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STINGDAILY: Week Five ACC Preview

Sept. 27, 2012

by Wes Durham, Sting Daily –

Week #5 ACC Preview
@WesDurham

This weekend is the final big run of non-conference games in the ACC. Three teams (NC State, Maryland, and Duke) have yet to begin conference play. While the Wolfpack and Blue Devils jump in the pool this weekend, Maryland waits another week before starting the conference loop.

Georgia Tech is the only school to have played three conference games, and only three other schools have played 2-games (FSU, Wake, Miami), which means there is still plenty of meat left on the ACC bone.

Before that however, one last big swing of non-conference games, where the ACC is 24-9 this year. To date, the conference is only 4-9, against other BCS leagues, but there are still plenty of chances left, including the last weekend of the regular season, where there are four separate ACC-SEC games slated.

Till then, here are this weekend’s breakdowns:

OPEN DATE: Maryland (2-2, 0-0 ACC); October 6, vs. Wake Forest

NC State (3-1, 0-0) at Miami (3-1, 2-0),  12 Noon (ESPNU)

Of the 3 conference games slated this weekend, this one has the most potential reward for the winner. In Miami’s case, the ‘Canes have won 2 road games in the conference, including the victory in Atlanta last week. That advantage gives Miami only a pair of road games left in their slate (Nov. 10, at Virginia; Nov. 24, at Duke), which if there are slips along the way, they might backdoor the title game.

For the Wolfpack, they have recovered nicely since the opening night loss to Tennessee. State has gone +7 in takeaway/giveaway and posted consecutive wins over South Alabama and The Citadel, now start their ACC slate.

The biggest detail on the game might be whether one team can establish the run. Both teams are “bottom 50” running the ball, and while the Wolfpack defense has played better in their last 3-games, this will be their strongest test since Vols at the Georgia Dome.

Duke (3-1, 0-0) at Wake Forest (3-1, 1-1),  12:30 (ACC Network)

By far and away, this has been the most exciting ACC series of the last 5-years, despite the fact the Deacons have won 12 straight games in the long-time rivalry.

Both teams are off to good starts, and in Duke’s case, their best start since 2008, and winners of 3-straight home games for the first time since 1994 (the last season they went to a bowl). It has almost become post-season or bust for the Blue Devils, who beat Memphis at home last Saturday. The combination of QB Sean Renfree and WR Conner Vernon continues to pace their attack. Vernon has caught 2 or more passes in 18-straight games. He’ll be tested by a Deacon secondary that is 49th nationally against the pass.

The Deacons don’t have a stat that pops off the page, but they are “top 25” in turnover margin, which sometimes produces the exciting finishes this series has given us the last few years.

Clemson (3-1, 0-1) at Boston College (1-2, 0-1),  3:30 (ESPN2)

The Tigers and Jackets share the common trait of trying to bounce back from tough division losses. Clemson stormed out of the gate last Saturday night at Florida State, but couldn’t get the result to the finish line. Now they head back on the road to face pesky Boston College. This series has been closer than some might think since the Eagles joined the ACC, winning 4 of the 7 games played.

After an open date, Boston College should be well rested, which should also have given them a chance to polish the 16th best passing offense in the country. Clemson is still learning their new defensive system, but their offensive punch has been strong (22nd nationally). That offense might very well have to be the difference on Saturday at Chestnut Hill.

Louisiana Tech (3-0) at Virginia (2-2),  3:30 (ESPN3)

Throwback Saturday for the Wahoos, who have lost 2-straight road games at Tech and TCU. UVA didn’t likely think that La. Tech would come to Charlottesville undefeated, but the Bulldogs beat Illinois, 52-24, and now averages nearly 55 points a game.

The Virginia defense is allowing over 400 yards per game, might very well face its biggest test to date against the Bulldogs of Spike Dykes this Saturday.

Of the Cavaliers final 8-games, only three of them are on the road: at Duke, at NC State, and at Virginia Tech.

Virginia Tech (3-1) vs. Cincinnati (2-0), at Landover, Md.  3:30  (ESPNU)

The Hokies travel up I-81 to the Capital Beltway and FedEx Field for this weekend’s test against former Big East colleague Cincinnati. UC sold the home game to Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who earlier this year hosted West Virginia – James Madison, and games in previous seasons. Its reported that UC was paid nearly $3-million dollars by the Redskins to move the game.

Ticket prices were staged between $50-175 for the game, but have since been reduced in the last week, when only 45,000 thousand tickets had been distributed.

The challenge for the Hokies is to stay focused. After the Pitt loss, they handled Bowling Green last week at home, but now find a Bearcat squad that is 2-0, and haven’t played since hammering Delaware State on September 15 (23-7).

Butch Jones has done a nice job at UC since replacing Brian Kelly as their head coach. Last year, they won a bowl game (Liberty, v. Vandy) and have gotten off to a good start this year.

RB George Winn carries the UC offense, but they have the 3rd best scoring defense (8.5 pts.). They also have one of the best names in the college game, with QB “Munchie” Legaux

The Hokies will have to be on point in order to win this one.

Idaho (0-4) at North Carolina (2-2), 3:30  (RSN)

For Larry Fedora, it might be as simple as Gio Bernard. The Heels are 2-0 with him, and 0-2 without him.

With their 27-6, win over East Carolina last week, Carolina bounced back after consecutive road wins to now set up their game against the Idaho Vandals, who are ticketed for FBS Independence next fall in football.

This one might be really tough for the Vandals, who are 103rd in total defense, 104th in scoring defense, and 106th in passing defense. The Heels meanwhile are “Top 40” in all of those areas.

Florida State (4-0) at South Florida (2-2), 6 p.m.  (ESPN)

After 4-straight home games to open the year, Florida State travels to Tampa to meet USF, who has lost 2-straight games. The challenge for the Seminoles might be to move forward after last Saturday night’s win over Clemson. Seemingly the Noles had answers for each time Clemson threatened to pull away, including when they trailed by 2-touchdowns.

That characteristic could prove handy in a game where the Bulls will be looking to regain their balance. After losses to Rutgers and Ball State, USF is 2-2, and still has plenty to play for, but none bigger than Saturday night.

TIME OUT FOR TRIVIA: 

Last Week’s Question:

Heading into the weekend, Clemson’s Andre Ellington is the ACC’s career active rushing leader with 2,683 yards. Who is #2?

Answer: Tevin Washington is #2, with 1,841 rushing yards.

 

 

 

 

 

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