Tag:Everett Withers
Posted on: November 6, 2011 3:30 am
Edited on: November 6, 2011 3:31 am
 

ACC Winners and Losers: Week 10



Posted by Chip Patterson


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Tom O'Brien

NC State's head coach entered the rivalry weekend with plenty of buzz around his name. The Wolfpack needed a win to keep bowl eligibility hopes alive, and O'Brien's less-than-stellar record against competition was starting to come up in potential "hot seat" discussions. In addition to that pressure, North Carolina interim head coach Everett Withers and O'Brien made headlines with their verbal sparring on the topics of academics and who is the state's "flagship" school.

Tom O'Brien won the battle with the biggest zinger of them all, a 13-0 shutout of North Carolina in Raleigh. NC State's rush defense stepped up to the task of slowing star freshman Gio Bernard, and their penetration into the backfield made life tough for quarterback Bryn Renner. Renner left the game with "concussion-like symptoms," and the NC State defense just turned up the head on backup quarterback Braden Hanson. It wasn't the prettiest win, but it was a deflating loss for North Carolina. It was Tom O'Brien's funniest joke.

LOSER: North Carolina's offense

The Tar Heels looked uninspired and unemotional on offense in the 13-0 loss to NC State. The scoreless effort was the first for North Carolina this season, and extremely unusual for a team that has scored 20+ points in eight of their first nine contests. The Wolfpack showed up with a plan to stop the rushing attack and pressure sophomore quarterback Bryn Renner. Renner was on the run all afternoon, and was eventually sacked four times for a total loss for 48 yards. After a week of smack talk between the rival schools, North Carolina's failure to show up does not speak well for the future of interim coach Everett Withers. NC State was not able to make the most of great field position all game, but they were able to accomplish enough to escape with the victory. The Tar Heels may be bowl eligible, but Saturday's performance left fans uncertain about North Carolina's immediate future.

WINNER: Virginia's revivial 

For the first time since the 2007, and only the third time since 2005, Virginia is bowl eligible. Mike London's 2011 calendar year will be remembered with a late recruiting surge early, and an impressive improvement in conference play late. After winning just one ACC matchup in 2010, the Cavaliers have started 3-2 in league play with Duke, Florida State, and Virginia Tech left on the schedule. The Wahoos haven't finished .500 or better in conference play since that 2007 Gator Bowl season, and a win over the Blue Devils would at least secure that accomplishment for London. The second-year head coach served as Al Groh's defensive coordinator for that 2007 season, making 2011's success even more sweet.

LOSER: Anyone who watched Florida State-Boston College

Florida State may have walked out of Chestnut Hill with a convincing 38-7 win over Boston College, but very little about the contest was appealing to college football fans. Only 514 total yards of offense and five turnovers between the two teams kept the level of interest at "marginal" through most of the Thursday night game. The game was presumably set for primetime in the thinking that Florida State would be contending for ACC titles and Boston College would be led by Montel Harris ready to stun the Seminoles. But a banged up Eagles squad was outmatched in nearly every aspect of the game on Thursday, Head coach Frank Spaziani will likely have to start addressing job security questions in the week ahead, as the seventh loss makes Boston College ineligible for the postseason for the first time in 12 seasons.

WINNER: Miami offense

Jacory Harris spoke on the topic of needing consistency after the Hurricanes fell to Virginia at home last Thursday. Miami was consistent on offense against Duke in the 49-14 win on Saturday - consistently scoring touchdowns when they touched the ball. Harris led the Hurricanes to touchdowns on their first five drives of the game, and finished with scores on seven of the nine times they touched the ball.

Some of the success is due to the competition, but Miami's execution on offense was a result of a full game plan that might as well have been called "bounce back." Al Golden's squad looked sharper on offense, defense, and in the special teams after embarrassing themselves on national television in the loss to Virginia. In addition to Lamar Miller breaking the 1,000 yard mark on the season, junior wide receiver Tommy Streeter caught his eight touchdown pass of the season. The score pulls Streeter into a tie for second place in the ACC, and ranks him among the Top 15 receivers nationally in that category. Miami just needs one more win to become bowl eligible. With Florida State, South Florida, and Boston College left on the schedule, the expectation is that Golden will have this squad in the postseason by December.

LOSER: Maryland's fan support

A disappointing season has come to an end, at least for the Maryland fans in Byrd Stadium. The Terrapins "celebrated" their Senior Day on Saturday with a 31-13 loss to Virginia to close out the home schedule. After trailing by only one point at halftime, the Terps failed to score in the second half and gave up 300+ passing yards to once of the ACC's least consistent quarterbacks. Virginia's Michael Rocco completed 23 of 36 passes for 307 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Perry Jones added 139 yards rushing in the 527 yard offensive effort. I would suggest the performance might be enough for Maryland fans to have good reason for concern, but judging by the attendance it looks like the fan base is already plenty concerned. Noon kickoffs can be tough for ACC fans, but on a Senior Day this kind of showing (picture taken 10 minutes before kickoff) is pretty disappointing.



WINNERS: Lamar Miller and Gio Bernard

While Bernard struggled to meet his usual production against a well-prepared NC State defense, there was the small victory of him passing the 1,000 yard mark on the season. Miami running back Lamar Miller also accomplished that feat on Saturday, though he enjoyed the celebration of a 49-14 win over Duke. Bernard is the first 1,000 yard rusher form North Carolina since Jonathan Linton broke that mark in 1997. The redshirt freshman has played banged up the last several weeks, though continues to take the field. The Wolfpack held him to just 47 yards on 18 carries, his second-lowest output of the season. Miller, on the other hand, picked up 147 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 20-carry effort against the Blue Devils. Miller is the first Hurricane to break the 1,000-yard mark since Willis McGahee in 2002.

LOSER: Wake Forest 2nd half offense

Credit the Demon Deacons for putting themselves in a position to knock off Notre Dame in the first-ever meeting of the two schools. But Wake Forest's inability to produce a single point in the second half kept them from picking up that all-important sixth win on Saturday night. Twice Wake Forest had the ball at the Notre Dame 10-yard-line in the second half, but those opportunities ended in a Brandon Pendergrass fumble and David Newman missed field goal. There were opportunities all over the place for Wake Forest, who led 17-10 at halftime. They played well against the top-caliber competition, but the Demon Deacons needed four quarters of solid play from the offense to emerge victorious.

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Posted on: November 3, 2011 12:05 pm
Edited on: November 3, 2011 2:06 pm
 

Withers, O'Brien exchange verbal jabs in rivalry

Posted by Chip Patterson

On Saturday, North Carolina and NC State will kickoff the 101st meeting of the in-state rivals. The Wolfpack have owned the rivalry as of late, with head coach Tom O'Brien boasting a 4-0 record against the Tar Heels. Former head coach Butch Davis always seemed to play down the rivalry between the two schools, which are separated by just 27 miles of Interstate 40. But interim coach Everett Withers has re-ignited the smack talk between he two schools, taking shots at NC State's academic environment in an appearance with Joe Ovies of 99.9 The Fan ESPN Radio - based in Raleigh, N.C..

“When you have as many schools in this state as you have and the recruiting base gets watered down a little bit, I think the kids in this state need to know ‘the flagship school,” Withers said in the Wednesday interview. “They need to know it academically. If you look at our graduation rates opposed to our opponent this week’s graduation rates for football, I think you’ll see a difference. If you look at the educational environment here, I think you’ll see a difference.” 

Interesting quotes from the head of a program that just a week ago appeared in front of an NCAA Committee on Infractions to address violations - some of which were related to academics. Perhaps Withers, a lifelong North Carolina native, is more passionate about the rivalry with the four in-state schools in the ACC than his predecessor. There are some facts behind his jabs (UNC boasts higher graduation rates in the football program) but the point seemed to be good old fashion smack talk.

This smack talk was not taken kindly by N.C. State head coach Tom O'Brien, who responded to the comments on Thursday following the Wolfpack's practice. O'Brien usually does not allow himself to get caught up in off-field matters like this, but he was clearly set off by Withers' comments

“As far as the flagship, here was a guy (Withers) who was on a football staff that ends up in Indianapolis." He went on to say, “You have an agent on staff, you are paying players & you have academic fraud. That's a triple play."

O'Brien also addressed the alleged academic issues at North Carolina, where players have been reportedly given plenty of exceptions from teachers and even department heads.

“At our school, number one, all classes have a syllabus. Our guys go to school, they are not given grades, and they graduate.” 

While North Carolina leads the rivalry 63-31-6, NC State has claimed 7 of the last 11 meetings. Five of the last eight contests have been decided by one score or less. But for the first time since John Bunting and Chuck Amato were on the sideline, this rivalry has hate once again.

Audio of the quotes can be found at WRALSportsFan.com

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Posted on: October 24, 2011 8:44 pm
 

UNC S Merletti (knee) done for the season

Posted by Chip Patterson

North Carolina's secondary takes a big hit with the loss of senior safety Matt Merletti for the rest of the season. The school announced on Monday Merletti will undergo surgery within the next two weeks to repair a sprained MCL and ACL, suffered in the loss to Clemson on Saturday. Merletti has already received one medical redshirt, and the injury likely ends his career with the Tar Heels.

"Obviously that's a big loss. It's really a hard blow for me, having coached him and been real close to him," said interim head coach Everett Withers. "We'll try to keep Matt around to help coach some of the rest of our guys."

Merletti was the team's defensive captain, and considered one of the leaders in the secondary. He will likely be replaced by either Gene Robinson or Tre Boston in the starting lineup. The Tar Heels secondary is talented, but their inexperience has shown at times during the season. With high-powered Wake Forest coming to town on Saturday, North Carolina needs to be disciplined to avoid being beat by the big play.

Elsewhere in ACC injury updates…

Clemson running back Andre Ellington will be limited in practice this week after suffering a left ankle sprain in the win over North Carolina. CBSSports.com's Travis Sawchik reports the junior running back is likely to play against Georgia Tech Saturday night.

While Miami cornerback Brandon McGee returned to practice on Monday and is likely to play against Virginia Thursday night, starting offensive tackle Jon Feliciano is doubtful. Feliciano embarrassingly suffered the injury while celebrating a touchdown with a chest-bump.

Maryland starting linebacker Kenny Tate will apply for a medical hardship waiver after being ruled out for the season with an undisclosed injury. "I recently had a chance to sit down with Coach Edsall, my family and the medical staff to discuss my options," Tate said in a statement. "This is the best course of action to get healthy."

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Posted on: October 22, 2011 3:40 pm
Edited on: October 22, 2011 4:10 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 7 Clemson 59, North Carolina 38

Posted by Chip Patterson

CLEMSON WON. North Carolina kept things close in the first half, but six Tar Heel turnovers and a 35-point third quarter turned this conference matchup ugly fast as the Tigers poured on the offense in a 59-38 victory. Tajh Boyd kept the fireworks going until the starters took a seat, completing 27 passes for 367 yards and five touchdowns, a rushing touchdown, and no interceptions.

HOW CLEMSON WON: While standout freshman Sammy Watkins has been stealing headlines this season, Saturday was truly a team effort from Clemson's offense. Fourteen different skill position players got touches on Saturday, but few had the impact of DeAndre "Nuke" Hopkins. Hopkins led the Tigers with nine receptions for a career-high 157 yards and a touchdown. He was one of five Clemson receivers to see the end zone in the blowout victory.

WHEN CLEMSON WON: After halftime, the Tigers made adjustments that paid off on the field in the third quarter. It only took the Tigers just over two minutes of game time to go 66 yards in five plays for the first of five touchdowns in the third quarter. Even when North Carolina kick returner T.J. Thorp took ran back a kickoff for a touchdown to cut Clemson's lead to 14, the Tigers answered with a Sammy Watkins 42 yard touchdown on the very next drive.

WHAT CLEMSON WON: More confidence in their ability to outscore the opponent. Tight end Dwayne Allen reportedly marched up and down the sideline at Maryland declaring they would score however many times they needed, and it looks as though they'll be able to do that on most of their remaining schedule. Only Georgia Tech's ability to keep the ball out of the Tigers' hands presents a real threat when looking at the rest of Clemson's conference schedule.

WHAT NORTH CAROLINA LOST: A lot of confidence in their offense. As explosive as Clemson offense was, North Carolina did a lot to keep themselves from winning on Saturday. The Tar Heels offense converted on only two of 12 third downs, going through almost three entire quarters without converting any. There were also six turnovers and nine penalties to add to the list of frustrations for interim head coach Everett Withers.

THAT WAS CRAZY: Clemson's high scoring effort was boosted by not one, but TWO touchdowns from redshirt senior defensive lineman Kourtnei Brown. The first pick six helped Clemson gain some momentum after being tied at 10 earlier in the second quarter, but the fumble recovery touchdown was adding insult to a 3+ touchdown lead. Making Brown's day even more impressive was tipping the pass that became Renner's third interception of the day.



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Posted on: October 20, 2011 11:13 am
 

UNC considering redshirt for PK Casey Barth

Posted by Chip Patterson

After being ruled out for the fifth game in a row, North Carolina is exploring the possibility of redshirting senior kicker Casey Barth.

"Right now we are not ready for Casey to kick," interim head coach Everett Withers explained on the ACC's weekly teleconference. "In fact, we're investigating the situation of possibly redshirting him. We're going to look into the ACC office about a hardship possibility.

"But we don't want to put the young man out there. Casey's still not a hundred percent, and since that leg has been bothering him, we just felt like in our best interest and in his also, and his family's and this football team, not to push him out there, not to rush him. He's still not a hundred precent, and I don't think he's headed in that direction."

Barth played through a strained groin for the first three games of the season, kicking 11 extra points and field goal. But since re-aggravating the injury against Virginia has been sidelined nursing the leg. Barth is just four field goals away from breaking the school record set by his big brother Connor, now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Freshman Thomas Moore has assumed the kicking duties in Barth's absence.

Like his brother, Barth has delivered some clutch field goals for the Tar Heels in his career. But his absence has only been felt in extra points and kickoffs, with North Carolina only attempting three field goals through seven games. Barth hit the first, with Moore going 1-2 since the senior's injury. North Carolina has actually been one of the more efficient red zone teams in the ACC, scoring touchdowns on 19 of their 24 visits.

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Posted on: October 18, 2011 12:47 pm
Edited on: October 21, 2011 4:41 pm
 

Keys to the Game: North Carolina at Clemson

Posted by Chip Patterson

CLEMSON WILL WIN IF: If Clemson's defense can keep North Carolina's drives short, the Tigers will not need much time to wear down the Tar Heels' defense. The defensive unit has suffered injuries all season, and starting linebacker Ebele Okakpu was dismissed on Monday for "conduct detrimental to the team." Clemson's pace and speed can wear down a team's back seven, and that's exactly where the Tar Heels are the most vulnerable. After giving up 291 rushing yards to Maryland, the Tigers defense needs to make a statement and shut down star freshman Gio Bernard. Bernard is currently 3rd in the ACC in rushing (109.57 yards per game), just ahead of Clemson junior Andre Ellington.

NORTH CAROLINA WILL WIN IF: North Carolina has to figure out a way to get pressure on Tajh Boyd with their front four. The Tigers have too many weapons on the outside for the Tar Heels' secondary, and the best way to slow down that fast offense is with a sack. Jacory Harris exposed North Carolina's weaknesses at defensive back with his career-high 233 first half passing yards on Saturday, and things only get more difficult having to face Sammy Watkins and DeAndre "Nuke" Hopkins. North Carolina should be able to move the ball on the ground with Bernard, and keeping that ground game productive will be essential to keeping the game low scoring. Quarterback Bryn Renner has shown the ability to play catch up late in a game, but a shoot-out does not play to the strengths of the Tar Heels.

X-FACTOR: North Carolina's offensive line gave up four sacks for 23 yards against Miami on Saturday, and the Hurricanes were in Bryn Renner's face all day forcing quick throws and ill-timed passes. Dwight Jones is one of the best wide receivers in the ACC, but if Renner does not have time the sophomore quarterback won't have a chance to get him the ball. Clemson's secondary has been good, but is arguably the weakest aspect of their defense. The offensive line must keep Renner's jersey clean in a hostile road environment or the Tar Heels could see the game get out of hand quickly.

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Posted on: October 16, 2011 2:00 am
Edited on: October 16, 2011 5:01 pm
 

ACC Winners and Losers: Week 7


Posted by Chip Patterson


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Sammy Watkins

Best freshman in the game? Best freshman in the game.

With 345 all-purpose yards, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins broke C.J. Spiller's single game school record. Spiller re-wrote most of the offensive record book for the Tigers, and seven games into his collegiate career Watkins is already making a dent. The special teams play may become a non-factor as teams learn to kick away (as they did with Spiller), but there is just not an answer for a player of Watkins' caliber and potential at this point in the ACC. The freshman's combination of physical attributes and understanding of the game have been well documented, mostly by his coaches. Swinney started singing his praises days after his arrival on campus in the offseason, and never has his ability come in handy more than in leading the Tigers' greatest comeback in program history. Clemson still has plenty of challenges left between now and their ultimate goal of an ACC title, but I struggled to find a newcomer that has made a more significant impact on his team than Watkins.

LOSER: Clemson's not-so-kind reputation

Until proven otherwise, the Tigers' comeback has silenced Clemson's "watch them pull a Clemson" critics. The Tigers have started plenty of seasons with a talented roster that wows fans and experts alike, only to fall to an opponent they should defeat. Saturday night in College Park was the perfect opportunity to "pull a Clemson." But thanks to outstanding play of Boyd, Ellington, Watkins, and enough plays by the Brandon Thompson and the defense; they pulled a 2011 Clemson. The 2011 Clemson is an act that is not so dissimilar from a 2010 Auburn. They just find a way to win. Expecting a similar result to the Tigers' national title run is outrageous. But expecting a comparable finish (ACC title and BCS bowl win) might not be so crazy at this point.

WINNER: Jacory Harris

The oft-criticized Harris has been silencing the nay-sayers with his most recent performances against two talented defenses. Ever since halftime of Miami's loss to Virginia Tech, Harris has been sharp and on point with his delivery. Against North Carolina on Saturday, Harris got off to a fast start thanks to big plays from Allen Hurns and Tommy Streeter. The senior signal-caller torched North Carolina's secondary for 233 yards in the first half, a new career high. But even with an impressive production, the most important improvement has been his lack of turnovers. Harris' most frequently detrimental fault has been his tendency to misread a route and toss the ball to the opposing defense.

But since getting picked off in Miami's 28-24 loss to Kansas State, Harris has been perfect in the interceptions column. Miami could not afford to fall to 0-3 in the conference, and the Hurricanes got the fast start they needed to ensure it didn't happen in Chapel Hill. The win was a huge step forward for first-year head coach Al Golden, and another building block in Jacory Harris' final season with The U.

LOSER: Maryland's confidence

Quarterback controversies, suspensions for team rules, reports of locker room unrest - it's all been present in Maryland's roller coaster start to the Randy Edsall era. As the Terrapins pushed Clemson to the brink and had Byrd Stadium rocking like it was Labor Day all over again, it seemed like all of the issues were evaporating. A win over No. 8 Clemson could have been the jolt of positivity this team in transition has needed, but instead they suffered a deflating loss. Blowing an 18-point lead is no moral victory, and now the onus will be on Edsall to spin this into the best possible learning experience for Maryland. Sitting at 2-4 with plenty of ACC play left, the Terps are now in jeopardy of missing the postseason. Such a finish would not send great vibes through a program looking to rebrand around their new coach.

WINNER: The Mike London Movement


Throughout the offseason, there was a definitive buzz around second-year coach Mike London at Virginia. The former Richmond head man took the job as one of the touted young coaches in the game, but London's fast impact on the recruiting trail raised eyebrows across the nation. After a slow start, the happy feelings of hope around Virginia football seemed to have turned from a bubble to a fizz until the Cavaliers' upset win over No. 12 Georgia Tech on Saturday.

The Cavaliers got it done by winning the battle in the trenches, physically dominating the Yellow Jackets on the offensive and defensive line. That physical attitude is embodied in London's steadfast attitude towards his football team, and it showed on the big stage against the undefeated Yellow Jackets. With an off-week to prepare, the Cavaliers entered the game with an unwavering confidence defensively and held Georgia Tech to a season-low for rushing yards and total yards of offense. As the fans rushed the field, London celebrated the big win with his players. This might not be THE year for Virginia, but Cavs fans have to feel like they have found THE coach moving forward.

LOSER: Duke

The Blue Devils walked into a losing situation facing Florida State after three straight losses. After losing three straight games over a four week span, the talented Seminoles roster was angry and looking for redemption. EJ Manuel got his first start since the Oklahoma game, and got to work early with three 50+ yard passes in the first quarter. The junior quarterback finished with 239 yards and two touchdowns on the day, sharing the spotlight with freshman running back Devonta Freeman. The lack of a consistent rushing attack has been the most common criticism of Florida State this season, and Freeman's 109 yard outing led the way for an impressive 242 team rushing yards. Duke never really had a chance against this angry Florida State team.

WINNER: Logan Thomas' maturation

The only for Thomas to follow his 23 for 25 outing against Miami with a game-winning touchdown was to repeat the routine again in a crucial road game against a surging Wake Forest team. Thomas was not as accurate statistically, but he was just as effective in providing the big plays needed for the Hokies to bounce back from an early 14-0 deficit. Star receiver Jarett Boykin was the target of choice for the big redshirt sophomore, snagging in seven catches for 149 yards and a touchdown. In addition to his 280 yards and two touchdowns through the air, Thomas once again was a threat on the ground and punched in two goal line scores.

Thomas' maturation as a passer and rushing threat has forced defenses to focus less on running back David Wilson. Focusing less on Wilson is a bad thing, as he demonstrated on Saturday with a 136 yard outing against the Demon Deacons. After another slow start and early season loss, Virginia Tech is hitting their rhythm at the right time. If things continue to progress in Blacksburg, a rematch against the Tigers in Charlotte could be in the cards for Virginia Tech.

LOSER: Bryn Renner

After starting as one of the ACC's most efficient passers, Renner seems to have regressed since starting conference play. There were only eight incompletions on the stat sheet, but the sophomore looked uncomfortable under center against Miami on Saturday. He was uncharacteristically off-target on a few routine throws, and seemed unhappy with his pass protection throughout the entire game. The numbers may look sharp from Saturday's game, but many of the completions were screen passes and check downs to star running back Gio Bernard. Renner knew he was going to face an uphill battle against Miami's defense, now he needs to help his team bounce back on the road against an undefeated Clemson team.

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Posted on: October 2, 2011 12:29 am
 

What I learned from the ACC (Oct. 1)



Posted by Chip Patterson

1. Clemson is a contender, Virginia Tech is a pretender - The Tigers made ACC history on Saturday, being the first team to defeat three ranked opponents in consecutive weeks. Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech (well huh) have both accomplished the feat once in program history, but neither school was a member of the ACC at the time. Their win against one of the highest ranked team ended up being their most impressive, with Clemson holding Virginia Tech from the end zone at home for the first time since 1995. But as much attention as Chad Morris' offense has gotten under Tajh Boyd's direction, the Tigers had not gotten a performance like that from their defense yet this season. It all seems to be coming together for Clemson, and just at the right time. With the victory over Florida State, the Tigers are in the driver's seat for the Atlantic Division title. If they take care of business, they will find themselves back in the ACC Championship Game.

The Hokies, on the other hand, might not be back in the conference title game. The Coastal Division is much more difficult to project, but Georgia Tech has arguably replaced Virginia Tech as the frontrunner. The Yellow Jackets did allow a relentless N.C. State team to climb back into the contest twice, but you cannot expect any conference road game to be a breeze.

Frank Beamer's squad will have a chance to bounce back immediately, with a divisional showdown against Miami in Blacksburg. The Hurricanes' also have one conference loss, and some consistency issues of their own. A lot more to learn about the Coastal in the week ahead.

2. Georgia Tech is still very impressive, but not unstoppable - With N.C. State missing their leading rusher and severely depleted on defense, the Yellow Jackets were predicted to roll over the Wolfpack in Raleigh. But after jumping out to a quick 21-0 lead, N.C. State's defense clamped down on quarterback Tevin Washington. Middle linebacker Audie Cole directed the defense as they filled the gaps and cut the Georgia Tech lead to one touchdown in the third quarter. Georgia Tech then scored three more touchdowns in under three minutes of game time in the fourth quarter, which was followed by three more touchdowns from N.C. State. The entire period was sloppy on both sides, but the first comeback might provide some helpful insight for the rest of the conference.

3. Giovani Bernard is the real deal. North Carolina has not been known as a program that produces star running backs recently, but they may have one with redshirt freshman Giovani Bernard. Bernard continued his impressive rookie campaign in North Carolina's 35-20 win at East Carolina, picking up 146 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. Bernard's numbers on the season rank among the nation's best for freshmen, but they are already good enough to earn him a spot in program history. On Saturday Bernard became the first North Carolina running back to rush for 100+ yards since Pro Bowler Natrone Means did it in 1992. His seven touchdowns on the season already match the count for last year's team leader, Johnny White - now with the Buffalo Bills.

4. Florida State and Virginia Tech should not overlook Wake Forest. Nowhere close to putting either team on "upset alert," but Wake Forest has continued their play that is significantly improved from 2010. Both Florida State and Virginia Tech will travel to Winston-Salem to face Jim Grobe's squad at home in the next two weeks. Few teams returned more starters than the Demon Deacons, and some assumed that would lead to similar results. But Grobe has once again lived up his "player development" reputation, taking basically the same lineup that went 1-7 in ACC play and already doubling that win count in 2011. Hitting the meat of their schedule at 3-1, the Deacons will need to find four more victories on the schedule in order to return to the postseason for the first time since 2008.

Wake Forest's success has been due to noticeable improvement on both sides of the ball. The defense, particularly the back seven, is communicating better and swarming to the ball in space. Tanner Price finally is leading an offensive scheme that fits the personnel with Josh Harris, Chris Givens, and Michael Campanaro all emerging as dynamic playmakers. The one weakness Wake Forest has displayed has been the inability to hold a lead late in the game. It cost them the season opening win at Syracuse, and nearly got them in trouble against N.C. State and Saturday at Boston College. But as far as the visits from the Seminoles and Hokies go, I wouldn't imagine a quick Deacs lead would be in the cards anyway.

5. Miami has consistency issues. Miami's consistency issues aren't just game-to-game, they seem to be half-to-half and even quarter-to-quarter at times this season. The dominant performance against Ohio State is sandwiched between frustrating losses to Maryland and Kansas State, while the first 22 minutes of Saturday's matchup with Bethune-Cookman was vastly different to the 45-3 blowout in the final 30+ minutes of play.

You could put some of the blame on the shifting personnel or distractions from the NCAA investigation. You could look at the new coaching staff, as they try to implement a new culture on a roster that is loaded with talented upperclassmen. But whatever the issues are, the Hurricanes need to get them straightened out quickly. The ACC Coastal is now wide open, and despite the rocky 2-2 start the Canes can still salvage their season with strong conference play.

Unfortunately for Al Golden's staff, those tests are coming now. Miami travels to Virginia Tech and North Carolina in the next two weeks before hosting Georgia Tech on October 22 in the comfy confines of Sun Life Stadium. In the next month Miami's season will be defined. The time to tighten up is now.

6. Duke to bowl game? Three straight wins is a start. Okay, maybe a bit of a stretch there. But the Blue Devils have won three straight games since starting the season 0-2. Most importantly, those three victories have all been against FBS opponents. Duke has nothing but conference games left, so three wins is the magic number to make David Cutcliffe's squad bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. Virginia is winnable, but on the road. Wake Forest is looking less winnable, but will be played at home. Steal both of those and one upset victory against Florida State, Virginia Tech, Miami, Georgia Tech or North Carolina and the Blue Devils are golden. Doesn't sound probable, but they've at least go the momentum to make it seem possible.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com