Oct. 7, 2010
By Wes Durham
When play concludes this weekend, the ACC will have reached the midway point of the season. There will have been 14 conference games played and there is still plenty of drama left in the second half of the season. Two division and two inter-division games are on the six-game slate this week.
There is one stat to keep an eye on this weekend. In the 10 conference games played to date, the home team has only won three times. That is a scary number with some critical games coming up in the next couple weeks.
But, that’s life in the ACC, where a competitive balance seems to be the only constant from year to year.
On with the breakdown…
Boston College (2-2, 0-1) at NC State (4-1, 1-1), 12 noon, ACC Network
The Wolfpack got off to a great start last week against Virginia Tech in Raleigh, before the Hokies responded with big plays in all three phases of the game. Rookie David Wilson ran the opening kick of the second half back for a score, Darren Evans had a long scoring run and they intercepted Russell Wilson a couple times in the final half.
There are two schools in the conference this week that can’t let last week’s loss beat them this week. NC State is the first of those. The Wolfpack has the poise and the firepower on both sides to make a run at the Atlantic Division title, but can’t let Boston College slip up on them.
The Eagles have had a hard time scoring. They are 98th nationally in scoring offense and 108th in rushing offense. Defensively, BC is solid, but it will be tested by the Pack’s #8 national pass offense (303.8) for sure.
State needs this win because four of its last six games are on the road.
Central Michigan (2-3) at Virginia Tech (3-2), 12 noon, ESPNU
Dan Enos took over for Butch Jones at Central Michigan this fall. At 42, he’s one of the youngest head coaches in the FBS. But he’s aging by the week. The “Fightin’ Dick Enbergs” (the legendary sportscasters graduated from CMU) have lost two straight, including a 31-17 decision at home to Ball State last week.
Virginia Tech has won three straight since the JMU debacle of week two, and this game is the first of four straight home games for Frank Beamer’s team. It seems pretty simple for the Hokies. They keep their run-pass balance on offense and let that defense continue to improve.
They produced three turnovers last week in Raleigh and are +5 takeaway/giveaway in their last three games.
Tyrod Taylor is first in the ACC in pass efficiency and fourth in total offense per game. Those are the kind of stats that you can win with, if your defense continues to improve.
Clemson (2-2, 0-1) at North Carolina (2-2, 0-1), 3:30 p.m., ABC
Here is the second team in the ACC that can’t afford to have last week’s loss beat them this week, too. Clemson had six turnovers last Saturday in its home loss to Miami. Kyle Parker looked to be shaking off the effects of a physical game at Auburn, two weeks before.
Regardless of that outcome, the Tigers now are in a road game, they practically “must win”. Florida State is already 2-0 in the league, so the Tigers cannot afford another loss, in or out of the division.
The Tar Heels have won two straight, both non-conference games, to even their mark. Safety Deunta Williams returns for the Carolina defense, which should help against a Tiger offense that when going good, gets solid play from Parker and offers a steady diet of ground game from Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper.
The biggest surprise of the ACC so far has been the consistent play from QB T.J. Yates. The senior ranks 2nd in pass efficiency, 3rd in both passing yardage per game and total offense. If they can run the ball with any degree of effect, they can make this thing pretty interesting.
But make no mistake, the pressure is all on the Tigers.
Navy (2-2) at Wake Forest (2-3), 6:30 p.m., ESPN3.com
A week after seeing Georgia Tech’s spread option, Wake Forest gets ready to face Navy’s version of the spread option. The two aren’t that different, but the Deacons might benefit from seeing the similar looks and speed of it a week ago.
It looks like rookie Tanner Price will return at QB for the Deacons, which gives them more balance, but if Price can’t finish the game, Wake might be looking to “bullpen” the game with either Sky Jones or potentially Brendan Cross.
Navy QB Ricky Dobbs had guided the Mids to a pair of wins before last week’s loss at Air Force. Dobbs and B-Back Vince Murray are the catalyst of what Navy has done this fall, but the Mids are #17 nationally in total defense as well.
After this game, Wake has three of its next four games on the road.
Florida State (4-1, 2-0) at Miami (3-1, 1-0), 8 p.m., ABC
This is the headline game in the ACC for week six. After last year’s win by Miami on Labor Day night, the stakes are even higher this year. Both schools are in the front of their division and could very well be seeing each other again before the season is over. But that’s what makes this game interesting.
Miami forced six turnovers last Saturday in the win at Clemson, while FSU held Virginia to 25 yards of rushing in a 34-14 win. The `Noles defense has been pretty salty since being shredded at Oklahoma, holding two of the last three opponents to under 200-yards of total offense.
QB pressure will be a big factor on Saturday night. Jacory Harris of Miami has thrown eight interceptions in the last four games, including two at Clemson last week. Meanwhile, since a two-pick game at Oklahoma, Christian Ponder hasn’t thrown a pick in the last three games.
That could very well be the critical piece of who wins and who loses on Saturday night.
Open Date: Maryland / Duke