A year ago the Clemson Tigers got their brains beat in by Alabama and the ACC’s national profile took an embarrassing beating. However, the league then rebounded to produce ten bowl teams and finish the year with an interesting conference race.
Well as 2009’s season enters week two the ACC is in familiar territory; tasked with rebuilding the conference’s image following a weekend straight out of a Stephen King book. Virginia and Duke going down to FCS programs, Maryland getting crushed by Cal plus Wake and Virginia Tech looking bad against Baylor and Alabama respectively.
This week’s slate of games is a mixed bag with three against FCS competition, four non-BCS FBS games, three BCS games including one conference game and the new league darling ‘Canes get a bye.
James Madison @ Maryland (6 pm)
Jacksonville State @ Florida State (6 pm)
Murray State @ NC State (6 pm)
To say that the ACC can ill afford another weekend of FCS upsets is a gross understatement. With Virginia and Duke dropping games in week one to lesser opponents you can expect Bobby Bowden, Ralph Friedgen and Tom O'Brien have stressed to their teams the importance of taking every opponent seriously. Couple last weeks events with the fact that each of these teams enters week 2 at 0-1 and I am confident there will be no FCS hiccup in the ACC's near future.
Marshall @ Virginia Tech (1:30 pm)
Coming off the ten point loss to Alabama Virginia Tech enters this Saturday’s contest needing a win before kicking off against Nebraska. Look for Tyrod Taylor to get plenty of extra work as the Hokie quarterback and his receiving core looked absolutely abysmal against a fast, athletic Alabama defense. On the ground the Hokies running back trio will have to establish themselves in order to produce the rushing attack Frank Beamer’s squad will rely on during the ACC season.
Luckily for the Hokies they still bring their defense and special teams to the party and should have plenty for the rest of their schedule. The defense will need the offense to hold on to the ball for larger chunks of time as the Tide wore down the Virginia Tech defense late in the Chic-Fil-A Kickoff Classic. Facing an undersized, undermanned Thundering Herd will help Beamer get back into the top ten.
Kent State @ Boston College (2 pm)
The Eagles played four quarterbacks with Justin Tuggle and David Shinskie getting the bulk of the significant snaps in BC’s opening weekend 54-0 drubbing of Northeastern. Running backs Montel Harris and Josh Haden had solid showings and the BC defense held the FCS Huskies to just 131 yards. Coach Spaziani gets a win in his debut and game two is another non-BCS opponent, this time from the FBS ranks.
Kent State struggled with Coastal Carolina last Thursday as they limped to 2-0 lead at halftime before Eugene Jarvis and Giorgio Morgan finally led the Golden Flashes to second half touchdown drives that put the game out of reach. With Jarvis in the backfield Spaziani’s defense is in for a stiffer test against the run as the 5’5” running back is capable of going the distance from anywhere on the field.
Stanford @ Wake Forest (Raycom, Noon) Steve Martin, Rick Walker, Mike Hogewood
Stanford is coming off of a 39-13 Pac 10 victory over the Washington State Cougars while the Deacons are coming off of a 24-21 loss to Baylor. Stanford truly looked dominant with Andrew Luck throwing for 193 yards and senior Toby Gerhart ran for 121 yards and two touchdowns. Wake Forest played a worse game than the close score indicated as Jim Grobe’s squad as only able to muster 269 yards and leading rusher Devon Brown only gaining 46 yards.
The Demon Deacons are going to have to come out much sharper against a disciplined Stanford team that is looking to get back in the bowl business for the first time since 2001. Grobe’s unit needs this game to get one in the win column as the ACC schedule looks to be a major test for the Deacs. Jim Harbaugh’s team will test experienced quarterback Riley Skinner but the key to this game will be whether or not the Deacons can control the ground game.
Duke @ Army (CBS College Sports, Noon) Dave Ryan, Jason Sehorn
Cutcliffe’s second season in Durham got off to a horrendous start as the Devils did the entire league a disservice by dropping a game to FCS opponent Richmond. This week the Blue Devils will have a shot at a little bit of redemption by traveling up to West Point and beating an undersized Army squad and first year coach Rich Ellerson.
The Black Knights enter the contest off a win over Eastern Michigan in which they piled up 300 rushing yards to go with just 8 passing yards. Army only surrendered 40 yards on the ground to the Eagles, however Duke’s rushing effort against Richmond was an embarrassing 19 yards or 1.2 per carry. Cutcliffe’s team threw 55 passes in their losing effort and for the Devils to succeed in this game and moving forward they had better find more balance on offense.
North Carolina @ Connecticut (ESPNU, Noon) Clay Matvick, David Diaz-Infante
North Carolina beat the Citadel 40-6 in doing their part to avoid the disaster that befell Duke and Virginia. UConn beat Ohio by a touchdown while piling up 259 yards on the ground, seeming to find a replacement for NFL draftee Donald Brown in Jordan Todman. For UConn this is a season where Randy Edsall’s squad faces limited expectations but last years 38-12 rout at the hands of the Tar Heels will still be fresh in their minds.
While UConn is a much stiffer test than the Citadel provided the Tar Heels this is a game that Butch Davis’ squad should win. The Heels will need to get a better effort out of their young receiving core and look for tight end Zack Pianalto to become more active as the young wideouts learn the ropes.
Texas Christian @ Virginia (ESPNU, 3:30pm) Todd Harris, Charles Arbuckle
Quite possibly the most pathetic story of the weekend is the Wahoos’ performance against FCS William and Mary. The Tribe outgained UVA, held on to the ball for 11 more minutes than Virginia and intercepted Jameel Sewell three times to post a twelve point win. If Al Groh’s seat was just warm heading into this game then it is on fire right now.
The Wahoos couldn’t run the football, their passing was mediocre at best and their defense gave up 309 yards to William and Mary. Entering this contest against TCU, a team that ranked 16th nationally, the Wahoos will get the Horned Frogs best shot as they have waited an extra week to kickoff their season.Things are not looking good for Groh and company as Gary Patterson looks to kick off his BCS busting campaign on a hot note.
Clemson @ Georgia Tech (ESPN, 7:30pm) Chris Fowler, Jesse Palmer, Craig James, Erin Andrews
This week's ACC game of the week features a Clemson team getting their first real test in a game that, a year ago, saw new head man Dabo Swinney lose his interim debut. Paul Johnson's team looked more efficient in the flexbone last weekend but still layed the football on the rug five times, losing two of them. Under new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele the Tigers looked aggressive against MTSU, an aggressive nature that they will have to contain against the Yellow Jackets.
The biggest key to this game will be controlling the line of scrimmage. Georgia Tech's offense is predicated on keeping the opposition off balance and guessing. Clemson's new scheme focuses on forcing double teams and mismatches up front. Steele's defense, coming off a short week, must play true assignment football, tackle well and not over-pursue in order to squash the Jackets triple option attack.
On offense the most effective method of stopping the option is for Clemson to score early and often. Johnson's team isn't adequately equipped to play from behind and forcing Nesbitt to throw the football helps create interception and sack opportunities. The Tigers must get CJ Spiller running as the dynamic senior had a less than dynamic performance against the Blue Raiders.
These games are notoriously close and this one should be no different. Expect Tech to benefit from the short week and homefield advantage to rise to this national TV occassion in edging out the Tigers.
Maryland 28 James Madison 14
Florida State 45 Jacksonville State 10
NC State 24 Murray State 7
Boston College 41 Kent State 17
Wake Forest 31 Stanford 27
Duke 21 Army 17
North Carolina 28 Connecticut 14
Texas Christian 42 Virginia 14
Georgia Tech 34 Clemson 27