After two weeks of the ACC laying an egg, wetting its pants and taking multiple black eyes from the opposition the league finally stood tall and fired a salvo to announce to the nation that the league is back. The Hokies led the charge by beating the #19 Nebraska Cornhuskers on a heart stopping last minute drive, they were aided by North Carolina smacking instate rival ECU around in Chapel Hill and schools like Wake Forest and NC State taking care of business. Clemson manhandled BC and smacked coach Spaz around in the Eagles first true test. Their defense truly looks to be among the nation’s elite as they suffocated BC and were stingy against both the run and the pass.
However, the true story of the ACC’s season comes out of Florida. This weekend both the ‘Noles and the Canes took a massive leap toward elevating the ACC to rank of “Super Conference” that commissioner Swofford envisioned with the expansion. FSU throttled BYU in Provo to truly show the nation that the Jacksonville State game was a fluke. The Canes took Coastal Division rival Georgia Tech behind the woodshed in a 33-17 beating that showed the Canes have a suffocating defense to go with stud quarterback Jacory Harris.
This week the league looks to continue to right the ship as it features three league games, six total BCS contests, one game against a legit non-BCS team and only one FCS competition.
North Carolina Central @ Duke 7:00 PM
Duke’s already fallen to one FCS foe this season, the reigning champion Richmond Spiders. While NCCU is not at the same elite level FCS-wise as the Spiders the Eagles are a team built with transfers from area schools and less highly touted North Carolina talent. The Blue Devils need to improve their running game after only mustering 95 yards on the ground against Kansas a week ago in Lawrence. The Devils have a quarterback issue as freshman Sean Renfree has performed better than incumbent Thaddeus Lewis.
South Florida @ Florida State (ESPNU, Noon)- Clay Matvick, David Diaz-Infante
The two schools separated by 200 miles have never met before on the gridiron and the Bulls of South Florida have been salivating at this chance since their jump to FBS football. Quarterback Matt Grothe, the Bulls best player, is sidelined for the rest of the season with a knee injury so back up BJ Daniels steps into the limelight on coach Jim Leavitt’s first trip up to Tallahassee.
For Bowden and Co coming off the BYU win this is the perfect trap game as they are a week from getting into the thick of the conference season. These two teams feature 40 former teammates so the ties between the two programs are rooted in more than just their proximity. The Bulls enter with a chip on their shoulder and are looking to elbow their way into the party that has perennially been the Big Three of UF, The U and FSU.
If Jimbo Fisher’s offense can duplicate the numbers they produced against a top ten BYU program (512 total yards, 313 rushing) they should easily handle a USF team that has yet to truly be tested. With a new quarterback expect Mickey Andrews’ defense to put the pressure on Daniels and harass the first time starter into mistakes with new comer Greg Reid poised to become the next in a long line of great defensive backs from Florida State.
North Carolina @ Georgia Tech (Raycom, Noon)- Steve Martin, Rick Walker, Mike Hogewood
Last season the Jackets piled up over 300 yards on the ground against the Tar Heels but lost the game 28-7 in Kenan Stadium. The Wreck was sloppy with the football and the Heels took advantage by pouncing on turnovers and using their speed at linebacker to contain the Jackets in the red zone. This year UNC heads to Atlanta, a place the Heels haven’t won since 1997. Paul Johnson’s squad needs a win to stay in contention in the Coastal after being throttled by the Canes last Thursday night.
On North Carolina’s side the speed returns on defense to a unit that currently allows just over 50 yards on the ground per game. The emergence of Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn as disruptive forces at the line has been the brightest spot of the Tar Heel defense as the linebackers have lived up to the hype surrounding their speed. UNC’s major issues revolve around a makeshift offensive line and a slowly emerging receiving core. Erik Highsmith is going to have to continue to improve if the Heels want to loosen up the Tech defense so Shaun Draughn can run the football in Atlanta.
Georgia Tech has to return to their roots in running the football this week if they want to salvage a shot at the ACC Title Game. Getting down early to the Heels is not an option as they proved yet again in Miami that Nesbitt is not a BCS caliber passing quarterback. On defense Derrick Morgan is going to have to harass TJ Yates in order to force the turnovers the Jackets need to keep the game a low scoring, time of possession affair.
Texas Christian @ Clemson (ESPN360, 1pm) Dave Weekley, Danny Kanell
The best BCS vs Non-BCS match up of the day features a team that is thoroughly established against one trying to claim an identity on the national scale. TCU, from the Mountain West is the established team in this contest as coach Gary Patterson has shown time and again that his team plays solid defense and is capable of hanging with the big boys. Look for Jerry Hughes, TCU’s elite defensive end, to harass first year starter Kyle Parker as the Horned Frogs travel into Death Valley to take on the Tigers.
First year coach Dabo Swinney is looking to resurrect the Clemson Tigers from the soft Tommy Bowden era through creating a culture of toughness within the trenches. The Tigers defensive line has shown their an elite unit and the back seven have shown a knack for making timely plays.
Offensively the Tigers will have their work cut out for them as Patterson's team features one of the nation's best defenses. Kyle Parker has to continue to spread the ball around and look for Jamie Harper to make a tremendous impact with CJ Spiller questionable with turf toe. One of the Tigers younger receivers; Marquan Jones, Brandon Clear or Xavier Dye must step up against the Horned Frogs to alleviate pressure on the young qb.
Wake Forest @ Boston College (ESPN360, 2pm) Ryan Rose, Jeff Genyk
Another ACC Divisional contest puts first year coach Spaziani in a position BC hasn't been in for quite some time; facing almost sure title game elimination with a loss to the Deacons. Losing to the Deacs would mean not only two ACC losses but two Atlantic losses as well. Spaz has to re-tune his offensive attack to have a shot at beating a Wake unit that rebounded strong after an opening weekend loss to Baylor.
BC's "high powered" offense was exposed against Clemson as they were only able to muster 54 total yards against Kevin Steele's defense. Although Wake isn't as athletic as Clemson they are a disciplined, proud unit that will challenge BC's line and force Justin Tuggle and Dave Shinskie to beat them with their arms.
Pittsburgh @ North Carolina State (ESPNU, 3:30pm) Todd Harris, Charles Arbuckle
The Panthers enter this Big East/ACC contest with a 3-0 record after having outscored opponents 119-44. The Wolfpack comes off back to back blow out wins over FCS programs after dropping their opener against a fast, athletic South Carolina team. This is a game where neither program has been tested athletically and thus predictions run the gamut of everything from a Pitt walk to an NC State offensive showcase.
In reality what we do know about this game is that NC State cannot struggle offensively the way they did against South Carolina and expect to come out victorious. Pitt, has looked tough running the football with redshirt freshman Dion Lewis averaging 133 yards per game in replacing LeSean McCoy. Pitt’s defense struggled against Navy’s rushing attack early but in facing the Wolfpack they’ll be tested by a more athletic core of backs and Russell Wilson one of the nation’s most reliable quarterbacking options.
Rutgers @ Maryland (ESPN360, 3:30pm) Jim Barbar, Jeremy Bloom
The week's second Big East/ACC tilt pits two massively underachieving teams against one another. Rutgers is still reeling from their 47-15 thumping by Cincinnati to open the season although the Scarlet Knights have licked their wounds somewhat by beating up on a bad Howard squad and limping to victory over FIU. The Terps haven’t been quite as lucky in rebounding from their season opening beat down by California.
Friedgen’s guys showed poorly in needing overtime to beat FCS James Madison and losing for the second straight year to MTSU; in short there is a lot of work to do in College Park. The Terrapins are a mess right now and it is going to be an uphill battle to get this team right for the ACC season. This weekend Rutgers enters as a 2.5 point favorite and if the Terps don’t show some symbolance of a defensive unit they will be in for a long day against a Rutgers team that looks to run the football in order to right their ship for the season.
Miami @ Virginia Tech (ABC/ESPN, 3:30pm) Sean McDonough, Matt Millen, Holly Rowe
This is without a doubt the ACC’s game of the week as two teams in the nation’s top eleven are set to square off in Blacksburg on this first official fall Saturday. The Canes have shot up the rankings to the #9 spot while Virginia Tech, following the loss to Alabama, is still hovering just outside of the top ten at #11. Two different styles and different approaches will be on display as the modest but technically sound Hokies do battle with the high powered, swagger oozing Hurricanes.
Virginia Tech enters the week after stealing a game 16-15 from the 19th ranked Cornhuskers in Blacksburg. Tyrod Taylor was widely ineffective in this contest although he did throw a game winning touchdown pass and was able to escape with the W. Freshman running back Ryan Williams has looked every bit as good as advertised in averaging over 100 yards a game and looking solid against Alabama and Nebraska prior to hurting his ankle in the Nebraska contest. Williams must be healthy to contribute to the Hokies attack to sustain drives and force the issue with this speedy Miami defense.
If the Hokies are the corn flakes of this match up; basic, standard, traditional then Jacoby Harris and the Canes enter this contest with some Cap’N Crunch type confidence. They’re fun to watch, they’re fun to root for and they are quite entertaining as a squad. The addition of Mark Whipple could end up being the addition of the year in college football as he’s truly opened the Canes offense and instilled a can-do attitude that the U has lacked in recent years.
It will be interesting to see how the tough defense of the Hokies looks to stop Harris, the wiry, athletic quarterback from Miami. If Bud Foster pressures Harris the sophomore will use his legs to escape the rush. If the Hokies sit back and play zone Harris has shown the ability to pick apart defenses with his accurate deep ball. The biggest key to this game won’t be Miami’s offense that has shown an ability to score the football, rather the key is the Hokie offense matched up against the Canes fast defense. Tyrod Taylor has to manufacture drives to keep Miami’s potent scoring attack off the field.
Duke 27 North Carolina Central 10
Florida State 35 South Florida 7
North Carolina 24 Georgia Tech 17
Clemson 30 TCU 17
Wake Forest 17 Boston College 10
NC State 31 Pittsburgh 24
Rutgers 42 Maryland 27
Miami 34 Virginia Tech 24