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October 25, 2007

BC can't afford to stumble at Virginia Tech

MORE WEEK 9 BREAKDOWNS: Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

Thursday's game
Saturday's games
Overview: Boston College tries to keep its national-title hopes alive Thursday night when it travels to Virginia Tech for a potential ACC Championship Game preview. Boston College is second and Virginia Tech eighth in this week's BCS standings. After winning its past two games by one-point margins, Virginia will try to earn its eighth consecutive victory Saturday at North Carolina State. Wake Forest carries a five-game winning streak into North Carolina. Maryland and Florida State will try to bounce back from heartbreaking losses this weekend. Maryland plays host to Clemson, while Florida State welcomes Duke to Doak Campbell Stadium.

Best matchup: Boston College QB Matt Ryan vs. Virginia Tech pass defense: Ryan already dominated one highly regarded defense this season when he threw for 435 yards in a 24-10 victory over Georgia Tech. Virginia Tech could provide even more of a challenge. Virginia Tech has led the nation in total defense each of the past two years. The Hokies probably won't finish first again, but they've only allowed five touchdown passes this season. Xavier Adibi gives Virginia Tech one of the nation's top playmaking linebackers, while DE Chris Ellis has recorded a sack in three consecutive games. Brandon Flowers and Victor Harris form one of the nation's best cornerback tandems. If Ryan throws for 300-plus yards in a victory, he could emerge as a top contender for the Heisman Trophy.

The pressure is on: Maryland QB Chris Turner or Jordan Steffy: We mean this in a literal sense. Steffy hopes to play this week after missing two games with a concussion. Whether it's Steffy or Turner lining up behind center, neither quarterback should expect to have much time to throw. Maryland's offensive line has suffered so many injuries that Phillip Merling and Co. could be putting the heat on the Maryland quarterback whoever it is all day long. Maryland's two top guards Andrew Crummey and Jaimie Thomas are out with broken fibulas. Clemson ranks 11th of 12 teams in the ACC in sacks (ahead of only Maryland), but that could change this weekend.

Who's hot: Boston College TB Andre Callender has five touchdown runs and three touchdown catches over his past three games. Boston College LB Alex Albright has six sacks in his past four games. Florida State LB Geno Hayes has 12 tackles for loss in his past five games. Maryland LB Erin Henderson has collected at least 11 tackles in each of the past five games he's played, including an 18-tackle effort in last week's 18-17 loss to Virginia. Virginia DE Chris Long has four sacks over his past three games. Virginia Tech DE Chris Ellis has recorded a sack in three consecutive games. Wake Forest WR Kenneth Moore has scored three touchdowns in his past two games. He has caught at least 11 passes in two of his past three games. Wake Forest TB Josh Adams has rushed for a total of 271 yards in his past two games.

Who's not: Florida State QB Xavier Lee lost his starting job after committing seven turnovers in his past two games. QB Drew Weatherford will start Saturday against Duke. Virginia Tech TB Branden Ore has rushed for just 72 yards on 40 carries in his past two games. Ore is averaging just below 3 yards per carry this season after rushing for 1,137 yards last year.

Keep your eye on: Virginia Tech's linebacking corps. The Hokies already knew they were going to be facing Boston College without preseason All-America LB Vince Hall, who has a fractured wrist. The Hokies also won't have Cam Martin at full strength. Cody Grimm will make his first career start Thursday in place of Martin, who has been battling mononucleosis. Martin still is expected to play. The Hokies can only hope Grimm follows the example of Brett Warren, who recorded 11 tackles three for loss after replacing Hall in the starting lineup Oct. 13 in a 43-14 victory over Duke. Grimm is the son of former Washington Redskins G Russ Grimm, currently the offensive line coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Warren is the son of former Redskins TE Don Warren.

Numbers game: Florida State has been outscored 37-16 in the second half during its two-game losing streak. The Seminoles led at halftime and didn't trail until the fourth quarter in both games. Virginia Tech WR Eddie Royal needs 70 more yards in punt returns to pass Maryland's Steve Suter as the ACC's career leader in punt-return yardage. Wake Forest WR Kenneth Moore has caught 15 passes in a game twice this season. Virginia's Alvin Pearman, Duke's Corey Thomas, Maryland's Geroy Simon and North Carolina's Charlie Carr share the ACC single-game record of 16 catches. Georgia Tech K Travis Bell has made 124 consecutive extra-point attempts.

Freshmen to watch: Clemson LB Scotty Cooper made his first career start last week when Tramaine Billie sat out the first quarter for academic reasons. Look for Cooper, a true freshman, to continue earning valuable playing time as a member of the Tigers' linebacker rotation. Maryland FB Haroon Brown will start this week in place of Cory Jackson, who broke his hand against Virginia last week. North Carolina State's Markus Kuhn recently moved from defensive tackle to defensive end. The true freshman recorded a sack and two tackles for losses in a 34-20 victory over East Carolina last week.

Boston College3-07-0
Wake Forest3-15-2
Florida State1-34-3
N.C. State0-32-5
Virginia Tech3-06-1
Georgia Tech2-35-3
North Carolina1-22-5
Injury update: Clemson WR Rendrick Taylor (hamstring) is questionable for the Maryland game. Florida State LB Marcus Ball (ankle) is out, G Rodney Hudson (knee) is questionable and DT Andre Fluellen (elbow) is probable for Duke. Georgia Tech RB Tashard Choice had knee surgery Tuesday and is expected to miss at least one game. Maryland G Jaimie Thomas (broken leg), G Andrew Crummey (broken leg), FB Cory Jackson (broken hand) and LB Rick Costa (concussion) are out this week. Miami QB Kyle Wright injured his left ankle and wrist last week at Florida State, but he's expected to return in time for the Hurricanes' next game Nov. 3 against North Carolina State. North Carolina WR Brandon Tate (concussion), DT Cam Thomas (ankle), C Scott Lenahan (calf) and WR Hakeem Nicks (ankle) are probable for the Wake Forest game. North Carolina State WR John Dunlap and LB LaRue Rumph are questionable with ankle sprains. Virginia Tech QB Tyrod Taylor remains questionable for the Boston College game because of a high right ankle sprain. Hokies LB Vince Hall will miss Thursday's game with a fractured wrist.

They said it:
"I don't see us losing this game. We're going to win this game. I guarantee it."
Clemson TB James Davis predicting the outcome of the Maryland game

"I did it in high school and it came back to bite me in my butt so hard. It was at the homecoming pep rally, and I took the microphone from my coach and I guaranteed everybody we were going to win. It filled the stands up, but we lost. I won't do that again."
Maryland LB Erin Henderson to TerrapinTimes.com, discussing the only time he ever guaranteed a victory

"Part of it is not being ready on the field, but most of it is just being tired from playing a lot due to three-and-outs by the offense."
Florida State LB Geno Hayes explaining to Warchant.com the reasons behind the defense's fourth-quarter struggles this season

"If (the Heisman Trophy is) for the best player in college football, it's hard to imagine that anybody's been playing his position better than Chris Long. You have to see him to appreciate him. He had 10 tackles the other day, that's pretty terrific. It's not the same as completing 25 passes. So for some guy in Seattle or Portland who's trying to mark his ballot, it's hard to pick a guy who had 10 tackles or eight tackles over somebody who scored four touchdowns. We appreciate that fact. That's the way the award has become, and everybody in football understands that fact. But if it went strictly by the definition of the best player in college football, it's hard to imagine that there are many players who are better than Chris Long."
Virginia coach Al Groh on DE Chris Long's chances of winning the Heisman Trophy

Bowl implications: Boston College's game with Virginia Tech represents the Eagles' biggest test on their way to a possible berth in the national-championship game. Virginia Tech needs a victory to keep alive any hopes of earning a BCS at-large invitation if the Hokies fail to win the ACC title. Virginia also must keep winning to have any shot at earning a BCS at-large bid if it doesn't win the conference title. The Cavaliers are only 15th in the BCS standings despite owning a 7-1 record. Florida State has a 4-3 record and is about to enter the toughest part of its schedule, so the Seminoles probably must beat Duke this week to have a realistic chance of finishing with the six wins necessary to receive a bowl bid.

Etc.: Florida State DT Budd Thacker isn't playing because of a matter that Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden referred to as a "university issue" without elaborating. Bowden said someone put a "For Sale" sign on his front yard after the Seminoles' 37-29 loss to Miami last week. Bowden indicated nobody had pulled such a prank on him since the 1980s. North Carolina OL Andre Barbour and CB Jermaine Strong were indefinitely suspended from the team this week. Strong had worked his way into the starting lineup this season. Boston College leads the nation in run defense. The Eagles are allowing 46.4 rushing yards per game and 1.8 yards per carry. Virginia's 18-17 triumph over Maryland last week marked the Cavaliers' seventh straight victory, which tied a school record for consecutive wins in a season. Virginia also won seven in a row in 1914, 1949 and 1990.

MORE WEEK 9 BREAKDOWNS: Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

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



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