If there’s one thing we know about the ACC, it’s that we still know very little about what to expect from the season’s finish. After five (or six, depending) games, four Coastal teams each have two losses — and they LEAD the division. Clemson could conceivably win out and not take home the Atlantic Division crown, all because of their 49-37 loss to Florida State to begin their ACC slate. Maryland led the Atlantic just a couple of weeks ago, and they now find themselves in the middle of the pack and fighting for their postseason lives.
We still may not have all the answers after Week 10′s slate of games, especially with only five conference contests. Three ACC squads are already bowl-eligible, and a fourth looks to join them this week. As the march to Charlotte continues, let’s take a look around the conference for Week 10.
Top of the Ratings
Virginia Tech (4-4, 3-2) at Miami (4-4, 3-2), 7:30 p.m. ET (Thursday), ESPN
Last week’s episode: Clemson 38, Virginia Tech 17 (10/17); Florida State 33, Miami 20 (10/17)
Program guide: Both teams arrive at this game coming off bye weeks (as you just saw), and Virginia Tech finds themselves sporting a record after eight games that they have not seen in two decades. We are used to seeing Frank Beamer’s teams near the top of the conference in every category, and we now find them in the middle of the pack in rushing offense (5th, 157 yards per game), passing offense (9th, 242 yards per game), scoring offense (6th, 29 points per game) and total offense (8th, 399 yards per game). The Hokies have also struggled at times on defense, ranking fifth in scoring defense, eighth in rushing defense and fifth in total defense.
Virginia Tech is second in the league in pass defense, however, and Miami is ready to attack that Hokie pass defense with quarterback Stephen Morris. Morris throws for 277.4 yards per game, good for third in the ACC, and Miami will need to get continued production from their signal-caller to get the victory here. Morris went 25-for-43 for 223 yards with a score and a pick against Florida State two weeks ago.
As much as the Hokie defense has struggled, the Hurricane defense has fared no better. The ‘Canes are last in the league in total defense, allowing just shy of 500 yards per game in ACC play. Al Golden’s club allows half that total on the ground, also good for last in the conference. Virginia Tech has struggled all year to establish a run game, and these struggles were evident at Clemson two weeks ago. Logan Thomas carried 21 times for 99 yards in that game, though 48 of those came on two touchdown runs in the first and fourth quarters, respectively.
Both quarterbacks rank in the top five in the ACC in total offense, so much of the game will be in their hands. Morris ranks third with 284.5 total yards per game, while Logan Thomas is two spots back with 276 total yards. The Hokies now have their own leader, as Frank Beamer is now the active leader in victories (255) among FBS coaches. He also finds himself tied with Nebraska’s legendary Tom Osborne for seventh all-time in wins. It should also be noted that no Beamer-led team has ever finished a season with less than 10 wins since the Hokies began ACC play in 2004. A quick look at the Hokies’ schedule reveals that they will need to run the table to make this happen in 2012, including a win in Charlotte and their bowl game. The winner of this game may be in good shape to make that trip to the Queen City, especially with the Hurricanes having already played Florida State.
Set Your DVR
#13 Clemson (7-1, 4-1) at Duke (6-3, 3-2), 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Program guide: The 6-3 Blue Devils find themselves still at the top of the Coastal, but their perch is quite precarious. Duke had another chance to make a statement last week in Tallahassee, but found themselves giving up 48 points and 560 yards of total offense in last week’s loss to the Florida State Seminoles. The more troubling number, however, was the combined 16-for-37 passing effort from Sean Renfree and Anthony Boone, compiling just 129 yards in the process. David Cutcliffe’s club is back in the friendly environs of Wallace Wade Stadium, where they are 5-0 this year, including their 33-30 Victory Bell win over North Carolina.
Clemson’s only loss of the year came on the road to Florida State, and they will need to avoid another to keep pace in the Atlantic Division. Tajh Boyd had a gigantic effort in Winston-Salem last Thursday, throwing for 428 yards and five touchdowns in a 42-13 victory over Wake Forest. Sammy Watkins added his first score and a school record for yards in a game, catching eight passes for 202 yards. DeAndre Hopkins — the man whose record Watkins broke — added six catches for 64 yards and a score. Hopkins is tied for the ACC lead in touchdown receptions (ten) with NC State’s Bryan Underwood, and has tallied a score in each of the last four games.
Both teams need help to get to the ACC title game. Duke needs Miami to defeat Virginia Tech, while Clemson needs to win out and get another Florida State loss along the way.
Georgia Tech (3-5, 2-3) at Maryland (4-4, 2-2), 12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network (regional)
Program guide: It’s been a tough couple of weeks for the Maryland Terrapins, and that tough week has led them to start a linebacker at quarterback in this game. Freshman Shawn Petty was a quarterback in high school in Maryland, throwing for 15 touchdowns on 1200-plus yards, but he did not come to College Park with the intent of finding himself in this spot. Another freshman quarterback, Caleb Rowe, tore his ACL in a loss to Boston College last week, joining preseason starter C.J. Brown, freshman sensation Perry Hills and Devin Burns as Terrapin quarterbacks lost for the season to injury. The lack of stability at quarterback has hurt the Maryland passing offense, leaving them tenth in the conference. They will be forced to rely on continued production from their receiving duo of Stefon Diggs and Kevin Dorsey, as well as their young star rusher Wes Brown.
Georgia Tech’s defensive struggles surfaced again last week in a 41-17 loss to BYU, allowing 411 yards of total offense to the Cougars. The bigger worry for Tech, though, was their 157 yards of total offense. Quarterback Tevin Washington, despite leading the nation’s fourth-leading rushing offense (311.75 yards per game), was ineffective throwing the football. Washington went just 1-for-5 for 9 yards and an interception to go along with five carries for 10 yards. He was replaced by Vad Lee, who went 3-for-7 for 31 yards. The Tech run game averaged just 3.3 yards per carry in last week’s game, and that will be tough to improve on against a Maryland run defense that is one of just two teams (Florida State being the other) that allows under 100 yards per game on the ground.
Virginia (2-6, 0-4) at NC State (5-3, 2-2), 12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network (regional)
Program guide: Virginia’s magical 2011 bowl season seems decades away, as the Cavaliers have struggled through quarterback changes, inconsistency and other troubles to six straight losses. Four of those losses have been in ACC play, leaving them as the only winless team in the conference. Mike London’s offense averages just 21.5 points per game, good for just tenth in the league. They come into this week off a bye, falling 16-10 to Wake Forest in their last outing. Quarterback Philip Sims put together a decent effort in that game, going 22-for-39 for 253 yards with a score an and interception. The run game struggled, however, putting together just 48 yards.
The pass will be the bigger issue for Virginia’s defense, however, as NC State quarterback Mike Glennon and receiver Bryan Underwood compose a formidable duo. We mentioned Underwood’s being tied for the lead in receiving scores earlier, but it also bears mention that Underwood has bettered DeAndre Hopkins’ consecutive games with touchdowns mark. Underwood has scored in eight straight games and has his ten touchdowns on just 28 catches this season. Underwood could, interestingly enough, tie the record of former Virginia wideout Herman Moore with a score in this game. Moore scored in nine straight games in 1990. Glennon, for his part, threw for 467 yards and five touchdowns last week in a shocking loss to North Carolina. The Wolfpack led 28-25 at the half, with Glennon having thrown for 328 yards in that first half. The Tar Heels scored 18 points in the final quarter to emerge victorious, 43-35. NC State will need to respond in a big way in this one, and they also need a Florida State loss to get to Charlotte.
Boston College (2-6, 1-4) at Wake Forest (4-4, 2-4), 3:30 p.m. ET, FSN (regional)
Program guide: Boston College is no longer winless in the conference, having defeated Maryland 20-17 last week. Quarterback Chase Rettig led the Eagles with a 21-for-39 effort for 287 yards and two touchdowns. This performance was made all the more important by BC’s tallying just eight rushing yards against the stifling Terrapins rush defense. This number is a bit deceptive, however, as running back Andre Williams ran for 60 yards on 15 carries. The Eagle defense also locked Maryland down when it counted, allowing the Terrapins to go just 5-for-18 on third down and picking off quarterback Caleb Rowe three times.
Wake Forest, on the other hand, mightily struggled against Clemson. The Tigers piled up 534 yards of total offense on the Deacs, with 433 of those yards through the air. That pass defense faces another big-time thrower in Rettig this week, though Wake did get a reasonably impressive effort from Tanner Price under center last week. Price went 27-for-44 for 232 yards and two scores last week, helped by the return of his lead target, Michael Campanaro. Campanaro caught 6 passes for 52 yards, but he also helped free up other options. Terence Davis caught 7 passes for 84 yards, and Tommy Bohanon had three catches (two for scores).
The Deacons are, somewhat inexplicably, still alive for a bowl bid. A win against Clemson last week would have tremendously aided that effort, as it would have taken them to 5-3 instead of 4-4. Their remaining schedule reveals the possibility of winning two of the four it would take to make a bowl trip happen, with Notre Dame in South Bend being the obvious standout on that slate.
Brian Wilmer is a contributor to FBSchedules.com. Follow him @sportsmatters.