Monday, November 30, 2009

UNC's 'D' headlines All-ACC team

UNC placed four players on the first-team All-ACC defense while Duke and N.C. State placed one player each on the first-team offense.

Richmond trying to keep focus on Appalachian State

On a conference call Monday morning, the first question to Richmond football coach Mike London wasn't about Appalachian State, the Spiders' second-round FCS playoff opponent Saturday night.

It was about whether he might be a candidate to replace Al Groh, his former boss at Virginia, who was recently fired.

It was an obvious question, given London's ties to Virginia, where he served on Groh's staff for several years. The timing, though, could be better, given the Spiders' attempt to successfully defend the FCS national championship they won last year in London's first season back at his alma mater.

"It's an unfortunate situation that happened (in Charlottesville)," London said. "It's a reality of coaching.

"My focus is on the game with Appalachian state, my entire focus is on that. I'm not going to talk speculation, rumors and all that. I have a ballgame we have to prepare to win. That's all that’s on my mind right now."

Richmond quarterback Eric Ward was taking the same approach.

"That's not our focus right now," Ward said when asked about the coaching rumors. "We're really concentrating on Appalachian state right now. It's something we’ll worry about when the season is over."

-- Ron Green Jr.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bowl outlook: UNC-Kentucky shaping up

North Carolina's basketball tradition could land them in the Music City Bowl.

The Music City is lining up a potential hoops-themed matchup between the Tar Heels (8-4) and Kentucky (7-5) for their bowl game on Dec. 27 in Nashville, Tenn.

The two winningest programs in college basketball history meet annually, and are set to play this Saturday in Lexington, Ky., but the football teams haven't met since 1990.

Regardless of the outcome of Saturday's ACC championship game, it's likely that UNC and Kentucky will meet in the 12th Music City Bowl on the Sunday after Christmas.

It would be UNC's first trip to Nashville and the Wildcats' fourth, including the third in the past four years. Nashville has been good to Kentucky. The Wildcats beat Florida State in 2007 and Clemson in 2006. They have won their last three bowl games overall, topping East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl last season.

Kentucky lost to Tennessee, 30-24 in overtime on Saturday, to finish the season 3-5 in the SEC. They beat Auburn, Vanderbilt and Georgia and lost to Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi State and Tennessee.

Vanderbilt beat Boston College in last year's Music City Bowl and the SEC has gone 3-0 since the bowl went to an ACC-SEC matchup.

UNC has lost its past two bowl games, both in Charlotte, to Big East teams. The Heels beat Auburn, 16-10 in the Peach Bowl in 2001, in their last bowl game against an SEC opponent.

The Music City Bowl kicks off at 8:30 p.m. and is televised by ESPN.

-- J.P. Giglio

Bowl outlook: ACC order clearing up

The outcome of the Georgia Tech-Clemson ACC title game will affect the first four bowl tie-ins for the ACC but not likely the last three.

North Carolina (Music City), Florida State (Meineke) and Boston College (Emerald) are tracking towards the last three tie-ins.

The top four — Orange, Chick-fil-A, Gator and Champs — will have to wait for the title game on Saturday in Tampa, Fla.

Two scenarios to consider, Georgia Tech wins:

Orange: GT vs. TCU/Penn State
Chick-fil-A: Virginia Tech vs. Ole Miss/South Carolina
Gator: Miami vs. West Virginia
Champs: Clemson vs. Northwestern

Clemson wins:

Orange: Clemson vs. TCU/Penn State
Chick-fil-A: GT vs. Ole Miss/South Carolina
Gator: VT vs. West Virginia
Champs: Miami vs. Northwestern

Regardless, the last three tie-ins potentially look like:

Music City: UNC vs. Kentucky
Meineke: FSU vs. Cincinnati-Pitt loser
Emerald: Boston College vs. Stanford

The biggest mystery is what the Gator would do with the choice of Clemson or Miami. The Tigers went to Jacksonville last year, and lost, but sold a ton of tickets.

You factor in the Tigers are playing in the state of Florida on Saturday, in Tampa, and the Gator would likely take Miami over a road-weary Clemson, which also would have lost two straight to end the season.

Miami has more television value and a history with West Virginia, which would offset some of the Hurricanes' shortcomings as a ticket draw.

Clemson, at 6-2, couldn't be jumped by a 4-4 team for the Champs.

Charlotte would be ecstatic with FSU and continue their improbable streak of strong matchups. The Cincy-Pitt loser (they play Saturday with the winner going to the BCS) wouldn't sell a ton of tickets but would likely be ranked in the top 25.

-- J.P. Giglio

AP poll: Heels out, Tigers clinging

North Carolina is out and Clemson is barely hanging on in the latest Associated Press college football Top 25 poll.

The Tar Heels, which lost to rival N.C. State, 28-27 Saturday, fell completely out of the poll. The Heels were ranked No. 23 heading into the game.

Clemson, which lost 34-17 to rival South Carolina Saturday, fell all the way from No. 15 to 25.

The Tar Heels still picked up a few votes, as did East Carolina.

At the top of the poll are No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Alabama, which meet Dec. 5 in the SEC championship game.

-- Staff reports


Friday, November 27, 2009

O'Brien grateful to N.C. State seniors

During a phone conversation with coach Tom O'Brien earlier this week, ailing N.C. State offensive coordinator Dana Bible paid tribute to the Wolfpack seniors.

"You know, as bad as it has been, these kids have fought through everything," O'Brien said Bible told him while undergoing treatment for leukemia in Chapel Hill.

Seventeen N.C. State seniors will exhaust their eligibility Saturday when the Wolfpack (4-7, 1-6 ACC) plays its season finale against rival North Carolina (8-3, 4-3). In many ways, their career hasn't proceeded the way they'd hoped.

The coach who recruited most of them, Chuck Amato, was fired after the 2006 season. The Wolfpack hasn't posted a winning record in any season since 2005.

"They've been really through a tough period of time," O'Brien said. "I don't think there's any question that it hasn't gone exactly how they wanted to. But they've hung in there. They've persevered. They haven't been down at all. "

Fourteen of the team's seniors (not counting running back Toney Baker, who's eligible for a sixth year because of injury) have started at least one game during their careers.

Ten are current starters. The leaders include:

- Defensive end Willie Young, who ranks third in school history in tackles for loss.

- Offensive guard Julian Williams, a three-year starter.

- Defensive tackle Alan-Michael Cash, who has 23 career tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

- Center Ted Larsen, who along with Young has a good shot at continuing his football career in the NFL.

- Running back Jamelle Eugene, who has 1,445 yards rushing and 679 receiving yards in his career.

- Linebacker Ray Michel, who led the team in tackles in 2008 and was the 2009 leader before he suffered an ankle injury that slowed him for the second half of the season.

- Safety Clem Johnson, the team's second-leading tackler.

N.C. State has seen a lot of production from this group. Three offensive linemen who have been starters for the last two seasons will be gone after today. So will the entire starting defensive line.

During difficult times, they have also contributed as much with their character, according to their coach.

"I think because of them, I think the rest of the team has stayed together and played hard," O'Brien said. "That will be a great contribution (for the future)."

Ken Tysiac

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pack backup QB Glennon out for UNC

Walk-on Daniel Imhoff will move into the backup role for N.C. State at quarterback Saturday against North Carolina because the regular backup, Mike Glennon, is out with a clavicle injury.

Imhoff, a junior, has played in two games in his career, both this season. He has thrown one pass in his career and has yet to complete a pass. Starter Russell Wilson is the only other healthy quarterback on the roster for the Wolfpack's finale.

Two other backups - defensive end Audi Augustin (elbow) and cornerback DeAndre Morgan (concussion) - also have been added to N.C. State's injured list and are out for Saturday's game. N.C. State released its injury report Thursday evening.

Ken Tysiac

Boise State coach headed to Virginia?

The Charlottesville Daily Progress says Boise State coach Chris Petersen is the leading candidate to replace Al Groh, who's expected to coach his final game for the Cavaliers Saturday against Virginia Tech.

Top N.C., S.C. college football prospects for 2011

The Observer's list of the top college football prospects among this year's high school juniors includes lots of QBs, several from Observer coverage area.

Check it out here.

Tar Heels appear in court for Aug. incident

North Carolina kicker Casey Barth and punter Grant Schallock appeared in Orange County court on Wednesday. Each received a continuation until Nov. 30 for charges stemming from an Aug. 27th incident.

Barth, 19, was charged with two misdemeanors, one for attempting to purchase alcohol with someone else’s driver’s license and one for attempting to obtain alcohol as a 19-year-old. Schallock, 20, received one citation for attempting to obtain alcohol as a 20-year-old.

Each player had previously been "internally" disciplined, UNC spokesman Kevin Best said, and will play against N.C. State on Saturday.

-- J.P. Giglio

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Meineke Car Care Bowl still wide open

Less than two weeks before bowl bids become official, Will Webb, executive director of Charlotte's Meineke Car Care Bowl still wonders which two teams will be playing at Bank of America Stadium on Dec. 27.

"It's a little like predicting hurricanes in March," Webb said. "Last year was a perfect example. We never thought we'd have North Carolina here until the day it came for us to pick a team. We weren't sure about West Virginia, either. You just never know."

It's fair to assume, Webb said, that Clemson, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and probably North Carolina are out of the picture for the Meineke Bowl this year. However, Florida State, Miami and Boston College are possibilities.

Depending on what happens with Bobby Bowden's future at Florida State, he could be coaching his final game in whatever bowl the Seminoles play this year.

On the Big East side, unbeaten Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are likely to be gone before Webb gets the third pick among Big East teams.

However, the Gator Bowl has the option of choosing Notre Dame this year -- the last year the Jacksonville, Fla., bowl has that option -- and it's possible the Fighting Irish could end up there. That would potentially open the door for Pittsburgh or Cincinnati in Charlotte, depending on how the championship race and BCS bids play out.

Otherwise, Rutgers could make its first trip to Charlotte and West Virginia remains a possibility for a return visit, with its large fan base.

"There are still so many variables out there," Webb said.

ASU's Edwards back at practice

After sitting out Appalachian State's regular-season finale last Saturday with a minor knee injury, Mountaineers' quarterback Armanti Edwards is expected to be ready for the team's playoff opener Saturday at home against South Carolina State at noon.

Edwards went through the Mountaineers' Monday workout with no problems, coach Jerry Moore said, and he expects the record-setting quarterback to be back in the lineup Saturday.

Appalachian State and South Carolina State are meeting for the second consecutive year in the first round of the FCS playoffs. The Mountaineers won 37-21 last year.
--Ron Green Jr.

Monday, November 23, 2009

N.C. State OC Bible has cancer

N.C. State offensive coordinator Dana Bible (at right in file photo) has been diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia, Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien said this afternoon.

Bible, who did not travel with the team for Saturday's game against Virginia Tech, will remain hospitalized for 30 days, according to O'Brien.

"He'll fight it. If he has a chance to beat it, he'll beat it," O'Brien said.

Last Friday, Bible informed O’Brien that his doctor had advised him against traveling to Virginia Tech. It was the first time Bible missed a game or a practice in 34 years of coaching.

Bible, 56, has been a member of O’Brien’s staff since 1999 at Boston College. In addition to coordinating the offense, he serves as quarterbacks and wide receivers coach for N.C. State.

This is his second stint with the Wolfpack, as he coached quarterbacks and wide receivers under Tom Reed from 1983-85. He has coached two of the last three first-team All-ACC quarterbacks – Matt Ryan at Boston College in 2006 and Russell Wilson at N.C. State in 2008.

"He's a great coach," Wilson said Saturday. "He's helped me tremendously."

In 10 games with Bible calling plays this season, N.C. State has averaged 32.6 points and 413.2 yards per game. Both of those numbers ranked third in the ACC.

-- Ken Tysiac

UNC's Carter will return for senior season

North Carolina has a group of junior defenders contemplating skipping their final season for the NFL.

Junior linebacker Bruce Carter said Monday he's staying in school.

"I'm going to come back and finish my education, not only for me but for my family," Carter said.

The junior from Havelock ranks third on the team with 48 tackles. He also has two sacks and an interception return for a touchdown.

The Tar Heels defense, which ranks first in the ACC in total yards (261.6 yards per game) and scoring (15.9 points per game) has seven junior starters. Defensive tackle Marvin Austin, linebacker Quan Sturdivant, safety Deunta Williams and Carter are all considered NFL prospects.

Carter, who will graduate with a degree in communications, said the decision wasn't that difficult.

"I made up my mind a long time ago, I want to graduate and get my degree," Carter said.

-- J.P. Giglio

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hahn recovering from cancer surgery, misses game

BLACKSBURG, Va. - N.C. State play-by-play broadcaster Gary Hahn isn't working today's game at Virginia Tech because he is recovering from prostate cancer surgery.

Wolfpack Sports Marketing general manager Brian Asbill said the cancer was discovered in an early stage.

"His prospects for complete and total recovery are excellent," Asbill said.

Hahn, who is in his 20th season as the voice of the Wolfpack, was replaced on play-by-play by Tony Haynes, who usually serves as sideline reporter. Mark Thomas replaced Haynes on the sideline, and Johnny Evans remained in his usual position as color analyst.

Ken Tysiac

Bible won't join Pack today at Virginia Tech

BLACKSBURG, Va. - N.C. State offensive coordinator Dana Bible did not make the trip to Virginia Tech for today's 3:30 p.m. game, school sports information director Annabelle Myers said this afternoon.

Bible is undergoing medical tests of an undisclosed nature, Myers said. Running backs coach Jason Swepson will move from his usual position on the field up to the coaches' box and call plays for the Wolfpack.

Bible, 56, also coaches quarterbacks and wide receivers for the Wolfpack. He has been a member of Tom O'Brien's staff since 1999 at Boston College, and previously served as quarterbacks and wide receivers coach at N.C. State from 1983-85 under head coach Tom Reed.

With Bible at the helm, the N.C. State offense ranks third in the ACC in scoring (32.6 points per game) and third in total offense (413.2 yards per game).

Swepson does have experience as an offensive coordinator, in one season at College of the Holy Cross. He will signal plays down to head coach Tom O'Brien, who will see that they get relayed to the field.

Ken Tysiac

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pack's Howard out for season

N.C. State reserve wide receiver Steven Howard is out for the season with a knee injury, according to the injury report the school released Thursday evening.

Howard, a graduate of Olympic High in Charlotte, made 13 catches for 186 yards this season.

- Ken Tysiac

NCAA grants Baker sixth season

The NCAA has granted N.C. State senior running back Toney Baker's request for an extra season of eligibility, coach Tom O'Brien announced Thursday after practice.

Baker missed all but one game over two seasons because of a knee injury before returning this season for the Wolfpack. Getting the extra year doesn't guarantee that Baker will return, though, because there is a chance he will enter the NFL draft after this season.

"After the season I will talk to my family and Coach O'Brien and all these guys, and we'll figure out what's best for me," Baker said after practice Wednesday, before the sixth year was granted.

Baker returned to the starting lineup at the start of this season and leads the team with 664 rushing yards. He also has caught 21 passes for 306 yards.

O'Brien has said another healthy year at N.C. State might help erase any doubts pro scouts have about Baker's knee, but Baker wants to consider all his options after the season before committing to a return.

Ken Tysiac

Pack's Baker undecided on future

N.C. State running back Toney Baker hasn't decided yet what he will do if the NCAA grants him a sixth season of eligibility.

Because Baker missed all but one game for two straight seasons with a serious knee injury, there's a chance that the NCAA will award him an extra season in 2010. N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien has said another healthier year with the Wolfpack would help Baker erase any doubts that NFL scouts might have about his knee.

O'Brien hopes to have a decision from the NCAA within the next couple weeks. Even if he is granted a sixth season, Baker could enter the NFL draft instead.

"I haven't quite decided," Baker said after practice Wednesday. "After the season I will talk to my family and Coach O'Brien and all these guys, and we'll figure out what's best for me."

Baker has bounced back nicely from the injury. He leads the team with 664 rushing yards and needs just 25 more to surpass his career season best, which was set when he was a sophomore in 2006.

With 24 receptions for 306 yards and three scores, he already has career-high numbers as a receiver. He's in an unusual situation now as a senior who might be playing in his last two games over the next two weeks, but isn't quite sure.

"It's almost crazy that I'm a senior already," Baker said. "It's gone by so fast, it seems like."

Baker is preparing for a visit to Virginia Tech on Saturday as perhaps the only player on the current team who was at Lane Stadium the last time N.C. State played there. The Wolfpack won 17-16 that game in 2004 when the Hokies missed a field goal attempt in the closing seconds.

That day, Baker was a high school senior on a recruiting visit - to Virginia Tech.

"It was a great weekend," Baker said. "The fans there were great. It was a fantastic game. I think they had eight or nine sacks that game, something like that, and State came out with a win."

Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Nagurski Award finalists announced

Terrence Cody, anchor of second-ranked Alabama’s ferocious defense, and TCU’s Jerry Hughes are among the finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Award to be given Dec. 7 by the Charlotte Touchdown Club.

The award is given annually to the top defensive player in college football as voted on by the Football Writers Association of America.

Hughes was a finalist for the award last year and the only candidate nominated for a second time.

Also nominated are linebacker Pat Angerer from Iowa, defensive back Eric Berry from Tennessee and Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

The awards program will include a keynote address by N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien. Former Carolina Panthers quarterback Steve Beuerlein will be the master of ceremonies.

Roger Wehrli will receive the Legends Award during the program. For ticket information, call 704-347-2918.
-- Ron Green Jr.

ACC admits officiating error to O'Brien

N.C. State has announced that football coach Tom O'Brien has been informed by ACC officiating coordinator Doug Rhoads that a key play in last week's loss to Clemson should have been ruled a fumble.

According to a note released to the media by N.C. State, Rhoads said a play in the third quarter was a fumble that would have given the ball to the Wolfpack with Clemson leading 24-14.

Officials initially ruled that Clemson running back C.J. Spiller was down and the play was dead before Clem Johnson stripped the ball away. O'Brien challenged the call, but a replay review upheld it.

N.C. State's note to the media said Rhoads told O'Brien that the call should have been overturned and ruled a fumble.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wilson says finances not huge factor in decision

N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson downplayed the idea Tuesday that family financial concerns will affect his decision on whether he will leave school to pursue a pro baseball career next summer.

Wilson, who's a third-year sophomore in football and will play his third year of baseball in the spring, will be eligible for the major league baseball draft in June. His father suffered a stroke in the summer of 2008, and N.C. State football coach Tom O'Brien said in July that family health issues could cause him to leave N.C. State after just two football seasons.

But Wilson downplayed that concern Tuesday during his weekly news conference with reporters.

"It's not a huge factor for me," he said. "I know the Lord will bless me at the right time whenever it is, whether it's in the spring time, whether it's in the fall of next year or whether it's the spring after that. So I'm not really worried about that. In terms of financial reasons, like I said, I feel like the right situation will happen at the right time."

Wilson reiterated his desire to be a Hall of Fame major league baseball player and quarterback. He hasn't announced a timetable for deciding on his football future at N.C. State, and O'Brien doesn't expect to discuss the issue with Wilson until after the football season ends.

Wilson expects to earn his degree from N.C. State in the spring of 2010.

Ken Tysiac

Monday, November 16, 2009

Duke lineman, backup QB, out with injuries

DURHAM -- Duke guard Mitchell Lederman and backup quarterback Sean Renfree will miss the rest of the season because of injuries, the team announced this afternoon.

Lederman, a 6-foot-7, 305-pound redshirt junior, suffered a fractured toe on his right foot during the Blue Devils' Nov. 7 game against North Carolina. Lederman started seven games at left guard this season and played in nine games over all. He underwent surgery at the Duke Sports Medicine Center this morning, according to a Duke news release.

Renfree, a 6-3, 210-pound redshirt freshman from Scottsdale, Ariz., suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during Saturday's 49-10 loss to Georgia Tech and will have surgery performed at a later date. Playing behind starting quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, Renfree appeared in five games this year and completed 34-of-50 pass attempts for 330 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.

His best game came at Army the second week of the season, when Renfree came off the bench to complete seven-of-eight passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns in Duke's 35-19 come-from-behind victory. -- Lorenzo Perez

UNC lineman to skip senior season

UNC defensive lineman Aleric Mullins, who needs to take only three hours next semester to graduate, has decided to forego his final season of eligibility, coach Buch Davis said.

"In a similar situation as Richard Quinn [a tight end who left after last season, and now plays in the NFL], he just felt like with the completion of his degree, he just felt like it was time to announce that he was going to finish his career here and make himself available for any potential post-collegiate football that he might be available to," Davis said.

Mullins has posted 14 tackles this season.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bowl outlook: Gator in play for Heels

With three straight ACC wins, North Carolina has put itself in a no-lose bowl situation.

With two more wins, and the right breaks, the Tar Heels could end up in the Gator Bowl. Even with a loss, and the wrong breaks, the Heels could still wind up in the Music City Bowl.

That's how much has changed for the Tar Heels (7-3 overall, 3-3 ACC) in a month. Before rattling off wins over Virginia Tech, Duke and Miami, the Heels had more wins over the Southern Conference (2-0) than the ACC (0-3).

Any bowl would have been welcomed after blowing an 18-point lead in a 30-27 loss to Florida State on Oct. 22 and falling to 4-3 overall. With three straight wins, the Heels have worked their way into the mix for the Gator.

First things first, UNC needs to win out. That means beating Boston College and N.C. State on the road. If UNC plays the way it did against Miami, Duke or Virginia Tech, the Heels will beat both BC and State.

That would put them at 9-3 overall and 5-3 in the ACC.

Like every bowl scenario, there are a lot of variables, but the winner of the ACC title game will shape how the dominoes fall.

Bowl Date GT wins Clemson wins
Orange Jan. 5 GT Clemson
Chick-fil-A Dec. 31 Clemson VT
Gator Jan. 1 UNC GT
ChampsDec. 29 VT FSU
Music City Dec. 27 FSU UNC
Meineke Dec. 26 Miami Miami
Emerald Dec. 26 BC BC

If Georgia Tech, which finished its conference schedule at 7-1 and won the Coastal Division, wins the ACC title game on Dec. 5 in Tampa, that would open up the Gator Bowl for either UNC or Virginia Tech.

GT would go to the Orange, Clemson, after losing the title game, would go to the Chick-fil-A and that would leave the Gator the choice of either UNC or VT, both teams would be 9-3 overall.

The Gator, in the final year of its contract with the ACC, Big East, Big 12 and Notre Dame, is likely to choose the Fighting Irish (6-4), unless coach Charlie Weiss if fired before the bowl game on Jan. 1, as the opponent.

Which ACC team would make a more attractive matchup? Depends on the viewpoint.

Normally, VT would sell more tickets than UNC, but there are two factors working against the Hokies -- their lackluster finish and their frequent travel to the state of Florida.

Virginia Tech was ranked No. 4 in the country on Oct. 17 before a two-game losing streak knocked them out of the Coastal race and into the bottom third of the top 25. How excited is the fan base, which had visions of sneaking into the BCS title game, going to be about another Gator Bowl trip?

Since joining the ACC in 2004, the Hokies have made six postseason trips to Florida -- the Orange Bowl in 2008 and 2007, the Gator Bowl in 2005 and the ACC title game in 2008 (Tampa), 2007 (Jacksonville) and 2005 (Jacksonville).

UNC, which is closing with a bullet, hasn't been to Gator Bowl, or Florida for a neutral site game, since the 1997 season.

Plus, UNC and Notre Dame played an exciting game in Chapel Hill, a 29-24 UNC win, last season, which could add some interest to the game from Notre Dame's perspective.

If Georgia Tech loses the ACC title game, that changes the equation. At 7-1, GT can't be jumped by 5-3 team. That means the Jackets have to be picked before UNC.

Since GT played in the Chick-fil-A Bowl last year, VT, at 6-2, would likely go to Atlanta, leaving GT in the Gator.

That would put the Champs in position to choose from UNC (projected 5-3), FSU (4-4) or Miami (5-3) and it would be hard to say no to what could potentially be Bobby Bowden's last game, even though the Champs hosted FSU last year.

That would likely push the Heels to Nashville for the Music City, against an SEC team on Dec. 27 and that's not a bad Plan B.

There's a possibility, if UNC loses to BC and BC finishes 6-2, the best UNC could do is a return trip to Charlotte, but that's a worst-case scenario.

There's also a possbility of BC winning the Atlantic, but we can cross that bridge if in the unlikely event Clemson stumbles at home against Virginia.

-- J.P. Giglio

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pack's Michel probable for Clemson

N.C. State senior middle linebacker Ray Michel is listed as probable for Saturday's noon game against Clemson at Carter-Finley Stadium, according to a team injury report released Thursday night.

The "probable" designation means it's estimated that he has a 75 percent chance of playing against Clemson.

Michel suffered an ankle injury on Oct. 17 at Boston College and has missed the Wolfpack's last two games. He led the team with 53 tackles when he was injured, but has been surpassed now by outside linebacker Audie Cole.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Containing Hudgins is huge ASU challenge

Appalachian State football coach Jerry Moore knows there are multiple challenges facing his seventh-ranked Mountaineers when they meet No. 6 Elon Saturday in what has become the Southern Conference championship game at Rhodes Stadium in Burlington.

Perhaps most important will be finding a way to contain Elon wide receiver Terrell Hudgins, who has 25 career 100-yard receiving games and 362 career receptions, the most in Division I history.

"If you break Jerry Rice’s record you’re probably pretty good," Moore said on a conference call Tuesday.

"He’s a great player. He has a world of talent. He’s a guy you’re going to have to deal with him. That’s all there is to it.

"A guy like that is going to make some plays on you. You hope you have a good enough scheme to keep those things to a minimum. That guy can grab it with one hand. He can probably get two fingers around the ball and catch it."

So how will the Mountaineers defend Hudgins, knowing Saturday's winner will clinch the Southern Conference's automatic bid to the FCS playoffs?

"You can only put 11 out there. How many are you going to surround him with? I don’t know," Moore said.
-- Ron Green Jr.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Freshman CB Byrd to start for N.C. State

Despite breaking a four-game losing streak Saturday, N.C. State’s coaches still are shuffling their defense to look for better combinations.

Freshman cornerback Jarvis Byrd is set to make his first start when the Wolfpack plays host to Clemson at noon on Saturday. The depth chart for Clemson released Monday by coach Tom O’Brien shows Byrd starting at boundary cornerback, where he backed up redshirt freshman C.J. Wilson the previous two weeks.

Wilson remains in the starting lineup, though. He will move to field cornerback – where he played earlier in the season – and replace DeAndre Morgan as a starter.

Morgan now will back up Wilson.

Byrd showed N.C. State’s coaches he was ready to play during the open date following an Oct. 17 loss at Boston College during which another freshman cornerback, Rashard Smith, suffered a season-ending knee injury.

After being on schedule to redshirt after seven games, Byrd was installed as a backup to Wilson against Florida State and Maryland. Byrd played 14 snaps and made four tackles at Florida State, then played 30 snaps with two tackles in last week’s 38-31 defeat of Maryland.

"He seemed to feel right at home and wasn’t awed at all at Florida State,” O’Brien said. “He got more playing time on Saturday, did a very good job on Saturday. Wilson has played to the field. After evaluations Saturday, they were the two best corners we have.”

Ken Tysiac

Sunday, November 8, 2009

UNC's Draughn out for the season

Junior Shaun Draughn, North Carolina's leading rusher, will miss the rest of the season after fracturing his left shoulder blade in Saturday's 19-6 win over Duke.

Draughn, who leads the Heels with 567 yards, got injured on the first play of the game, a nine-yard run. He was replaced by Ryan Houston, who ran for a career-high 164 yards on 37 carries. Houston's rushing attempts were the most by a UNC player since 1990.

Draughn's absence means there won't be much depth behind Houston. Running backs Jamal Womble (wrist) and A.J. Blue (knee) are already out for the year with injuries. Fullback Anthony Elzy got two carries at halfback on Saturday.

Receiver Johnny White, who led the team in rushing in 2007, is also an option. -- J.P. Giglio

Bowl picture: Good day for UNC, Clemson

Clemson's 40-24 win over Florida State means the Tigers have to beat N.C. State, in Raleigh, and Virginia, at home, to win the Atlantic Division.

That's it and not even Tommy Bowden could screw that up (or only Tommy Bowden could screw that up).

Even if the spirit of Bowden possesses the Tigers, 4-2 in the ACC, and they lose once, they would still hold the tiebreaker over Boston College (3-2), which finishes with Virginia, UNC and Maryland.

That means Clemson and Georgia Tech, with a home win over Duke next week, will meet in Tampa on Dec. 5.

That's also good news on the bowl front for UNC, which improved to 6-3 with Saturday's 19-6 win over Duke.

Not only did UNC win, and get to within a win of its second straight bowl trip — and likely knock Duke (5-4) out of bowl contention — but Clemson's control of the Atlantic opens up the Music City Bowl in Nashville on Dec. 27.

Charlotte and San Francisco are the other possibilities for UNC.

If Boston College somehow wins the Atlantic, the Eagles could not fall further down the ACC bowl order than Nashville. If they don't win the division, BC would almost certainly go to the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco.

Florida State's loss also means the Noles can't finish better than 4-4 in the ACC and can't jump a 6-2 team, potentially Miami, Virginia Tech or Clemson, in the bowl order.

Notre Dame's loss was also good news for the ACC. The Irish, 23-21 losers to Navy, was effectively eliminated from a BCS bowl, possibly opening up a spot for a second ACC team, either Miami or Georgia Tech — if it loses to Clemson in the ACC title game. The Irish's loss also puts them in play for the Gator Bowl, against an ACC team.

Five ACC teams (Clemson, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Miami and Virginia Tech) are bowl eligible.

UNC needs one win while FSU (4-5) and Duke (5-4) need two wins. Wake Forest (4-6), Virginia (3-6) and N.C. State (4-5) need to win out while Maryland (2-7) has been eliminated from the postseason.

The ACC has nine bowl tie-ins but likely will fill only seven, leaving the EagleBank and GMAC bowls to choose from the at-large pool.

-- J.P. Giglio

Saturday, November 7, 2009

UNC 19, Duke 6

CHAPEL HILL -- It's good day to be Ryan Houston, and Casey Barth, but not Duke.
Houston's career-best 164 yards, and Barth's four field goals, gave North Carolina a 19-6 win over the Blue Devils on Saturday at Kenan Stadium.

The loss ends Duke's three-game ACC winning streak and leaves them 1-19 in the Victory Bell series since 1989. The loss also derails Duke's pursuit of a bowl bid and bolster's UNC's, which has won two straight in the ACC after an 0-3 conference start.

Houston carried 10 times, on a 12-play drive, for 55 yards on the game-clinching touchdown, a 3-yard run by receiver Jheranie Boyd. Houston has a career-best 157 yards on a career-best 35 carries.

Houston out-gained Duke's vaunted offense by himself, 179 total yards to 125.

Charlie Brown's interception and 54-yard return set UNC up at Duke's 20 but a illegal block penalty on Greg Little on first down stopped UNC's drive before it started. Barth hit the 41-yarder on the last play of the third quarter for his third field goal.

Barth, who kicked the game-winner on the last play of last Thursday's 20-17 win at Virginia Tech, also hit from 40, 29 and 33 yards.

Nick Maggio hit two field goals in the first half to tie the game at 6 at the half. Maggio's hit a 26-yarder on the last play of the half and a 23-yarder as Duke's passing game has stalled after reaching the red zone twice.

The Tar Heels have leaned heavily on their running game, minus Shaun Draughn, and Barth's right leg with quarterback T.J. Yates struggling. Barth hit a 29-yarder, his second field goal, after Yates whistled a high and hard fastball over the out-stretched hands of Greg Little on the 4-yard line.

North Carolina scored first, on its first possession, running six times on a 10-play drive to set up a 40-yard field goal by Barth for a 3-0 lead at 11:25 in the first quarter.

A blocked punt helped Duke even the score near the end of the first. Jordan Byas' blocked punt set up Maggio's 23-yard field goal to tie the game at 3. Maggio is subbing for regular kicker Will Snyerwine, who is out with a leg injury.

The Heels, at least momentarily, lost starting running back Draughn who suffered a left shoulder injury on the fist play of the game.

Byas blocked Grant Shallock at UNC's 30-yard at 4:00 in the first quarter to give Duke the ball in UNC's territory. A 22-yard pass from Thad Lewis to Brandon King got Duke down to the 14 but the drive stalled.

Yates has badly missed at least four open receivers, including Erik Highsmith on a post route on the first possession. He has completed 15 of 26 passes for 112 yards.
Lewis, who has four straight 300-plus games, has been held in check for 96 yards on 13-of-24 attempts with the one interception.

Receiver Austin Kelly leads Duke with four catches for 22 yards.

-- J.P. Giglio

Pack finally has reason to celebrate

N.C. State’s players hadn’t won in so long that they forgot how to react when they did.

Russell Wilson threw for three touchdowns and ran for another Saturday afternoon as the Wolfpack broke a four-game losing streak with a 38-31 defeat of Maryland at Carter-Finley Stadium.

“Normally we come in (the locker room), and it’s kind of a somber mood,” said N.C. State defensive end Michael Lemon.

Not this time.

Coach Tom O’Brien, who had told N.C. State’s players they were a bad football team after an error-filled win over Pittsburgh on Sept. 26, encouraged the players to celebrate this time.

The Wolfpack (4-5, 1-4 ACC) still made plenty of mistakes against Maryland. Wilson threw three interceptions, including one that Alex Wujciak returned 70 yards for a touchdown.

N.C. State’s wide receivers dropped three passes that should have been caught for touchdowns. Donald Bowens fumbled a punt, and the Wolfpack kickoff coverage team couldn’t stop Torrey Smith on an 82-yard return for a touchdown.

But winning, finally, was cause for celebration.

“We certainly don’t do anything easy,” O’Brien said. “That’s a heck of a win for our football team to hang in there.”

Maryland still had a chance to tie on its final drive despite losing starting quarterback Chris Turner to a left knee injury on a hit by Shea McKeen late in the second quarter.

Jamarr Robinson, a sophomore from Charlotte’s Myers Park High who had never attempted a pass in a game, replaced Turner. Robinson didn’t hurt the Wolfpack much with his arm, completing just five passes in 11 attempts for 27 yards.

He missed one wide-open receiver on a deep throw in the end zone in the third quarter. But on Maryland’s final drive, he scrambled for 11 yards and 19 yards to advance the ball to the N.C. State 34-yard line with 31 seconds remaining.

“In the two-minute drill, I thought he did some good things for us,” said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen.

Lemon finally gave N.C. State’s oft-criticized defense a finish to remember, though. He sacked Robinson for an 8-yard loss when Maryland had no timeouts, and then hit him while he was throwing, causing an incomplete pass on the final play.

The homecoming crowd roared its approval. Teammate Willie Young squeezed Lemon so hard that he couldn’t breathe.

“When we got in the locker room, everybody was looking for who was going to lead the excitement first,” Wilson said. “And I think the coaches did.”

While eliminating Maryland (2-7, 1-4) from bowl eligibility, N.C. State kept its slim bowl hopes alive. The Wolfpack would need to defeat Clemson, Virginia Tech and North Carolina in its final three games to finish with enough wins to play in a bowl game.

Every one of those opponents has a winning record. But N.C. State appears to have bounced back from its lowest point, when it lost to Duke by 21 points and Boston College by 32 in mid-October.

Behind Wilson and a re-invigorated rushing attack, the Wolfpack has averaged 40 points over the last two games. Despite an ankle injury that kept middle linebacker Ray Michel out for a second straight week, N.C. State’s defense turned in its best performance in ACC play Saturday.

Even though O’Brien wouldn’t say it, though, the Wolfpack still needs to cut down on mistakes to have any chance of making a late push toward a bowl.

“The bowl is still live,” said N.C. State wide receiver Jarvis Williams. “We know what we’re capable of doing. We know we’ve got to win out, so we’re going to keep fighting.”

Ken Tysiac

In-game: Duke @ UNC

CHAPEL HILL -- It's good day to be a kicker and Ryan Houston.

Casey Barth's four field goals, and Houston's 157 yards, have North Carolina in front of Duke, 19-6 at 3:56 in the fourth quarter.

Houston carried 10 times, on a 12-play drive, for 55 yards on the game-clinching touchdown, a 3-yard run by receiver Jheranie Boyd. Houston has a career-best 157 yards on a career-best 35 carries.

Houston out-gained Duke's vaunted offense by himself, 172 total yards to 127.

Charlie Brown's interception and 54-yard return set UNC up at Duke's 20 but a illegal block penalty on Greg Little on first down stopped UNC's drive before it started. Barth hit the 41-yarder on the last play of the third quarter for his third field goal.

Barth, who kicked the game-winner on the last play of last Thursday's 20-17 win at Virginia Tech, also hit from 40, 29 and 33 yards.

Nick Maggio hit two field goals in the first half to tie the game at 6 at the half. Maggio's hit a 26-yarder on the last play of the half and a 23-yarder as Duke's passing game has stalled after reaching the red zone twice.

The Tar Heels have leaned heavily on their running game, minus Shaun Draughn, and Barth's right leg with quarterback T.J. Yates struggling. Barth hit a 29-yarder, his second field goal, after Yates whistled a high and hard fastball over the out-stretched hands of Greg Little on the 4-yard line.

North Carolina scored first, on its first possession, running six times on a 10-play drive to set up a 40-yard field goal by Barth for a 3-0 lead at 11:25 in the first quarter.

A blocked punt helped Duke even the score near the end of the first. Jordan Byas' blocked punt set up Maggio's 23-yard field goal to tie the game at 3. Maggio is subbing for regular kicker Will Snyerwine, who is out with a leg injury.

The Heels, at least momentarily, lost starting running back Draughn who suffered a left shoulder injury on the fist play of the game.

Byas blocked Grant Shallock at UNC's 30-yard at 4:00 in the first quarter to give Duke the ball in UNC's territory. A 22-yard pass from Thad Lewis to Brandon King got Duke down to the 14 but the drive stalled.

Yates has badly missed at least four open receivers, including Erik Highsmith on a post route on the first possession. He has completed 15 of 26 passes for 112 yards.
Lewis, who has four straight 300-plus games, has been held in check for 96 yards on 13-of-24 attempts with the one interception.

Receiver Austin Kelly leads Duke with four catches for 22 yards.

-- J.P. Giglio

Friday, November 6, 2009

Wake's Skinner cleared for Georgia Tech

Wake Forest team physicians have cleared senior quarterback Riley Skinner to play against Georgia Tech on Saturday, the school announced.

Skinner suffered a concussion last week against Miami, but is expected to start his 33rd consecutive game for the Demon Deacons as they visit Atlanta for a 3:30 p.m. game.

He did not practice Monday, saw minimal practice time Tuesday and gradually returned to the regular practice routine later in the week.

Ken Tysiac

Wake's Skinner cleared to play at Georgia Tech

Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner has been cleared to play Saturday when the Deacons visit 11th-ranked Georgia Tech for a 3:30 p.m. game.

Skinner, who will start his 33rd consecutive game, suffered a slight concussion when he was tackled in the fourth quarter of Wake Forest's loss to Miami last Saturday.

He did not practice on Monday, did limited work on Tuesday and gradually worked back into a regular schedule during the week.
-- Ron Green Jr.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

N.C. State's Graham out for season

N.C. State wide receiver and kick returner T.J. Graham is out for the season with a stress fracture in his leg, the school announced Thursday evening in its injury report.

Graham also missed last week's loss at Florida State, but it wasn't determined until this week that he would not play the rest of the season. He was injured on Oct. 17 at Boston College.

Middle linebacker and leading tackler Ray Michel, who also did not play at Florida State, might return for Saturday's 1 p.m. game against Maryland at Cater-Finley Stadium. He is listed as questionable, which means there is about a 50 percent chance he will play.

Michel has an ankle injury.

Ken Tysiac

Meineke Bowl to rise in ACC selection order

Charlotte’s Meineke Car Care Bowl will move up one spot in the ACC bowl selection order starting in 2010 under an agreement the ACC announced Thursday morning.

The bowl, held each year at Bank of America Stadium, has extended existing deals for four more years with the Big East and now the ACC, and will match teams from those conferences through 2013.

Meineke Bowl executive director Will Webb said Thursday morning that beginning in 2010, the bowl will get the fourth selection from the ACC after the Bowl Championship Series. Previously, the Meineke selected fifth after the BCS.

“It’s huge for this bowl,” Webb said. “We’ve worked very hard. We’ve gotten some great games for this community. To be able to move up a spot in the pecking order will help assure us of the long-term viability of this bowl.”

The Orange Bowl will maintain its automatic BCS tie with the ACC. After the BCS selects from the ACC, the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta gets the next pick, followed by the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Fla.

A bowl new to the ACC lineup, the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, will select the ACC championship runner-up, if available, or the third pick after the BCS. The Meineke selects next, followed by the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn.; the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.; and the EagleBank Bowl in Washington, D.C.

“These bowl partners provide the opportunity to play unique opponents in quality destinations, while also significantly increasing revenue for our institutions,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said in a statement released by the conference.

If nine ACC teams become bowl eligible, the conference has a conditional arrangement to send its eighth pick after the BCS to the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco in the event that one if that game’s primary partners doesn’t have a team eligible to fill its slot.

The Meineke Bowl will benefit from the new rule the ACC has put in place for the loser of its championship game. In the past, the championship game loser could fall no further than the fifth selection after the BCS.

Now the championship game loser must be selected no later than the third selection after the BCS – the Sun Bowl – and before the Meineke Bowl makes its pick.

With the ACC championship game coming to Charlotte in 2010 and 2011, this means the Meineke Bowl won’t face the prospect of having a championship game loser coming back to town for the second time in a month.

Typically, bowl officials fear that fans whose teams lose in a conference championship game won’t travel in large numbers to a bowl game in the same city.

Webb said Meineke Bowl officials sweetened their payout structure in order to move up in the selection order. The actual dollars paid to the ACC and Big East varies each year based on ticket sales under a revenue sharing agreement.

Last year’s sold-out game between North Carolina and West Virginia resulted in payouts of approximately $1.7 million each to the ACC and Big East, Webb said. Starting in 2010, Webb said, payouts should exceed $1.7 million each year under the new revenue structure.

In its seven years, the bowl in Charlotte has averaged over 62,000 fans with three sellouts. This year’s game will kick off at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 26.

“Despite all the bad economic news in Charlotte, there’s a lot of positive news on the sports front,” Webb said. “I think the bowl moving up is huge. I think us getting the championship game here is huge. And with the efforts we’re putting forth to meld these two together, we’re going to have a great time with college football.”

Bowl; Site; Opponent
Orange/BCS; Miami; BCS team TBA
Chick-fil-A; Atlanta; SEC
Champs Sports; Orlando; Big East or Notre Dame
Sun; El Paso, Texas; Pac-10
Meineke Car Care; Charlotte; Big East
Music City; Nashville, Tenn.; TBA
Independence; Shreveport, La.; Mountain West
EagleBank; Washington, D.C.; Varies-x
x-The EagleBank Bowl will match the ACC with a Conference USA team in 2010, Navy (if bowl eligible) in 2011, Army (if eligible) in 2012 and a Big 12 team in 2013.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Wilson: No tension between Pack offense, defense

N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson held his weekly news conference Tuesday morning.

He praised running back Toney Baker, said there is no friction between N.C. State's offense and defense, and explained how wide receiver Owen Spencer gets so wide open for deep balls. Here are excerpts from Wilson's news conference:

Q: Can you talk about the job Toney Baker has done for you guys? It seems like, especially on Saturday, he ran with a purpose.

A: First you have to credit the offensive line. They allowed him to get a few yards to start off with. Then Toney went to work. He is very impressive. I feel like Toney, he's always been an NFL-caliber running back in my mind, and I used to watch him when he used to play when I was younger. It's just amazing to be on the field with him. He's a momentum changer in a way, with the way he runs the ball. He runs the ball hard. He has an extra, sixth gear that he puts it in. He's a big kid, he doesn't look like he would have that burst. But he can run away from people. I'm definitely impressed watching him play Saturday. . . .When I first got here in the summer time, Toney was my running partner. So he and I would be on the same bungee cord rope together. I was with him or Andre Brown every day. It was definitely exciting to run with those guys, because they had so much power and speed. It definitely helped me. And hopefully I helped them a little bit.

Q: When one unit on a football team is performing well and another is struggling - offense or defense - it's not unheard of for the unit that's not struggling to be resentful, or for there to be some friction between the two units. Has that been the case at all with this team? Why or why not?

A: Not at all. Why? I think because of Coach O'Brien, and just the nature of the players, the character of the players on the team. You've got to credit them for recruiting the guys they recruited. And also the guys that are here now that have been here for a long time, the seniors and stuff. I feel the character of the players is what keeps everybody together and everybody believing and trusting in one another. Offensively, you look at it, and no matter what the score is - if it's 150-47, or it's 45-42, or if it's 7-3 or 6-3, it doesn't really matter what the score is. We want to score more points than the other team. And we want to go out there each and every time. That's our goal and we came up short. I think there's not tension between offense and defense, or between offense and special teams, or defense and special teams, or whatever. We have to stick together, and everybody's a part of everything. We're all in the weight room together. We're all in classes together. We're all on the practice field together. The only way we're going to get better is like Coach always said, just circle the wagons and keep believing, no matter what the situation is.

Q: How does Owen Spencer get so wide open?

A: He's got a knack for it. He works at it every day, just studying film, studying certain moves he can do to get open, but also just, he's got a knack for the ball. When he gets that play call, whether it's a run play or a pass play, he wants to work hard each and every time. The same with all our receivers. But also, his acceleration is phenomenal. He's a professional, NFL wide receiver for sure, and I like throwing the ball to him.

Q: There are some guys who are faster. You mentioned acceleration. Is there something about knowing when to turn yourself loose?

A: There's two different types of speed. A lot of people have football speed, and then there's natural speed. He's got both of them. He's got that natural, low-40 time type speed because he's got those long legs, and he just gets there quickly. But also, he knows when to hit the jets, when to time it up and slow pace the defense a little bit, and then burst and get out and get open. And he does that really well.

Ken Tysiac

Monday, November 2, 2009

Bowl outlook good for UNC-Duke winner, ECU

The ACC has nine bowl tie-ins and three bowl-eligible teams (Georgia Tech, Miami, Boston College).

With a win this week, Clemson (5-3) and Virginia Tech (5-3) can push the total to five.

Maryland, Virginia and N.C. State are all but mathematically eliminated, leaving a group of four (UNC, Duke, Wake and FSU) for the final four spots.

If the ACC doesn't have nine eligible teams, the GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Ala. (Jan. 6) would be the first to drop off the list, followed by the EagleBank Bowl in Washington (Dec. 29).

You figure FSU (4-4) and either Duke or UNC (both 5-3) will push the ACC's total to a minimum of seven teams.

Of the in-state teams, ECU (5-3) is the closest thing to a sure bet but here's the bowl outlook for all five teams as we begin the final month of the season:

Record: 5-3
Need: Two wins
What's left: @ UNC, GT, @ Miami, Wake

Outlook: 50-50. The Blue Devils have already won two must-win games (Maryland, Virginia) and have two left (UNC, Wake).

Typically teams like Duke, with a one-dimensional offense and a forgiving defense, will not sweep a set of four must-win games, more likely they will split them. That could still happen to the Devils but, at this point, you have to like their chances at 7-5.

UNC has always been their "Super Bowl" and the past three games against Wake have been decided by 1, 5 and 3 points, respectively.

Effectively, it's a two-game season against the two teams Duke plays the best against. If you're coach David Cutcliffe, you take those odds and run ... or in his case, throw a "smoke" pass.

Record: 5-3
Need: Two wins
What's left: Duke, Miami, @ BC, @ State

Outlook: Good. In upsetting Virginia Tech, UNC got back the home loss it gave away to Virginia. In terms of games the Heels were "supposed" to win and "supposed" lose, they're now even thanks to Thursday's 20-17 shocker in Blacksburg.

If the Heels can break even the rest of the way, in four winnable games, then they'll be bowling. The easiest route is obviously beating Duke and State.

Even if they lose to Duke, they're not cooked, and considering how they've gone about the first five wins, it would be fitting for this team to get to seven the hard way.

East Carolina
Record: 5-3
Need: One win
What's left: VT, @ Tulsa, UAB, Southern Miss

Outlook: Good. The Pirates essentially need to beat UAB (3-5) at home to qualify for their fourth straight bowl game. That's not asking a lot, UAB's 3-22 on the road since 2006.

The Pirates would likely repeat as C-USA East champs with home wins over UAB and Southern Miss, which would earn them a date, and beatdown, at Houston. The key is not to get sidetracked by probable losses to VT and Tulsa.

Wake Forest
Record: 4-5
Need: Two wins
What's left: @ GT, FSU, @ Duke

Outlook: Bleak. The Deacs' bowl trip likely slipped through the hands of Devon Brown in the fourth quarter of Saturday's 28-27 home loss to Miami. Without the upset of the Canes — and they led 27-14 in the fourth quarter before Brown's fumbled punt sparked Miami's comeback — the Deacs need to win two of their final three.

The Deacs lost 13-10 at Navy, which plays the same offense as GT, only the Jackets have more talent. They've won three straight against FSU and nine straight against Duke but with quarterback Riley Skinner's health an issue (he left Saturday's game with a concussion), history is unlikely to repeat itself.

N.C. State
Record: 3-5
Need: Four wins
What's left: Maryland, Clemson, @ VT, UNC

Outlook: Dream is over. The Wolfpack has to run the table to get to a second straight bowl. The 146 points the Wolfpack has allowed in the past three ACC games says State would be lucky to win once in the final four games.

The only thing left for State to play for is its Super Bowl against UNC on Nov. 28.

-- J.P. Giglio

Heels upset cost ACC

BCS bowl projections:

National championship: Florida vs. Texas
Rose: Iowa vs. Oregon
Orange: Georgia Tech vs. Penn State
Sugar: Alabama vs. Cincinnati
Fiesta: USC vs. TCU

North Carolina's win, and USC's loss, cost the ACC a real shot at $4.5 million.

Virginia Tech, even with two losses, had a strong chance at an at-large bid to a BCS bowl, which was a driving force idea behind expansion. Florida State and Miami both played in BCS games in 2000, 2002 and 2003, but the ACC hasn't sent two teams to the BCS in first five years of expansion, or since the series was formed in 1998.

The Hokies, with their considerable fan base, would have been an attractive at-large choice this season, until Thursday's choke job against the Tar Heels. Now, the ACC's only other hope for a second bid is Miami, which is a long shot at best.

With no traveling fan base but a popular television appeal, Miami's BCS hopes rest on the generosity of the Orange Bowl, and the combination of Penn State, Ohio State and Notre Dame losing.

Remember, the BCS standings only determine the participants in the national championship game. The other four games are contractually obligated to certain conferences and free to choose from the top 14. Most importantly, bowl games are for-profit ventures, in terms of both selling tickets and television advertisements. They don't care if your team is No. 5 in the BCS rankings, only if your team can make them money.

The Sugar, Fiesta and Orange bowls have contracted conference anchors and then choose from a pool of eligible candidates. (The Rose Bowl, whenever possible, takes the champions from Pac-10 and Big Ten.)

The selection process for the Sugar, Fiesta and Orange is a draft. The bowls that lose their anchor champions to the national title game get to choose first with the bowl that loses the No. 1 team selecting first, followed by the bowl that loses the No. 2 team.

So, if the SEC champion, likely either Florida or Alabama, were to play Texas in the BCS title game, and the SEC champion stays ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings (currently Florida), then the selection order would be:

1. Sugar
2. Fiesta
3. Orange
4. Orange
5. Fiesta
6. Sugar

The SEC runner-up goes to the Sugar and the Fiesta would almost certainly select USC. Oregon's 47-20 win knocked the Trojans out of the Rose Bowl and in the process made the Pac-10 $4.5 million, and a two-team BCS league for the first time.

If USC had won, an at-large spot would have been opened up for the ACC and a two-loss Virginia Tech team. Without the extra spot, and its most attractive second candidate, the ACC is reduced to relying on the Orange Bowl's generosity and multiple losses by big-name teams.

The Orange is contractually obligated to take the ACC champion, which as of today looks like Georgia Tech. With the next pick, the Orange could take the Big East champion, but in the case of Cincinnati, it would mean taking a team with a limited fan base for the second straight season. The Orange, again in the interest of making money, would almost certainly choose Penn State, Ohio State or Notre Dame over any potential Big East champion, even an unbeaten Cincinnati team.

Given GT's inability to sell tickets, there's little chance the Orange could afford to say no to a big-name school, but it's the only hope the ACC has for a second team.

If the Orange takes the Big East champion, there's one at-large spot open. Either Boise State or Texas Christian, as a top-12 automatic qualifier, has to go to somewhere, likely the Fiesta, and that leaves the Sugar with the dealer's choice.

If the ACC somehow convinces the Orange to take the Big East champ, Miami (17) would still have to win out — and the Canes looked shaky in beating Wake, 28-27 on Saturday — and then hope a second Big Ten team and Notre Dame do not qualify.

Only two teams per conference are allowed in the BCS pool, which eliminates LSU (No. 9 but the third SEC team) and either Penn State (11) or Ohio State (16).

Penn State hosts Ohio State on Saturday. Miami, and the ACC, needs Ohio State to win and then a pick up a loss in subsequent weeks to either Iowa (currently in first place in the Big Ten and fourth in the BCS) or Michigan or in both.

Notre Dame, of course, is the wild card. With no conference affiliation, the Irish automatically qualifies with a top-8 finish, which is unlikely considering it's ranked No. 22 this week. But the Irish become eligible if it finishes in the top 14. The Irish (6-2) would have to win out — against Navy, Pitt, UConn and Stanford — and get help from the opponents of the teams in front of them to jump into at-large pool.

If none of the big name schools qualify, that would leave Miami — if it can beat Virginia, UNC, Duke and South Florida — in the at-large pool with a second Big East team (the fan-strapped Cincy-Pitt loser) or a second Big 12 team (a weak Oklahoma State team).

The real loser is either TCU (6) or Boise State (7), and it looks like Boise State given the remainder of its schedule does not offer the Broncos a chance to impress the computers or human pollsters and jump TCU.

Only one team from outside the six qualifying conferences is guaranteed a spot for finishing in the top 12. Given the relatively small fan bases of both, it would either be Boise or TCU, but not both, and certainly not TCU which can't sell out its home games.

Miami wouldn't sell a ton of tickets, or even its allotment, but the Canes are proven television ratings winner and if Florida happened to lose in the SEC title game, a Miami-Florida matchup would be a consolation prize the Sugar would be happy to have fall in its lap. Unless, of course, they could get Urban Meyer-vs.-Notre Dame.

-- J.P. Giglio

SEC dominating football recruiting--so far

Stan Olson writes in the College Recruiting blog:

We've given you periodic updates on ACC recruiting rankings of the Class of 2010, courtesy of Here’s a quick check of where SEC schools stand—and I know there’s plenty of interest in college football’s best league, because I hear from its supporters all the time.

Read more.

Some credit for Roof from Pack's O'Brien

The most unexpected college football news conference quotes Monday probably came from the Murphy Center conference room when N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien was asked about Duke’s success under David Cutcliffe.

After praising Cutcliffe, O’Brien had kind words for Ted Roof, who was 6-45 as Duke’s head coach. This wasn’t intended as a slight of Cutcliffe.

O’Brien has admired Cutcliffe since they became acquainted as assistants coaching Tennessee (Cutcliffe) and Virginia (O’Brien) in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 1991. With Duke at 5-3 with three straight ACC wins under Cutcliffe, O’Brien was asked about Cutcliffe’s success.

“He went to Mississippi,” O’Brien said. “God only knows why they let him go. He’s a good football coach. He’s got some good football players, too, and that helps. He’s done really a fabulous job.”

But O’Brien also had kind words for Roof, whose firing after the 2007 season paved the way for Cutcliffe to take the helm. Roof recruited top Blue Devil veterans such as quarterback Thaddeus Lewis and defensive linemen Vince Oghobaase and Ayanga Okpokowuruk.

“I think Ted Roof did a pretty good job recruiting some guys, too,” O’Brien said. “There are some guys on that football team that if they didn’t have (them), they may not be playing the way they are. Thad Lewis has learned a lot in four years. He’s taken his beating, but four years later he’s dishing out some beatings. And that’s all part of growing up, and that’s all part of maturity, and that’s all part of execution. He’s in a good offense for him, and that’s all a part of good coaching, too.”

Ken Tysiac