ACC Football: Today’s previews

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 25, 2011

Associated Press
Todayís college previews …
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.ó The Big Game today in Virginia has never been bigger and former West Rowan running back K.P. Parks should be a big part of it.
The resurgence of the Virginia Cavaliers (8-3, 5-2) came at the same time Parks, a redshirt freshman from Salisbury, began getting significant carries. Whatís at stake today?
Sixth-ranked Virginia Tech plays at No. 24 Virginia with the winner gping to the ACC championship game against No. 18 Clemson.
The Hokies (10-1, 6-1 ACC) have dominated the series, winning seven straight and 11 of 12, mostly by lopsided scores. They will be seeking their fifth appearance in the title game in seven years, while the surprising Cavaliers have never played for the championship.
These stakes are what coach Mike London envisioned when he took the Virginia job two years ago.
“It’s great to know that in November we’re still talking about Virginia football as being relevant and it’s great to know that on this game, that there’s a lot at stake,” he said.
The Hokies have noticed, and sound as though they feel they have turf to protect.
“From when I came to Virginia Tech and when I started paying attention to college football, UVA hasn’t been a factor, not really, in any of the seasons I’ve been here,” Hokies tailback David Wilson said. “Just how far they’ve come this year and having a chance to play in the ACC championship game, you have to figure they’re going to come in with a lot of passion.”
Both teams have dynamic running games, with the Hokies featuring Wilson, whose 131-yard average ranks fourth nationally, and the Cavaliers relying on the trio of Parks, Perry Jones and Clinton Richardson. Jones has 870 rushing yards and five touchdowns, 41 receptions for 416 yards and three touchdowns and has even thrown a touchdown pass. Parks has eight TDs.
Defensively, both are solid. The Hokies rank 12th nationally, allowing just 307 yards per game. The Cavaliers rank 25th nationally in total defense, allowing 337 yards, and 28th in scoring defense (20.8).
RALEIGH ó North Carolina State has been here before, with Maryland standing in the way of the Wolfpack advancing to an even more significant game.
They hope this is the time they finally top the Terrapins.
“We know that we have to beat Maryland,” running back James Washington said. “That’s the only way we get to a bowl game.”
N.C. State (6-5, 3-4 ACC) can clinch a spot in the postseason with a win over a struggling Maryland team that is trying to avoid its second 10-loss season in three years.
The Wolfpack have had a couple of past seasons spoiled by the Terrapins in regular-season finales. A loss to Maryland in the last game in 2007 kept N.C. State out of the postseason.
Then last year, Maryland knocked off the Wolfpack to prevent them from reaching the ACC championship game in what had to be considered one of the toughest losses of coach Tom O’Brien’s career.
Keeping positive momentum going has been quite a challenge for the up-and-down Wolfpack, who haven’t put together consecutive victories in a month. They followed their impressive win at Virginia with a blowout loss at Florida State, then stunned rival North Carolina for the fifth straight year ó only to flop at Boston College the following week and put their postseason hopes in serious jeopardy.
Then came last week’s shocking rout of then-No. 7 Clemson to rekindle all that bowl chatter.
Things haven’t gone the way Maryland (2-9, 1-6) expected when it lured coach Randy Edsall from Connecticut.
WINSTON-SALEM ó Vanderbilt wants to become bowl eligible. Wake Forest doesn’t want to stop there.
The Commodores look to claim their sixth victory ó and first away from Nashville ó when they visit a Demon Deacons team that qualified for a bowl last week and is looking for more.
“We’re still not satisfied because we know that we’re a better team than just six wins,” Wake Forest cornerback Bud Noel said. “So we’re just working harder to get another win before we go bowling.”
For the Demon Deacons (6-5), the challenge is twofold: Avoiding the temptation to relax because they’ve already clinched a spot in the postseason, and finding a way to handle a SEC team that is perhaps better than its record.
Vanderbilt (5-6) has lost four games by eight or fewer points.
“There’s no question, I think you know that (Vanderbilt is) going to be probably as motivated as they’ve been all year to get a win,” Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said.
The Commodores enter 0-4 on the road and are one victory shy of qualifying for just the fifth bowl in program history and second since 1982.
COLUMBIA, S.C. ó Clemson and South Carolina are each ready to make history ó and they can’t think of a better place to do it than their season-ending rivalry game.
For all the injuries, surprises, milestones and disappointments, the No. 18 Tigers (9-2) and No. 14 Gamecocks (9-2) have the chance for 10 victories ó something both programs have sought for decades.
“It’s the state championship,” Gamecocks defensive end Melvin Ingram said. “Both teams will come out and give it their all.”
Just the way they have throughout a pair of surprising seasons.
The Gamecocks were picked by many to return to the Southeastern Conference title game, but they were edged out by Georgia despite beating their five Eastern Division rivals and winning six league games for the first time.
If South Carolina wins tonight at Williams-Brice Stadium, it would mark three straight rivalry wins ó something that last happened from 1968-70 ó and its first 10-win season since the celebrated “Black Magic” team that went 10-2 in 1984.