This week's ACC Roundtable is hosted by our esteemed Tar Heel representative Tar Heel Mania. The roundtable defers to UNC's line of questioning as they have a not-so-important important game tonight as they host the Seminoles in Chapel Hill.
His questions and our answers follow.
1) What player whom you were not even thinking about in August has made the most positive impact on your team? Conversely, what supposedly key player(s) has fizzled for reasons other than injury?
Without hesitation, the answer to this question has to be BC's true freshman linebacker Luke Kuechly. Even though there was message board chatter and whisperings that this kid would be good, back in August we weren't really sure if he would even see the playing field. Kuechly has been an absolute animal on the field, helping fill the void left by Mark Herzlich, Mike McLaughlin and most recently, Will Thompson. Kuechly paces the Eagles in tackles through 7 games. In fact, he has twice as many tackles (69) as the next best Eagles defender (33 from Marty Bowman). Kuechly also is tied with Alex Albright for the team lead in TFLs (6). Kuechly has been a pleasant surprise on the defensive side of the ball and can be considered our defensive MVP through 7 games.
I'm not really sure I can point to a key player that has fizzled for reasons other than injury, only because our key players, especially on the defensive side of the ball - Herzlich, McLaughlin, Scafe, Rollins - have all been injured at some point in the season.
2) UNC’s performances, and in particular the two losses, have felt like the ghost of Carl Torbush is roaming the sidelines. What part of your team’s past, positive or negative, has this season drudged up?
During the Florida State and Wake Forest games, particularly in the second half, BC was "playing not to lose" instead of "playing to win." Conservative play-calling and just trying to hold onto the lead certainly drudged up bad memories of the Tom O'Brien era and the conservative, predictable play calling of OC Dana Bible. The Eagles did a bit better with the lead last week vs. NC State, but I'm not sure how much that was as a result of "playing to win" and how much of that can be attributed to just how bad NC State's defense is. At one point in the second half, BC ran the ball 12 consecutive plays over 2 drives ... and still scored a touchdown.
3) Because this is the ACC, no team is truly out of the conference race yet; 5-3 can still win the division. Find your inner optimist, no matter how bruised, and tell us why you’re still holding out hope for your team. (This is NOT the best-case scenario question; rather, what your team has shown to indicate success in the immediate future.)
It doesn't take much channeling of my inner optimist to envision the Eagles playing for the ACC Championship Game in Tampa. At 3-2, the Eagles need to win their last 3 ACC games and hope that Clemson loses just one of their remaining 4 games. Why am I holding out hope? I'm holding out hope because the Eagles toughest ACC opponents are in their rear-view mirror. The Eagles have a home game with North Carolina and road games at Virginia and Maryland. Despite how poorly BC has played on the road, my hope is that UVA and Maryland are sufficiently bad enough that the Eagles can pull out two Ws.
4) What remaining conference game not involving your team do you look forward to most and why?
For reasons mentioned above, the remaining conference game not involving BC I'm most looking forward to is Clemson at Miami (Fla.) this weekend. The Eagles need Clemson to lose to regain control of the Atlantic Division race. I'm also looking forward to Florida State at Clemson. Wishful thinking is that the Seminoles play hungry enough and desperate enough down the stretch that they go on a little run and knock off some of our Atlantic Division competition including Clemson. On the Coastal side, with Virginia Tech, Miami (Fla.) and Georgia Tech all playing each other already, there really isn't a compelling matchup left that I'd interested in tuning in to watch.
5) Now for what Block-C would call the "shits and giggles" question. Offense in the ACC is…well, offensive. To solve this problem we’re putting four ACC offensive coordinators into Thunderdome, where only one man will emerge to smear a football field with his tactics again. Bryan Stinespring and John Shoop are shoo-ins. Nominate at least one more offensive coordinator (preferably, yours) and tell us why he deserves a 75% chance of doom.
I really have no problem with Gary Tranquill at this point because, well, winning cures all. Until we lose a game because of conservative second-half playcalling, I'm willing to give Tranquill a stay of execution. NC State's Dana Bible's offensive have been historically 'meh' going back to his days on the Heights, but eliminating the Wolfpack's OC at this point would only serve to help NC State and hurt the rest of the Atlantic Division.
So I'll go with Miami's OC Mark Whipple. Whipple was a leading candidate for the BC head coaching position when Tom O'Brien left for "greener pastures." Whipple (obviously) didn't get the job as the school hired Jeff Jagodzinski instead. Since then, Whipple has quickly turned around the Hurricane offense and has them at 5-1 behind the arm and athleticism of Jacory Harris. I fear that if the Eagles and Hurricanes meet in this year's ACC Championship Game, that little added incentive to stick it to the Eagles will result in the Miami offense scoring 70 points and destroying BC. So, enter the Thunderdome Whipple, and god speed.