As the season opened the original theme of the ACC’s twelve member institutions was to build on the momentum created with the ten bowl teams just a season ago. However anemic showings as have shifted that theme from building upon existing momentum to generating any semblance of good will toward the conference nationally. More contests such as the Miami-FSU, Clemson-Georgia Tech and Wake Forest-Stanford efforts are needed to slowly erase the FSU-Jacksonville State, Maryland-James Madison debacles of the week two schedule.
FCS games are slowly weaning their way out of the schedule slate as there are only two this week and both NC State and Wake Forest are fully prepared to play their respective in-state competition. During this week’s ACC conference call both O’Brien and Grobe acknowledged that they could do their part for the ACC by not allowing dispersions to be cast through their respective squads struggling against an FCS opponent.
Gardner-Webb @ NC State 6:00 PM
Elon @ Wake Forest 6:30 PM
Middle Tennessee @ Maryland 3:30 PM
On paper this game doesn’t draw most casual fans’ attention, a middle of the pack Sun Belt team against an ACC team that appeared in last years Humanitarian Bowl. Upon further review two things become apparent; first is last season’s 24-14 MTSU beating of the Terps in which they dominated the ACC school and second the terrible showing that the Terrapins have had so far in this young season.
Friedgen’s troops enter this game on the heels of a throttling by California and more immediately and overtime nail-biter against the Colonial League’s James Madison Dukes. The once innovative offensive coordinator now leads a team that is stagnant on offense, incapable on special teams and totally inept defensively. If the Terps do not get their act together James Franklin, the coach in waiting, may be hearing his number called before the season is out.
East Carolina @ North Carolina (ESPN2, Noon)- Pam Ward, Ray Bentley
The Tar Heels are 2-0 entering this contest against their quasi in-state rival but they were less than impressive against UConn on national television last weekend. The Heels defense, especially the front seven, played as advertised as they suffocated the Husky rushing attack and harassed the quarterback all afternoon allowing only 196 total yards. Problems emerge for the Tar Heels on offense as they only mustered one touchdown all game and were limited to 35 rushing yards on 38 carries.
Expect the Pirates to come into this game amped up after falling hard to West Virginia a week ago as dynamic quarterback Patrick Pinkney has looked less than stellar in his first two outings this season. The Purple and Gold always have a chip on their shoulder when playing the Tar Heels as the rivalry is largely one sided. With center Lowell Dyer and tight end Zack Pianalto sidelined for the Heels manufacturing yards will be the toughest task. Look to see heavy doses of Ryan Houston as well as new comer, receiver Eric Highsmith, who proved to be the Heels most reliable receiving threat on the perimeter.
Duke @ Kansas (Versus, Noon)- Ron Thulin, Kelly Stouffer, Lewis Johnson
The Blue Devils make their trip to Lawrence looking to build momentum after a win against Army last week. What sounds like a great basketball match up also pits two of college football’s better offensive minds against one another as Mike Mangino squares off with quarterback guru David Cutcliffe.
Duke has their work cut out for them, especially after needing to rely on redshirt freshman quarterback Sean Renfree to bail out incumbent Thaddeus Lewis in order to beat the Black Knights last Saturday. Cutcliffe says both with play but the Devils need Lewis, their unquestionable leader entering 2009, to have a good showing if they expect to compete with an experienced and explosive Jayhawks team.
Boston College @ Clemson (Raycom, Noon)- Steve Martin, Rick Walker, Mike Hogewood
The Eagles have been a thorn in the Tigers side since they entered the ACC in 2005, beating Clemson three out of the four contests. Last season, under then interim coach Dabo Swinney the Tigers were able to reverse that losing trend. Now entering not only BC’s first league game but also their first BCS contest the two first year head coaches will jockey for position in the ACC Atlantic. BC enters the game averaging 44 points as they’ve feasted on lesser competition while Clemson limps in after a tough loss to cross division rival Georgia Tech.
Clemson’s fast, athletic defensive line will be unleashed against BC’s inexperienced two headed monster at quarterback as both Justin Tuggle and David Shinskie will likely see their share of Ricky Sapp and Da’Quan Bowers. If Clemson’s linebackers can bottle up Montel Harris and Josh Haden it could be a long day for the two ACC newcomers. On the Clemson side Kyle Parker will have to show some of that late game moxie he exhibited against Tech if he expects to prevail against a solid BC defense anchored by Spaziani’s toughman attitude and disciplined approach.
Nebraska @ Virginia Tech (ABC, 3:30pm)- Sean McDonough, Matt Millen, Holly Rowe
A great candidate for the ACC’s game of the week as two top twenty teams squaring off in Blacksburg should be a dandy of an event. This game features an old school power slowly rising back to prominence and a newly minted beast of program that rose from obscurity. While both teams look to run the football, play great special teams and challenge the edge by getting big plays the story of this game will be the play of the defenses.
Bo and Carl Pelini lead the new Blackshirt defense into Blacksburg a place that has become synonymous with defensive excellence in the last decade. Both will be led by their defensive fronts as Jason Worilds and company will look to harass quarterback Zac Lee and stymie explosive runner Roy Helu Jr on the path to victory. Ndamukong Suh will lead the Blackshirts in their effort to contain Tyrod Taylor as well as stop freshman phenom Ryan Williams.
Virginia @ Southern Mississippi (CBS College Sports, 3:30pm)- Jason Knapp, Akbar Gbaja-Biamila
Before the season started this contest was exciting for the prospect of seeing both Vic Hall and Ras-I Dowling squaring off against one of the nation’s best kept secrets, receiver DeAndre Brown. As the chips have fallen into place this game is more about Southern Miss maintaining their possible BCS buster status than the match up of the corners on the freakishly talented receiver.
Virginia’s truly flailing around at the bottom of the ACC’s proverbial barrel and while it would be great to get a win in Hattiesburg the fact is that seeing any of the three quarterbacks listed as co-starters be consistent would be a small moral victory. Southern Miss is not only the favorite pick they’re a 15.5 point favorite according to Vegas, quite an embarrassing position to be in for the Wahoos as a BCS representative.
Florida State @ Brigham Young (Versus, 7pm)- Joe Beninati, Glenn Parker, Lindy Thackson
BYU is the newest media darling as they beat a Bradford-less Oklahoma Sooners squad in Arlington to open the season with a bang. Quickly catapulting into the top ten the Cougars did not disappoint against Tulane and now enter their second major contest with the stakes very widely recognized. If the Cougs win this game they’ll be set up to play their way straight into a definite BCS bowl spot and possibly a BCS title shot. Lose and BYU will disappear from the national conscience.
Florida State struggled with Jacksonville State in a sloppy game that required a fourth quarter comeback against the FCS opponent. After they’re great looking loss to Miami their effort against the Gamecocks came as a quite a surprise. Making the trip out to Provo with a young team seems to have energized Bobby Bowden and if their defense can take advantage of injuries on the BYU front the Noles may be able to shock the college football world.
Georgia Tech @ Miami (ESPN, 7:30pm)- Chris Fowler, Craig James, Jesse Palmer, Erin Andrews
Last season the young Hurricanes defense surrendered 472 yards to the Jackets in a 41-23 loss that saw their Coastal Division title hopes dashed and their defense demoralized. At 8.4 yards a clip the Ramblin’ Wreck truly had their way in Atlanta against a Miami defense that was overmatched both physically and mentally when faced with Paul Johnson’s dynamic option attack. This season the youngsters are a year older, they add Colin McCarthy back to the linebacking core and John Lovett is added to act as Miami’s defensive coordinator.
Tech was held fairly static offensively by the Clemson Tigers’ athletic defensive front and although they won the game 30-27 last Thursday the truth of the matter is that 14 of the Jackets 30 points were scored off of special teams “fluke” play; fake field goal and returned pooch punt. Add the 82 yard scamper by Anthony Allen to that and the Jackets are left with just nine points supplied through offensive drives and no touchdowns.
With Miami’s speed defensively and Lovett having an extra week to prepare for the Jackets I expect to see a disciplined front seven that will play assignment football and use their athletes to negate the attack. Offensively Jacory Harris showed quite a spark against FSU and if the slim sophomore can muster that type of effort against this contest may be over early. Look for the Canes young receivers to play an impact role in this early season Coastal Division showdown with both teams looking to get to 2-0 in the conference.
The ACC Week Three Predictions
Wake Forest 35 Elon 17
NC State 42 Gardner-Webb 10
Maryland 24 Middle Tennessee 21
North Carolina 17 ECU 10
Kansas 35 Duke 17
Clemson 31 Boston College 24
Virginia Tech 31 Nebraska 27
Southern Miss 28 Virginia 17
BYU 38 Florida State 31
Miami 38 Georgia Tech 35