ACC: Boston College Eagles

By the numbers: ACC Week 3 recap

September, 15, 2014
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A look around the league at some of the more interesting statistical performances from Week 3.

* Saturday's win over FIU marked James Conner’s second straight game with at least 31 rushing attempts. Since the start of 2012, only five other running backs have had consecutive games with as many attempts.

Conner also racked up a whopping 177 yards on the ground against FIU, his fourth straight game with at least 150 rushing yards. In the last decade, here’s the complete list of Power 5 conference backs who’ve had at least four games in a row of 150-plus rushing yards:
  • BC’s Andre Williams, 5 games (2013)
  • Arizona’s Kadeem Carey, 5 games (2012-13)
  • Wisconsin’s Montee Ball, 4 games (2011)
  • Pitt’s Dion Lewis, 4 games (2009)

Among non-Power 5 runners, only NIU’s Garrett Wolfe (11), UCF’s Kevin Smith (7) and UConn’s Donald Brown (5) have had streaks longer than Conner’s current one.

* Conner leads all ACC players in rushing yards for the season (543). Next up is BC QB Tyler Murphy (401) and Duke’s Shaun Wilson (334).

Wilson set the Duke school record Saturday, rushing for 245 yards on just 12 carries. Overall, Wilson is averaging a whopping 15.9 yards per rush so far this season — 6.2 yards per rush more than any other player in the nation (min. 20 attempts).

Wilson had three touchdowns against Kansas on Saturday — runs of 69, 68 and 45. Since the start of the 2004 season, only two other players have had three touchdown runs of at least 45 yards against a Power 5 conference team: Maurice Jones-Drew (9/18/04 vs. Washington) and Nebraska’s Roy Helu Jr. (10/30/10 vs. Missouri).

* Murphy averaged 4.2 yards per pass attempt and 14.7 yards per rush against USC. Only three quarterbacks have rushed for more yardage against a Power 5 team since the start of last season: Daniel Sams (199 vs. Baylor, 11/23/13), Nick Marshall (214 vs. Tennessee, 11/9/13) and Taysom Hill (259 vs. Texas, 9/7/13).

And for what it’s worth, the only Power 5 teams averaging fewer pass attempts per game than Boston College this year: Georgia Tech, Pitt, Arkansas, Minnesota and LSU.

* More from ESPN Stats & Information: This was the first time an unranked Boston College beat a top-10 opponent since knocking off Notre Dame in 2002. (Remember those green Irish jerseys?) Moreover, ESPN’s Football Power Index says this was the biggest upset in an FBS vs. FBS game so far this year. The Eagles had a 9 percent chance to win.

* Duke's Anthony Boone has thrown seven touchdowns without an interception through three games. How significant is that? Last year, Boone didn’t throw his seventh TD pass until Nov. 23 against Wake Forest, and nationally, the only QBs with at least seven TDs and no interceptions is short: USC’s Cody Kessler, along with Heisman candidates Everett Golson, Kenny Hill and Marcus Mariota.

Overall, Duke QBs have combined for eight touchdowns on 119 attempts without a pick. No other team in the nation has attempted more passes without a pick this year.

* Syracuse’s easy win over Central Michigan was lost in the shuffle a bit Saturday, but two weeks after struggling against Villanova, the Orange had no trouble in their first road test of the year.

What was particularly encouraging was that QB Terrel Hunt played well — something he didn’t do away from the Carrier Dome a year ago. In six games away from home last season, Hunt completed 57.8 percent of his throws, averaged 5.2 yards per attempt, threw four interceptions without a TD. Against CMU, he completed 20-of-30 for 175 yards with a touchdown and no picks. Hunt also added three touchdowns on the ground.

* Virginia Tech clearly isn't completely past the troubles of 2013.

Lost in the shuffle of the win over Ohio State was another troubling performance by the Hokies’ ground game. Its three tailbacks — Shai McKenzie, Marshawn Williams and J.C. Coleman — had 22 rushes for just 43 yards. Those troubles showed up again against ECU. While McKenzie and Williams did combine for 92 yards on 24 carries, 21 of those yards came on a single run. On the other 23 attempts, the Hokies mustered just 3.1 yards-per-rush.

Virginia Tech is averaging 3.5 yards per carry on first down this year — the second lowest tally among ACC teams (Wake Forest, 1.65).

* Another relic of last year’s problems for Virginia Tech: Hokies receivers were credited with seven drops against ECU. No other ACC team has had more than four in a game this season. Only West Virginia, in its opener against Alabama, had as many among all Power 5 conference teams. The seven drops also came after Tech had just two combined in its first two games.

* Silver lining for Wake Forest: The 24 points scored by the Demon Deacons against Utah State on Saturday were the most against an FBS opponent since Oct. 19 of last year — a span of seven games. It was the second most in a road game against an FBS team since the start of the 2012 season (25 vs. Army on 9/21/13).

The 110 attempts by QB John Wolford are the most by any true freshman in the country (conference-mate Brad Kaaya is second at 75), and while the results haven’t been terrific, he has shown some signs of progress. After a brutal first half against Utah State, Wolford was decent enough in the second half, completing 14-of-31 attempts for 179 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. And, of course, he’s been asked to do all of this while his ground game is averaging 0.8 yards-per-rush. Only SMU has been worse on the ground.

Consistency still missing in ACC

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
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Boston CollegeAP Photo/Stephan SavoiaBC's upset over USC shows that ACC teams are capable of winning big nonconference games.

The yin and yang that is the ACC was on full display this past weekend.

Boston College pulled an upset for the ages over No. 9 USC on Saturday night, giving the ACC five wins against top 10 nonconference opponents in a two-year span for the first time in league history!

Oh, but both No. 17 Virginia Tech and No. 21 Louisville lost to unranked teams.

But hey, the ACC is 27-5 against nonconference teams! And for the second time in league history, two unranked ACC teams upset top 10 opponents this year (BC, plus the Hokies over Ohio State in Week 2).

Oh, but look at those rankings. Only two teams remain in the AP poll this week.

But hey, maybe the bottom of the league is starting to rise up if cellar dweller UVa can shock a team like the Cards! Virginia had six wins over the last two seasons while Louisville had 23!

Oh, but look closer at the AP rankings. Only one ACC team sits in the top 15, compared to seven from the SEC.

But hey, at least the ACC is not the Big Ten!

Back and forth we go in our yearly game entitled: What will you turn out to be, ACC?

If only the ACC could get all its pieces to fit nicely into one pretty looking College Football Playoff picture.

Instead, we are left with the all too familiar, a disjointed puzzle that remains hard to comprehend and even harder to predict. Virginia Tech had its offense and defense in sync at Ohio State in Week 2; the Hokies were totally out of sync Saturday at home against East Carolina, a team everybody knew would have a shot at the upset. Boston College allowed 300-plus yards rushing in a loss to Pitt in Week 2. Against USC? The Eagles gave up 20 yards on the ground. Total.

Then there is Louisville, a team that had two turnovers in its first two games. The Cards doubled that total against Virginia and lost.

The season is obviously still young and we only have a few games to go on, but the ACC already is falling into its usual habits despite some of those jazzy stats mentioned above. Big wins end up being fluky wins; four ranked teams dwindle to two; and lo and behold, Florida State and Clemson are left to carry the league.

You know, the way the two are doing this week. "College GameDay" will be in Tallahassee, Florida, for the showdown between the only remaining ranked ACC teams, a game that has determined the Atlantic champion three straight years.

While Florida State has looked shaky and Clemson is playing one of the most daunting schedules in the country to open the season, there is no dispute everybody else inside the ACC is still chasing these two. A host of teams still have a chance to get into the Top 25 rankings this season -- Duke, Pitt and North Carolina are on deck while Virginia Tech and Louisville will have every opportunity to get back in, too. If Miami gets past Nebraska this weekend, who knows what happens.

But what was reinforced this weekend is the importance of following through. One big win is great. But that big win needs to beget another big win and another, until the ACC has got a solid group of teams that become more predictable week in and week out. Watering down the schedule like the folks over in SEC land is not the answer. The ACC needs to continue to be at the forefront of playing big nonconference games.

The league is clearly capable of winning them. It is the consistency that remains elusive.

ACC morning links: Kaaya's big step

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
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Miami knew there would be bumps in the road for true freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya, and so it wasn’t entirely surprising when he started off the year looking like, well, a true freshman. But the upside for Kaaya was always obvious, and against Arkansas State on Saturday, all that potential was on display.

As the Miami Herald noted, Kaaya set a Miami record for true freshmen, throwing for 342 yards -- just 9 less than his total from the first two games of the season. After the game, wideout Phillip Dorsett told the Sun Sentinel that Kaaya “grew up a lot.”

Kaaya certainly looked like a veteran against Arkansas State, but as significant as his comfort in the pocket was his ability to make some big throws when given the chance.

Miami fans were more than a bit displeased with the play calling in the first two games, noting that Kaaya wasn’t exactly given much of a chance to make many big throws. On the other hand, his success rate on those throws provided little encouragement.

On Saturday, however, things were much different.

Below are Kaaya’s numbers on throws of 10 yards or more.

Weeks 1 and 2: 7-of-17 for 187 yards, one TD and four interceptions
Week 3: 3-of-4 for 132 yards, two TDs and no interceptions

The opportunities for deep balls actually declined against Arkansas State, but Kaaya’s accuracy on those throws was much improved. Two of those completions went to Dorsett, who had receptions of 63, 63 and 51. He became just the second ACC receiver in the last decade to have three catches of 50 yards or more in a single game, joining Clemson’s Sammy Watkins (Oct. 25, 2012, against Wake Forest).

Kaaya was sacked three times, and Miami’s shaky offensive line continues to be a concern, but the freshman showed plenty of poise, including going 3-of-4 for 106 yards and two touchdowns against the blitz. And all of this without star receiver Stacy Coley, who missed the game with a shoulder injury.

There will be bigger tests and more bumps in the road ahead for Kaaya, but Saturday was a good reminder of why the Hurricanes liked the kid so much in the first place and a great chance for him to build a little confidence for the future.

A few more links:
  • We're back to blaming the offense at Virginia Tech after the Hokies lost to ECU and dropped out of the polls, writes the Richmond Times-Dispatch. To be fair, though, the defense has allowed 11 pass plays of 25-plus yards in three games, the most of any Power 5 team. It allowed just 18 all of last year.
  • We’re three weeks into the season and we’ve already seen two starting QBs pulled when struggling, with Will Gardner the latest to ride the bench. The Louisville Courier-Journal wonders if Reggie Bonnafon should be the starter for the Cardinals.
  • Saturday’s thrashing of Kansas was a good reminder that Duke has a lot more weapons on offense than Jamison Crowder, writes the Raleigh News & Observer. Crowder had just two catches for 14 yards against the Jayhawks, his lowest production since a 2/10 performance in a loss to Georgia Tech in 2012.
  • BC Interruption relives the many things for the Eagles to be excited about after Saturday’s upset of USC.
  • For NC State, there were a lot of numbers from Saturday’s thumping of USF that could be followed with the phrase “first time since” and a date from at least two years ago. Backing the Pack looks at a few, including a stretch for the Wolfpack defense that was particularly encouraging.
  • With Terrel Hunt getting his first extended action of the season, we finally got a look at the up-tempo Orange offense, and the numbers show Syracuse looked comfortable working quickly, writes The Post-Standard.
  • The schedule makes it tough to get too excited at Virginia, with the Hoos set to face down another big challenge in Week 4, writes The Roanoke Times.
  • Georgia Tech’s collapse against Georgia Southern probably speaks less to the team’s talent than its focus, writes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • Life’s not easy at Wake Forest right now, and a short turnaround before Army comes to town won’t help, writes the Winston-Salem Journal.

ACC bowl projections: Week 3

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
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The ACC makes no sense right now. Virginia Tech thumps Ohio State on the road, then loses to East Carolina at home. Boston College coughs up 214 rushing yards to James Conner one week, then holds USC to 20 yards on the ground the next. Georgia Tech is 3-0, but has hardly looked impressive yet. Oh, and there’s that little matter of the conference’s top two teams facing off this coming Saturday.

For now, we’re doing the best we can with a fluid situation, so fair warning that these projections are a moving target at this point in the season.

College Football Playoff: Florida State
Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Notre Dame*
Russell Athletic Bowl: Virginia Tech
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Pittsburgh
Belk Bowl: Duke
Hyundai Sun Bowl: Miami
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Louisville
Military Bowl presented By Northrop Grumman: Virginia
Duck Commander Independence Bowl: North Carolina
Quick Lane Bowl: Boston College
BITCOIN St. Petersburg Bowl: Georgia Tech

*Note: Notre Dame is eligible for a bid to any ACC tie-in game unless it is selected for a New Year’s Six game, which can include playing an ACC team in the Orange Bowl.

Best of the visits: ACC

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
2:06
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From Boston College’s upset over No. 9 USC to Virginia’s win over Top 25 Louisville to Virginia Tech picking up a 2016 ESPN Junior 300 quarterback commitment despite the upset loss against East Carolina, prospects took to social media to show just how much fun they had on their trips.

Here is a look at some of the best posts, pictures and reaction from the weekend.

Boston College vs. USC

The scene on Alumni Field Saturday night following Boston College’s 37-31 upset win over No. 9-ranked USC was the talk of recruits in attendance.

ESPN 300 No. 288 Wyatt Knopfke summed up the experience on twitter.



Knopfke also snapped a picture of the Boston College fans storming the field after the win.



For the Eagles, this win is big for helping close out the 2015 class and any hopes Boston College has of pulling the upset for ESPN 300 No. 83 Christian Wilkins (officially visited Stanford over the weekend), but it was bigger when looking ahead to the classes of 2016 and 2017. This is a signature win that Steve Addazio and staff can build upon with future classes on the trail.

Virginia vs. Louisville

The top prospect to make the trip to Charlottesville for the Virginia Cavaliers' upset win over the Louisville Cardinals was ESPN 300 No. 15 and five-star defensive tackle Tim Settle.



“It was exciting,” Settle said. “I was happy to watch them beat Louisville!”

When diving deeper into Settle’s recruitment, he has been on the campuses of Virginia and Virginia Tech this season. The Hokies are in his top five along with Alabama, Florida State, Penn State and Tennessee. This win can only help the Cavaliers stay in the fight for the uber-talented interior prospect.

Virginia Tech vs. East Carolina

While the Hokies would have liked to continue to build momentum on the field after last week’s win over Ohio State, Frank Beamer and staff used the momentum created last week to reel in one of 2016’s top quarterback prospects. ESPN Junior 300 No. 258 Logan Byrd was in Blacksburg Saturday and ended the unofficial visit with a commitment.



Byrd’s visit to Virginia Tech was a big hit for Hokies fans, as #HokieNation showed love to the 6-foot-3, 230-pound quarterback from Georgia throughout the day.



Byrd’s commitment is a big one in 2016 but is also another shot in the arm for the Hokies with next weekend’s official visitor list being headlined by ESPN 300 No. 1 overall Josh Sweat.

ACC Power Rankings: Week 3

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
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ACC helmet stickers: Week 3

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
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Week 3 was chock full of big plays on both sides of the ball, meaning there were plenty of contenders for ACC helmet stickers. Here are the top performers.

Syracuse LB Cameron Lynch: Two weeks after a discouraging opener against Villanova, the Orange looked much improved against Central Michigan in their 40-3 win. Quarterback Terrel Hunt was exceptional, accounting for four touchdowns, but it was the defense that really set the tone. Syracuse had five sacks in the game, led by Lynch, who recorded eight tackles, 3.5 for a loss and 2.5 sacks while helping to hold CMU to just 34 yards rushing on 23 carries.

Georgia Tech QB Justin Thomas: There are concerns for the Yellow Jackets, who’ve been tested against three lower-tier opponents early this season, but Georgia Tech has to be pleased with the performance of its new starting quarterback. Thomas rushed for a team-high 137 yards on 20 carries with a touchdown while throwing for four more scores, including the game-winning 13-yard pass to Deon Hill with 23 seconds remaining, as Georgia Tech rallied past Georgia Southern 42-38. Thomas already has six TDs on the year — halfway to the team’s total through the air from 2013.

Virginia LB Henry Coley: The Hoos got their first ACC win since 2012 thanks to another dominant defensive effort. Coley helped lead the charge in the 23-21 victory, racking up seven tackles, including two for a loss, one sack and a pass breakup. The Virginia front seven tormented Louisville throughout, while the secondary came up with two big interceptions. Overall, UVA had three takeaways, and all three led to points.

Pitt RB James Conner: Another week, another helmet sticker for the ACC’s most prolific runner. Conner had 31 carries — his second straight week with 30-plus — for 177 yards and three scores, leading Pitt to a 42-25 road win over FIU. Conner has topped 150 yards in four straight games dating back to last season, just the fifth Power 5-conference runner to do that since the start of 2009.

Miami QB Brad Kaaya: In the first two games of his career, Kaaya looked every bit a true freshman, completing 57 percent of his passes, throwing just three TDs to go with four picks and racking up 351 yards. In his third start, Kaaya made a huge improvement, throwing for 341 yards and four touchdowns while playing without star receiver Stacy Coley. With Coley out, however, Phillip Dorsett shined in Miami's 41-20 win with four catches for 201 yards, including a pair of 63-yard scores.

Duke RB Shaun Wilson: The true freshman had just nine career carries on his resume entering the weekend, but he finished Saturday’s 41-3 win with the Duke school record for yards by a running back. Wilson had TD runs of 69, 68 and 45 yards and finished the game with 245 yards on just 12 carries — but it was an 8-yard carry on the game’s final play that set the record. The 245 yards were the 10th most by an ACC running back since 2004, and he was just the third player with three touchdown runs of 45 yards or more against a Power 5 team in the past decade.

And rather than a helmet sticker, how about a red bandana to everyone at Boston College? The Eagles looked fantastic in upending No. 9 USC while wearing red bandana designs on their uniforms to honor 9/11 victim and former BC lacrosse player Welles Crowther. It was a group effort for the Eagles. Quarterback Tyler Murphy was electric in the 37-31 win, accounting for 244 yards of offense. Freshman RB Jon Hilliman had 89 yards and two touchdowns. The ground game racked up 452 yards, while the defense had five sacks and held USC to just 20 yards rushing. And for the second time in as many weeks, an ACC team knocked off a Top-10, nonconference foe.

Unlikely Boston College stuns No. 9 USC

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
2:20
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video

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- This is not the way the No. 9 team in the nation is supposed to lose. This is not the way the Glamour Guys from USC go down. This is not the team that should be beating the Trojans, with their Hollywood profile and grand tradition.

The USC locker room is filled with four- and five-star recruits. And then there’s the Boston College locker room, a sweatier, and -- early Sunday morning -- happier version of the Island of Misfit Toys.

Quarterback Tyler Murphy is a fifth-year refugee from Florida. Two of the running backs, Myles Willis and Tyler Rouse, haven’t made it to 5-foot-10 yet, and both of them tower over 5-6 freshman Sherman Alston, whose 54-yard misdirection touchdown run late in the first half gave the Eagles a 20-17 lead they never lost.

[+] EnlargeTyler Murphy
Winslow Townson/Getty ImagesThough he finished with just 54 yards passing, Boston College signal-caller Tyler Murphy had 191 rushing yards and a touchdown vs. USC.
“We’re probably not your ideal top college football program as far as looks,” said Murphy, who started six games at Florida before transferring after last season. “Whatever it takes to win. Whether the guys are 5-2 or 7-8, we’ll find a place for them and we’ll find what they excel at and we’ll get them the ball.”

Murphy rushed for 191 yards, including a 66-yard fourth-quarter touchdown, on only 13 carries, to lead the Eagles over the Trojans, 37-31. Boston College hadn’t beaten a ranked team in six seasons or a top-10 team in a decade.

Boston College outgained USC on the ground 452 yards to 20. The Trojans haven't given up that much on the ground since 1977. The running game worked because the Eagles' offensive line, one of only two in the nation that starts five graduate students, won the battle on the line of scrimmage. And the running game worked because Murphy’s sleight of hand on the zone-read kept a fast Trojans defense moving in the wrong direction.

If you are looking for a mental picture of how Boston College won the game after spotting USC a 17-6 lead, think of a Trojans defender, sprawled on the ground, or turning the wrong way, lurching in vain toward an Eagles ball carrier. Suffice it to say it will be a long video session this week for USC cornerback Chris Hawkins. And he’s not the only one.

The Eagles' defense sacked Cody Kessler five times and refused to afford him time to throw downfield. Kessler threw for 317 yards, but completed only one pass longer than 20 yards. Linebacker Josh Keyes made five-and-a-half of his eight tackles behind the line.

USC hoped it could come east, get ahead early and rest its starters. When you travel with 54 available scholarship players -- and that includes linebacker Hayes Pullard, who sat out the first half after a targeting penalty last week -- you look to ease the load when you can. When the Trojans flipped field position on the Eagles early in the game and started two possessions inside the BC 40-yard line, they grabbed a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.

On the other side of the ball, The Eagles went three-and-out on their first three possessions and gained a net total of minus-2 yards. By the time they moved their total yardage into the plus column, the Eagles trailed 10-0.

“We grouped up together on the sideline and we said, ‘That ends now. We’ve got to start playing up to our potential,’ I think we turned the tide then,” center Andy Gallik said.

[+] EnlargeBoston College Eagles fans
Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY SportsDespite an early 17-6 deficit, Boston College stormed back to upset USC. The Eagles' fans stormed the field after the win.
On the Eagles' next snap, a first-and-10 at the BC 22, Willis got a big hole in the left side of the line, and then used great downfield blocks to race 52 yards to the USC 26. The Eagles scored six plays later.

“I thought we played our best football early in the game,” USC coach Steve Sarkisian said. “Our execution was good. But for whatever reason, we lost it. And that’s the part I have to figure out. They hit the one long run and things started to go the other direction on us.”

All upsets are emotional for the winners, but this one left a warm feeling throughout Alumni Stadium. Before the game, the parents of Welles Crowther, a Boston College lacrosse player who died a hero in the South Tower of the World Trade Center in the Sept. 11 attacks, were introduced.

After the game, Eagle coach Steve Addazio gave them a game ball.

“We talked a lot about Welles Crowther,” Addazio said after the game. “We talked a lot about who he was and what it takes to be a BC man. Our guys really dug deep on this.”

Pete Frates, the former Boston College baseball player whose fight against ALS prompted the Ice Bucket Challenge that raised more than $100 million to fight the disease, attended the game and was shown on the video boards at halftime, to the delight of the crowd of 41,632.

Football teams don’t live on emotion. They live on execution, and if that’s fueled by emotion, all the better. This Boston College team is a motley crew. But on Saturday night, the Eagles didn’t play that way. They looked like five-star recruits, every one of them. Ask the five-star guys they beat.

What we learned in the ACC: Week 3

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
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Here’s what we learned in the ACC following the Week 3 slate of games. One thing we already knew -- and which the ACC proved again Saturday -- is that this can often be a befuddling league.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Smith celebration
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsEast Carolina's stunning upset of Virginia Tech knocked the Hokies out as a College Football Playoff contender.
1. Two more ACC schools are knocked from the College Football Playoff discussion.
And that could change again by the end of next week, as No. 23 Clemson travels to No. 1 Florida State on Sept. 20. With Saturday’s results, the ACC turns its eyes to you, Clemson, Duke, Florida State and Pittsburgh. And to be honest, most aren’t considering Duke or Pitt legitimate contenders just yet, considering each school’s nonconference schedule. Virginia Tech offered hope that a Coastal team might be able to crack the playoff four, but the Hokies laid an egg in the first quarter against East Carolina and were knocked off. Considering it came a week after their big road win at Ohio State, it leaves a sour taste in ACC mouths. Louisville was loading up the hype train after a nice win against Miami in a prime-time setting, but the Cardinals’ offense was suffocated by upset-minded Virginia. Pittsburgh has a manageable schedule and would almost certainly get in if undefeated, but the Panthers don't have the look of a team destined for a spotless record just yet. So once more, the ACC is looking to you, Clemson and FSU.

2. The ACC Coastal: 'Bring your brooms, because it’s a mess.'
Marty Huggins from “The Campaign” said it best, and there’s really no need to compound on what he said as far as the ACC Coastal goes. Following last week, it seemed Virginia Tech was the team to beat in the division. It certainly could still be that team as the East Carolina loss was out of conference, but there isn’t nearly as much confidence in the Hokies any longer. Pittsburgh was the flavor of the hour last week after a dominating win on a Friday night, but the Panthers struggled against a terrible Florida International team. Georgia Tech is 3-0 but has been less than impressive in all three wins. North Carolina hasn’t looked great, either. Right now, it is only Duke quietly taking care of business, which is what it did last season, too.

3a. Boston College was a bunch of Dudes on Saturday. So was the Virginia defense.
That is Steve Addazio’s motto for his team, and that is an apt way to describe what we saw from the Eagles against No. 9 USC. Many felt the Eagles had a chance to keep it close, but few felt they would be able to upset a USC team coming off a win at Stanford. Boston College followed the lead of its quarterback, Tyler Murphy, beating up the Trojans on the ground to the tune of 452 rushing yards. After a lopsided loss to Pittsburgh last week, it seemed Boston College was destined for a down year, but now the Eagles have the look of a bowl team. They’re not going to win the Atlantic, but that defense is nasty, and with Murphy running the option, the offense is efficient enough that this might not be the last upset the Eagles pull off in 2014.

In the aftermath of the BC win, we almost forgot the effort from Virginia, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Virginia deserves the recognition, and while it doesn’t use the same "Be A Dude" motto, you can certainly apply it to that Cavaliers defense after its performance against Bobby Petrino’s Louisville offense. All afternoon, quarterback Will Gardner was harassed and made uncomfortable. He was hit, chased and had passes batted back into his face. Eventually, Petrino turned to his backup quarterback. And just like Boston College, the Virginia offense never gave Louisville the ball back in the final minutes after forcing a Cardinals punt. If the Cavs can get any help from their offense, this is a bowl-worthy team. Good for Mike London and his team, which went winless in the ACC last season.

3b. The ACC owns prime time.
Virginia Tech last week. Boston College this week. Just let us have this one.

4. Speaking of Pitt and Georgia Tech, what do we make of their scares?
That one depends on the team. First, there is something to be said to still being undefeated at this point even if the competition is not very good. Now that that is out of the way, I’d be much less concerned with Pitt’s first-half struggles in its 42-25 win than Georgia Tech’s second-half nightmare against Georgia Southern. The Panthers were playing in a noon game against a dreadful FIU team. They came out flat. It happens in college football, and it happens a lot. Ideally, a coach never has those performances, but they’re hard to avoid. Expect a much more focused Pitt team against Iowa. As for the Yellow Jackets, this is becoming a trend. They did not look great against FCS teams Wofford or Tulane, and Saturday they blew a 25-point second-half lead to Georgia Southern. Georgia Tech needed an 11-play, 72-yard drive to score the game-winning touchdown with 23 seconds remaining and earn a 42-38 victory.

5. Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya can sling it.
The Hurricanes opened up the playbook a little more for Kaaya, and he responded with 342 passing yards, a school record for a true freshman. The Miami offense was balanced on first down, which allowed Kaaya to throw in situations in which defenses weren’t always expecting it. What really stood out to coach Al Golden in the Hurricanes' 41-20 win over Arkansas State was how Kaaya audibled into a new play at the line of scrimmage several times, including on two touchdowns. “Brad hits the quick out that Phillip [Dorsett] ends up taking. That’s all him. The other check that we ended up scoring on, the run, [it was] the same thing there. That was all him on the line of scrimmage,” Golden said. And the first touchdown was a deep throw, which Kaaya struggled with in the first two games. On throws of at least 10 yards in the first two weeks, he was 7-of-17 for 188 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions.

Rapid Reaction: BC 37, No. 9 USC 31

September, 13, 2014
Sep 13
11:31
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CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- After hanging tough early, Boston College ran through, over and by No. 9 USC in the second half on a sodden field in Alumni Stadium, upsetting the Trojans 37-31 on Saturday night.

How it happened: Things went according to the script early on.

The Trojans, one of the best teams in the country, jumped out to a two-score lead on a pair of Cody Kessler passes -- a short post to George Farmer in the end zone and a screen pass that Javorius Allen turned into a 51-yard score -- and a 52-yard field goal by Andre Heidari.

And the Eagles, not one of the best teams in the country, managed to get into the end zone after a 52-yard scamper by Myles Willis set up a short option score (Tyler Murphy pitching to Tyler Rouse for a 4-yard TD), but they couldn’t convert on the extra point.

Then it went decidedly off-script. The Eagles ripped off an eight-play, 75-yard drive for a TD (Jonathan Hilliman punching in a 3-yard TD) to make it 17-13. And a few minutes later BC capitalized on a shanked punt by USC’s Kris Albarado with an electric 54-yard score by Sherman Alston on a reverse.

All of a sudden, the Eagles had the lead on their nationally-ranked foe -- on national TV, no less.

And when Josh Keyes and Brian Mihalik combined to sack Kessler on USC’s first possession of the second half, forcing a Trojans punt, Alston was ready. The speedster returned it 22 yards to the USC 41, and the Eagles pounded it down the field and in for a 10-point lead.

When the Trojans seemed to finally wake up in the fourth quarter, putting together a methodical drive and punching it in with a 10-yard strike from Kessler to Nelson Agholor, the Eagles needed an answer. And Murphy provided one.

The QB faked a handoff, exploded through a hole and streaked past everyone for a 66-yard TD that brought such joy to the 41,000-plus souls in attendance that Alumni Stadium shook.

The Trojans added another late TD, cutting the BC lead to six, but couldn’t recover the onside kick, and the Eagles ran out the clock.

What it means: The Eagles beat a ranked team for the first time with President Barack Obama in office. BC’s previous win against a Top 25 team came way back on Nov. 15, 2008, when the Eagles beat No. 20 Florida State 27-17.

BC improves to 2-1 (0-1 ACC), while USC falls to 2-1 (1-0 Pac-12).

Up next: BC will host Maine in the third game of a four-game September homestand. The Black Bears are 1-1, after a 13-10 loss to Bryant on Saturday.

The ESPN Football Power Index gives BC a 95 percent chance of winning against Maine -- which is in the FCS.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

ACC viewer's guide: Week 3

September, 13, 2014
Sep 13
8:00
AM ET
It's Saturday, and we're here to catch you up on all that you should be watching throughout the day as 11 ACC teams take the field. Use the hashtags below to follow each game on Twitter. All times are ET.

Noon

East Carolina at No. 17 Virginia Tech, ESPN, #ECUvsVT: The Hokies are riding high after notching the upset at Ohio State last week. But the Pirates can help bring them back to earth if they aren't careful. ECU itself is amid a tough three-game stretch against South Carolina, Virginia Tech and North Carolina, and its offense, led by the dangerous Shane Carden under center, is certainly capable of testing the home team's D. If that's not enough to have the Hokies ready, these teams' past two meetings should: Narrow Virginia Tech wins in 2013 (15-10) and 2011 (17-10).

Georgia Southern at Georgia Tech, ESPN3, #GASOvsGT: Can the Eagles notch a signature road win over a Power 5 team for the second year in a row? A year after winning at Florida, they came awfully close in Week 1, falling at NC State by one after leading throughout. Now the FBS newcomers travel to face former head coach Paul Johnson and in-state neighbor Georgia Tech. Georgia Southern is coming off an 83-9 win over Savannah State last week, while the Yellow Jackets are still trying to get on-track offensively after a three-turnover performance in a win last week at Tulane.

Pitt at FIU, Fox Sports 1: Stat-watching might be a priority in this lackluster contest. Panthers running back James Conner enters with 50 carries, 367 yards and five touchdowns to his name through two weeks. Can he play himself further into early-season Heisman discussions? His coach, Paul Chryst, has not ruled out the chance that Conner still lines up at defensive end at some point this season. Still, given the workhorse he has been -- and will need to be if Pitt is to contend for the Coastal -- this might be a good chance to limit his workload in the heat and let Chad Voytik grow as a passer. Also worth keeping an eye on is the man snapping Voytik the ball, as center Artie Rowell is lost for the year after an ACL tear last week. Gabe Roberts and Alex Officer could both see action there in place of Rowell.

Syracuse at Central Michigan, ESPNEWS, #CUSEvsCMU: This game sure looks a lot more interesting than it did two weeks ago, no? The Orange have not even played a half this season with Terrel Hunt under center, as the starter was ejected from the opener after throwing a punch at a Villanova player. The offense struggled immensely without Hunt, needing two overtimes to hold off the FCS Wildcats. The Chippewas, meanwhile, ran Purdue out of their own building last week in West Lafayette, Indiana. Syracuse hopes to have gathered itself during its bye last week and unveil the faster-paced offense it had hoped to run this season.

12:30 p.m.

[+] EnlargeDominique Brown
Jamie Rhodes/USA TODAY SportsThe Cardinals should provide Virginia with an early-season measuring stick of where the team stands.
No. 21 Louisville at Virginia, ESPN3, #LOUvsUVA: We should have a much better answer after this game as to just how improved Virginia really is this season. The Cardinals present a great early-season league test in Charlottesville, and Bobby Petrino's offense going up against the Cavaliers' stout defense in Louisville's first-ever ACC road game will be fascinating to watch. But can the Hoos avoid offensive miscues? That is what cost them a chance to upset UCLA in Week 1, and there is still some uncertainty at quarterback, where Matt Johns has looked better than Greyson Lambert through two games.

3:30 p.m.

Arkansas State at Miami, ESPNU, #ARSTvsMIA: Now would be a good time to see what Brad Kaaya is capable of doing, what with a game at Nebraska next week and a pair of league games after. The true freshman quarterback hasn't been bad through two games, but he hasn't really been asked to do too much, either. If the Hurricanes want to contend for the Coastal crown this season, they'll need more production out of him, and better to throw him to the (Red) Wolves of Arkansas State now than the Blackshirts of Nebraska next week under the lights.

NC State at USF, CBS Sports Network: USF forced six turnovers last week against Maryland but still could not pull out the win. Jacoby Brissett has played well through two games, but the ground game has been every bit as instrumental so far, averaging 207.5 yards per contest. Still, the Wolfpack need to start faster after falling behind at home to Georgia Southern and Old Dominion before mounting comeback wins. A 3-0 start for coach Dave Doeren after a 3-9 debut season would be absolutely huge, and it would make a bowl berth a real possibility for the Pack.

Kansas at Duke, ESPN3, #KUvsDUKE: The Jayhawks are undefeated. And Charlie Weis was set to be David Cutcliffe's boss nearly a decade ago. And Duke clearly needs to get off to a better start than it did last week at Troy after falling behind by 11 early. Still, the Blue Devils have a very balanced attack that will test Kansas far more than Southeast Missouri State did last week. And quarterback Anthony Boone has looked very, very good through two games. Expect more of the same against Kansas.

7 p.m.

Wake Forest at Utah State, CBS Sports Network: Dave Clawson did some house-cleaning this week, kicking running back Dominique Gibson and center Cody Preble off the team for a violation of team rules, in addition to suspending reserve quarterback Kevin Sousa. Clawson is coming off his first win as the Demon Deacons' head coach, but the Aggies will provide a much stiffer test than Gardner-Webb did last week. True freshman signal-caller John Wolford got much better protection last week (two sacks) than he did in a season-opening loss at Louisiana-Monroe (five), but he has to improve his decision-making after throwing three picks last week.

8 p.m.

No. 9 USC at Boston College, ESPN, #USCvsBC: USC has been among the country's most impressive teams through two weeks. BC hopes it is catching the Trojans at the right time. Steve Sarkisian's squad travels cross-country after an upset win at Stanford to face an Eagles team coming off a home loss to Pitt. Still, it's worth pointing out just how well Steve Addazio got BC to play last year against heavy favorites Clemson and Florida State, with the latter contest proving to be the Seminoles' biggest test before the national title game. Also, kudos to BC for its attire for this contest, as it honors Sept. 11 hero and lacrosse alum Welles Crowther.

By the numbers: Heavy RB workloads

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
4:00
PM ET
Last month, we wrote a bit about the shift toward backfields-by-committee, noting that most coaches now prefer to have at least two tailbacks with complementary skill sets that can, ideally, lighten the load on one another.

But look around the ACC during the first two weeks of the season, and you'll notice a couple of obvious counterpoints to that logic.

The first came in Week 1, when Louisville tailback Dominique Brown carried 33 times in a win against Miami. No other tailback in the nation had more than 30 rushes, but Brown's bell-cow effort helped the Cardinals out-muscle Miami and took some of the burden off a quarterback making his first career start.

[+] EnlargeDominique Brown
Jamie Rhodes/USA TODAY SportsThrough two games, Cardinals RB Dominique Brown has rushed 38 times for 183 yards.
Four days later, it was Pitt's James Conner who set the standard for rushing attempts, toting the rock a whopping 36 times in a road win against Boston College. Again, Conner's tally was three more than any other tailback in the nation -- and six more than any other running back at a Power 5 school.

The rationale for all those carries, according to Pitt coach Paul Chryst, was simple: Necessity. From Yahoo!: "We feel like we've got a pretty good gauge for workloads," Chryst said. "We needed it, and [Conner] was rolling pretty good. I thought it was alright."

It's certainly not all that uncommon to have a tailback -- particularly big, bruising runners such as Conner and Brown -- get 30-plus carries in a game. It happened 72 times last season, including a herculean 48-carry effort by Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey against Oregon last November. Last season, 10 ACC games featured a running back getting 30 or more carries, though six of those games were turned in by BC's Andre Williams. (And, for what it's worth, Boston College running backs account for eight of the nine heaviest workloads in the ACC since 2008.)

What is a bit more unusual, however, is for tailbacks to carry such a big load so early in the season.

Among all Power 5 teams from 2009 through 2013, only 15 games played in August or September (an average of three per year) featured a tailback carrying the ball at least 33 times (Brown's total from Week 1) and only six matched or exceeded Conner's 36-carry effort. What's more, that list includes three runners -- Le'Veon Bell, Bishop Sankey and Marcus Lattimore -- who had at least 33 carries in an August/September game twice. In other words, Conner and Brown joined a club that includes just 12 other members from the past five seasons.

And if we look at those names, it's an impressive group.

Bell (Michigan State, 2012)
Sankey (Washington, 2013)
Montee Ball (Wisconsin, 2012)
Lattimore (South Carolina, 2010 and 2011)
Mark Weisman (Iowa, 2013)
A. Williams (Boston College, 2013)
Marcus Coker (Iowa, 2011)
DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma, 2010)
Kenjon Barner (Oregon, 2012)
Daniel Thomas (Kansas State, 2010)
Ryan Williams (Virginia Tech, 2009)
Malcolm Agnew (Oregon State, 2011)

(*Note: ACC players in italics.)

There are a lot of highly-touted, big-impact players there, and the vast majority have gone on to jobs in the NFL -- including Bell, Ball, Murray and Sankey as starters. That puts Conner and Brown in good company.

Of course, there's also a reason that 33-carry games don't happen much in September. There's a toll it takes on tailbacks getting hit that many times, and most coaches aren't interested in risking that for an early season game.

But does it really make an impact?

The answer is ... sort of.

Of those 15 early season games in which a tailback carried at least 33 times, there was only one example of that running back returning in his next game to exceed 100 yards on the ground. Sankey followed his 40-carry, 161-yard game against Arizona with a 27-carry, 125-yard game against Stanford, but the other 14 follow-up contests fell far short of the century mark.

So there does appear to be something of a hangover effect for the following week. On average, the 15 previous tailbacks to carry at least 33 times in a September game mustered 16 carries for 64 yards (and 4.0 yards-per-carry) in their follow-ups.

But down the road, it doesn't really seem to make much difference. Yes, Lattimore and Agnew dealt with injuries, but it's tough to draw any distinct correlation. And Weisman had just one more 100-yard game the rest of the season, but he's probably an anomaly in the group anyway. Aside from Lattimore and Agnew, the other 11 runners to make the list had finished their respective seasons with 302 rushes and five more 100-yard games, on average.

Brown's follow-up last week fit the trend: five carries, 40 yards and a TD. It was a light load against an inferior opponent, but he looked fine.

With Pitt traveling to take on a less-than-dangerous FIU team this week, don't be surprised if there's a similar recipe in store for Conner coming off his big game, but Chryst has made it clear, he's got a workhorse back and he plans to use Conner as such.

"I think that he's kind of built for it," Chryst said. "He's a big back, so obviously will take hits, but knock on wood, handles that. I think that he's one that he truly loves playing and competing, and I think that that's all part of it."
Virginia Tech’s tight ends have made a big difference for the Hokies’ offense so far this season, writes The Roanoke Times.

Bucky Hodges and Ryan Malleck have been excellent, and even without Kalvin Cline, the only tight end to catch a pass for the Hokies last season, the position has been a big plus through two games.

I noted the significant uptick in tight end targets earlier this week, too, in our stats column, but here are a few more tidbits worth passing along:
  • Virginia Tech’s tight ends have combined for 163 receiving yards so far this season -- the fifth-most by any team in the country.
  • The 23 targets for the Hokies’ tight ends ranks third nationally, trailing only Oregon State and Penn State. The Hokies have only targeted their wide receivers 27 times so far this year.
  • Among teams targeting tight ends at least 15 times so far this season, only Purdue and UAB’s position groups have caught a higher percentage of passes thrown their way.
  • Among ACC teams, only Louisville comes close to the Hokies in terms of targeting its tight ends. The Cardinals have thrown to tight ends 21 times. That makes sense since Louisville has a star tight end in Gerald Christian and is playing without its top receiver in Devante Parker.
  • Syracuse should have its tight end, Josh Parris, back in time for the Maryland game next week, writes The Post-Standard. That’s good news for the Orange, who targeted a tight end just twice in their opener.

Other tight end production around the ACC through two weeks:

Wake Forest -- 14 targets
Florida State -- 12
Miami -- 10
UNC -- 8
NC State -- 8
Duke -- 8
Clemson -- 8
Pitt -- 5
Virginia -- 4
Boston College -- 0
Georgia Tech -- 0

A few more links:

BC to honor Man in Red Bandanna

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10
4:20
PM ET
video
Boston College will emerge under the lights Saturday at Alumni Stadium looking a little different before it takes on USC.

The Eagles will be wearing helmets, gloves and cleats emblazoned with a red bandanna, in honor of lacrosse alumnus Welles Crowther, who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks after saving several people from the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

Crowther was an equities trader who had dreams of joining the fire department of New York. His father had given him a red bandanna when he was younger, and he carried it with him wherever he went. Crowther ended up becoming every bit the hero as those FDNY members who gave their lives 13 years ago, leading people to safety amid the horror of that tragic day. "Outside the Lines" has documented his incredible story, which you can watch in the video above.

The Eagles' equipment staff tweeted out pictures of the gear Wednesday afternoon. The design is great. More important, the gesture is tremendous, and one we hope to see the program carry on each year in the home game closest to this tragic anniversary.

The school already has a Red Bandanna 5K run every October in his honor. Pat McCavanagh, Crowther's former teammate and the current BC men's lacrosse coach, hands Crowther's No. 19 jersey out each year to the player who best exemplifies the fallen hero's traits.

Kudos to BC for keeping Crowther's memory going, and for sharing his story with a prime-time, national television audience this weekend.

Red Bandanna Uniforms@Tedescau/Twitter
Red Bandanna Uniforms@Tedescau/Twitter
Red Bandanna Uniforms@Tedescau/Twitter

ACC playoff watch: Week 3

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10
3:00
PM ET
The march to the College Football Playoff figures to include plenty of twists and turns, and at season’s end, the ACC is hoping to have at least one team with a chance to win a national championship. Throughout the year, we’ll monitor the league’s chances and preview the biggest battles still ahead.

Where the ACC stands: After a perfect week against nonconference foes and an implosion by the Big Ten, the ACC jumped into the No. 4 spot in the latest ESPN conference power rankings. The conference increased its rating 7.2 points — by far the best week of any FBS league. The problem for the conference, however, is that there still aren’t a ton of teams widely considered elite, with Florida State checking in at No. 4 in ESPN’s Football Power Index, but no other team ranked higher than 17th.

Top playoff contenders: FSU (No. 1 AP poll, No. 4 FPI), Virginia Tech (17/28), Louisville (21/31), Clemson (23/17), Pitt (NR, 25).

Nonconference record: 20-3 overall (11-0 last week), 8-3 vs. FBS, 2-2 vs. Power 5

Week 2 recap: It was a perfect week for the ACC and an utter implosion for the league’s closest competition, the Big Ten. While the ACC added another legitimate contender to the playoff mix with Virginia Tech’s upset of Ohio State in The Horseshoe, the Big Ten saw the Buckeyes, Michigan State and Michigan all lose. This followed a loss for Wisconsin in Week 1, meaning four of the league’s top teams all now have an "L."

The Hokies did their part, but much the rest of the ACC continued to look flawed, as one-time chic pick North Carolina needed a furious comeback to beat San Diego State at home and top-ranked Florida State left some fans grumbling after a less-than-gaudy 37-12 win over The Citadel. After winning all of its games by an average of nearly 40 points last season, the Seminoles are again 2-0, but by an average margin of just 15. That certainly shouldn’t undermine FSU’s playoff chances, but it does provide the appearance of vulnerability, and in this new College Football Playoff era, appearances can be important.

Week 3 preview: Well, Week 2 was fun, right? Hopefully you got your fill of ACC action because Week 3 doesn’t offer much other than opportunities for the league to take a big step back.

Virginia Tech proved its value at Ohio State, but this week the Hokies welcome pesky East Carolina. The history for the two programs includes plenty of good games, including last year’s contest in which Tech came back from a three-point, second-half deficit to win 15-10. This certainly appears to be a much improved Hokies team, but after the big win in Columbus, a let-down game certainly wouldn’t be unexpected.

Meanwhile, Pitt travels to Florida International after two dominant wins to start the season. The Panthers should be able to handle FIU, but road games are rarely easy. The same goes for Syracuse, NC State and Wake Forest — all of whom travel to play on the home turf of non-Power 5 opposition.

But if possible upsets are the key story line for Week 3, we’d be remiss not to mention Boston College, too. The Eagles could deal another big blow for the ACC if they can pull off an upset over No. 9 USC in Chestnut Hill. Boston College was torched by Pitt’s James Conner last week, which doesn’t offer much hope for slowing down the Trojans’ Javorius Allen, but perhaps the Eagles can use those low expectations to fuel an unlikely victory. If they did, the ACC’s status as a distant fourth in the conference power rankings could be erased quickly.

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