November 1, 2007

ACC leaders have to avoid letdown

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MEGARGEE'S ACC PICKS
Thursday's game
Saturday's games
Overview: After a draining 14-10 victory over Virginia Tech, Boston College returns home to face Florida State. We'll know soon whether Virginia Tech suffers a hangover from that crushing loss. The Hokies travel to Georgia Tech on Thursday night as they attempt to keep pace with Coastal Division leader Virginia, which plays host to defending conference champion Wake Forest. North Carolina State travels to Miami, Clemson visits Duke and North Carolina plays host to Maryland in the other conference games.

Best matchup: Georgia Tech offensive line vs. Virginia Tech defensive line. Only two teams in the country (Tennessee and Rutgers) have allowed fewer sacks than Georgia Tech (six). The Yellow Jackets will have a tougher time protecting Taylor Bennett against a Virginia Tech defense that is tied for fourth in the nation in sacks per game (3.63). The Jackets must watch out for Hokies DE Chris Ellis, who has recorded at least one sack in four consecutive games. Ellis continually worked his way into the backfield last week against Boston College.

The pressure is on: Clemson coach Tommy Bowden. Clemson's game at Duke this weekend might look like a cakewalk, but recent history suggests otherwise. Clemson has lost four of the past eight times it has played at Duke, including a 16-13 setback in its most recent visit two years ago. If the Tigers lose this week as a 16-point favorite, it could turn up the pressure on a coach who often finds himself on the hot seat.

Who's hot: Boston College TB Andre Callender has six touchdown runs and four touchdown catches in his past five games. .. Clemson QB Cullen Harper has completed 83.3 percent of his passes for 452 yards with seven touchdowns and only one interception in his past two games. Tigers WR Aaron Kelly has caught four touchdown passes over his past three games. Florida State TB Antone Smith has recovered from a slow start by rushing for 260 yards in his past two games. Seminoles CB Patrick Robinson has picked off a pass in four consecutive games. And FSU K Gary Cismesia has kicked nine field goals in his last two games. Maryland LB Erin Henderson has 33 tackles in his past two games. North Carolina State WR Donald Bowens has 16 catches for 295 yards and two touchdowns in the Wolfpack's past two games. NC State K Steven Hauschka has gone 10 of 10 on field-goal attempts this season. Virginia DE Chris Long has five sacks in his past four games. Wake Forest WR Kevin Marion had kickoff returns of 98 and 83 yards in last week's 37-10 victory over North Carolina. Marion leads the nation with a kickoff return average of 33.9 yards per attempt.

Who's not: Georgia Tech QB Taylor Bennett has gone 24 of 52 over his last two games. North Carolina QB T.J. Yates has thrown nine interceptions and two touchdown passes in his past five games.

Keep your eye on: Florida State ranks 92nd in the nation in rush offense and Boston College's defense ranks second in the nation against the run. However, there are reasons to believe the Seminoles can run the ball effectively this week. Florida State TB Antone Smith rushed for just 320 yards in the Seminoles' first six games, but he has averaged 130 yards per game in the past two contests. BC's run defense looked vulnerable last week when Virginia Tech's Branden Ore rushed for 97 yards against the Eagles after averaging less than 3 yards per carry in the Hokies' first seven games. If Smith finds running room early, the Seminoles have a legitimate chance of shattering BC's dreams of a perfect season.

Numbers game: Boston College remains unbeaten in part because it ranks among the NCAA leaders in all the statistical categories that often separate contenders from pretenders. The Eagles are tied for first in the nation in interceptions (18), second in rush defense (55.1 yards allowed per game) and third in turnover margin (plus-1.38).

ACC STANDINGS
ATLANTIC DIVISION
TeamConf.All
Boston College4-08-0
Wake Forest4-16-2
Clemson3-26-2
Florida State2-35-3
Maryland1-34-4
N.C. State1-33-5
COASTAL DIVISION
TeamConf.All
Virginia4-17-2
Virginia Tech3-16-2
Miami2-25-3
Georgia Tech2-35-3
North Carolina1-32-6
Duke0-51-7
Freshmen to watch: North Carolina State CB DeAndre Morgan and SS Javon Walker have taken over starting spots in the Wolfpack's secondary. Morgan has started the Pack's past three games, while Walker moved into the starting lineup last week. Miami TB Graig Cooper has led the Hurricanes in rushing each of their past five games. Cooper has a team-high 564 rushing yards this season and is averaging 5.9 yards per carry.

Injury update: Boston College FB James McCluskey has returned to practice after missing a month with a knee injury. Clemson WR Jacoby Ford will miss the rest of the season with a broken ankle. Tigers WR Rendrick Taylor is expected to return to action Saturday. Taylor hasn't played since Sept. 22 because of a torn hamstring. Clemson G Chris McDuffie (sprained ankle) and DT Rashaad Jackson (sprained knee) are questionable for the Duke game. Florida State DT Budd Thacker is returning for the Boston College game after missing the past six weeks. LB Marcus Ball (ankle) and G Rodney Hudson (knee) also hope to return this week after missing the Seminoles' past two games. Florida State WR Richard Goodman is out with a fractured ankle. Georgia Tech TB Tashard Choice will miss Thursday night's game with a knee injury. Maryland QB Jordan Steffy's status for the rest of the season remains uncertain. Steffy hasn't played since Sept. 29, when he suffered his second career concussion. Miami QB Kyle Wright hopes to play Saturday despite having a sprained ankle and a sprained knee. UM WR Lance Leggett should return to action Saturday after missing two weeks with a foot injury. North Carolina State WR John Dunlap is questionable and OG Curtis Crouch is probable for Saturday's game. Both players have sprained ankles.

They said it:
"If you're having a bad year, you're better off on the road. They don't boo you."
-- Florida State coach Bobby Bowden to The Boston Globe about Saturday's game at Boston College

"I always measure quarterbacks by when it is not their day. They all have the time when it is their day. I like to measure them (by) when it is not their day. Last Thursday night was not his day until those last two minutes. That is how you measure, in my opinion, those great ones. And he has those qualities. He is a guy who, if he has the ball in his hands, they always have a chance to win. They are never out of it."
-- Florida State offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher about Boston College QB Matt Ryan

"The strategy wasn't any different. We played those last two drives the same way we had played the whole ballgame. We just didn't get the pressure on the quarterback that we would have liked, so (BC's Ryan) got outside a couple of times, and then he made some great throws."
-- Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer about his team's defense down the stretch last week in a 14-10 loss to Boston College

Etc.: Florida State QB Xavier Lee will begin a two-game suspension this week for a violation of academic policy. Lee's absence will leave redshirt freshmen D'Vontrey Richardson or Christian Ponder as the backup to Drew Weatherford. North Carolina's Richie Rich has moved from running back to defensive back. Rich made two tackles last week in a 37-10 loss to Wake Forest. Virginia Tech's Beamer hasn't indicated whether Tyrod Taylor or Sean Glennon would start Thursday night at Georgia Tech. Wake Forest has scored nine non-offensive touchdowns this season, including three interception returns by CB Alphonso Smith and two interception returns by LB Aaron Curry.

MORE WEEK 10 BREAKDOWNS: Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.




 

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