Another week of ACC play is behind us, and we’re still no closer to knowing who will make the trip to Charlotte on December 1. Week 11 provides another “elimination week” scenario for a number of teams, while one of the conference’s clubs will step outside of ACC play to take on a team with national championship aspirations. We’ll try to clear up the road to Charlotte for some of the contending teams, all the while realizing we may not be much closer to the answers until the final week of conference play. Before we break everything down, though, it’s trivia time!
Week 11 ACC Trivia (answer at the end of the column): Wake Forest and NC State first faced off in 1895 in North Carolina’s capital city. What was the final score of that game?
Top of the Ratings
Wake Forest (5-4, 3-4) at NC State (5-4, 2-3), 3:00 p.m. ET, FSN (regional)
Last week’s episode: Wake Forest 28, Boston College 14; Virginia 33, NC State 6
Program guide: Though this may not be the game to which all the national outlets point when reviewing this week’s ACC slate, consequences abound in this contest. Both teams are essentially done in the race for the ACC title game, but they still have a chance to end up in Charlotte. If you’re confused after reading that sentence, let’s explain. The winner of this game becomes bowl-eligible, and could very easily find themselves in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte on December 27. NC State won last year’s Belk Bowl, defeating Louisville 31-24.
Wake Forest heads to Raleigh off a victory over Boston College in which Tanner Price attempted an unfathomable 57 passes, completing 39 of those for 293 yards, three scores and an interception. Wide receiver Michael Campanaro was on the receiving end of 16 of those throws and all three touchdown passes. Campanaro’s effort placed him alongside three other receivers in the ACC record book for catches in a single game. The Deacs lit up BC’s defense for 409 total yards, while the defense forced four Eagle turnovers to help seal the victory. Price has found himself after some early struggles (171-for-308, 1852 yards, 12 TD, 5 INT), and Campanaro’s return has keyed that resurgence. Since his return from missing a month, Campanaro has caught 22 passes for 175 yards and those three scores.
The Price-to-Campanaro connection will look to victimize a Wolfpack defense that got torched for 446 yards in last week’s homecoming loss to Virginia. NC State had to throw quite a bit against the ‘Hoos, falling into an early 14-0 hole, but still only managed to rush for 19 yards. Considering that Wake only allowed 12 rushing yards to Boston College last week, this appears to be another game that will fall on the shoulders of quarterback Mike Glennon. Glennon had his own share of struggles last week, completing just 23-of-46 passes for 197 yards and three interceptions against just one touchdown pass. Virginia also recorded six quarterback sacks, which compounds the troubles of a State offensive line that is tied for last in the conference in sacks allowed, giving up 30 on the season.
Wake Forest’s pass defense gets its third straight test against an elite receiver, which may be the matchup to watch in this game. After getting torched by DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins and crew in Winston-Salem two weeks ago, Boston College’s Alex Amidon caught 10 passes for 130 yards and a score last week. Virginia ended Bryan Underwood’s streak of eight games with a receiving touchdown last week, holding him to 52 yards on four receptions. Though NC State’s pass defense is problematic in its own right (ranking 106th in the nation), Mike Glennon will likely look to victimize the nation’s 96th-ranked unit and get Underwood back on the board in the process.
#9 Florida State (8-1, 5-1) at Virginia Tech (4-5, 2-3), 7:30 p.m. ET (Thursday), ESPN
Last week’s episode: Florida State 48, Duke 7 (10/20); Miami 30, Virginia Tech 12
Program guide: Virginia Tech gets their second straight appearance on Thursday night, having been hammered by Miami last Thursday. A streak we briefly discussed last week came to an end in that game, as Frank Beamer’s run of 10-win seasons every year since joining the ACC now appears out of reach. Tech appears to be out of the running to play for the ACC title, unless Miami somehow decides to take the self-imposed postseason ban they are are reportedly discussing.
The Hokies actually put up a respectable offensive showing against the Hurricanes, compiling 421 yards of total offense and 24 first downs in Miami. The killer for Bryan Stinespring’s offense was — as it has been most of the year — turning over the football. The Hokies had three turnovers, including two interceptions from Logan Thomas. Thomas also keyed the running game, as he has done for the past few weeks. The Hokie signal-caller carried the ball 22 times for 124 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown run after Miami lost contain and he was freed to run virtually untouched up the center of the field.
Tech was also rather effective in limiting a prolific quarterback, holding Stephen Morris to just 13-for-28 passing for 170 yards and two scores. They get another chance this week, with Florida State’s EJ Manuel leading the Seminoles to Blacksburg. Manuel was not called upon to do much work against Duke two weeks ago, going just 8-for-16 for 282 yards and two touchdowns in a blowout of the Blue Devils. Manuel has lit up opposing defenses this year, completing 70 percent of his passes (161-for-230) for 2315 yards with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions.
The Hokies certainly get no break on offense this week, as they face a Seminole defense that ranks in the top five nationally in a handful of categories. One of those categories in which the Seminoles find themselves highly-ranked is total defense, leading the nation in allowing just over 227 yards per game. Florida State is in control of their own trip to Charlotte, needing only wins in this game and at Maryland to achieve that goal, and if this is to come to pass, the Seminole defense will play a large role.
Set Your DVR
Georgia Tech (4-5, 3-3) at North Carolina (6-3, 3-2), 12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network
Georgia Tech’s map to Charlotte: at UNC, Duke (schedule)
Program guide: Despite a rough stretch that saw the Yellow Jackets lose three in a row to Miami, Middle Tennessee and Clemson (in Death Valley), Paul Johnson’s club still has a pulse in the Coastal. Granted, they will need a lot of help — the aforementioned Miami postseason ban, if enacted, would be a nice start, along with a win in Chapel Hill and over Duke when they visit Grant Field — but they are still in the discussion. Another Virginia Tech loss would be huge, as well. The Tar Heels are, of course, already ineligible for the postseason, but they present a formidable foe.
Georgia Tech enters this game on the heels (pardon the pun) of a rather unconventional 33-13 victory over Maryland in which the Jackets attempted only four passes. Vad Lee and Tevin Washington both went 1-for-2 for a combined 31 yards. Tech imposed its will on a Maryland run defense that still ranks second in the conference after being gashed for 370 yards on 56 carries. Carolina is equally effective against the run, allowing less than a yard more per game than the Terps. The much-maligned Ramblin’ Wreck defense turned in a solid effort, as well, allowing the Terps to gain just 259 yards behind fifth-string linebacker-turned-quarterback Shawn Petty.
Carolina got the week off last week, and needed that week to make some corrections after a 43-35 victory over NC State two weeks ago. The Tar Heels allowed two 100-plus yard receivers in that contest, and though they will seemingly avoid that dilemma in this one, they will still benefit from the extra week to prepare for Paul Johnson’s option attack. Tech has a formidable rushing defense of its own, and they will need it to stop Carolina running back Giovani Bernard. Bernard has spent much of the year in the top five in rushing, while running for 717 yards in his last four outings, including a 135-yard, two score effort against NC State. Bernard is also a star on special teams, leading the FBS in average yards per punt return at 20.75. Tech will need to keep a tight grip on Bernard and quarterback Bryn Renner throughout this game, and controlling the clock with their ground game might be their best shot to do so.
Miami (5-4) at Virginia (3-6), noon ET, ABC
Miami’s map to Charlotte: at Virginia, at Duke (schedule)
Program guide: As it stands right now, the only thing that can stop Miami from a trip to the ACC Championship is Miami. They may still impose a postseason ban on their squad, and they still could trip up in Charlottesville or Durham, but if none of that happens, Al Golden’s Hurricanes will face either Florida State or Clemson on December 1. Miami is coming off an impressive effort against Virginia Tech on national television, and they have a tough task in Charlottesville against a rejuvenated Cavalier squad. Duke Johnson ripped the Virginia Tech defense for 100 yards in his last outing, but may find the sledding a bit tougher against a Virginia defense that ranks fourth in the ACC against the run. Quarterback Stephen Morris will also look to rebound after a pedestrian performance in which he completed less than 50 percent of his passes, despite throwing for two scores in a winning effort.
Virginia finally got its first ACC victory last week in Raleigh, and though the road ahead is extremely tough (Miami, Carolina, at Virginia Tech), they could still win out and become bowl-eligible. The quarterback issues that have plagued Bill Lazor’s offense for most of the year seemed to resolve themselves last week, as the two-quarterback system proved rather effective. Phillip Sims (8-for-10, 115 yards, TD) and Mike Rocco (12-for-23, 83 yards, TD) both did well in managing the Virginia offense and staying within the game plan. The Cavs’ run game steamrolled the Wolfpack, as top backs Kevin Parks and Perry Jones carried the ball a combined 36 times for 182 yards. Virginia’s defense played a gigantic part in the victory, as well, forcing five NC State turnovers. Winning the turnover battle again could be a key to spark a Cavalier upset, as Virginia still ranks last in the conference in turnover margin, despite last week’s effort.
Maryland (4-5, 2-3) at #13 Clemson (8-1, 5-1), 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Program guide: This game started the season on the calendar of many — I even profiled the matchup for Stadium Journey Magazine during the summer — but now appears to be just another struggle for Randy Edsall’s club. The Terrapins took another on the chin last week, losing by 20 to Georgia Tech in College Park. Things get no easier against a Clemson club that has decimated its opponents on a five-game winning streak, scoring 228 points in the process. Maryland started its fifth different quarterback against the Jackets, as they are out of scholarship options at the position. Shawn Petty went 9-for-18 for 115 yards and two touchdowns last week, but he now gets the task of facing a Clemson defense that allows only 240 passing yards per game. The instability at quarterback has hurt Maryland’s other star skill players, as well. Running back Wes Brown was limited to 38 yards on nine carries last week, while Stefon Diggs caught just five passes for 55 yards, despite two of those going for scores. Wide receiver Kevin Dorsey was virtually invisible, catching just one pass for 14 yards.
Maryland’s pass defense ranks second in the conference, but that defense will get more than its share of work against the Tigers. Clemson boasts the conference leader in receiving touchdowns, as DeAndre Hopkins caught numbers 11, 12 and 13 last week in Durham. Star receiver Sammy Watkins has done nothing to diminish his reputation opposite Hopkins, catching six passes for 97 yards and a score against Duke. After being held without a touchdown in the first four games in which he played this year, Watkins has 14 catches for 299 yards and two scores in his last two games. I mentioned last week that Clemson was one of only two teams to score 37 or more points in seven straight games, and they are now the only team to score 37 or more in eight straight games in conference history. Combine that with Tajh Boyd tying a conference record for total touchdowns in a game (six) before last week’s game with Duke even reached the half, and it is hard to find a way Maryland can contain this Tiger offense in Death Valley.
#3 Notre Dame (9-0) at Boston College (2-7), 8:00 p.m. ET, ABC
Program guide: This game looks to be a total mismatch, and for all intents and purposes, probably should be. The future partial ACC member Fighting Irish had a bit of a letdown on national TV last week, and many viewers were glued to their screens until the final play as Notre Dame scraped past Pittsburgh 29-26 in triple overtime. Pittsburgh could not seem to stay out of their own way toward the end of the game, as a series of mistakes and questionable play calls seemed to hamstring the Panthers. Notre Dame got good efforts from their starters, with quarterback Everett Golson completing 23-of-42 passes for 227 yards, adding two touchdowns and an interception. The Irish had three rushers (Cierre Wood, Golson and Theo Riddick) go for 70-plus yards each in the game, as well.
The number of concern to the Irish is 172. That number is the rushing total they allowed to the Panthers’ Ray Graham last week, and while Boston College’s 12 rushing yards last week would seem to make them ill-equipped to capitalize on that weakness in the opposing rush defense, this will need to be cleaned up as Brian Kelly’s squad looks to continue their run to a possible spot in the BCS Championship. Pittsburgh was an anemic 1-for-14 on third down last week, and Eagle quarterback Chase Rettig will need to effectively avoid all-everything linebacker Manti Te’o while managing enough yards against Notre Dame’s 21st-ranked pass defense to keep his club competitive. These two teams have a tremendous history, though, and crazy things have been known to happen when Notre Dame and Boston College meet. The only difference is that a lot crazier things than usual will need to take place for BC to end Notre Dame’s hopes of an undefeated season.
ACC Trivia answer: I asked earlier: Wake Forest and NC State first faced off in 1895 in North Carolina’s capital city. What was the final score of that game? The answer, unusually enough, is that the two teams played to a 4-4 tie on October 18, 1895.
Brian Wilmer is a contributor to FBSchedules.com. Follow him @sportsmatters.