Unbeaten Wolfpack beginning to howl

N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson and the 23rd-ranked Wolfpack host Virginia Tech on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (WCIV-TV/ABC)

CLEMSON -- N.C. State has not won as a ranked team since Aug. 30, 2003, when Philip Rivers was playing quarterback for coach Chuck Amato. The Wolfpack beat Western Carolina that day before losing the next two weeks to Wake Forest and Ohio State.

The undefeated Wolfpack (4-0, 1-0 ACC) are ranked again, 23rd in The Associated Press poll, after routing defending ACC champion Georgia Tech last week. And N.C. State again has an elite quarterback in Russell Wilson.

Wilson and N.C. State will try to take down Virginia Tech, the 2008 ACC champion, at 3:30 p.m. Saturday (WCIV-TV/ABC). After struggles against James Madison and East Carolina, the Hokies look to have gotten back on track at Boston College and are still a threat in the Coastal Division.

Carter-Finley Stadium is sold out, with the Wolfpack on the cusp of becoming something more than a curiosity.

Three up

Nate the Great

Nate Irving could be both the ACC's comeback player of the year and its defender of the year. After missing last season following a serious car accident, Irving earned Walter Camp national defensive player of the week honors, recording a career-best 16 tackles, 4 1/2 tackles for loss and two sacks in an impressive win against Georgia Tech last week.

It's all about the U's D

The Miami defense looked like the Canes' defense of a decade ago Thursday at Pitt, limiting the Big East preseason favorite to three points. Miami is second in the nation in sacks (4.7 sacks per game) and first in tackles for loss. Miami possesses star talent at every level in end/tackle Allen Bailey, cornerback Brandon Harris and linebacker Sean Spence.

Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech went from overwhelming ACC favorite in the July media poll to a two-point underdog at Boston College last week. The Hokies can still be a threat in the Coastal because there is still a lot of firepower on that offense, and defensive coordinator Bud Foster might have begun to find some answers on defense in a 19-0 win at Boston College.

Three down

Grohing pains

Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Al Groh brought the 3-4 defense to Atlanta this offseason, and early reviews are not favorable. Head coach Paul Johnson went to the 3-4 in part because quality defensive linemen are harder to find than linebackers, and the Yellow Jackets are feeling the effects of losing four defensive linemen to the NFL the last two offseasons. N.C. State gained 527 yards and scored its most points in a game against Georgia Tech on Saturday.

BC and the forward pass

Boston College's 26-year-old quarterback, Dave Shinskie, lost the starting job after the Eagles went scoreless against Virginia Tech. Sophomore Mike Marscoveta and freshman Chase Rettig are competing for the starting gig. The Eagles have some nice parts, but the lack of a passing game has crippled the offense. After his first five passes, Shinskie finished just 8 of 20 for 130 yards and two interceptions against Virginia Tech.

Jacory Harris

While not all the interceptions can be pinned upon Harris, the Miami quarterback has become too loose with the ball, throwing 16 interceptions in his last 13 games.

Stat of the week

3: That's the number of consecutive games going to overtime between Miami and Clemson. In each game, the visiting team has won. In 2004, Clemson won, 24-17, at Miami in the old Orange Bowl. The Hurricanes defeated Clemson, 36-30, in three overtimes at Clemson in 2005, and last fall Clemson defeated Miami, 40-37, in OT at Miami.

He said it

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson on Georgia Tech's loss to N.C. State: "After watching the tape, I was more disappointed than I was after the game, if that is possible. I was really frustrated, and this is probably the second or third time this year that we have played with little emotion in the mental aspect."

Trav's take

--Slow and steady is the Tom O'Brien way. It took three seasons for O'Brien make a winner of Boston College, and he's in his fourth season as head coach at N.C. State. The good news for folks in Raleigh is O'Brien followed up his first winning season at BC with seven consecutive winning seasons.Sometimes recruiting rankings matter, sometimes they don't, but I think they do when it comes to Miami and Clemson's meeting Saturday. Miami and Clemson ranked first and second in ESPN's recruiting rankings in 2008. We think Miami and Clemson are the top two teams in the ACC and will meet again in Charlotte.

--Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder looked better against Wake Forest (243 yards, 2 TDs), but he's had pain in his right arm, and you have to wonder if he's completely healthy from shoulder surgery.