Sept. 9, 2010
By Wes Durham
It can’t be… there are nine games involving the ACC this Saturday. Seven of those games fall between 12 noon and 7 p.m. Add in some interesting non-ACC games that might be worth a few minutes during that time frame and the hardest worker on Saturday is going to be your television’s remote control.
Not a bad start for the ACC last Saturday. There were no “black eyes” for the conference (i.e. Ole Miss losing to Jacksonville State), or games where a team played so poorly that some of the league’s perception might have taken a step back (Mountain West member New Mexico lost 72-0 at Oregon).
Only one school has an “open date” in the second week. North Carolina, which lost to LSU last Saturday after a strong second half comeback, waits on new developments off the field and has the extra time to prep for Georgia Tech next Saturday at noon.
On with our breakdown:
Duke at Wake Forest, 12 noon (Raycom ACC)
I’m not sure that Duke head coach David Cutcliffe could have asked for a better opening performance from his new quarterback. Sean Renfree threw for 350 yards and 2-touchdowns in his first collegiate start. But Renfree hit 10 straight passes at one point, and finished 13-14 passing, as Duke beat Elon, 41-27.
Meanwhile, Wake’s new signal-caller last Thursday was Ted Stachitas, who was 7-13 passing in a runaway win against Presbyterian. I’m not sure which player made more progress, but we are getting ready to find out.
Duke and Wake has traditionally been a tight game… and should be again this Saturday. This game is probably more important to Duke, simply because Cutcliffe is trying to get this team to the post-season for the first time since 1994.
For the Deacons, its also pretty important, because their next five games are at Stanford, at Florida State, home against Georgia Tech and Navy, then at Virginia Tech. Ouch.
James Madison at Virginia Tech, 1:30 p.m.
Just five days after playing Boise State, the Hokies face in-state FCS power James Madison. Mickey Matthews has a solid squad year-in and year-out, but the test for Frank Beamer will be to get his team to focus on winning the game and moving forward with the season. It is hard to gauge just how draining the events of Monday night in Landover, will be on the Hokies. Virginia Tech left a lot on the field. Now, how do they rebound is one of the principal questions against the Dukes.
Virginia Tech is on the fast track playing without an open date until late October, so they can’t sit around and bemoan the final minutes of the game against Boise State. Instead, it will be critical to get them focused not just on James Madison, but also the following weeks against ECU (Sept. 18) and at Boston College on September 25
Presbyterian at Clemson, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN3.com)
Clemson did exactly what it was expected to do last Saturday against North Texas (35-10 win). The same beat should continue on Saturday against Presbyterian. The Tigers got 100-yard rushing efforts from both Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington against the Mean Green. Kyle Parker hit 9-17 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns. The defense did give up 462 yards to North Texas, most of which could have been after the game was decided, but still that’s a big number.
Presbyterian is the “new adjunct” member of the ACC after losing 53-10 last week at Wake Forest. But they did make SportsCenter with the “skip pass touchdown”.
I don’t think the Blue Hose will be as competitive as the Mean Green, which means Clemson is 2-0, headed to Auburn next Saturday.
Florida State at Oklahoma, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
Here’s a game that will keep you locked in. Florida State looked impressive in dismantling Samford on Saturday. Oklahoma battled Utah State in Norman before winning 31-24. That makes Saturday’s game at Owen Field big for both teams. It’s one of the huge games for the ACC as well.
The Sooners biggest concern might be their pass defense. Diondre Borel of Utah State threw for 341 yards against OU. That’s a big number. But it was off-set by the Sooners Demarco Murray rushing for 218 yards and QB Landry Jones’ two touchdown passes.
The Seminoles posted 481 yards of total offense, and got a 4-touchdown effort from Christian Ponder. Its hard to gauge the defense because Samford only had 77 yards of rushing. Is that Samford or is that FSU? We’ll find out on Saturday.
Kent State at Boston College, 3:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
BC led 24-3 last Saturday and then cruised to their opening win against Weber State. The Eagles had 411 yards of total offense, with RB Montel Harris posting 115 yards on 19-carries. The emotional return of Mark Herzlich was completed with 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year coming back to help anchor the defense.
Kent State beat Murray State last week to open its season. QB Spencer Keith was 24-35 for 275 yards and 3 TD’s. That’s good enough to test the Eagles defense this Saturday.
Boston College has an open date next week before hosting Virginia Tech on September 25.
Miami at Ohio State, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Both the Hurricanes and Buckeyes cruised last Thursday night to easy wins. Both teams looked exactly like we thought they would. That’s has to be somewhat troublesome for Randy Shannon and Jim Tressel.
After all, what do they really know after easy wins over Florida A&M and Marshall? They are getting ready to find out all the answers to those questions.
Miami’s best chance to win will be to keep their offense balanced behind QB Jacory Harris. Their defense will be tested by what OSU does with Terelle Pryor at quarterback, but it Pryor’s not on the field, he can’t beat you. That’s where the `Canes offensive balance will be critical to winning.
This could be a classic game by year’s end.
NC State at UCF, 7:30 p.m. (CBS College Sports)
The Wolfpack looked good last Saturday night in Raleigh, beating Western Carolina. Russell Wilson was sharp, passing for 306 yards and 4 touchdowns. Seven different players caught at least two passes during the game.
The ‘Pack run game was good enough, but averaged only 3.6 yards per carry. That has to be better.
Former Tech coach George O’Leary saw his Knights open the season with a 38-7 win over South Dakota. The run game was solid with Jonathan Davis’ 107 yards, and the UCF defense held the Jackrabbits to 220 yards of offense.
It’s a certain step up for NC State, which will have a quick turnaround from Orlando to host Cincinnati next Thursday night in Raleigh.
Virgnia at Southern Cal, 10:30 p.m. (FSN)
New UVA coach Mike London could not have ordered up a better opening night — 255-pound tailback Keith Payne posted four touchdowns in the win over Richmond. The Cavs led 14-13 midway the third quarter before Virginia posted three touchdowns behind the 114-yards rushing of Payne.
Receiver Kris Burd had seven catches for 122 yards in the win as well. All that helps, but the defense will be tested this Saturday.
The Trojans didn’t look real sharp on defense last Thursday night at Hawai’i, but the offense was in mid-season form on opening night. RB Marc Tyler had 154 yards on 17 carries, which was a big enough threat to allow Matt Barkley to go 18-23 passing for 257 yards in the win.
If Virginia can solve the “Tampa 2”, then they can stay in the game. If not, it could be a long night at the Coliseum.