A day of opportunity

September 19, 2009 

Three to watch

East Carolina at No. 24 North Carolina

Noon, ESPN2, Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill

So far this season, Patrick Pinkney has not resembled even remotely the Pirates quarterback who threw for 406 yards in his first career start to stun North Carolina in Butch Davis' coaching debut two years ago. Opponents have dared Pinkney to beat them with his arm this year, and he hasn't been able to do it. He has completed only 42.4 percent of his passes the first two games and faces his strongest defense yet against the speedy Tar Heels.

No. 19 Nebraska at No. 13 Virginia Tech

3:30 p.m., WTVD, WCTI, Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Va.

Two talented running backs will be on display as the Big Red Machine tries to avenge last season's narrow defeat. Nebraska's Roy Helu is averaging 7.1 yards per carry. Virginia Tech redshirt freshman Ryan Williams showed his speed on two big plays against Alabama and then rushed for 164 yards and three touchdowns against Marshall.

Florida State at No. 7 Brigham Young

7 p.m., Versus, LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, Utah

A win in this game would vault Brigham Young - which already has beaten Oklahoma - into contention for a berth in the Bowl Championship Series title game. After trailing in the fourth quarter at home against Jacksonville State, Florida State needs to find a way to score against a BYU defense that is allowing just eight points per game. Cougars quarterback Max Hall has completed 71.4 percent of his passes and could hurt a Florida State secondary that struggled against Miami in the opener.

Observations

Clemson shows class

Clemson has found a classy way to honor former linebacker Stanley Hunter, who quit football over the summer because he is battling epilepsy.

Players are taking turns wearing his No. 17 jersey. Today against Boston College (noon, Raycom), it's fullback Chad Diehl's turn.

The Tigers host the Eagles in what has become a decent Atlantic Division rivalry. The teams have played four times since the ACC expanded, and each game was decided by six points or fewer.

Virginia's Groh needs lifeline

If Virginia loses at Southern Mississippi today and falls to 0-3, the question in Charlottesville will be when to fire Al Groh, not whether to fire him. As it stands, there's not a great deal to be gained by firing Groh early in the season.

It's not like there's a logical college coaching candidate such as Butch Davis waiting around who the Cavaliers would need to get the jump on.

As for Virginia's chances of throwing Groh a lifeline today (3:30 p.m., CBS College), stopping tailback Damion Fletcher might be the key. He is averaging 114.5 rushing yards per game. N.C. State fans will remember him for the day he rushed for 177 yards and three touchdowns as a freshman in a 37-17 rout in 2006 to hasten the departure of Wolfpack coach Chuck Amato.

Elon tests Wake Forest

This might be the biggest day in the history of Elon's football program.

The Phoenix (2-0) is ranked No. 11 in the Football Championship Subdivision coaches' poll and visits Wake Forest (1-1) today at 6:30 p.m.

Elon has the top team in the FCS in terms of total offense (594.5 yards per game), but its wins have come over Davidson and Presbyterian. Neither of those teams is nearly at the level of Wake Forest.

And under coach Jim Grobe, the Demon Deacons rarely have been unprepared against an opponent they should defeat.

Terps treading water

A year ago, Middle Tennessee shocked Maryland 24-14 in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Now, after the Terrapins needed overtime to defeat James Madison last week, it would be no surprise if Middle Tennessee won today at Maryland (3:30 p.m., ESPN360.com). That's just another sign of how far the Terrapins have fallen after getting off to a strong start in the first few years of Ralph Friedgen's tenure.

Numbers to know

6 Punt returns for touchdowns by ACC players in the first two weeks of the season.

7 Touchdown passes senior Riley Skinner needs to equal the Wake Forest career record of 44 shared by Gary Schofield and Brian Kuklick.

1,089 Miles (driving distance) from Durham to Lawrence, Kan., according to Mapquest.com. Today's game against Kansas (noon, Versus) is the first Duke has played so far from campus since a 2001 trip to Rice.

What's at stake

The ACC has an opportunity to win in-state bragging rights, gain national respect in nonconference games against ranked opponents Kansas, Nebraska and Brigham Young, and reduce the heat on Virginia coach Al Groh.

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