Around The ACC

Sept. 30, 2010

By Wes Durham
Sting Daily

It was predicted by many observers during the spring and summer that the Coastal Division of the ACC was going to be one of the most competitive in all of college football. After four weeks of play, it’s hard to make that statement, but this weekend we are going to find out what division might be the best in the ACC.

There are four games of inter-division football scheduled, in addition to Georgia Tech’s first visit to Wake Forest since 2003.

The two teams not playing conference games are each facing bitter long-time rivals this Saturday, too. With all that to digest, here’s more in this week’s breakdown.

Florida State (3-1, 1-0) at Virginia (2-1, 0-0), 12 noon, ACC Network

The Cavaliers took care of business last Saturday against VMI. Now comes the second biggest game of the year for rookie head coach Mike London. The Seminoles have won two straight since their collapse at Oklahoma, including last week’s 31-0 win over Wake Forest in their first league game.

Virginia’s Marc Verica has been smart with the football. He’s hitting a league-best 68 percent of his passes, and is 4th in yards per game (232.3). His primary target has been Kris Burd (6.0 receptions per game) who is averaging nearly 87 yards receiving per game.

Florida State has held each of its last two opponents to under 200 yards of total offense. The offense has been fine, but Mark Stoops’ defense has been superb since the loss at Oklahoma.

The last time FSU visited Charlottesville, Virginia captured a 26-21 win.

It’s also the 15th anniversary of FSU’s first-ever ACC loss, at Virginia, in 1996.

Miami (2-1, 0-0) at Clemson (2-1, 0-0), 12 noon, ESPN2

Miami righted the ship after its loss at Ohio State, with an impressive win at Pittsburgh eight nights ago. The `Canes have split their last eight road ACC games, and can’t afford to fall behind a Clemson team that had an “open date”, after a physically brutal game at Auburn.

Two forces collide on Frank Howard Field, where Miami’s defense is 11th nationally in scoring (13.0), and Clemson’s offense is 17th nationally in scoring (39.0). Curious.

The quarterback stage is pretty solid. Jacory Harris recovered from two early interceptions to post the win at Pitt, but Kyle Parker has been a critical piece to what Clemson has done in the last two years.

That leaves special teams to split the difference. Clemson has one of the nation’s best punters in Dawson Zimmerman (46.1), while Miami counters with Lamar Miller returning kicks (37.8 avg., 1 TD) and Travis Benjamin handling punts (24.5 average, 1 TD).

Virginia Tech (2-2, 1-0) at NC State (4-0, 1-0), 3:30 p.m., ABC

After its win over Georgia Tech last Saturday, NC State has to back it up against Virginia Tech this weekend. The Wolfpack were impressive on both sides last week in Atlanta, but the Hokie defense is improving nearly week-to-week. A shutout win at Boston College evened their overall record, but now their “run to Charlotte” starts in Raleigh, where the `Pack can be a load. Frank Beamer is 29-5 on the road in ACC.

NC State’s start is led by QB Russell Wilson (11TD) and LB Nate Irving (16 tackles last week). But beyond their stats, after watching the Wolfpack live last week in Atlanta, its clear that the entire team rallies around those two guys.

If NC State wants to be a serious contender for Charlotte out of the Atlantic, this is a must win.

East Carolina (2-1) at North Carolina (1-2), 3:30 p.m., ESPN3.com

These two don’t get along at all, and add in another new set of distractions at Chapel Hill on Thursday morning, this one should be interesting. Carolina got off the mat last Saturday to beat Rutgers, while ECU suffered its first loss of the year a couple weeks ago at Virginia Tech.

The Pirates’ Dwayne Harris caught 10 passes against the Hokies for 119 yards last year. Good thing that D’Norris Searcy returns on Saturday to help the Carolina secondary.

Carolina gets locked into ACC play again next week. But it wants to be 2-2 when that happens.

Duke (1-3, 0-1) at Maryland (3-1, 0-0), 6 p.m., ESPN3.com The Blue Devils’ early optimism has been dulled by a 3-game losing skid. The latest was a 35-21 loss at home to Army last Saturday. Now Duke gets Maryland, off a win over Florida International, and off to a good start.

One concern for the Terps might be that they have allowed nearly 475 yards of offense to each of their last two opponents (WVU, FIU). Last week, they allowed 355 passing from the Golden Panthers.

Maryland is on the road in four of its next five games, including three straight division games. This is the first of three road games in the next four for the Blue Devils. Decision time for both schools.

Notre Dame (1-3) at Boston College (2-1), 8 p.m., ABC

The 20th meeting all-time in the all-Catholic series is set for Chestnut Hill. The Irish won 20-16 last year in South Bend. The Eagles dropped their ACC opener to Virginia Tech last week, while Notre Dame lost to Stanford at home.

The Irish are going to ride Dayne Crist at QB against an Eagle pass defense that is 84th nationally at 238.8 per game. The Irish are 7th nationally in passing (315.5).

The game practically hinges right there.

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