CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -Boston College started the year trying to replace Matt Ryan at quarterback. So far, the No. 23 Eagles have done well enough that they're positioned for another run at the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.
When BC travels to North Carolina on Saturday, it knows it can't afford a slip up considering the Eagles are in a crowded group atop the league's Atlantic Division - even as the Tar Heels are in the midst of their most successful start in a decade.
to 13 points per game on the year.
At the very least, BC is in a good spot in the league's Atlantic Division, where four teams sit at 2-1 atop the standings. The other three teams in that group await the Eagles - Florida State and Wake Forest on the road, Maryland at home - to close the year, putting pressure on them to keep winning now.
``You've got to go win the games you're playing,'' BC coach Jeff Jagodzinski said. ``I'm looking at my schedule and it's a tough schedule the rest of the way in, so I don't feel (the league is down). I think it's up for anyone and I think the games are going to be very even.
``It's going to be a good race down the stretch, and I think that the team that can stay the healthiest is the team that may come out on top - maybe by attrition.''
As it stands, the Eagles are already one win away from becoming bowl eligible for the 10th straight season. Their defense is allowing 251 yards per game and has posted a pair of nonconference shutouts. But their offense has improved, scoring 66 points in the past two games as Crane has grown more comfortable as the starter.
Crane's biggest performance came when he threw for 428 yards and two scores while running for three more, including the winning touchdown in the final seconds, to beat North Carolina State 38-31. Last week, he overcame three interceptions as BC beat Virginia Tech 28-23.
ying great defenses,'' Crane said. ``We have to make plays so we're going to push the envelope a little bit, but we also have to be smart. We've got a great defense too, and I just have to remember that as long as we put up a few points - enough points - and don't give them any, we should have a good shot to win.''
The Eagles are hoping Crane cuts down on his mistakes, namely his nine interceptions this year. That's especially important against the Tar Heels (5-2, 1-2), who are tied for the national lead with 14 interceptions on the season.
North Carolina is has already surpassed its four-win total from last year and is off to its best start since winning the first eight games of the 1997 season, Mack Brown's last in Chapel Hill before heading to Texas. But the feeling around the team this week was one of disappointment after last weekend's overtime loss at Virginia, extending the program's losing streak in Charlottesville to 14 games.
In that game, the Tar Heels' defense shut down the Cavaliers until allowing the final touchdown drive in regulation and the winning TD in overtime. It also wasted a big day from converted safety Shaun Draughn, who ran for 138 yards to further revive the Tar Heels' once-anemic rushing attack.
in in their five wins and minus-5 in the two losses.
The Tar Heels were picked to finish second in the league's Coastal Division, but now find themselves sliding in the standings with head-to-head tiebreakers working against them. Beating BC would go a long way in erasing the sting of that mistake-riddled loss to the Cavaliers.
``We've got to take a long look at ourselves ... and going back to the things that allowed us to win the games we've won,'' coach Butch Davis said. ``If we go back and worry about ourselves and take care of what we're supposed to do, we'll play well.''

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