Conference Stock Report

The fourth week of the season was a big test for the league as several team had tough out-of-conference opponents. The good news is the league now has a legitimate top-10 team. The Hokies are ranked sixth in both polls. The bad news is they have several teams fighting for the title of the worst team in the BCS.

Week four in the ACC was a mixed bag. The Hokies made a statement with their win over Miami and jumped into the top-10. NC State won a big out of conference game, adding to the league's ranking and putting themselves into the conversation for a trip the title game.

On the other end, Florida State and Maryland had bad weekends, dragging down the conference with tough losses to mediocre Big East teams. Both teams lost at home, which only adds to the questions about the league's competitiveness. The ACC may have three of the worst BCS teams in the country. Maryland, Virginia and Duke are a combined 1-and-7 against FBS schools.

The Buys

Virginia Tech (3-1, 1-0): The Hokies have shot to the top of the conference after throttling the super-hot Miami Hurricanes last week. Most expected the Hokies to have a tough time of it, but they rolled right over Miami from the start, dominating them in every phase of the game. The result is they are now in the top-10 of both polls.

Coach Beamer: "I think it was a complete football game. We played really well, in all areas really. In the kicking game we had a couple of bobbles and we were fortunate to get on top of a couple balls, but overall I really felt like we played well. Someone was telling me this earlier, all the teams we have played are undefeated against other competition, so it has been a tough stretch here against quality football teams. Hopefully that will help us become a better football team, and I think it did on Saturday. Saturday certainly gives you hope for the whole football team."

Despite their lofty perch, the Hokies still have some issues. They have no passing game. They are ranked 115th in the country throwing the ball. They also have some issues on defense. Their run defense is ranked 91st, giving up 4.5 yards per carry. For now, they are the league's top team and a strong buy to win the conference.

NC State (3-1, 0-0): The one team no one is talking about, that may be the best team in their division, is the Wolfpack. There were many questions about them, particularly the offense, after their loss to South Carolina. Those were dispelled last week when they put up a whopping 530 yards on Pittsburgh. They also have the number one defense in the country right now.

Coach O'Brien: "It doesn't really say anything about our defense. It's only after four games and one month of the season. It's where they are at after 12 games that I think will say a lot about our defense. We know we have a big challenge this week defending the Demon Deacons, so we'll see how we go this week."

Regardless of the coach's modesty, the Wolfpack have the combination of offense and defense that leads to championships. With Russell Wilson getting hot, they can run the ball and throw the ball on most teams. Their defense is good enough to keep them in every game, even when the offense sputters. They are also fifth in the conference in turnover margin.

Georgia Tech (3-1, 2-1): Facing a must win situation, the Yellow Jackets responded with a great performance at home. They dominated the previously ranked Tar Heels, holding them to just seven points and 154 yards of offense. They also racked up over 400 yards of offense and 24 points. It was a complete reversal of their previous week's performance.

Coach Johnson: We ran the same plays Saturday with the exception of a little draw that we added. Everything else was the same plays that we ran against everybody else. The difference between North Carolina and Miami was that we had the ball and stayed on the field, while North Carolina couldn't get on the field. In the Miami game, we couldn't get on the field. So it was kind of flipped. We did a good job Saturday on defense getting them off of the field and getting the ball."

All is not roses for them just yet. They continue to have trouble defending the pass. They are ranked 65th in the country and 10th in the conference. They also have no passing game, which is a feature of the offense. What that means is they are vulnerable to teams that can throw the ball, which forces them out of their approach to the offense.

The Holds

Miami (2-1, 2-1): It was a big loss for the ‘Canes, but not the end of the world. All the talk of a national title was far too premature. This is a young team that still makes a lot of mistakes. Eventually, those errors were going to catch up with them against an equally talented team. That's what happened last week at Blacksburg.

Coach Shannon: "We did some things that weren't right on defense. We didn't tackle very well and we went back full speed this week and got back to basics. Those guys know they have to respond."

It is the defense that will be a problem going forward. They have done well against the pass, but the rush defense has not been good. They are ranked 86th in the country. They also have to take better care of the ball. Miami is ninth in the league and 79th in the country in turnover margin.

Boston College (3-1, 1-1): Few expected BC to be sitting with three victories at this point. Beating Wake Forest, even in a fluke ending, was big for this young team. The offense finally got some rhythm and they found a quarterback. The defense showed its youth in the fourth quarter, but Wake is tough on every team. The big news is the emergence of Dave Shinskie at quarterback.

Coach Spaziani: "It was one game. He did a good job and performed well. We are very happy with his performance but there are a lot of other circumstances that surround this. Once again, we are happy with what he did. There are different circumstances that they all will see and that hasn't been done yet. There is still a lot of football to be played and a lot of different things coming his way."

It is one game and the Eagles remain at the bottom of the league in most offensive stats. The defense, however, continues to excel, despite the Wake performance. BC is 18th in total defense and third in turnover margin. They are holding opponents to just 2.9 yards per carry this year.

Wake Forest (2-2, 0-1): The Deacs are just a few plays away from being undefeated. Instead, they are struggling to keep their season together after losing a heartbreaker at BC last week. Part of it is the schedule. They have had just one cupcake so far. Most of it is inconsistency. They have yet to play a good four quarters of football this year.

Coach Grobe: "We really played a great second half against Stanford. We played a really good fourth quarter at BC. But we're playing such good football teams right now that if we don't play four quarters we're not going to be very happy. We've got to play better through the course of the game and not just in spurts."

The big issue for them is they have been very bad at defending the pass. Wake is eleventh in the league in pass defense. BC was able to hit several big plays, despite not having much of a passing offense to date. Wake is also turning the ball over too much. They are 98th in turnover margin this year.

North Carolina (3-1, 0-1): By any measure, it was a poor performance last week against Georgia Tech. There is reasonable suspicion that the Tar Heels are a bit of a paper tiger. On the other hand, this team was winning even when they played poorly. Maybe it just caught up to them against a good team.

Coach Davis: "There's three or four major critical factors in almost every game that determine if you're going to win, and in those critical factors, we didn't play well. You can't turn the ball over three times and not get any turnovers and expect to have much of a chance to win against good teams. "

The thing that keeps the Tar Heels from being a sell is they are near the top in just about every statistical defensive category. The concern is the offense. They are 106th in total offense so far. They are managing just 3.2 yards per carry. They also turn the ball over too much. Ten turnovers puts them only ahead of hapless Maryland.

Duke (2-2, 0-0): The Dukies are at break-even for maybe the only time this season. For that they get bumped up to the hold category. The reality is they have beaten a FCS team and Army. That's not exactly the resume of a good team. But, they are looking for consistency and that means beating the teams they should beat.

Coach Cutcliffe: "Coming off the game (against N.C. Central) still looking for consistency, it was kind of three games. It was a 21-0 game, a 0-14 game and then a 35-0 game. I showed our team in that regard what we're capable of being and doing if we can consistently put that together."

The one thing that should give Duke fans some hope is the passing game is pretty good so far. Cutcliffe is known for his ability to develop quarterbacks. He is working wonders with Thaddeus Lewis. He is the fifth ranked passer in the league.

The Sells

Clemson (2-2, 1-1): Clemson cannot stand success. They win a big game and then turn around and drop a winnable game. Losing to TCU is no great shame, but it is not something a team with this level of talent should do. They may be the most athletic team in the conference, but they have yet to find consistency on offense.

Coach Swinney: "We focused a lot on the good things we are doing at practice and in our team meeting on Monday. The biggest thing is we are getting better and have to stay the course. I haven't lost confidence in any of the things we are doing; I don't have any doubt about that. If we continue to do that the wins are going to come."

The coach may be confident, but his offense is not. They are 94th in total offense and 91st in passing. That's on the quarterback. Kyle Parker is looking like a freshman. He is rated 90th in the country and has the worst passer rating in the conference.

Florida State (2-2, 0-1): This team makes no sense at all. They looked like they finally found their footing when they beat BYU in Provo. Then last week they get beat by a mediocre South Florida, missing its starting quarterback. That suggests a lack of mental toughness.

Coach Bowden: "To be honest with you, our turnovers had a lot to do with USF. They hit hard. They hit harder than anybody we've played this year. I think they're good; might be the best team we've played this year. We'll find out down the road but still, we've been hit before. You've got to hold on to the football. You can't turn it over like we did and expect to win."

Here's the stuff that jumps out from the stat sheet. Florida State is 99th in total defense and 115th in pass defense. Their rushing defense has been solid, but who is going to run the ball when you can throw at will? Until they get that squared away, every game will be an adventure.

Virginia (0-3, 0-0): The good news is Virginia did not lose last week. The bad news is they still have a head coach that everyone assumes will be fired before the end of the season. It is an open secret in Charlottesville that he is a goner unless he manages a dramatic turnaround. For now, the coach remains light hearted about it.

Coach Groh: "I had a very interesting college football weekend. I got a chance to get a much broader perspective on things, obviously, than when you're not playing, you have the remote in your hands, you can kind of see what college football around the country looks like."

The fact is, this team is average on defense, ranked 58th in the country, and dreadful on offense, ranked 111th. That's a recipe for a losing season. Given that they have yet to face the iron of their schedule, expect those numbers to get worse.

Maryland (1-3, 0-0): Something is seriously wrong in Turtle Town. The Terps have just one win and that was an overtime win over James Madison. In their three losses, they have given up 39 points per game. They have also turned the ball over 13 times.

Coach Friedgen: "We talked to our players and thinking of things we can do to stop the turnovers. Right now we are minus 10 in turnover ratio. I told them that we are going to start a new streak and we are going to keep track of how many turnovers we have per practice. We are going to do something to recognize the turnover, whether or its up-downs or whatever. Last night we had one turnover the whole practice."

That would be a good start. They also have to figure out how to stop other teams from scoring at will. The Terps are ranked dead last in the league in total defense. They are 110th in the country in run defense. Those are the numbers of a last place team.

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