Nov. 2, 2010
By Wes Durham
Perhaps taking a page from the NFL, the ACC begins a three-week run of “conference exclusivity” this weekend. It started with Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech on Thursday night and continues this Saturday with five more conference games.
It will continue through the next two weekends, where by the end of the day on November 20, we should not only have the two division winners headed to Charlotte, we also will likely have the teams who will be “bowling” from the ACC this fall as well.
One note to pass along… earlier in the year, the home team had won just three of the first 10 conference games played. That trend has been reversed, with the home team winning 13 of the last 17 ACC games played. Home teams are 16-11 in ACC play headed into Thursday night’s game in Blacksburg between the Jackets and Hokies.
Now, on with the Week 10 breakdown:
#25 NC State (6-2, 3-1) at Clemson (4-4, 2-3), 12 Noon, ACC Network
After beating Georgia Tech, Clemson couldn’t hold the rope last week at Boston College. The Tigers struggled to mount any offense at all and lost a critical road game in the Atlantic. Dabo Swinney’s team has now lost four straight road games dating back to last year.
This week the Tigers play without Andre Ellington (toe injury), and now must be able to keep pace with surging NC State. The Wolfpack, off the emotional win over FSU last week in Raleigh, now have a shot at the division crown. State’s passing game ranks 15th nationally at 295.7, while Clemson sports the 24th-best pass defense (188.1). It can’t be that easy, can it?
A win by the Wolfpack would be their first at Frank Howard Field since 2002.
Maryland (6-2, 3-1) at Miami (5-3, 3-2), 12 Noon, ESPNU
This will be the first meeting between the two schools since 2006, when the Terps won by a 14-13 score in College Park. The `Canes loss at Virginia last Saturday put them back in the bunch with Georgia Tech and North Carolina trying to catch Virginia Tech in the Coastal. They also lost QB Jacory Harris last week. It’s unclear if Harris will be ready for Saturday’s game, but if not, rookie Stephen Morris will get the call at QB.
Maryland isn’t very flashy from a statistical perspective, but the Terps have been a tough out in the Atlantic, and now have the stage set for some huge November games. Their only ACC loss was at Clemson (division game), but they can pick up ground with a win at Miami. The Terps haven’t won in Miami since the remarkable comeback by Frank Reich, on November 10, 1984, when Bobby Ross’ team rallied from a 31-0 halftime deficit.
Ralph Friedgen’s team also has the luxury of hosting NC State and Florida State in the last two weeks of the regular season, which essentially gives them the last word on that division race… if they can win at Miami or next week at Virginia.
Virginia (4-4, 1-3) at Duke (2-6, 0-4), 12 Noon, ESPN3.com
Alright! Raise your hand if you thought both of these schools would enter this game coming off wins the week before? That’s what I thought. But, its true as both the Wahoos and Blue Devils won games last Saturday.
For Virginia, it was its first ACC win, and it came in thrilling fashion at home against Miami. QB Marc Verica played a very efficient game leading the Cavaliers to a big lead, then let his secondary shut the door on Miami threats along the way in the second half. Chase Minniefield and Corey Moseley each had two interceptions in the victory.
Likewise, Duke held off a furious rally from Navy to post a road win at Annapolis. QB Sean Renfree posted a school single-game pass completion percentage mark, going 28-30 in the contest. Renfree hit his first 16 passes in the 34-31 win.
A side note. Because they played two FCS teams, Virginia will need seven wins to become bowl eligible, while Duke has to win out in order to bowl for the first time since 1994.
North Carolina (5-3, 2-2) at #24 Florida State (6-2, 4-1), 3:30 p.m., ABC
After last week’s loss in Raleigh to NC State, it’s going to be interesting to see how Jimbo Fisher rallies his squad. The last-minute loss was eerily similar to many of the Seminole heartbreaks of the last couple of years. But lingering on it could be costly to their title game hopes.
Florida State can’t not afford another loss, with NC State now clearly in the race, and Maryland not going anywhere either. It likely doesn’t help them very much that Carolina has never won in Tallahassee and has finally gotten whole as a football team with the return of CB Kendric Burney last week.
TB Johnny White has emerged as the rushing leader for the Heels, but this will be one of their biggest challenges yet. FSU is 23rd nationally against the run (115.4), and it might mean that QB T.J. Yates has to play a bigger role for Carolina.
Florida State has found success in its trio of running backs, led in Raleigh by Ty Jones (108 yards). They pose the biggest rushing threat to Carolina since they allowed 372 yards on the ground to Georgia Tech.
Boston College (3-5, 1-4) at Wake Forest (2-6, 1-4), 3:30 p.m., ESPN3.com
After its win against Clemson last week at home, it will be interesting to see if Boston College can channel that energy to Winston-Salem for an Atlantic battle with struggling Wake Forest.
The Eagles, who are looking for their fourth straight win in the series, rode Montel Harris (36-142 yds) and some key defensive plays late to their win over Clemson. At the same time, Wake Forest continues to struggle. The Deacons lost their sixth straight game last Saturday in a 62-14 loss at Maryland. That’s the longest losing skid in Jim Grobe’s tenure with Wake Forest.
The Wake rushing attack vanished last week, posting -3 yards against Maryland, and only 155 yards total in the game. That’s bad news Saturday, because Boston College has the 3rd-best run defense nationally (83.4).
A win for the Eagles gives them post-season hopes with remaining games against Duke, Virginia and Syracuse.