Nearing the midway point of the ACC football season, my choice for league player of the year is North Carolina wide receiver Brandon Tate. Not only that, No. 2 on my list is probably Tar Heel wideout Hakeem Nicks.
Their collective impact on the program and the season thus far has bordered on phenomenal and could wind up being historic. Two wideouts from the same school have never been voted first-team all-conference in the same season.
With Duke’s Eron Riley, Maryland’s Darrius Heyward-Bey and several others in the mix, it’ll be difficult for Tate and Nicks to pull the double strike. But based on their performance while working with 3rd-string quarterback Cam Sexton at Miami, don’t rule them out.
• Sexton’s work was remarkable, of course. And how lucky is Carolina that he’s still on campus? He never publicly mentioned transferring out of the program, but you have to believe it crossed his mind. Many players in his situation would have.
• It certainly didn’t take long for that Clemson trip to Wake Forest on Thursday, Oct. 9 to lose much of its luster.
The game still will go far in determining the ACC Atlantic Division title, but the Deacons’ loss Saturday to visiting Navy was yet another staggering blow to the league’s national image.
It stood to reason that Wake would have trouble getting ready mentally, and all teams are going to experience off days. But Navy isn’t close to being the same threat it was last season or in 2006. That Wake trailed 17-0 at halftime was more shocking than that limiting Florida State to three points the week before.
• Clemson’s Tommy Bowden is under heavy fan pressure on several fronts, one of which is now to replace quarterback Cullen Harper (preseason pick for ACC player of the year) with redshirt freshman Willy Korn, who was a legendary South Carolina high school player.
Harper wasn’t bad in the loss to Maryland. He completed 15 of 22 passes with one interception for 151 yards, but the offense simply has not been impressive against decent defenses.
• East Carolina’s already fading hopes of winning the Conference USA title will hinge on how much use Skip Holtz and his staff can make of this week’s open date. The Pirates are tired, battered and mentally flat. The defense is hemorrhaging yardage and quarterback Patrick Pinkney suddenly has lost the coaches’ confidence.
If there’s good news for Pirate fans, it’s that the next game, Oct. 11, will be at Virginia. ACC opponents normally bring out the best in ECU.