Conference Stock Report

The second week of the season is in the books and we got a better handle on every team in the league. Some are not what we expected while others remain a work in progress, but more promising than expected. This week we take the temperature of each team and grade them accordingly.

The critics say the league is down this year. Seeing Florida State struggle to beat a FCS team at home is good evidence. Watching UNC and Maryland struggle past inferior opponents is more evidence. But a few teams have come out strong and others are on the brink of a buy rating.

The Buys

North Carolina (2-0, 0-0): There's little doubt the Tar Heels were lucky to come away with a win at Connecticut. If not for a holding call that resulted in a safety, they very well may have lost that game. Good teams, however, find ways to win when they don't play their best. For that, the Tar Heels remain a buy this week.

Butch Davis: "As people have said, the defense played very well in that game. We were very fortunate defensively to really limit their third down conversions. Connecticut was 2-of-13 that day, so clearly that was instrumental in us winning the ball game. It gave our offense a lot of opportunities. On the other had, we were 6-of-17 so we were slightly better than they were. Looking at the film, we struggled in some areas on the offense line throughout the day. However, I thought they gained their composure at the end of the game. I thought it was one of the better coaching jobs by our staff to help our kids maintain their composure and stay the course at the end of the game. "

Things get a bit tougher this week as they play host to East Carolina, a team that loves knocking off the glamor programs in the state. That means figuring out their offense and taking advantage of their solid defense.

Butch Davis: "This week's challenge is totally different. This is a much faster team than we played last weekend. They are a lot more aggressive defensively and their front seven are really talented. They are big and physical in both the offensive and defensive lines. "

After two weeks, Carolina is number one in rushing defense and number two in pass defense. Nationally they have the seventh best defense in the country. Offensively they are ninth in the conference and 89th nationally.

Georgia Tech (2-0, 1-0): Arguably, the Yellow Jackets are the best team in the ACC. They won both games and beat a very good Clemson team last Thursday. That was a huge win for the program and showed they can compete with the best teams in the league.

Paul Johnson: "There are certainly a lot of areas we got to get better at. I think you can learn as much or more sometimes when you win than when you lose, so that's a positive. It is a huge challenge this week going to Miami, a very talented team. They have a lot of great athletes and a lot of history and tradition. Right now they are coming off a huge win for them where they played really well against Florida State. First road trip, first division game in the conference, it is a big game for us this week. "

This may be the biggest ACC game of the young season. The winner will have a clear edge in the race for the title game. Tech has beaten Miami four straight times, including twice on the road. To do so, they will need their running game to have a big day. Georgia Tech has the fourth best rushing attack in the nation, but 67th best defense.

Miami (1-0, 1-0): With the bye week, Miami did nothing to knock any luster off their big win to open the season. It is far too early to say the Canes are back, but they are in the hunt. To keep it going they will need to find a way to beat Georgia Tech for the first time in five tries. That means defeating the triple option.

Randy Shannon: "We can't allow what we did against Florida State to affect us on Thursday and that's something we addressed on Sunday. We did some things to make sure we stay in the realm of this football team and what we're trying to get done as a football team. They [Georgia Tech] have some great personnel on their offense and on their defense. They do run a triple option and they have about four or five different scenarios on how they will run it. "

The big concern on that score is the chop blocking. Coach Shannon talked about that this week as he got his team ready for tonight.

Coach Shannon: "We worked on it in practice. Some say you don't want to get hurt in practice, but we work full speed on it and they know they're going to be cut. It's like muscle memory. If you're always getting cut in practice, then in the game you can push the guy down and go chase the football. No one has gotten hurt and we haven't even had lower pads on. Florida State did some cutting too. There are no excuses for getting cut, because then you're not doing what is being taught to avoid it. "

Virginia Tech (1-1, 0-0): The Hokies bounced back from their loss to Alabama by clobbering Marshall at home. They racked up 605 yards of offense, including 444 yards on the ground. Amazingly, they averaged 8.4 yards per carry, despite running the ball 53 times.

The competition gets a bit better this week as the Hokies play host to Nebraska. The Huskers are undefeated and a much better team than last season. Unlike Marshall, they have a defense and an offense that can score.

Frank Beamer: "Up front, offensively, they're just exceptional. They look more athletic and better than last year. They've got a lot of kids catching the ball. [Quarterback] Zac Lee has good mobility and is very accurate. The tailbacks are good. Up front defensively, they're very, very strong. This is just a good football team coming in here. We're going to have to, again, have to get better this week."

The biggest challenge may be figuring out the Husker offense. They are ranked 19th in the country in total offense and 17th in passing offense.

Frank Beamer: "The offense that they bring in here, we haven't played an offensive line this good in a while. Then you start looking at 74 percent completions. Then you start looking at a tailback that's 6-foot, 215 and can run. The tight end is good. They've got three or four more of them. I mean, this is a good football team. Good offense, good defense, good in kicking. A good football team. "

The Holds

Wake Forest (1-1, 0-0): The Deacs came very close to seeing their season fall apart in just the second game. The first half of the Stanford game was all about the Cardinal. Going into the break, it looked like Wake was headed for another bad loss. In the second half, they turned it around and won the game.

Jim Grobe: "From my perspective the real key was the players deciding that they weren't happy with their first half performance. When we got in the locker room I probably didn't have to say much because our players were disappointed. The thing that they had to understand was that there were only two quarters left to play. That wasn't enough against Baylor. The one thing that I didn't want to see was improved play in the second half but not enough to get a win. I felt like I needed to rev them up a little bit to get them to realize the seriousness of the situation we were in, that playing a little better in the second half was not going to be enough. I give all the credit to our players. That win really is a players win. They found a way to reach down and find a way to win a football game against a really good football team."

This week they take on Elon. That is unlikely to produce any surprises. But, the coach is not taking any chances and is working hard to remind his players that they must play well to beat anyone on their schedule.

Jim Grobe: "We've pointed out about fifteen games this season already where I-AA teams have either beaten I-A teams or been within a field goal or a touchdown. Everyone made a big deal out of Appalachian State beating Michigan a couple of years ago, but I think we've gotten to the point now where a I-AA beating a I-A team is not an upset anymore. It's something that's almost become expected. Our guys need to understand that this is an 11th-ranked Elon team that is very talented and would like to come in here to beat us. "

NC State (1-1, 0-0): After putting up a clunker in their home opener, the Woldpack got back to winning by clobbering Murray State. The Wolfpack offense put up 484 yards of offense on their way to scoring 65 points.

Tom O'Brien: "We had to get better pass protection, get better at throwing, catching, get better at a lot of things, and I think we did from the technical standpoint. We were in good positions, we were running routes the right way, the quarterback was throwing the ball on time. All those things come into play. That's what you try to do each and every week."

This week things get a bit easier as Gardner-Webb comes into get pummeled by the Wolfpack. Barring something extraordinary, this one will be over before it starts. The coach, however, is looking for improvement, even against a weak opponent.

Tom O'Brien: "I think certainly you can work on fundamentals, and that's where we've made our emphasis all last week, and we'll continue to try to be a much better fundamental football team. You can tell if a guy's in a good blocking position or a good tackling position, if he's back- peddling properly or doing things you have to do, and that's all what football is about."

Boston College (2-0, 0-0): So far, so good. The blowout of Northeastern did not say much about these team other than they were ready to play for real. The thumping of Kent State does not add much and thus they remain a hold this week. The coaches remain cautiously optimistic that their young team is coming together.

Coach Spaziani: "We're happy to come away with a victory on Saturday. Anytime we dip into the MAC, you're going to be challenged. (The conference as a whole) beat a BIG 12 team this week, they had another team on the ropes, they beat a BIG 10 team so for us to go into that conference and come away with a win is a tribute to our coaching staff and our kids. We're happy being 2-0 and having said that, we've got a new page picking up here as we get into the conference and that poses new challenges."

That new challenge is a trip to Clemson. Not only is it the first road trip of the season, it is one of the toughest place in the league for visiting teams. Clemson also posses particular challenges due to their team speed.

Coach Spaziani: "I think this is very typical. Any time you have to practice against speed, it's going to be very difficult. We are going to rely on the guys who have been there before and the guys who understand it. We're going to try and throw it in the (young player's heads) how we have to play and where we have to coordinate everything."

Clemson (1-1, 0-1): Despite the loss at Georgia Tech, Clemson remains a favorite to win the division. They very well may face the Jackets in that game if they make it that far. The loss was tough, but the coaches think the team handled it well and is not letting it weigh on them.

Coach Swinney: "We have a great coaching staff and leadership on this team. You don't fool football players. These are smart guys, they watch the film and know where issues are. They know what you have done well and not done well. They understand things they can control and the things we can't control. Every one of them wholeheartedly believes that we are a better football team now than we were at this point last week."

Going into the game against BC, confidence is high. The extra days of practice and prep time certainly help. There is also confidence amongst the coaches that they know what BC is going to bring to town on Saturday.

Coach Swinney: "They are what they are and do what they do. They don't try to trick anybody. They line up and play sound, fundamental football. They have pressures and they will have NCAA blitzes. They are not exotic by any means. They don't give you huge opportunities as far as getting behind them, so you have to take advantage of those chances when they do come. That is something I think we have done a good job of in the past against these guys. We have gotten behind them a time or two, but most of our big plays against these guys have come when we have just gotten in space and guys made a play."

The Sells

Virginia (0-2, 0-0): The wheels have come off the Al Groh bus and the team is reeling. They were thoroughly outplayed by TCU at home and showed very little reason to think they can compete this year. The Cavs managed just 177 yards of offense last week, most of that coming in the final quarter when the game was over.

Probably the most symbolic moment of the game and perhaps the season was when the mascot fell of his horse riding into the stadium. That's been the Cavalier football season. All dressed and ready to roll, but the execution has been comical at times. Things could get worse as they head to Southern Miss to face a team on a seven game winning streak.

Coach Groh: "Every team is different. We are taking a lot of players down there that we have never taken on a trip before. We began, as we have said, about a number of different things, that important for teams to understand, the lessons have to be brought up long before the occasion. We have been talking about different elements about going on the road, whatnot, for quite some time, actually, stretching back to last spring. So at least when those issues are brought up before the team here this week, it's not as if, gee, I've never heard that one before. "

Duke (1-1, 0-0): What could have been a disastrous start was mitigated by a strong second half performance against Army, netting the Blue Devils their first win of the season. Despite the win, Duke has a lot of work to do to have a respectable season. That starts with their trip to Kansas this week.

Coach Cutcliffe: "They're well-coached on the offense, defense and the kicking game. They have athletes at the skill positions. They're very physical in both lines – really physical – and I think they're one of the top 15 teams in the country. So, how do you beat a top-15 team? It's probably the most basic formula in football: take care of the ball, play great in the kicking game and find a way to make some big plays while the game progresses. The difficult thing really, is trying to make big plays against them both ways. "

It will be a huge challenge for Duke. They come in with the 96th rated offense in the country. Kansas, in contrast, has the sixth rated offense lead by dark horse Heisman candidate, Todd Reesing. The Jayhawks are averaging over 41 points per game.

Maryland (1-1, 0-0): The only explanation for Maryland's abysmal performance against JMU is a hangover from getting thumped by Cal in the opener. The positive way to look at it is they found a way to win and have something to build on the rest of the way.

Coach Friedgen: "Looking at the game film from last week I thought our players fought very hard. With the momentum change in the game, they came back and that game could have very easily been lost, but our kids really showed some character and were able to pull out a win against a good James Madison team. That team will win a lot of games this year. They had great team speed. "

The Terps get another challenge this week when they host Middle Tennessee State. Last year the Terps lost to this team in one of the bigger upsets of the season. The Blue Raiders gave Clemson a tough time in the opener and beat Memphis last week.

Coach Friedgen: "We have some concerns because they are going make it a wide open game especially with the formations with three wideouts on one side and two on the other or two and two. They have a tight end that is 190 pounds that is basically another wide receiver. That concerns me quite a bit. "

Florida State (1-1, 0-1): It is kind of shocking to see the 'Noles in the sell category. Most expected them to win the Atlantic and maybe even be in the mix for a shot at the BCS title game. Coach Bowden said as much in the pre-season when he said he had a championship caliber team this year. Yet, a loss to Miami and a near loss to Jacksonville State has left them searching for answers.

Coach Bowden: "I saw a headline in the paper that said, "FSU looking for answers." That was a pretty good summation. But my answer to that would be I saw the answers. Don't fumble the football. Don't get a penalty when you make a first down. When an interception's in your hands, catch it. When two of them are in your hands, catch two of them. When you [receive a punt], don't let it touch your foot, where they get it. Don't let them throw long touchdown passes. Don't make a 30- or 40-yard run to the goal line and then fumble. There's the answers... "

Things get real tough this week for the 'Noles. They head out to Utah to take on BYU, a team that beat Oklahoma on the road. The Cougars have not lost since November of 2005. Since then they have won 19 straight at home.


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