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November 22, 2007

Cavs, Hokies meet for more than bragging rights

MORE CONFERENCE PREVIEWS: Big 12 | Big East | Pac-10 | SEC

MEGARGEE'S ACC PICKS
Saturday's games
Overview: Boston College clinched one spot in the ACC Championship Game last week by rallying past Clemson. The winner of Saturday's Virginia-Virginia Tech game will face Boston College in Jacksonville, Fla., next week. Before the Eagles can head south for the title game, they have to take care of some unfinished business. Boston College closes its regular-season schedule by trying to defeat Miami for the first time since Doug Flutie's miracle pass in 1984.

Best matchup: Virginia Tech OT Duane Brown vs. Virginia DE Chris Long. Brown's versatility he's a former tight end who has played both tackle spots makes him one of Virginia Tech's most valuable linemen. His performance Saturday could determine whether the Hokies win the Coastal Division title. Brown probably will be lined up against Long for the majority of the afternoon. Long leads the ACC with 12 sacks and has recorded at least one sack in nine of the Cavaliers' 11 games.

The pressure is on: Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey. The whispers surrounding Gailey's future have increased in volume now that the defending Coastal Division champions have split their eight conference games this season. Perhaps the biggest complaint surrounding Gailey is his lack of success against Georgia, which has beaten Georgia Tech six consecutive times. If Gailey loses to the Bulldogs again this week, he may not get a chance to face them again next season.

Who's hot: Clemson DE Phillip Merling has recorded two sacks in back-to-back games. Florida State CB Patrick Robinson has six interceptions in his past seven games. Duke LB Michael Tauiliili has recorded at least eight tackles in eight consecutive games. He has averaged 11.3 tackles per game during that stretch. Georgia Tech TB Tashard Choice has rushed for at least 150 yards each of the past two games. North Carolina WR Hakeem Nicks has caught 37 passes in his past five games. North Carolina State DE Willie Young has 12.5 tackles for loss in his past six games. Virginia Tech CBs Brandon Flowers and Victor Harris have combined to pick off six passes in the Hokies' past four games.

Who's not: Clemson TB James Davis has gained 72 yards on 33 carries in his past two games. Duke QB Thaddeus Lewis has completed less than half his passes in two consecutive games. North Carolina State QB Daniel Evans has thrown five interceptions in the past two games.

Keep your eye on: Florida State's Preston Parker. Florida defeated Florida State last season in part because of versatile WR Percy Harvin, who rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown on only four carries before getting hurt. Now the Seminoles have their own multi-purpose threat in Parker, a sophomore who moved from wide receiver to tailback last week and rushed for 133 yards in a 24-16 victory over Maryland. Parker can line up wide or in the backfield, giving the Seminoles the same options that Florida has with Harvin. The game could come down to which of these two big-play guys performs better.

Numbers game: Bobby Bowden earned his 300th win at Florida State last week when the Seminoles defeated Maryland 24-16, allowing him to join Penn State's Joe Paterno as the only Division I-A coaches to win 300 games at one school. The victory also guaranteed Bowden would win at least seven games for the 26th consecutive season. Bowden owns an overall career record of 373-117-4 in 42 seasons. He leads Paterno (371-125-3) by two victories in their race to become the winningest coach in Division I-A history.

ACC STANDINGS
ATLANTIC DIVISION
TeamConf.All
Boston College5-29-2
Clemson5-38-3
Wake Forest5-37-4
Florida State4-47-4
N.C. State3-45-6
Maryland2-55-6
COASTAL DIVISION
TeamConf.All
Virginia6-19-2
Virginia Tech6-19-2
Georgia Tech4-47-4
Miami2-55-6
North Carolina2-53-8
Duke0-71-10
Freshmen to watch: Boston College CB DeLeon Gause has replaced an injured DeJuan Tribble in the Eagles' starting lineup. Gause compiled a team-high nine tackles last week in a 20-17 victory over Clemson. This week's game with Miami may have special meaning for Gause, a former two-star prospect from Miami's Central High School. Miami is hoping the return of freshman TB Graig Cooper boosts the Hurricanes' rushing attack. Miami was held to minus-2 yards on 29 carries last week in a 44-14 loss to Virginia Tech when Cooper sat out with a knee injury.

Injury update: Boston College LB Alex Albright broke a forearm against Clemson and could miss the rest of the season. Boston College WRs Brandon Robinson (shoulder) and Kevin Challenger (ankle) and DT Damik Scafe (ankle) are questionable for the Miami game. Florida State TB Antone Smith has returned to practice and should play Saturday after missing the Maryland game with a shoulder injury. Seminoles CB Tony Carter (shoulder) is questionable. Virginia's Long has a case of strep throat, though he is expected to play Saturday.

They said it:
"Tim Tebow is going down this week. Y'all put that down."
- Florida State LB Geno Hayes, speaking to reporters about the Florida quarterback and Saturday's game

"It's not difficult. Really, it's not. Auburn showed that when they played on a couple of goal-line stops. There's an old saying, 'The bigger they are, the harder they fall.' He's a great quarterback take nothing away from him but it's not like we're going to go in there and give up because he's bigger and more agile at his size. It's nothing we can't handle."
- Hayes again, going further into detail about how the Seminoles plan to defend Tebow

"Any time you beat Virginia, it's a great feeling. But this game is so big. A lot of times, the games didn't have any real importance to it. It was more of a pride thing who wanted to win the game more. This one, you'll probably always remember."
- Virginia Tech running backs coach Billy Hite to the Richmond, Va., Times-Dispatch about Saturday's game with Virginia. Hite has worked on Tech's staff since 1978

"I take it very serious. When I committed here, I knew that was the deal, so no more red."
- Georgia Tech QB Taylor Bennett to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, explaining how he never wears red because of the Yellow Jackets' rivalry with Georgia. Bennett said the only time he has worn red since he was at Tech was after his beloved St. Louis Cardinals won the 2006 World Series

"There is no way I want to be home in late December or early January. I want to be wherever. I don't want to be sitting on my couch watching everybody else play. I'm going to try to get that message across, that it's not a good feeling to be down there with a loss knowing you aren't playing any more games."
- Maryland TE Joey Haynos to TerrapinTimes.com. The loser of the Maryland-North Carolina State game won't be bowl eligible

"I just knew in my head that before going to the game, we were going to the ACC title game. It was in my head. I don't know about a lot of other guys, (but) I pretty much thought we had the game in the books."
- Clemson's James Davis to TigerIllustrated.com after the Tigers' 20-17 loss to Boston College

"I think sometimes the teams we play, they put those rumors out there all the people we've got to compete against. I think they want those rumors out there as much as anything. But it's all just speculation and conjecture, and it's been that way for seven years. And I hope it continues because that just means we're doing some good things. I think our players are used to it now. I don't think our players even blink when they hear that stuff because it's been going on for a long time."
- Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe to the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal in response to rumors linking him to potential coaching openings. Grobe pointed out that he signed a new contract in February

Bowl Implications: North Carolina State, Maryland and Miami probably are competing for one bowl bid. The winner of the North Carolina State-Maryland game becomes bowl eligible. Miami also can become bowl eligible if it knocks off Boston College. Florida State, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest almost certainly clinched bowl invitations last week by earning their seventh wins of the season.

Etc.: Boston College FS Jamie Silva has been selected as one of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, which goes to the nation's top defensive back. Silva is competing with LSU SS Craig Steltz and Arizona CB Antoine Cason. Georgia Tech's Durant Brooks joined Cincinnati's Kevin Huber and Toledo's Brett Kern as finalists for the Ray Guy Award, which goes to the nation's top punter. Maryland QB Chris Turner will start Saturday's game with North Carolina State, but he might not finish it. "We'll start off with Chris and see how he plays," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen told The Sun of Baltimore. This marks the first time in history that seven ACC schools have won at least seven regular-season games. North Carolina WR Brandon Tate became the ACC's career leader in kickoff return yardage last week. Tate has 2,360 yards.

MORE CONFERENCE PREVIEWS: Big 12 | Big East | Pac-10 | SEC

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.



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