ESPN's "College GameDay" crew will set up camp in Raleigh, N.C., for the first time Saturday as a backdrop to the North Carolina State-Miami game. Win or lose, the Wolfpack views the national hype as positive to its program, which is trying to find offensive consistency without former star Philip Rivers behind center.
"Anytime we can get this type of exposure from 10:30 a.m. to midnight from Raleigh, North Carolina, it can't hurt," N.C. State Coach Chuck Amato said, "no matter what happens on the field."
As for Miami, it's just another Saturday. The Hurricanes have played in several games in which the GameDay team was present on campus. And they don't expect their players to get caught up in remarks made by television analysts.
"We're a little spoiled to it," Miami Coach Larry Coker said. "We're probably callous to it or used to it."
The game promises to be a defensive struggle. N.C. State leads the nation in total defense and held Maryland to 91 yards in total offense last week. Miami, which remained undefeated last week by coming back to beat Louisville, ranks fourth nationally in pass efficiency defense.
North Carolina State (4-2, 3-1) could be without an effective T.A. McLendon, the running back who carried the ball just once against Maryland before leaving with a hamstring injury. Amato said he will make a last-minute decision on McLendon's availability.
One of the conference's most electrifying players, however, will be healthy and dangerous on the Miami sideline. Devin Hester leads the nation in punt returns and has returned three for touchdowns this season. "He really believes that every time he touches the ball he is going to score," Coker said.
The sophomore has 4.3 speed in the 40-yard dash and a 38-inch vertical leap. Said Georgia Tech Coach Chan Gailey, "I'd rather take a 30-yard punt out of bounds because I'm not going to take a chance of him returning one 60 yards against me."
While Miami (5-0, 2-0) has several talented underclassmen -- Hester included -- its senior class might not be as strong as it has been because of a number of early departures to the NFL. "As a senior class, we're probably not as talented as other senior classes we've had," Coker said of his 10 seniors.
Sexton May Be Entrenched
Don't expect oft-criticized Florida State quarterback Chris Rix to start anytime soon. Sophomore Wyatt Sexton, who took over starting duties when Rix suffered a high ankle sprain in September, is showing few struggles as the Seminoles begin to surge.
In his first three career starts, Sexton has completed 66 percent of his passes for 637 yards and four touchdowns. Most important, one of Sexton's biggest strengths is that he rarely forces passes.
"Right now, he is the starting quarterback," Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden said, "and I wouldn't dare take him out with us winning."
Florida State (5-1, 3-1) looked dominant in its 36-3 victory over Virginia on Saturday. Bowden was shocked at how convincing the victory was, but conceded he felt it might have been a "trap waiting to happen" for Virginia, given that the Cavaliers were undefeated and the Seminoles had struggled the week before against Syracuse.
Next up for Florida State is Wake Forest (3-3, 0-3), whose three losses all were by seven points or less, two of which came in overtime. "I don't know if any team in the ACC will outfight you more," said Bowden, who conceded that Wake Forest's apparent lack of depth has caused it to wear down later in games. "But they are going to whip you in the first half," he said.
Tigers Wary of Terps
Clemson Coach Tommy Bowden has consulted with his brother, Terry, who has broadcast the past two Maryland games for ABC. Tommy Bowden, whose team hosts Maryland Saturday, is fully aware of the Terps' offensive execution problems the past two games. Maryland (3-3, 1-2) has been held to fewer than 100 total yards in each of the past two games.
"I just hope they don't find an answer this week," Bowden said. Asked about Maryland's quarterback situation, Bowden said Jordan Steffy is more mobile than Joel Statham, who has started every game for Maryland this season.
Bowden underscored Steffy's youth -- he turned 19 last month -- by saying that around this time last year was when Steffy took an official visit to Clemson.
Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen said the Under Armour commercial, which features Maryland, has given the program attention and marketability. But Friedgen questioned whether he would do it again. . . .
Gailey, asked to assess where his team was, said: "We're 4-2. Isn't that the bottom line?" . . .
Utah remained undefeated and kept its Bowl Championship Series hopes alive with a 46-16 win over North Carolina on Saturday. "As goes that quarterback, goes that team," North Carolina Coach John Bunting said of Utes quarterback Alex Smith.