Posted on: November 4, 2010 2:57 pm
Edited on: November 4, 2010 3:03 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
Ever since the investigations of the North Carolina football program began this summer, head coach Butch Davis has been placed on a permanent hot seat. At the peak of the drama many believed that there was no chance that Davis would be the head coach of the Tar Heels in 2011, with some even believing he would be gone by season's end. But Davis did not crumble under the pressure, and faced each challenge one week at a time with a constantly evolving (and often depleted) depth chart. Instead of waiting on the results of the investigation, Davis decided to hold out any players who might later be deemed ineligible. While that led to many players missing games they did not need to miss, it also ensured (to the best of his ability) the integrity of the five wins the Tar Heels have accumulated so far this season.
Davis' confidence in the program has been mistaken by some as blind faith, but that blindness to the wrong doings within the program may be what saves his job. University Chancellor Holden Thorp spoke on the issue Thursday with the Board of Governors, and (for the moment) stood behind the Davis as the leader of the football program.
"There's no information to indicate that he participated in or knew of any wrongdoing," Thorp told the Raleigh News & Observer. "Mr. Baddour and I are not having meetings deciding his future. He's our football coach."
Now at 5-3 with a 2-2 conference record, the Tar Heels are two games out of first place in the Coastal Division. While a division title is not highly likely considering the opponents left on the schedule, it is not entirely out of reach. The Tar Heels travel to Tallahassee this weekend to face an angry Seminoles team looking to bounce back from a loss to N.C. State last Thursday. Things won't get any easier either, after that North Carolina will host Virginia Tech and N.C. State in back-to-back weeks. How the Tar Heels fare in this three week stretch of currently-ranked teams will determine if/where the Tar Heels go bowling. Their final contest of the season, against Duke in Durham, should be a one-win safety net. But you can't count on anything in late-season rivalry games, especially in the parity-filled ACC.
Posted on: November 2, 2010 12:52 pm
Edited on: November 2, 2010 12:58 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
When Miami quarterback Jacory Harris left Saturday's matchup with Virginia with a concussion due to a MONSTROUS hit from Cavalier defensive tackle John-Kevin Dolce, the Hurricanes began spinning the quarterback carousel. First came second string quarterback Spencer Whipple, son of offensive coordinator Mark Whipple. After throwing two interceptions in his first six attempts, Whipple found a spot right back on the sideline next to his father. Next in for the Hurricanes was fourth-string freshman Stephen Morris. After three scoreless quarters, Morris was able to lead Miami to 19 fourth quarter points and nearly overcame the 24-0 deficit in the losing effort for the Hurricanes. Morris connected on 9 of 22 passes for 162 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while and picking up a 9 yard touchdown run of his own.
With Harris' status for Saturday's game against Maryland up in the air, Hurricanes head coach Randy Shannon already has Morris taking snaps with the first-team offense in practice this week. Shannon has yet to name a starter, as doctors continue to monitor Harris' condition after the concussion. Shannon said that Jacory wants to play, but the fourth-year head coach said the decision will be made based on what's best for Harris' well being. Morris did show flashes of big-play potential in the fourth quarter of the Virginia game, but he also threw two interceptions. Some Hurricanes fans were surprised to see Morris come off the bench ahead of A.J. Highsmith (son of famous Miami running back Alonzo Highsmith), but Shannon revealed to WQAM on Tuesday that he would "probably be redshirted" due to a wrist injury. Highsmith is also expected to switch to defensive back in the spring.
Posted on: November 2, 2010 11:15 am
Edited on: November 2, 2010 11:17 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
Kyle Parker became the toast of Clemson, SC with his decision to return to the gridiron for one last season with the Tigers. The sophomore quarterback was drafted 26th overall by the Colorado Rockies this summer, but agreed to a contract that would allow him to play one more season of football at Clemson. Both Parker and head coach Dabo Swinney have maintained that the deal, worth $1.4 million, has had very little to do with any football decisions once Parker committed to the team in August. At the beginning of the season, there were the makings of a heroic final run for the baseball standout. Parker started the first three games tossing six touchdowns and just one interception, and had an impressive 220 yard performance in a 27-24 overtime loss to now top-ranked Auburn. In that game against the Tigers, Parker was beat up by Auburn's defense and sustained a rib injury. Since then it has been a different Parker under center. In the month of October, Parker threw just two touchdowns and five interceptions in five games.
After Saturday's 16-10 loss to Boston College, Swinney has begun to consider the future with his quarterback decisions in 2010. Backup quarterback Tajh Boyd told the Charleston Post and Courier on Monday that he has been told he will play on Saturday against N.C. State. Swinney met with the redshirt freshman for about 30 minutes on Monday, and while he did not promise any number of series or snaps, did tell Boyd to be ready to play against the Wolfpack. At this point in the week Parker is still the Tigers' starter under center, but with the nagging injuries and drop-off in performance it is not surprising to see Swinney start to look towards grooming the replacement for the baseball star.
Posted on: November 1, 2010 3:58 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2010 4:01 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams has not had the kind of season he was expecting after setting the ACC single-season rushing record as a redshirt freshman in 2009. A slight hamstring tear in the third game of the season has kept Williams out four games before finally returning to the field October 23 for a six carry warm up int he 44-7 victory against Duke. Williams has benefited from the Hokies' off week to continue to heal and prepare for Virginia Tech's primetime matchup with division rival Georgia Tech on Thursday in Blacksburg. After Saturday's practice, the sophomore running back announced himself "85-90 percent" healthy, but some particularly insightful analysis was offered by offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring.
"I thought he made some nice cuts," Stinespring said. "He hit a gear very quickly. I thought he turned it loose a couple times. If you'd have asked me up until this week, I always thought there was a little bit of hesitation in him. But (Saturday), I thought he felt good, looked good. Looked like he had a bounce in his step out there."
Williams' only two complete games all season were the Hokies' only two losses against Boise State and James Madison. At this point in the season, that 0-2 start seems like an ancient memory in the ACC. Since the joining the conference, Virginia Tech has consistently competed for division and conference titles week in and week out. The heart-wrenching loss to the Broncos and upset at the hands of their in-state FCS rivals have no effect on Frank Beamer's pursuit of his fourth ACC title since joining the conference in 2004. At this point, Virginia Tech controls their own destiny in the conference title race. Miami and Georgia Tech are tied for second place in the division with 3-2 records, and the Hokies face both opponents in the final stretch of the regular season. A win over Georgia Tech on Thursday would create a crucial advantage over Miami, allowing some breathing room before the Hokies have to travel to Coral Gables on November 20.
Posted on: October 30, 2010 9:35 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
1. Well, there goes the Atlantic Division - Florida State jumped out with a quick four wins in conference play to take the lead in the Atlantic Division. But after Thursday night's loss to division rival N.C. State, the race has become a toss up between the Seminoles, Wolfpack, and Maryland. Each with only one loss, each team will enter every game from here out with a must-win attitude. As we saw today with the Clemson Tigers, one loss can create a serious setback in the race for that coveted spot in the ACC Championship Game. N.C. State has conquered their arguably most formidable opponent, but now have difficult road games against Clemson, Maryland, and in-state rival North Carolina ahead. Maryland has the chance to play spoiler in this scenario, facing the Wolfpack at home on the last Saturday of the regular season. The Terrapins have yet to play any truly difficult opponents, but a 3-1 conference record still has them in the ACC Title discussion regardless of who the three teams were. Florida State also has North Carolina, Clemson, and Maryland ahead. After Saturday, I believe the division winner will be either the Seminoles or Wolfpack, and it will be determined by who survives that three-team gauntlet.
2. Bad day to be a favorite on the road - Miami and Clemson, both favored by a touchdown or more on Saturday, slipped up on the road in conference play. For Clemson, the loss made things awfully difficult for the 2-3 Tigers to try and catch up to the three teams in the lead with only one loss. It is difficult to distinguish at times whether the parity in the ACC is a representation of how competitive or how poor the conference is in 2010. Clemson and Miami were supposed to be teams that are the face of the conference on the national scene, and neither team could take care of business on Saturday. Skeptics of the conference will point to days like Saturday to make a case for a weak ACC. Combined the Hurricanes and Tigers losses with North Carolina squeaking by William and Mary, and they have a pretty good case.
3. What happened to North Carolina? - The Tar Heels needed a late drive and a 67 yard Johnny White touchdown scamper to avoid dropping a costly game to FCS William and Mary. The Tribe are one of the better teams in the Championship Series but the Tar Heels cannot afford any upsets if they plan on playing football after November. The Tar Heels did display resolve in their comeback from the 17-7 deficit to win 21-17, but struggling against former Tar Heel backup Mike Paulus draws some concern about the supposedly "dominant" North Carolina defense. Paulus completed 24 passes for 209 yards and threw a pair of touchdowns on a secondary that is as close to full strength as they will likely be all season. Welcoming Deunta Williams, Da'Norris Searcy, and Kendric Burney was supposed to end the Tar Heels' woes against opposing quarterbacks. Facing a final stretch that includes Florida State, Virginia Tech, and N.C. State, they need to try and fix the issue before facing three very potent quarterbacks.
4. When a Jacory falls in the woods... -
Posted on: October 30, 2010 1:02 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2010 1:56 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
Miami quarterback Jacory Harris threw an interception near the beginning of the second quarter against Virginia. That is not news.
But as he let the ball go, Harris took a DEVASTATING hit from Virginia defensive tackle John-Kevin Dolce. Harris has been known to hang in the pocket, and it is often considered one of his strengths as a passer. But with his eyes downfield and arm extended, Harris had no time to prepare for Dolce's brutal hit. He laid on the ground, surrounded by the entire Miami training staff and both head coaches before walking off the field with some assistance. No word yet on his return, but judging by the hit and his woozy reaction, I'm guessing they are not going to trot a Zombie Jacory back on the field before conducting some tests.
[UPDATE, 1:56 p.m.: Harris will not return to the game, and judging by the video of the hit, it's pretty easy to see why.]
Posted on: October 28, 2010 10:16 am
Edited on: October 28, 2010 10:19 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
As the regular season winds to a close, we'll break down the conference races and let you know what scenarios are needed for your favorite team to grasp that automatic BCS berth. In the ACC, we'll shake down each division race first then make an insanely premature prediction. Agree? Disagree? Got any good haikus? Leave 'em all in the comments section below.
Atlantic DivisionFlorida State (4-0) (6-1)
N.C. State (2-1) (5-2)
Maryland (2-1) (5-2)
Clemson (2-2) (4-3)
Wake Forest (1-3) (2-5)
Boston College (0-4) (2-5)
Week 9 Preview
Florida State dodged a near upset on their own turf to Boston College, but the Seminoles have had a week and a half to take a look at what went wrong and prepare for Thursday night's primetime showdown against N.C. State in Raleigh. This game is usually a nail biter, with eight of the last nine contests being decided by ten points or less, but N.C. State particularly likes facing a ranked Florida State squad. Two of the last three times Florida State has visited Carter-Finley Stadium while ranked in the Top 25 they have been knocked off by the Wolfpack, and with the division on the line Florida State can count on seeing the best out of their opponent. The Wolfpack are looking to bounce back from a loss to in-state rival East Carolina, but has also had an extra week to tend to their wounds and prepare for Florida State. With a win, the Seminoles could give themselves an extra game of separation from N.C. State and the Clemson, the defending division champs.
Clemson travels to Chestnut Hill to face Boston College, who is still searching for that first conference win. But the Eagles have lost their last two division games by a combined eight points, and will be looking to get over the hump. The Tigers, on the other hand, can not afford any more conference losses if they plan on having a shot to play for the ACC Championship again in 2010. Maryland hosts Wake Forest, a team who's only victories have come against Presbyterian College and a 45-38 shootout at home against Duke. Maryland has had an incredibly favorable conference draw this season, and it will likely lead to a bowl berth. But judging by the talent on the field, the Terrapins are not quite on the same level as Florida State, N.C. State, and Clemson. Still, with an upset of Miami next week the Terrapins could make the title hunt very interesting in the ACC. I predict the Wolfpack to pull off the upset Thursday, but with so many tough conference games left I think even a one-loss Seminole squad will emerge from the Atlantic Division.
Atlantic Division Week 9 Winners - N.C. State, Clemson, Maryland
Atlantic Division Favorite - Florida State
Coastal DivisionVirginia Tech (4-0) (6-2)
Miami (3-1) (5-2)
Georgia Tech (3-2) (5-3)
North Carolina (2-2) (4-3)
Virginia (0-3) (3-4)
Duke (0-4) (1-6)
Week 9 Preview
This weekend is a calm week in the Coastal Division, with Georgia Tech and division leader Virginia Tech both off on Saturday. The only division matchup of the week will feature Miami traveling to Charlottesville to face Virginia. Barring an out-of-character performance from the Cavaliers, the Hurricanes should carve up the weaker Virginia defense and have no trouble picking up their fourth conference victory. It is imperative for the Hurricanes to avoid any slip ups down the stretch in order to set up a potential informal ACC Championship play-in game with Virginia Tech November 20 in Coral Gables. A win over Virginia moves Miami just a half-game behind the Hokies, and even if Virginia Tech continues their undefeated ways Miami could steal the tiebreaker with a head-to-head win. The spoiler in that scenario is Georgia Tech, who could create even more tiebreaker mayhem with wins over both teams in the coming weeks.
Duke and North Carolina both will be playing out-of-conference matchups on the Week 9 slate. The Blue Devils travel to Annapolis to face the Naval Academy, while the Tar Heels will host William & Mary for Homecoming. The Tar Heels are not out of the Coastal Division race, but it is going to take some help for a two-loss team to win the division. Particularly, a two loss team who lacks the head-to-head advantage over Miami and Georgia Tech. The Tar Heels have yet to face Virginia Tech, N.C. State, and still have to travel back to Florida to face the Seminoles. Considering the type of year the Tar Heels have gone through, a postseason berth should feel like a success. But with all the talent that has missed time on the field, Tar Heel fans will still be asking "What if?" for years to come.
Coastal Division Week 9 Winners - Miami, North Carolina
Coastal Division Favorite - Virginia Tech
Insanely Premature ACC Championship Game Prediction - Virginia Tech 20, Florida State 14
Posted on: October 23, 2010 11:55 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2010 12:02 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
1. Miami can step up when they need to - There was a dismal attendance, they were favored by less than a touchdown, and North Carolina was on a four game winning streak, but the Miami Hurricanes still played up to the expectations of a primetime game in Sun Life Stadium. Things looked bleak for the Hurricanes down 10-3 in the second quarter after a 76 yard Johnny White touchdown run, but 'The U' turned it on from there. Jacory Harris and running back Damien Berry anchored a 30-0 run for Miami after the White's touchdown to put Miami ahead and away with the 33-10 victory over the Tar Heels. Jacory Harris increased his career TD total to 50, good enough for second all-time in the Miami record books, and Berry added 109 yards on the ground to lead the Hurricanes. The atmosphere in the stadium did not live up to the hype of the division rivalry, but Miami delivered with the first Hurricane victory over Butch Davis since he took the North Carolina job in 2007.
2. Attention College Fooball Nation: Andre Ellington is the real deal - Ellington has been piecing together one of the most dominant rushing seasons in the conference this season, and done so under the radar for the most part. Against the Yellow Jackets, Ellington rushed 20 times for 166 yards and a pair of touchdowns and added a touchdown reception to lead the Tigers in their 27-13 victory. Without much hype, Ellington has been one of the most efficient runners in the conference. He is in the top five in yards per game and leads the conference in rushing touchdowns. The 5-10 sophomore has a long way to go before the NFL becomes a legitimate discussion, but the kind of home run threat that he possesses will be a skill that is desired by many at the next level.
3. It doesn't have to pretty, just have to win - Don't look now, but Maryland is just a game away from being bowl eligible. After the media predicted that the Terrapins would be near the bottom of the conference come seasons end, Maryland has proved the critics wrong with a 5-2 start that has them sitting tied for second place in the Atlantic Division. Quarterback Danny O'Brien completed 26 of 29 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Terps in the 24-21 victory over Boston College. Their wins have not always been pretty, but they have found ways to pull out a victory week after week regardless of the opponent. Say what you will about strength of schedule, but in the ACC sometimes you just need to find six wins. Head coach Ralph Friedgen entered the season as good as fired in the eyes of many, but has held off the critics yet again with a timely winning season.
4. Duke's scheduling has not worked out well - On the flip side of the Maryland situation, you have Duke. The Blue Devils entered the season with high hopes and expectations for a breakout season under David Cutcliffe. Scheduling big-name non-conference opponents, Duke hoped to enhance their pigskin reputation by building on last year's improved season with more success and hopefully a bowl bid. Unfortunately, the Devils are all but cooked at the midpoint of the season, having dropped six in a row since defeating Elon in the season opener. Heads up Duke, if you want to increase your win total - schedule winnable games.