Finish up strong.
Every coach preaches it, but North Carolina is showing how it's done.
With its second consecutive victory over a Top 25 team -- a 33-24 victory over Miami (Fla.) on Saturday -- the Tar Heels jumped to No. 20 in the latest CBSSports.com 120.
The team has now won five straight over ranked teams, going back to last season (Georgia Tech was not ranked when the Yellow Jackets beat them).
Not bad for a team that was basically written off after losing to Virginia 16-3 and blowing a lead against Florida State earlier in the season.
"Life teaches you lessons," said head coach Butch Davis. "I think this football team, in the Thursday night game vs. Florida State, learned a really big lesson about trying to finish ballgames. About how important it is to play all 60 minutes, no matter what the score is at halftime."
North Carolina isn't like most 7-3 teams. It doesn't have a running back with more than 600 yards rushing and its leading receiver has just 409 yards receiving. Quarterback T.J. Yates has the same number of touchdowns as interceptions (10).
But the one thing is does have is a defense ranked eighth in the nation in total yards allowed and second in the ACC in interceptions. The team also has 25 sacks, led by sophomore defensive end Robert Quinn with 10.
In the win over Virginia Tech, the defense sacked Tyrod Taylor three times and recovered two fumbles, including one with two minutes left as the Hokies were trying to run out the clock.
Against the Hurricanes, the Tar Heels recorded four interceptions, including three by Kendric Burney. The junior cornerback returned one for a 77-yard touchdown and compiled an ACC single-game record with 170 interception return yards.
"Our guys are really getting a handle on studying quarterbacks," defensive coordinator Everett Withers said. "You hear their conversations while they're watching film -- this guy will stare down this receiver, this guy looks here in this personnel group, this guy looks to run in this formation, how another guy handles the pocket. They know that as the quarterback goes, so goes the offense."
Now if the Tar Heels can just take care of business against at Boston College and at North Carolina State to end the regular season, they will have won five in a row and six out of the last seven.
Despite still being ranked in all the other polls, USC fell out of the CBSSports.com Top 25, falling from No. 12 to No. 28. The Trojans are now 7-3, 4-3 in the Pac-10 and will not make a BCS bowl for the first time since 2001.
"I'm not sure I have the right words to describe being humbled like this," Pete Carroll said after losing 55-21 to Stanford. "I don't really know where to put it. ... We have fallen apart and given our opponents the opportunity to do whatever they want, but you have to give Stanford a lot of credit."
The Trojans are on a bye this week and then return to the field against UCLA.
The Wolf Pack started the season 0-3, but has now won seven in a row and is ranked No. 45. After taking care of Fresno State this weekend, the Wolf Pack are eyeing the end of the season game against Boise State. With a victory, Nevada would win the conference and end Boise State's dream of going undefeated and playing in a BCS bowl.
Central Michigan and Temple are course to meet in the Mid-American Conference title game. Both teams control their own destiny and the game would feature two teams in the Top 35.
Central Michigan is ranked No. 31, while Temple is No. 34. Both teams are 8-2 and 6-0 in the conference. The winner will play in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, which used to be the Motor City Bowl.
Three winless teams left
New Mexico (No. 118), Eastern Michigan (No. 119) and Western Kentucky (No. 120) are all 0-10. New Mexico was close to winning this weekend, falling 24-19 to BYU. It plays Colorado State on Saturday.