Does BC-Wake a rivalry make?

As league's newest members, Eagles would like matchup to become something special

ACC Notebook

November 04, 2006|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,Sun Reporter

Wanted: a rival football team in the Atlantic Coast Conference for Boston College, the league's newest member.

"We really don't have a rival," Boston College coach Tom O'Brien said. "We haven't had any since Holy Cross gave up football. ... We'd love to have a rivalry with somebody in this conference."

So far, No. 22 Wake Forest might be the closest thing.

The two programs enter tonight's 7 o'clock marquee game in Winston-Salem, N.C., with 7-1 overall records and are tied for first place in the Atlantic Division with 3-1 league records. The No. 16 Eagles lead the series 6-5-2 after last year's 35-30 come-from-behind win.

Not since he was at Ohio University has Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe coached in a game with such significant conference implications. Wake Forest is 7-1 for the first time since 1979 and only the third time in the program's history - and the team has accomplished it without its injured starting quarterback and tailback.

"To be 7-1, I don't know if I'm surprised, but I'm happy to be where we are right now," Grobe said. "Maybe I'm a little surprised we're 7-1 with the injuries we have."

After losing tailback Micah Andrews in the third game of the season, Wake Forest has relied on a committee of backs that has been good enough to make the Demon Deacons' running game the third best in the ACC with an average of 151.2 yards.

Boston College has held opponents to 76.5 rushing yards a game.

"For the last couple of weeks nobody has really consistently run the football at us," O'Brien said. "Our run defense is going to be challenged and we know the play-action pass is coming off one of those runs."

Frequent offenders

Miami is the ACC's most penalized team this season, having been flagged 64 times for a league-high 585 yards (73.1 per game). Virginia Tech isn't that far behind, with 52 penalties for 427 yards (53.4 per game).

Both programs have had their fair share of recent legal problems and aren't strangers to unsportsmanlike penalties, setting the scene for tonight's 8 o'clock ABC-televised game at the Orange Bowl. Actually, it was just a few weeks ago when Miami played Florida International there and it seemed more like the Orange Brawl.

"The deal is, play between the whistles, play hard, play aggressive, play tough," Hokies coach Frank Beamer said, "but when the play is over, it's over."

Lame-duck adventure

It was a trip "everybody was looking forward to" last summer, but now that North Carolina (1-7, 0-5) is in the midst of a losing season and being led by a lame-duck coach, the Tar Heels' game at No. 11 Notre Dame (7-1) today has turned into more of a field trip.

"We're taking our wives on this trip," said coach John Bunting, who was fired two weeks ago. "There's no reason to change that. That aspect of it has not changed. The aspect of the situation we're in, with a losing season and what's happening to our staff is something that there's no way to account for back then, or a month ago, or six weeks ago.

"What my focus has been is: Let's enjoy every second of it," he said. "Let's make this game fun."

A test for Duke

Both coaches were hired to turn their programs around, but while Navy coach Paul Johnson comes into today's 1 p.m. game at Wallace Wade Stadium on the verge of bowl eligibility, Duke coach Ted Roof said his 0-8 team is certainly "desperate to get a win."

The Blue Devils have the nation's longest Division I losing streak at 16 games, but their rushing defense is ranked 39th out of 119 teams (115.8 yards). That will be challenged by Navy's triple-option offense.

"When you look at who's stopped them, nobody's stopped them," Roof said. "They run the football on everybody. They grind you down. In a way, it's a battle of wills, too. They're going to get yards. It's just a matter of trying to keep them off the scoreboard."

FSU's 2nd option

The ACC's quarterback carousel continues. Florida State has turned to its No. 2 option to replace injured starter Drew Weatherford, who did not play last weekend at Maryland. Xavier Lee will start again today against Virginia, coach Bobby Bowden said.

"It's Xavier's ballgame," Bowden said. "Here's the ball, go get it. I hope Drew is available in case something happens to Lee, because you never know. But after that, we're talking about walk-ons."

North Carolina State coach Chuck Amato also mentioned the possibility of reverting to Marcus Stone against Georgia Tech. Stone was replaced by Daniel Evans in the fourth game.

Eleven ACC quarterbacks have made their starting debuts this season, and 20 quarterbacks have started at least one game.

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

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