09/30/10 — Opinion -- ACC football title race looks wide open

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Opinion -- ACC football title race looks wide open

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on September 30, 2010 2:28 PM

Four weeks into the college football season, the Atlantic Coast Conference has just two teams in the Top 25, a school mired in NCAA sanctions, no clear-cut Heisman candidate and no national championship contender.

ACC schools have gone 3-9 against teams from the other five BCS conferences this season and are 0-9 against ranked teams.

The good news for ACC fans is the conference championship race remains wide open. Ten of the ACC's 12 teams have .500 records or better.

The following is a look at the teams with a real chance of winning the ACC:

N.C. State: The Wolfpack (4-0) are off to their best start since 2002 and cracked the Top 25 this week at No. 23. Quarterback Russell Wilson is 14th nationally in total offense and is tied for second in the nation with 11 touchdown passes.

Wilson has cut down on the turnovers that plagued him a year ago when he threw 11 interceptions. The junior has been picked off just once in 142 attempts and is completing nearly 60 percent of his passes.

N.C. State has winnable games remaining in home dates with Boston College and Wake Forest, along with trips to East Carolina and Maryland.

Meanwhile, the stiffer tests begin Saturday when Virginia Tech comes to Raleigh. A Thursday night showdown at home with Florida State in late October, along with November visits to Clemson and North Carolina will be critical.

Miami: The Hurricanes (2-1) rebounded from a loss at Ohio State with a physical, dominating win at Pittsburgh last week. Miami's defense ranks in the top five in the ACC in nearly every major statistical category.

However, the Hurricanes are near the bottom of the ACC in rushing, turnover margin, red zone offense and time of possession. Quarterback Jacory Harris has been picked off six times and four of those came against Ohio State.

Florida State: The Seminoles (3-1) looked completely overmatched in a 47-17 loss Oklahoma three weeks ago. FSU has responded by outscoring BYU and Wake Forest a combined 65-10.

Quarterback Christian Ponder has shrugged off his dismal performance against the Sooners in which he was held to 113 yards passing and was intercepted twice. Since then, Ponder has played interception-free football and tossed three touchdown passes.

Clemson: The Tigers (2-1) were a missed field goal away from forcing a second overtime at Auburn two weeks ago. Dabo Swinney's club has been off since then and faces a stern test Saturday when Miami visits Death Valley.

Sophomore quarterback Kyle Parker has Clemson leading the ACC in points per game despite being 9 for 34 in third-down conversions. The Tigers' future will be a lot brighter by the end of the month as dates with Miami, North Carolina and Georgia Tech all loom within the next four weeks.

Georgia Tech: Despite leading the ACC and ranking third nationally in rushing, Georgia Tech (2-2) has completed just 15 passes in four games. The Yellow Jackets have surrendered an average of 25 points in each of their past three games.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies (2-2) appear to have temporarily righted the ship after an 0-2 start. A visit to N.C. State on Saturday and meetings with Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Miami in November will be telling.

North Carolina: Despite a 1-2 start, the Tar Heels remain very much alive in the ACC race. Turnover-prone quarterback T.J. Yates has been picked off just once after throwing 15 interceptions a year ago.