ESPN's desire to broadcast football games online has always been better in concept than execution, at least for most fans in the Triangle.
ESPN3, or its predecessor ESPN360, had previously just been a tease for most Triangle fans, available somewhere out there on "Internets" but not if you had Time Warner Cable.
ESPN and Time Warner corrected that problem on Oct. 25 when the popular cable company was finally given clearance to stream the games to customers online (at ESPN3.com).
So when the ACC lists Saturday's game between N.C. State and Wake Forest (2 p.m.) as being on "ESPN3," cable customers in Raleigh can actually watch the game on their computers (you have to register at timewarnercable.com first, click on "my services" and proceed. It's free for TWC customers who have ESPN included in their cable packages).
Just in case you still have dial-up connection, or want to watch the game on an actual television, TWC will also broadcast the game on digital cable channel No. 520. They did the same for UNC's win over ECU on Oct. 2 - before the ESPN3 kinks were worked out.
"We want to do what's best for our customers," said Keith Poston, TWC's director of communications.
The plan since Houston was cleared before the Virginia game on Oct. 16 has been to redshirt Houston this season and bring him back in 2011.
The feeling among UNC's players is that Houston, a senior, won't play Saturday unless Shaun Draughn or Hunter Furr get injured.
With only three games left, and the dearth of options at running back in 2011, it would make sense for Houston to remain on the sidelines.
Early ACC bowl speculation: Projecting bowl spots with one week left in the season is a roulette spin, much less with three weeks left. But it's Nov. 11, and there's nothing wrong with an early educated guess.
The ACC currently has six bowl eligible teams with eight bowl tie-ins (and an option for a ninth slot).
The six eligible teams are: Virginia Tech (7-2), Florida State (6-3), N.C. State (6-3), Maryland (6-3), Miami (6-3) and UNC (6-3)
Based on the remaining schedules, it looks like Clemson (5-4), Georgia Tech (5-4) and Boston College (4-5) will join the "eligible" group.
BC's odds of winning two more games are good with Duke, Virginia and Syracuse left on the Eagles' schedule. As the ACC's ninth team, the Eagles would be headed back to San Francisco, for the Kraft Fight Hunger bowl, or the ACC could broker a deal to fill a spot that another conference, such as the Pac-10, can't fill.
Wake Forest (2-7) has been eliminated and, again, based on the remaining schedule, it's unlikely Virginia (4-5) or Duke (3-6) will become bowl eligible.
These are projections, not every possible scenario, so write them in pencil and find an eraser:
Orange (Miami): This is Virginia Tech's spot to lose, and the Hokies would have to lose twice to stay out of the conference championship game in Charlotte on Dec. 4 or lose in Charlotte - which is the more likely of the unlikely scenarios - not to end up in Miami for the third time in four years.
Chick-fil-A (Atlanta): If N.C. State gets to nine wins, the feeling among conference bowl executives is that the Wolfpack will go to Atlanta. That means the Wolfpack has to win out (which also means it would win the Atlantic Division). Florida State or Miami would be the alternatives.
Given Mississippi State's rise in the SEC West, this could be a rematch of the 1993 Peach Bowl.
Champs (Orlando): Florida State hasn't left the state of Florida for a bowl game in two years, but if the Seminoles win out, which would include a momentum-building win over the Gators, the fans would flock to Orlando. UNC, with a 2-1 finish, would be in the running to face a Big East foe, possibly a rejuvenated Syracuse.
Sun (El Paso, Texas): Miami's name still attracts television ratings, and given the location of the game and that ticket sales won't be a primary factor, the Hurricanes make the most sense to go out west to face a Pac-10 opponent, likely either Oregon State or Cal.
Meineke (Charlotte): Since UNC has been to Charlotte two years in a row, and Clemson has yet to go, you can safely project the Tigers here. Maryland might warrant a look, but the Terps have already played West Virginia, a possible Big East foe, which is another arrow pointing in Clemson's favor.
Music City (Nashville): As much luck as Charlotte has had in attractive bowl matchups and interesting games, Nashville has been on the opposite end of the spectrum. A UNC-Kentucky or UNC-Georgia game would be a good get.
Independence (Shreveport, La.): Given the likelihood of Air Force as the opponent, this game has Georgia Tech written all over it. It's a matchup that would reunite Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson, the former Navy coach, with a rival service academy, pitting two option offenses against each other.
Military (Washington): Maryland might not want to stay home, but it might not have a choice. Army or East Carolina are the potential opponents.
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