ACC Football: What to Watch For In Week 5
North Carolina and Boston College will go out of the conference to face East Carolina and Notre Dame, respectively. While wins over the Pirates and Irish won't do anything to improve the image of the conference, losses would set the conference back once again.
The rest of the teams will be in the thick of conference play, with a couple of big time matchups between teams that have their sights set on a championship.
Last week, we saw Miami emerge as the favorite of the entire conference and NC State showed that they are here to stay with their 45-28 win over Georgia Tech.
Maryland and Florida State took care of business while Virginia Tech started off conference play in the win column.
Here is the slate of games for this weekend:
Notre Dame at Boston College
East Carolina at North Carolina
Duke at Maryland
Georgia Tech at Wake Forest
Florida State at Virginia
Virginia Tech at NC State
Miami at Clemson
BC Looks to Continue Success Against Notre Dame
Boston College has won six of their last seven games against Notre Dame. But BC has quarterback issues and could have trouble against the Irish. Quarterback David Shinskie has been benched for Saturday's game in Chestnut Hill.
However, Notre Dame is having their own issues, losing two last-second games against Michigan and Michigan State as well as an embarrassing loss to Stanford. The Brian Kelly era in South Bend has not gone well thus far.
The Eagles struggled on the offensive side of the ball last week against Virginia Tech, failing to score any points against the Hokie defense. But BC might be able to have success on an Irish run defense that isn't very good.
Montel Harris is averaging over 100 yards per game and should get plenty of carries with the Eagles breaking in a new starter at quarterback.
The Irish offense is average at best so the defense for Boston College should be able able to keep Notre Dame's points at a minimum.
A Challenge For North Carolina
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The Tar Heels broke through last weekend and finally got into the win column with a 17-13 road victory over Rutgers. It wasn't easy but Butch Davis' resilient bunch got it done. And in week 5, it might not get any easier.
East Carolina comes into Chapel Hill with a 2-1 record. The Pirate offense has not missed a beat even with quarterback Patrick Pinkney now gone. Dominque Davis has been fantastic at the quarterback position, completing 66 percent of his passes to go along with a 9-3 TD-INT ratio. He is also throwing for nearly 300 yards a game.
This offense could give the depleted North Carolina defense (I'm sure Tar Heel fans are tired of hearing that statement) some fits. East Carolina is averaging 42 points per game in their first three and gave Virginia Tech all they could handle.
T.J. Yates continued his outstanding play with a good game against Rutgers. The senior completed 22 of 30 for 204 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. Yates looks to have another solid game against the Pirates.
While East Carolina's offense has been potent, the defense has been less than stellar. They have given up 41 points per game so far and the Tar Heels will look to exploit that weakness.
North Carolina might have issues with East Carolina but look for the Tar Heels to prevail at home.
A 4-1 Start For Maryland
Maryland has already surpassed their win total from a year ago. On Saturday, they look to continue their quest for a bowl bid.
I don't think it's realistic to say that the Terps have a shot to win the Atlantic division, especially with the emergence of NC State along with FSU and Clemson. But they should start off on the right foot with a win against Duke. For a team that was 2-10 last season, a bowl game would be a nice feat.
Maryland struggled with Florida Atlantic last weekend but ultimately took care of business, winning 42-28. Backup quarterback Danny O'Brien threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns in place of injured Jamarr Robinson.
Duke, on the other hand, got embarrassed at home against Army. The Blue Devils have taken a step back after their five-win season a year ago. The defense is giving up 44.5 points a game and an absurd 50 points a game against FBS opponents.
Sean Renfree has done well but the running game isn't very good and obviously the defense hasn't helped out. Looking at the rest of the Duke schedule, there are no gimmes left. Do you think David Cutcliffe is kicking himself for not considering the Tennessee job?
At the beginning of the season, I thought Duke had a very good chance of winning this game. Now, I'm not sure if they will win another game.
Whoever plays quarterback for Maryland should have success. The Terps should have no problem going 4-1.
Will Georgia Tech Improve On Defense?
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Georgia Tech fans are frustrated. Al Groh's 3-4 defense has not gone well thus far but that was expected. However, fans thought they would at least see improvements from game to game and that hasn't happened.
Russell Wilson torched the Tech defense for nearly 400 yards passing and 45 points in Atlanta. The Wolfpack rolled up over 500 yards of total offense.
The Georgia Tech offense should do fine against a Demon Deacon defense that has given up 31, 68, and, 48 points their last three games.
But on the defensive side of the ball, the Jackets should be worried about the rushing attack of Wake Forest. The Deacs are rushing for 240 yards per game and the Tech rush defense is atrocious.
Luckily for Georgia Tech, the quarterback situation for Wake Forest is a little suspect so the Yellow Jackets can focus on stopping the run.
Wake doesn't have a Russell Wilson or T.J. Yates to pick apart the Tech defense so they shouldn't have too many problems in this one. But don't be surprised if the Yellow Jackets continue to blow assignments and miss tackles.
FSU to Dominate the Cavaliers
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Florida State ran into a buzzsaw a few weeks ago when they were beaten on the road at Oklahoma, 47-17. But was that a fluke or will that be something to expect when the Noles face very good teams? That is yet to be seen.
I like how Jimbo Fisher and FSU have bounced back after that embarrassing loss, dominating BYU and Wake Forest. Look for more of the same this weekend against Virginia.
Virginia is 2-1 with wins over Richmond and VMI. Not impressive wins but Virginia's 17-14 loss at USC might have been the most impressive game for the Cavs.
Outside of the 47 points given up against Oklahoma, the Florida State defense has improved dramatically. Last year, they gave up 28 points to BYU and Wake Forest. This season, they gave up 10 and 0, respectively.
The offense is still pretty good with Christian Ponder having a solid campaign so far and the run game averaging nearly 200 yards per game.
Virginia head coach Mike London might be the right guy for the job but they just don't have the talent and depth to match up with Florida State on either side of the ball.
A Showdown In Raleigh
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Russell Wilson and NC State made a statement last week, beating the defending conference champions convincingly on their home field. Now, they must turn around and host the preseason conference favorite.
Virginia Tech comes into Raleigh, looking like they have shaken off the early season woes. The Hokies beat Boston College 19-0 on the road to begin their conference campaign.
The Wolfpack offense is a juggernaut but the defense has impressed as well. They held Georgia Tech to their worst offensive performance of the year. If they can contain Tyrod Taylor and the Virginia Tech offense, I like their chances.
Russell Wilson is the favorite to win the ACC Player of the Year right now and if he and his team continues their success, he could sneak his way into Heisman talks.
Wilson and the offense should be able to have success against the Hokies but Bud Foster's defense is playing better after a shutout of the Boston College offense.
Raleigh should be rockin' for this one and the Hokies will welcome the challenge. A win for either team would be a huge step toward a division title.
Game of the Week: Miami at Clemson
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Clemson is coming off a heart-breaking defeat at the hands of the Auburn Tigers a couple weeks ago. Now, they've had a bye week to clear their heads and focus on a huge conference battle.
Miami dominated Pittsburgh on the road last Thursday night on national television, 31-3. The defense was outstanding and the offense struggled at times but still scored over thirty points.
Jacory Harris has been erratic so far this season and the running game hasn't been as good as Miami fans had expected. But Harris has weapons around him and it's only a matter of time before those talented running backs for the Canes breakout.
For Clemson, the pain of losing C.J. Spiller has been eased by Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper. The new "thunder and lightning" for Clemson has been very good, averaging 142 yards per game combined. Quarterback Kyle Parker is still trying to find a go-to receiver but the entire receiving corps for the Tigers have done a decent job up to this point.
While both teams have a lot of talent on offense, the defense for both teams will be key in this game. The Canes defense is only allowing 13 points per game, which ranks 11th in the country. However, their run defense is ranked 43rd while allowing 120 yards per game on the ground. Look for Ellington and Harper to get an abundance of carries.
The Clemson defense has talent with linemen Da'Quan Bowers, Brandon Thompson, and safety DeAndre McDaniel. They are giving up 19 points per game but that number could be a little misleading. The Tigers gave up 21 points to Presbyterian, mainly in mop up duty. With Miami and their pass happy offense, look for McDaniel to get some opportunities to make an impact.
The atmosphere in Death Valley should be electric. With NC State now a threat in the Atlantic, Clemson can't afford to start 0-1 in the conference. On the other side, with Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and Virginia Tech not as good as advertised, Miami has an opportunity to run away with the Coastal. This game has big time implications.