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#STINGDAILY: Week Four ACC Preview

Sept. 20, 2012

by Wes Durham, Sting Daily –

As we head into the fourth week of the regular season, we have only a handful of conference games to pull from when we start measuring where the ACC might eventually stand. I bring this up, because after this weekend, there will still be plenty of conference play left, but the two marquee games in each division will have been played.

The ACC elected to stage Georgia Tech – Virginia Tech on Labor Day night in Blacksburg. Tough loss for the Jackets, but great television for a national audience on ESPN and the ACC. Now, here comes Clemson at Florida State, this Saturday in Tallahassee. Again, national television for the ACC, and the prospects of a competitive game exist.

Just as the Jackets have learned from the overtime loss to the Hokies, you still have a chance to make a run at the division crown. The only difference, you don’t control your own destiny.

Now for the breakdowns:

OPEN DATE: Boston College  (1-2, 0-1), September 29 – v. Clemson

Maryland (2-1) at #8 West Virginia (2-0), 12 Noon (FX)

After an emotional loss last Saturday at home to UConn, Maryland has to rebound at long-time rival West Virginia. For the Terps, their good start can’t be diminished by a loss to the Huskies, but the task in Morgantown will be one of their toughest this season.

Randy Edsall has found a true perimeter threat in rookie Stefon Diggs, who had 223 all-purpose yards last week. The Maryland defense has been solid, allowing just 227 yards per game, which is #8 nationally.

WVU presents all sorts of problems, particularly with their QB Geno Smith. In their win over James Madison last week, Smith was 34-39 passing for 411 yards and 5 TD’s. The Mountaineers are the #4 scoring offense in the country (55.5)

Bowling Green (1-2) at Virginia Tech (2-1), 12 Noon (ESPNU)

What a turn of events for the Hokies last week at Pittsburgh. It is going to be interesting to see how Frank Beamer’s club handles this Saturday. The former Tennessee offensive coordinator Dave Clawson is just 15-25, coaching the Eagles, and it’s a bad time to visit Blacksburg.

Logan Thomas had 3 first half interceptions last week against Pitt, and the Hokie defense didn’t hold up when things got tough on offense.

Remember a couple weeks ago, when Tech played Presbyterian, and everyone said it was about Georgia Tech. Well this Saturday in Blacksburg, it’s about Virginia Tech.

Virginia (2-1) at #17 TCU (2-0), 12 Noon  (ESPN)

One of the toughest places to play is Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, even before TCU won the Rose Bowl a couple years ago. Now, it’s really a challenge and Virginia is getting ready to find out. The Cavaliers will need to rebound after their loss in Atlanta last Saturday.

The other issue for the Cavaliers is getting control of the turnovers. Virginia is +5 the last two weeks in takeaway-giveaway.

TCU is top 20 in all four major team defensive statistics, including 2nd in scoring, allowing just 3.0 points per game.

Army (0-2) at Wake Forest (2-1), 12:30  (ACC Network)

Along with Virginia Tech, I think Wake Forest will be an interesting team to watch this weekend. The Deacons were overwhelmed last Saturday at Florida State. Wake had only 126 yards of total offense against the Seminoles, while watching FSU roll up over 600 yards of offense.

Rich Ellerson has done a nice job at Army running the spread option. Wake will have to slow down the Cadets, who are 2nd in the country running the ball (384.0). The Deacs are allowing opponents over 200 yards per game on the ground (103rd nationally).

This could be a big one down the road for Wake. Seven straight ACC games await the Deacons after Saturday.

East Carolina (2-1) at Carolina (1-2), 3:30  (ESPNU)

The Tar Heels almost pulled one out last Saturday at Louisville. Trailing 35-7 at one point, the Heels rallied and had a chance at the end. Larry Fedora’s team has given up over 400-yards in each of the last 2-games (both losses), but also gotten away from running the ball. The absence of RB Giovanni Bernard has something do with it, but the Heels have to average more than the 102.0 they have posted in the last 2-games.

ECU might be the tonic for recovery, but this game is traditionally hard fought to the last snap. The Pirates beat Fedora’s old team last week, and have experience against the high pace Carolina wants. After back-to-back losses, the Heels need to deliver a win this week.

Memphis (0-3) at Duke (2-1), 6 p.m.  (ESPN3)

Duke bounced back from the loss at Stanford to handle NC Central last Saturday night at home. Now, the Blue Devils host Memphis of Conference USA, but headed to the Big East soon. If David Cutcliffe is serious about his 5th team making a bowl for the first time since 1994, this game is pretty important.

Duke has come along nicely this season, winning the games you thought they would, and losing the one that they were heavy underdogs. Now can they capture some of these 50-50 games? The Tigers have struggled under Justin Fuente, losing 48-30, against Middle Tennessee last week.

Memphis is 91st nationally against the pass, and Duke is 16th nationally throwing the ball. You tell me how this one should go.

The Citadel (3-0) at NC State (2-1), 6 p.m.  (ESPN3)

The last non-conference tune up for the Wolfpack is Southern Conference foe, The Citadel. The Pack held South Alabama to 51 yards of rushing last week in a 31-7, win at home. But even more impressive might be the fact that the Jaguars were 0-11 on 3rd down.

Kevin Higgins has a Bulldog squad that can put points on the board from their version of the spread option. They are averaging 41 points a game, and rushing for 370 yards a game. The Pack is 18th in the country against the run (92.3 ypg). That figure should be tested on Saturday.

After The Citadel, Tom O’Brien’s team gets 8-straight ACC games, including 3 of the next 4 on the road.

#10 Clemson (3-0, 0-0) at #4 Florida St. (3-0, 1-0), 8 p.m.  (ABC)

Here’s one of the biggest games in the conference this season, and for the time being, nationally as well. If you remember the old Clemson – FSU games of the late 1980’s, this one has that kind of feel to it.

The Seminoles are back in a big way on defense. They are #1 nationally in all four major defensive stats. Offensively, they are 12th in total offense nationally, but 2nd in scoring at 58.6 points per game. RB Chris Thompson is the key point of the attack, averaging 85 yards a game. QB E.J. Manuel is 1st in the ACC with efficiency at 176.1 per game.

Clemson counters with Sammy Watkins, who exploded last Saturday in his return to the Tiger lineup. For Dabo Swinney’s team to win, they will need to stay on the field offensively, and create a balanced game in all aspects (yardage, time of possession, etc.). If not, the ‘Noles could be on their way to a real comeback on the national scene.

TIME OUT FOR TRIVIA:

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

Last Week’s Question:

Three ACC games have been played in the first 2-weeks of the season. How many times has the road team won?

Answer: One. Miami won at Boston College during the opening weekend of the season.

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