis finished his career with 48 school records, including career total offense (9,987 yards), passing yards (10,065), pass completions (877), pass attempts (1,510), touchdown passes (67), 300-yard passing games (11) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (1.68:1). In 2009, he completed 274 of 449 attempts (61 percent) for 3,330 yards with 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

ACC's top 10 moments of 2009

January, 13, 2010
There were some moments we'd like to forget -- like NC State linebacker Nate Irving's season-ending car crash, Virginia Tech running back Darren Evans' season-ending knee injury last summer, and Duke's widespread case of the swine flu. There were others we'll treasure for many years to come, like Bobby Bowden's final farewell in the Gator Bowl, and the overwhelming support from the ACC schools during Mark Herzlich's battle with cancer. And who could forget Cavman falling off his horse? For better or for worse, they were moments that defined the 2009 ACC season. There were many to choose from, but I've come up with a list of the top 10 moments of 2009.

[+] EnlargeBobby Bowden
Douglas Jones/US PresswireBobby Bowden spiked one last bowl win for the Seminoles.
I have a terrible memory, so if you have something from the 2009 season that you don't see here and you'd like to share, drop it in my mailbag, and I'll post them in Friday's mailblog. The toughest call was deciding between Georgia Tech's marathon win over FSU, or FSU's Thursday night comeback over UNC. Decisions, decisions ...

Here are the top 10 moments that won't be forgotten from 2009:

10. Thaddeus Lewis vs. NC State. The senior quarterback completed an astounding 40 of 50 pass attempts for 459 yards and five touchdowns in the 49-28 win over the Pack. He also added one rushing touchdown as the Blue Devils snapped a 20-game road losing streak in ACC play. It was the most points Duke had scored in a conference game since 1994 and started a three-game winning streak in ACC play.

9. C.J. Spiller's kickoff return for a touchdown at Miami. It came with just 46 seconds left in the half and gave Clemson a 14-10 halftime lead. Miami had all the momentum at that point, but a questionable decision to kick to Spiller with under a minute remaining changed that. There were 12 lead changes and two ties in the game, but Clemson earned its first road win over a top-10 team in more than eight years.

8. Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder tackles a safety. Revenge is sweet, unless it costs you the rest of your season. After throwing his fourth interception of the game, Ponder charged head-on at DeAndre McDaniel and separated his right shoulder in the hit. It was a collision that had many thinking the Noles' bowl hopes ended there.

7. Ryan Williams' fumble against North Carolina. He was at his own 24-yard line with 2:02 left in the game when he fumbled. It helped lead to UNC's nationally televised upset of then-No. 14 Virginia Tech in Lane Stadium. Williams was so distraught by it that he didn't go to class the following day.

6. Tyrod Taylor's nine-second scramble in the final minute against Nebraska. The play kept alive an 80-yard completion to Danny Coale, which was followed by Taylor's 11-yard touchdown pass to Dyrell Roberts three plays later with 21 seconds remaining. The impressive finish gave the Hokies a 16-15 win over No. 19 Nebraska.

5. Georgia Tech fans storming the field after beating Virginia Tech at home, 28-23. It was the Jackets' first home win against a top-five ranked team in more than 40 years.

4. The Tallahassee marathon. Georgia Tech and FSU combined for 1,071 total yards of offense and a total elapsed game time of 4:44 that ended in a 49-44 win for Georgia Tech. That game featured one of the more memorable plays of the season, as Josh Nesbitt ripped an apparent fumble recovery away from Florida State's Nigel Carr to preserve the win.

3. Paul Johnson's fourth-down call in overtime against Wake Forest. The Jackets had a fourth-and-1 from the 5-yard line and had been 0-for-4 that night on their previous fourth-down conversion attempts. The Coastal Division title was on the line. Didn't matter. One play later Josh Nesbitt was in the end zone.

2. Florida State coach Bobby Bowden throwing down the spear in the final game of his career. You saw it. ‘Nuff said.

1. Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich announces on ESPN's "College GameDay" that he is cancer free. On Oct. 3, Herzlich was an inspiration to his team yet again, and the Eagles went on to defeat FSU, 28-21. The win gave BC back-to-back Atlantic Division wins and put them in contention to win the division, but more importantly, the ACC's best defender from 2008 said he'll be back in 2010.

Final 2009 ACC power rankings

January, 13, 2010
Keep in mind that this is not a preseason ranking. The fact that Georgia Tech just lost four of its best players to the NFL draft has nothing to do with this. We’ll save that one for later. Here is the final power ranking for the 2009 season:

1. Georgia Tech (11-3, 7-1) – Despite the loss to Iowa in the FedEx Orange Bowl, this is still the team that beat the best the ACC had to offer. The Jackets’ win over Virginia Tech and their two wins over Clemson are what earned them the top spot. They are still the defending ACC champs, a title Iowa couldn’t take away.

2. Virginia Tech (10-3, 6-2) – The Hokies put together a complete performance in their convincing win over Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Bowl and earned their sixth straight 10-win season. They head into 2010 on a five-game winning streak and with a much improved offense.

3. Clemson (9-5, 6-2) – The Tigers made a habit out of regrouping this year. First, after their 2-3 start to the season, and then heading into the Music City Bowl after back-to-back losses to rival South Carolina and Georgia Tech. The Tigers sent C.J. Spiller off with a win over Kentucky.

4. Miami (9-4, 5-3) – The Hurricanes took another step forward under coach Randy Shannon, winning nine games, but remained status quo in the postseason. The Canes ran into a more physical Wisconsin team in the Champs Sports Bowl, and lost their chance at entering 2010 with a top 15 ranking.

5. Florida State (7-6, 4-4) – The Noles earned respect for their surprising upset of West Virginia in the Gator Bowl, and proved they can make the plays on defense if they want to. In one game, the Bobby Bowden era ended, and the Jimbo Fisher era officially began.

6. Boston College (8-5, 5-3) – The Eagles put up a respectable performance against USC in the Emerald Bowl and were in a position to win the game. One glaring weakness remained all season, and that was freshman mistakes at quarterback, where Dave Shinskie is bound to improve with time.

7. North Carolina (8-5, 4-4) – The Tar Heels left much to be desired in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, losing again in the same city to another Big East team. This time Pitt took advantage of UNC’s mistakes, and the Heels couldn’t get their ground game going again.

8. Wake Forest (5-7, 3-5) – The Deacs should be remembered as the ACC’s unluckiest team in 2009, as they were only a few points away from an entirely different season. The win over Stanford, in retrospect, was among the best the conference had to offer in its nonconference schedule.

9. Duke (5-7, 3-5) – The Blue Devils again made progress under coach David Cutcliffe, clinging to bowl hopes for the majority of the season, but they faded down the stretch with a four-game losing streak. If Duke couldn’t make the postseason with quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, it will be difficult to do it without him.

10. NC State (5-7, 2-6) – Tom O’Brien’s career at NC State has been a series of one unfortunate event after another. There is no questioning his ability as a coach -- his resume speaks for itself. But once again, the Pack couldn’t overcome significant injuries, and the devastating news that their offensive coordinator, Dana Bible, had been diagnosed with cancer. They could, however, overcome UNC. Again.

11. Virginia (3-9, 2-6) – The Cavaliers ended the season they way they started -- in disappointment. Six straight losses, including in the season finale to rival Virginia, cost Al Groh his job. The last time the Cavaliers lost nine games in a season was in 1982.

12. Maryland (2-10, 1-7) – There wasn’t a bowl game, but coach Ralph Friedgen escaped a dreadful 2-10 season with his job instead. The one thing the Terps could celebrate this season was their still-baffling 24-21 win over ACC-runner up Clemson.

ACC power rankings: Week 15

December, 7, 2009
Georgia Tech has been declared ACC champs, following suit with the power rankings for the past seven weeks, and deservedly so. The Jackets are the best team in the conference. The only team that has been able to stop the Jackets’ offense this season was Miami, and Georgia Tech should head into the Orange Bowl with confidence after winning the school’s first ACC title since 1990 in Paul Johnson’s second season.

For the first time all season (and probably in the past two), there was no change in the rankings:

1. Georgia Tech (11-2, 7-1 ACC; LW: No. 1) – The Yellow Jackets have had rapid success in just two seasons under Johnson, and if receiver Demaryius Thomas stays true to his word and decides to return instead of entering the NFL draft, this program could be headed for an even brighter future. First, though, the Jackets must fare better in their bowl than they did last year.

2. Virginia Tech (9-3, 6-2; LW: No. 2) – Saturday’s championships revealed that the Hokies went 2-1 against their nonconference opponents who played for their respective league titles. Virginia Tech beat East Carolina and Nebraska (which should’ve beat Texas), and lost to Alabama. The Hokies deserved their spot in the Chick-fil-A Bowl and have a great shot against Tennessee.

3. Clemson (8-5, 6-2; LW: No. 3) –The Tigers need more than just C.J. Spiller, and Georgia Tech exposed that on Saturday in Tampa. Clemson’s defense couldn’t stop the spread option, and it turned into a shootout, but Georgia Tech is one team you don’t want to get into a shootout with. It was, as one reader pointed out, Spiller vs. Georgia Tech.

4. Miami (9-3, 5-3; LW: No. 4) – The Hurricanes are a better team than they were at this time last year, when Jacory Harris was again thrust into the starting role on a big stage. Harris has improved, and so have the players around him, so Miami fans should expect a more inspired bowl performance.

5. North Carolina (8-4, 4-4; LW: No. 5) – The Tar Heels are in a sense staying home for the holidays by playing in Charlotte’s Meineke Car Care Bowl for the second straight year, but considering how much the team struggled in the first half of the season, any bowl game should be considered a success. Besides, maybe this year they’ll win.

6. Boston College (8-4, 5-3; LW: No. 6) – The Eagles get the consolation prize of heading to San Francisco for the Emerald Bowl, but this is another team that should take pride in what it has accomplished this year given the trying circumstances and obstacles. On paper, BC and USC look quite similar this year. The Trojans have taken a step back, but it will still be a great challenge for the Eagles.

7. Florida State (6-6, 4-4; LW: No. 7) – It’s been a sad state of affairs in Tallahassee, with the underplayed, poorly announced retirement of legendary coach Bobby Bowden, and Gator Bowl president Rick Catlett is hoping for a more celebratory sendoff for Bowden in his bowl. The move was unfair to both Miami and Boston College, who were still available with better records.

8. Wake Forest (5-7, 3-5; LW: No. 8) – The Demon Deacons are lucky there has been so much added drama going on with the bowl selection process and coaching changes throughout the conference that their poor finish this year was overshadowed.

9. Duke (5-7, 3-5; LW: No. 9) – For the second straight year under coach David Cutcliffe, the Blue Devils created some positive buzz and made improvements, but once again, it fizzled at the end of the season. The next step will be to build on that progress each week during the season, but they’ll have to do it without graduated star quarterback Thaddeus Lewis.

10. NC State (5-7, 2-6; LW: No. 10) – Tailback Toney Baker has been granted a sixth year of eligibility, but he’s not sure if he’ll use it yet. Baker is considering his options with the NFL draft, but the Pack could definitely use him back.

11. Virginia (3-9, 2-6; LW: No. 11) – The Cavaliers have reportedly shown immediate interest in Richmond coach Mike London as soon as his season ended, but nothing has been confirmed yet. The sooner the Cavaliers announce a new coach, though, the more success they’ll have keeping their recruiting class intact.

12. Maryland (2-10, 1-7; LW: No. 12) – Ralph Friedgen isn’t going anywhere, but entire staffs don’t usually survive a 2-10 season, nor should they. There has been too much mediocrity in College Park for some changes not to be made. The question still remains what moves Friedgen will make, if any, to improve his program.

ACC power rankings: Week 14

November, 30, 2009
The regular season is officially over, but the most important game in the conference remains. Saturday’s ACC championship will determine which team is the best, but here in the power rankings, Georgia Tech remains at the top for the sixth straight week.

Voters in the Associated Press and USA Today coaches’ polls decided to jump Virginia Tech over the Jackets, but that didn’t make sense to me. The Hokies’ win over a 3-9 Virginia team didn’t warrant the move, especially when Virginia Tech lost to Georgia Tech and North Carolina. Here’s how the rest of the power rankings look after the final week of conference play:

1. Georgia Tech (10-2, 7-1 ACC; LW: No. 1) – The Yellow Jackets stumbled against rival Georgia and dropped to No. 10 in the BCS standings. Defensively, the Jackets looked unimpressive, and offensively didn’t execute as well as they had been. Still, this team is loaded with talent and will represent the conference well in the title game.

2. Virginia Tech (9-3, 6-2; LW: No. 3) – The Hokies ended the regular season on a four-game winning streak and are in position for one of the top tier bowls. Ryan Williams can’t be stopped, and he was a big reason they took home the Commonwealth Cup. Again.

3. Clemson (8-4, 6-2; LW: No. 2) – The Tigers’ offense disappeared against South Carolina, and while the Gamecocks’ defense was one of the best Clemson had seen all season, there is still room for improvement heading into the title game.

4. Miami (9-3, 5-3; LW: No. 4) – The Canes were one of the few ranked ACC teams to avoid an upset this weekend, and deserve credit for it. Quarterback Jacory Harris is ready to cap off an impressive first year as the Canes’ starter with a top-notch bowl, but will Miami be among the first teams selected?

5. North Carolina (8-4, 4-4; LW: No. 5) – The Tar Heels squandered their opportunity to move up the pecking order in the bowl selection process with their loss to NC State, and suffered another agonizing defeat to their in-state rival in the process. A bowl game is still a successful season, though, considering how it started for the Heels.

6. Boston College (8-4, 5-3; LW: No. 7) – It’s not always pretty, but the Eagles have found enough ways to win to be considered among the top half of the ACC this year. Not bad for a team predicted to finish last in its division.

7. Florida State (6-6, 4-4; LW: No. 6) – It got ugly early in the Swamp on Saturday, and the Noles were no match for the No. 1 team in the country. A shakeup in Tallahassee is expected soon, and it could be happening behind closed doors this morning. The only thing we know for sure is that Bobby Bowden wants to come back.

8. Wake Forest (5-7, 3-5; LW: No. 9) – The season finale against Duke was the only chance they had left to salvage their season, and with the help of quarterback Riley Skinner, who played with everything he had in a record-setting performance, the Deacs were able to go out on a winning note.

9. Duke (5-7, 3-5; LW: No. 8) – It was a disappointing end to a remarkable career for quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, who wanted so desperately to take his team to a bowl game this year, but considering where the program has been and where it ended with Lewis at quarterback, it was undoubtedly a successful career.

10. NC State (5-7, 2-6; LW: No. 11) – The Pack used the emotion of the news of offensive coordinator Dana Bible’s leukemia in an inspirational way and beat the Tar Heels for the third straight year under coach Tom O’Brien. If the players remember nothing else from a season they’d most likely prefer to forget, they’ll remember they beat UNC.

11. Virginia (3-9, 2-6; LW: No. 10) – It was the final game of coach Al Groh’s career, as he was fired on Sunday after losing to in-state rival Virginia Tech. A coaching search has begun, though odds are this was a long time coming and athletic director Craig Littlepage already has a few names in mind.

12. Maryland (2-10, 1-7; LW: No. 12) – Odds are Terps’ fans want their inconsistent reputation back, as this is the fourth straight week Maryland has landed at the bottom of the power rankings. It was an abysmal season under coach Ralph Friedgen, whose future will now be evaluated. Much like Bowden, though, Friedgen isn’t ready to call it quits yet.

Around the ACC: Halftime

November, 28, 2009
The ACC is keeping things interesting today in its early rivalry games. Here's a quick look at what's going on throughout the conference as the early games are at the half:


Is Clemson looking ahead to Georgia Tech? That's one explanation for what's going on in Columbia, S.C. The other is that the Gamecocks are the better team until proved otherwise. I think Clemson will settle down in the second half, just like it did against Virginia, but in order to do that, the Tigers have to cut down on the mistakes and penalties, and use their defensive line to their advantage and start to get more pressure. Clemson turned the ball over twice in the first half, and both led to scores. Let this be a lesson in focus to Georgia Tech. South Carolina's defense is very good, plus they're playing at home on senior day and Eric Norwood is playing like it's his last game. Clemson needs to match that intensity in the second half.


T.J. Yates is having an incredible game. He's completed 6 of 8 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns. No interceptions. And 25.1 yards per pass. Now that's what you call efficient. NC State has a bad habit, though, of making average quarterbacks look like pros. That's not a knock on Yates, but the Pack's defense hasn't exactly been its strong suit this year. The Heels have already racked up over 300 yards, but they've also got six penalties and a lost fumble. Those things will keep the Pack in the game. The defense has to continue to play sharp without giving away 15 free yards because Russell Wilson is good enough that he doesn't need them.


It's a battle of the quarterbacks, and so far, Riley Skinner is winning. Neither team can run the ball, and Duke only has nine first downs. Both teams are like mirror images of each other, and Thaddeus Lewis has a chance to get Duke to six wins for the first time since 1994. I've spoken to Skinner, though, since the loss to Florida State, and he really took it hard. This will be a game of emotion, but the better defense will win in the second half -- whichever can get more pressure on the quarterback and force a mistake.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 13

November, 24, 2009
It should be an entertaining rivalry week in the ACC. Here’s what to watch:

1. Turnovers in College Park. It can’t get much worse, can it? BC quarterback Dave Shinskie threw four interceptions last week against North Carolina, including one that was returned for a touchdown and another that came back to the BC 1-yard line. He also had a fumble returned for a touchdown. Overall, the Eagles had six turnovers. And Maryland made three interceptions last week at Florida State.

2. Sacks at South Carolina. The Gamecocks’ offensive line has been a weak link, and is ranked 109 in the nation in sacks allowed with three per game. Clemson is 11th in the country with three sacks per game. How many times can the Tigers get to Stephen Garcia on Saturday?

3. Florida State’s punt returns. Look out for Greg Reid, he’s been on a roll. Reid is averaging 39.6 yards per punt return over the past three games. He also had his first career punt return for a touchdown in the win over Wake Forest, and his final return against Maryland set up the Noles’ game-winning score. Florida is No. 8 in the country in punt return yardage defense, though, allowing just 3.25 yards per return.

4. Losing streaks. It’s the final chance for four teams in the conference to stop their losing streaks and end the season on a winning note. Wake Forest has lost five straight, Maryland has lost six, Virginia has lost five, and Duke has lost three. Three of those teams -- Maryland, Duke and Virginia -- will have home field advantage.

5. Dueling quarterbacks in Durham. Saturday’s game marks the first game in ACC history that will feature two quarterbacks who have thrown for over 9,000 career passing yards in Duke’s Thaddeus Lewis and Wake’s Riley Skinner. Both of their pass defense are almost identical on paper, but Duke has the better pass offense this year.

6. Takeaways in Raleigh. UNC has 14 takeaways in its current four-game winning streak, and are plus-eight in turnover margin during that streak. UNC didn’t have a positive turnover margin ranking until after the Miami game, the 10th game of the season. North Carolina leads the country with a school-record 508 interception yards and is tied for the national lead with four interception returns for touchdowns.

7. Running game in Atlanta. Georgia Tech has the No. 2 rushing offense in the country at 314.1 yards per game, and Georgia has the No. 3 rushing defense in the SEC with 120.5 yards per game, but the Bulldogs couldn’t stop the Jackets last year, and have been allowing almost 27 points per game. Over the past seven games, Georgia Tech has averaged 41.1 points, 343.9 yards rushing and 485.3 yards of total offense.

8. The endzone in Charlottesville. Virginia Tech’s defense has allowed just one offensive touchdown in the past three games, and Virginia hasn’t allowed a touchdown on first drive once this year. Virginia’s offense has been its biggest setback this season. Virginia has the No. 106 scoring offense in the country, averaging just under 20 points per game, but the Cavaliers found ways to score in the first half last week against Clemson. Will the tricks work against the Hokies?

9. Coaches on the hot seat. Al Groh and Ralph Friedgen could be coaching their final home games this weekend, and Bobby Bowden’s future is uncertain as well. Both Groh and Friedgen have declined to talk publicly about their futures, but Bowden has made it clear he would like to come back.

10. Miami’s defense. The Canes are going to make B.J. Daniels win the game with his arm, as Miami’s run defense has steadily shown improvement. Miami has allowed just two rushing touchdowns over the past six games, and is holding opponents to 88.2 rushing yards during that span. South Florida is averaging 169.7 rushing yards per game, but Daniels has matured into one of the Big East’s most efficient passers.

Final thoughts on Miami win

November, 21, 2009
Jacory Harris deserves a lot of credit. He played through pain. He played through doubt that surrounded him. And he finished with 348 yards and two touchdowns in a come-from-behind 34-16 win over Duke on Saturday. Harris isn't 100 percent healthy, but the thought of losing to Duke apparently hurt more.

It was a disappointing loss for the Blue Devils, who saw their hopes at bowl eligibility come to an end, especially with senior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis playing in his hometown. He played an outstanding game -- throwing for over 300 yards again -- but the Blue Devils struggled mightily on third downs. It's still a successful season for Duke, but the defense couldn't stop the Canes as they scored the final 24 points of the game.

Around the ACC: Halftime thoughts

November, 21, 2009
Time for a quick look around the league as the early games are at the break:
  • Miami needs to stop turning the ball over. An interception and a lost fumble didn't help in the first half. The Hurricanes have done a remarkable job of controlling the clock, but they don't have much to show for it, as they trail, 13-10. Neither team can run the ball, so it's dueling quarterbacks, and Thaddeus Lewis is the veteran with one more chance at leading the program to a bowl game.
  • Boston College won't give up in the season finale at home with the Atlantic Division on the line. UNC's offense isn't exactly prolific, and the Heels' defense is the reason they've got the 21-13 lead. The Eagles are starting to settle down, though, and UNC's offense has had only about 47 yards since the first drive of the game.
  • If Florida State loses to Maryland -- the Noles hold a precarious 14-13 lead at the half -- the chances of Bobby Bowden controlling his own destiny decrease significantly. E.J. Manuel has finally shown he's a rookie with one interception, and the Terps haven't quit on Ralph Friedgen. I can't believe FSU doesn't have a penalty yet. Just sayin' ...

What to watch in the ACC: Week 12

November, 19, 2009
The ACC race is close to being wrapped up, but that doesn’t mean the other teams aren’t worth watching this week. Here are a few things to keep an eye on in the conference:

1. Virginia’s defense vs. Clemson’s ground game. Since 1990, Virginia has won eight of 11 games when holding Clemson under 200 yards on the ground. Last year was an anomaly -- Clemson won despite only rushing for 56 yards. Virginia held C.J. Spiller to 18 yards rushing and a season-low 1.3 yards per carry last year.

2. UNC’s red zone offense in Chestnut Hill. UNC’s offense hasn’t exactly been prolific, but it’s gotten the job done inside the 20. UNC is first in the ACC and ninth in the country in red zone efficiency, converting 29 of 31 attempts. Carolina has converted its last 19 red zone opportunities. BC, though, is No. 2 in the ACC in red zone defense, holding opponents to a 76.7 percent success rate on 23 of 30 chances.

3. Super sophs. FSU running back Jermaine Thomas became the first FSU player since Greg Jones to rush for at least 100 yards in three consecutive games when he rushed for 149 last weekend against Wake Forest. Thomas has rushed for more yards in the last three games (454) than he did in the first seven games of the season (192) and has totaled nearly as many rushing yards over the past three weeks as he did in 12 games as a true freshman (482). BC sophomore running back Montel Harris needs just 19 yards to gain 2,000 in his career. Andre Callender was the last player to do it. He gained 2,971 yards from 2004-07.

4. The Bazooka. Speaking of BC’s Harris, the Eagles have been running their own version of the Wildcat formation this year with Harris, only they call it the Bazooka. It was extremely effective against NC State on October 17 as BC ran the formation five times and gained 167 yards. One of those rushes was a career-long 70-yard scamper down the right sideline for Harris, who set new Boston College records with 264 rushing yards and five touchdowns. That was NC State’s defense, though. UNC’s is significantly better, but Harris will still get his chances.

5. Final farewells. It will be Senior Day at several schools throughout the ACC, and there are two farewells that will be tougher for two particular fan bases. FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews is retiring after 26 seasons and he and his family will be recognized before Saturday’s game against Maryland, and record-setting Clemson running back C.J. Spiller will give his final performance in Memorial Stadium. The emotion involved could be an added inspiration to both Clemson’s offense and FSU’s defense.

6. Turnovers in LandShark Stadium. Miami has hurt itself the past few weeks with turnovers, and enters this week with a minus-four turnover margin. Duke is plus three. Miami quarterback Jacory Harris has accounted for nine interceptions in the past four games.

7. Broken records in Death Valley. DeAndre McDaniel is one interception away from the school record for picks in a season. Thomas Austin suffered an ankle injury against NC State and his streak of 33 consecutive starts is in jeopardy. And C.J. Spiller needs 140 all-purpose yards to reach 7,000 for his career. He also needs one more kickoff return for a touchdown to set an NCAA record.

8. The coin toss in Blacksburg. No, seriously. Virginia Tech is 0-for-10 this year in the coin toss (0-4 when calling the flip; 0-6 when the opponent calls it). The chances of losing 10 straight coin tosses are 1 in 1024 and it’s a 1 in 2048 chance of losing 11 straight. While not a stat tracked by the NCAA, Virginia Tech’s sports information director noted that Duke lost its first 10 coin tosses last year before winning the toss in its 11th game, which oddly enough came against Virginia Tech.

9. Hokies’ pass defense against Russell Wilson. Virginia Tech has the ACC’s No. 1 pass defense, holding opponents to 157.2 yards per game and seven touchdowns. Opponents are converting just 45.2 percent of their passes against Virginia Tech. Wilson, though, is completing 58.2 percent of his passes, and has thrown 26 touchdown passes. NC State is third in the ACC in passing offense.

10. Sacks in the Sunshine state. Maryland backup quarterback Jamarr Robinson was sacked six times last week against Virginia Tech. Miami has allowed 28 sacks this season -- only three more than Maryland.

ACC power rankings: Week 11

November, 9, 2009
Posted by's Heather Dinich

For the second straight week, the top five teams in the ACC held onto their positions. That has to be a first. It’s no coincidence that those five teams are the ACC’s only bowl-eligible teams so far. There were a few other tweaks, but nothing drastic:

1. Georgia Tech (9-1, 6-1 ACC; LW: No. 1) -- The Yellow Jackets continue to find a way to win, and pulled out a close one in overtime against Wake Forest. They’ve now won seven straight and have earned the No. 7 ranking in the BCS standings. Paul Johnson is looking at an 11-win season, if not better.

2. Miami (7-2, 4-2; LW: No. 2) -- The Hurricanes returned to their September form in the second half of their 52-17 romp over Virginia and remain one of the country’s best teams. Now that the Canes are No. 14 in the BCS standings, they qualify to be invited to a BCS bowl. It’s more likely, though, that they wind up facing Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl, especially if Georgia Tech heads to the Orange Bowl.

3. Virginia Tech (6-3, 3-2; LW: No. 3) -- It wasn’t pretty, but Virginia Tech’s 16-3 win over East Carolina helped the Hokies shake off back-to-back Coastal Division losses that changed their season. A 10-win season is still possible, and the Hokies should pick up another win on Saturday in College Park against a struggling Maryland team. There is still room for improvement with Virginia Tech on both sides of the ball.

4. Clemson (6-3, 4-2; LW: No. 4) -- The Tigers’ toughest opponents are behind them, but now they have to avoid getting knocked off track, and NC State has the potential to be the spoiler this week. Clemson will need to keep C.J. Spiller healthy this week, as his hip and toe were bothering him after the FSU game, but he said he’d be good to go for Saturday.

5. Boston College (6-3, 3-2; LW: No. 5) --The Eagles had a bye week, and are still waiting for Clemson to screw up down the stretch. A second-place finish in the Atlantic Division would hardly be considered a disappointment, though, after all of the adversity this program has had to overcome.

6. North Carolina (6-3, 2-3; LW: No. 8) -- The Tar Heels have taken a step forward each of the past two weeks, and the defense is finally getting just enough help out of the offense. Despite its losing record in conference play, UNC is capable of an upset this weekend against Miami because of its defense and home-field advantage.

7. Duke (5-4, 3-2; LW: No. 6) -- It’s not over yet for the Blue Devils, but it’s not going to get any easier, either, as Georgia Tech is up next, followed by Miami. Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis is motivated by getting his team to the postseason, and the Yellow Jackets’ defense should have some confidence after making good adjustments against Wake quarterback Riley Skinner.

8. Wake Forest (4-6, 2-4; LW: No. 9) -- If there’s one team in the conference that is better than its record indicates, this is it. The Deacs have the numbers they need everywhere but the scoreboard, and unfortunately for them, that’s where it counts. They get a break this week against an FSU team that will be missing starting quarterback Christian Ponder.

9. Florida State (4-5, 2-4; LW: No. 7) -- Without Ponder, the Noles are all but doomed. He’s been the one bright spot for this team on and off the field, and now, with a separated shoulder, he’s become a part of the team’s bad news. A bowl season now seems unlikely. The only good news? E.J. Manuel will get some valuable experience for the future.

10. Virginia (3-6, 2-3; LW: No. 10) -- The Cavaliers have nullified their three-game winning streak with a three-game losing streak, and appear to be headed for their second straight bowl-less season under coach Al Groh. The question is whether athletic director Craig Littlepage will do anything about it this time.

11. NC State (4-5, 1-4; LW: No. 12) --The Pack started their mini four-game season with a 1-0 record against Maryland, and now they needs to keep it up against Clemson in order to keep their bowl hopes alive. It’s certainly not out of the question, but if the Tigers’ defense could fluster Ponder, they’ll be able to pressure Russell Wilson, too.

12. Maryland (2-7, 1-4; LW: No. 11) -- Hapless and hopeless it seems, though technically, if the stars align and the Atlantic Division implodes, the Terps could still work their way into the championship game. It’s more than a stretch, but hey, these guys needs something to keep them going.
Posted by’s Heather Dinich

Live and learn ...

1. Clemson has gotten over the hump. Admit it, Clemson fans, you were waiting for it -- the self-destruction following the win over Wake Forest. There were hints against Miami, and plenty of missed opportunities against Florida State, but the Tigers have been able to overcome their mistakes this year and put themselves in prime position to win the Atlantic Division and play for the ACC championship. Their toughest opponents are behind them -- and so is their one "Clemson flop." It came against Maryland. You can stop waiting for it now.

2. Even the best quarterbacks can’t do it alone. Riley Skinner. Thaddeus Lewis. Christian Ponder. Three of the ACC’s most productive, efficient passers and leaders all lost this past weekend. It certainly wasn’t for lack of effort. Skinner couldn’t shake Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan. Lewis got tied up with UNC defensive end Robert Quinn. And Ponder threw as many interceptions (four) as he had all season. All three of them are still searching for bowl eligibility, but for seniors Skinner and Lewis, it’s their last chance at the postseason.

3. C.J. Spiller is a Heisman Trophy candidate. For the second time in three weeks, Spiller had more than 300 all-purpose yards. He surpassed the 3,000-yard mark with 3,074 career rushing yards. Against Florida State, he earned his first two-point conversion of his career. He breaks a record literally almost every week. Against FSU he became just the second player in school history to go over 3,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving. He moved ahead of Reggie Bush on the all-time NCAA all-purpose list with 6,702 yards. He rushed for a career-high 165 yards, and had his 20th career touchdown of 50 yards more, his eighth this season. Spiller is one of the best players in college football. Period.

4. Bowl fates still murky in the Atlantic Division. Clemson is eligible. BC is eligible. NC State, Florida State and Wake Forest are still livin’ on a prayer. Maryland, however, is not. The Terps needed to win out and not only did they lose the game to NC State, their starting quarterback, Chris Turner, suffered a knee injury in the process. It’s time for Maryland to start playing for the future, while half the Atlantic Division is still trying to become bowl eligible. With its overtime loss at Georgia Tech, the Deacs now have to win out in order to become bowl eligible, as does NC State. The Seminoles only need two more wins, but their season finale is against Florida, who, like Clemson, has a defense. The twist? FSU and Wake play each other on Saturday. Somebody’s gotta lose.

5. Paul Johnson is fearless. We always knew he was a fourth-down kind of guy, and you don’t need to talk to him long to sense his confidence that often tilts the scale toward arrogance. But those traits are the keys to his success. His players pick up on it, and that’s why, on fourth down, when it’s on the line, he wins.