College Football previews

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 7, 2011

Associated Press
Todayís college previews …
WINSTON-SALEM ó Not many teams based outside of Florida have plucked more recruits from that state than Wake Forest. All those Floridians on the roster want nothing more than to show Florida State’s coaches what they missed.
The 23rd-ranked Seminoles hope their first victory in nearly a month comes Saturday when they visit a program once nicknamed “Wake Florida” because it regularly scours that state in search of players.
“You know Florida State’s a perennial power who plays for the ACC championship consistently. You have to go through them to get where you want to be,” said Wake Forest safety Daniel Mack, a Miami native who’s one of 30 Floridians on the team. Among non-Florida schools, only Troy and Western Kentucky have more.
The Seminoles (2-2, 0-1 ACC), the preseason favorites to win the conference, followed two season-opening routs of lower-level competition with consecutive losses to a pair of teams currently in the top 10, No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 8 Clemson.
Wake Forest (3-1, 2-0) has won three in a row following a season-opening overtime loss to Syracuse, but those victories came against Gardner-Webb of the FCS and a pair of struggling ACC teams that have yet to beat any FBS opponents. A win over Florida State certainly would validate the Demon Deacons’ first 3-0 start to ACC play in school history and their first 4-1 start overall since 2008.
CHAPEL HILL ó Louisville coach Charlie Strong didn’t like the way his team played in a home loss to Marshall. North Carolina interim coach Everett Withers wasn’t much happier with his team’s win at East Carolina, saying the Tar Heels “left a lot of meat on the bone.”
When their teams meet Saturday, the coaches will find out how much their players learned from those performances.
The Tar Heels (4-1) scored the first 21 points and ran out to a 28-3 halftime lead in the 35-20 win against the Pirates. But Withers said his team didn’t finish strong and had a lot of missed opportunities for big plays on both offense and defense, which has been a focus heading into the final nonconference game against the Cardinals (2-2).
“We talk about eliminating the noise because everyone’s going to pat them on the back this week about beating ECU,” Withers said. Sunday “wasn’t a high-five, pat-you-on-the-back, everybody-go-eat-ice-cream meeting. There It was a lot of things we can better at if we want to be a good football team at the end of the year.
RALEIGH ó Slow starts have become a bothersome pattern for North Carolina State under coach Tom O’Brien. He’s hoping for another turnaround.
The Wolfpack (2-3) look for their first victory against a Bowl Subdivision team Saturday when they play Central Michigan (2-3) in their final nonconference game.
Injuries have been a big problem for N.C. State ó particularly on defense, where the Wolfpack are expected to start their fourth combination of linemen in six games.
But unlike the previous moves, which were necessary because players were injured, the latest move involves getting a player back. Defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy is expected to make his first start after missing the first four games with a broken foot suffered during the preseason.
His return could be the first of several during the next few weeks that O’Brien hopes precedes another second-half surge. After slow starts in both 2007 and ’08, N.C. State reeled off four-game winning streaks in both years.
CLEMSON, S.C. ó As crazy as it sounds, this season is about to get tougher for No. 8 Clemson.
Sure, the Tigers went from obscurity to the top 10 with three straight wins ó over defending national champion Auburn, rising Florida State and Atlantic Coast Conference champ Virginia Tech. But anyone paying attention knows that Clemson (5-0, 2-0 ACC) has a knack for big wins followed by letdowns, something the Tigers hope to avoid when they play Boston College (1-4, 0-2) on Saturday at Death Valley.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney knows you don’t have to look far to notice the program’s tendency to play up ó and down ó to its competition. Swinney job this week is to see the Tigers don’t follow three wins over ranked teams by stumbling against the Eagles.
BLACKSBURG, Va. ó Jacory Harris is talking like he has it covered.
The Miami quarterback will lead his team into Lane Stadium on Saturday for a game against No. 21 Virginia Tech, and the stakes are already high for the longtime conference rivals.
The Hurricanes (2-2, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) have lost two in a row against the Hokies (4-1, 0-1), and the loser will have a steep hill to climb to get back into the ACC race.
Harris is climbing the career passing lists at Miami and in the ACC. His 56 touchdown passes tie him with Houston’s Matt Schaub and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan for 13th in league history. He’s not inclined to shy away from the importance of the matchup, even on the road.
“It’s like playoff mentality. We can’t lose this game,” he said.
The one thing the Hokies have been able to count on this season has been their defense. It ranks fourth overall nationally, and second against the run.
HOUSTON ó East Carolina has struggled with turnovers all season. The Pirates know repeating those struggles at Houston on Saturday night could lead to a second straight lopsided loss.
The Pirates (1-3, 1-0 Conference USA) have committed 11 turnovers in the past two games. They managed to beat UAB despite tying a school record with seven turnovers, but they had four in the first half to fall behind 28-3 by the break in last week’s 35-20 home loss to North Carolina.
East Carolina has a national-worst 17 turnovers in four games, 10 coming on fumbles.
While McNeill said his players are working to better protect the football “every day,” the turnover trouble could make it even harder to keep up with Case Keenum and the high-scoring Cougars (5-0, 1-0).
The trip to Houston will be East Carolina’s first trip out of its home state all year. It played South Carolina in Charlotte to open the year, then played three straight home games in Greenville.
Keenum ranks second nationally in passing yardage by averaging 401 yards per game.