Inside the ACC: Coastal Division race still up for grabs

jgiglio@newsobserver.comNovember 9, 2013 

NC State, N.C. State, U.N.C., UNC, North Carolina, ACC, football

N.C. State quarterback Brandon Mitchell (8) avoids the tackle by UNC linebacker Norkeithus Otis (8) during the first half of North Carolina's 27-19 victory over N.C. State Saturday, November 2, 2013, at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C.

ETHAN HYMAN — ehyman@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

Observations

• Virginia Tech has no alternative to senior Logan Thomas at quarterback, but it’s still admirable the way coach Frank Beamer has stood up for Thomas, who has thrown six interceptions in losses to Duke and Boston College.

“There is no question in our mind that he’s the guy,” Beamer said this week.

Even with all of the Hokies’ problems on offense, they catch Miami at the right spot on the schedule, after a demoralizing loss to FSU, and without Duke Johnson, who ran for 920 yards in eight games.

•  Do you think Virginia coach Mike London leaned on assistant Tom O’Brien, who went 5-1 against UNC as N.C. State’s head coach, this week?

The Cavaliers (2-7) are a lost cause this season, sunk by home losses to Ball State and Duke, but running back Kevin Parks (696 rushing yards) should be in for a big workload against UNC’s porous run defense.

By the way, one of O’Brien’s biggest problems at N.C. State was following up the UNC game. The Tar Heels had that issue last year; After beating O’Brien and N.C. State, the Tar Heels lost 68-50 at home to Georgia Tech.

•  It took an act of “Touchdown Jesus” for Pitt to lose 29-26 in triple overtime at Notre Dame last year while the Panthers were still in the Big East. Missed kicks, turnovers and missed opportunities by the Panthers kept the Irish unbeaten and on track for the BCS title game.

The Panthers get a shot at redemption, on their home field, Saturday night on national television. Their offense, which has scored 33 points in three ACC games since putting up 58 on Duke on Sept. 21, will need to rediscover its scoring touch to knock off the 24th-ranked Irish (7-2), whose five-game agreement with the ACC begins next season.

Three to watch

1) Virginia Tech at No.14 Miami, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

The Hokies (6-3) have lost two straight but would still be in control of the Coastal Division with a win at Miami (7-1), which is playing without injured running back Duke Johnson.

2) N.C. State at Duke, 4 p.m. (ESPNU)

The Wolfpack (3-5) and Blue Devils (6-2) haven’t met since 2009 and won’t meet again until 2020. N.C. State has won the past six games in Durham, but the Blue Devils won the last meeting between the teams in Raleigh in ’09.

3) Virginia at UNC, 12:30 p.m. (WRAL)

The Tar Heels (3-5) have won two straight and need to close with three more wins in their last four games to get to a bowl. The Cavaliers (2-7) have been beaten down by a brutal schedule and their own mistakes.

Number to know

123 Rank of New Mexico State’s run defense, out of 123 FBS teams. Boston College and ACC leading rusher Andre Williams (1,176 yards) play the Aggies, who are giving up an average of 312.1 yards per game on the ground, on the road.

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