The first week of the 2013 ACC football season proved to be quite the fruitful one for the conference. Only Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Syracuse fell to start the season, with a number of teams securing key wins and climbing in the polls.
That start to the season marches on to a second week with considerably less consequence, as the tuneups for the league slate continue. Just two teams will face off in an ACC tilt, while several more welcome FCS competition. The first Friday game of the ACC season also takes place this week. Can Alex Amidon and Tajh Boyd build on their huge first weeks? We’ll talk about their chances, but first, we must ask a trivia question!
ACC trivia, week 2 (answer at the end of the column): Virginia Tech allowed just 208 yards of total offense in a loss to Alabama last week, resulting in the second-lowest total of Nick Saban’s tenure with the Tide. Which team recorded the lone lower total?
Top of the Ratings
#12 Florida (1-0) at Miami (1-0), noon ET, ESPN
Last week’s episode: Florida 24, Toledo 6; Miami 34, Florida Atlantic 6
Program guide: The conference features another in-state matchup this week, though this game has considerably higher stakes than last week’s NCCU-Duke tilt. Florida makes the trip south having defeated Toledo 24-6 last week. Much was made of the Gators’ offense expecting a resurgence in 2013, but it was the other side of the football that shined in that victory. Florida held a prolific Rocket offense to just 205 total yards and 12 first downs, allowing just one Toledo first down in 13 tries.
The Gator offense, of course, held up their end of the bargain. Florida punished Toledo on the ground, carrying the ball 48 times and out-rushing their opponent 262-50. Running back Mack Brown spearheaded the ground game, gaining 112 yards on 25 carries and visiting the end zone twice. Quarterback Jeff Driskel continued his efficient ways, completing 17-of-22 passes for 153 yards and a touchdown.
Miami quarterback Stephen Morris will have a much tougher draw this week than he saw against Florida Atlantic. His effort against the Owls was bumpy at times, as he went just 15-of-27 for 160 yards through the air, adding a touchdown and an interception. Luckily, Morris had his own star running back to back him up. Duke Johnson rushed for a personal-best 186 yards on 19 carries against FAU, leading a Hurricane ground attack that averaged just shy of eight yards a carry. Johnson averages a lofty 7.17 yards per carry for his career at Miami, and while it is highly unrealistic to expect that kind of output against Florida, ball control and time of possession will likely play a gigantic role in any hope for a Hurricane victory.
Al Golden’s defense did what was expected last week in dominating a lesser opponent, forcing ten FAU punts. The Owls managed just 3.3 yards per play in the loss, barely reaching 250 total yards. This is not to say that all of the news on the defensive side of the ball was good news for the ‘Canes, as FAU had the ball for 75 plays. Score notwithstanding, this statistic is not sustainable going forward. In a game like this with two closely-matched teams and an in-state rivalry fueling the fire, the Miami defense’s inability to get off the field will likely be the top story on Monday if the ‘Canes cannot send the Gators home with a loss.
Set Your DVR
Middle Tennessee (1-0) at North Carolina (0-1), 12:30 pm ET, ACC Network
Program guide: Middle Tennessee catches North Carolina at an advantageous time — if one exists — on this trip to Chapel Hill. The Blue Raiders defeated FCS opponent Western Carolina in the opening act of their Carolinas tour (Western last week, North this week, East later) 45-24. Starting quarterback Logan Kilgore, arguably the most important offensive component for the Raiders, completed 12-of-18 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown in that game before injuring his throwing shoulder. Kilgore will play against UNC, and his injury will likely force Rick Stockstill’s team to be even more reliant on rising star running back Jordan Parker. Parker carried 22 times for 156 yards and a score in the victory against the Catamounts, his fourth 100-plus yard rushing game in the five games since he became Stockstill’s primary back late last season. Kilgore and Parker form one of the better tandems in “mid-major” football.
Middle is hardly an unfamiliar opponent to North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora and offensive coordinator Blake Anderson. Fedora and Anderson have both logged time on the sidelines in Murfreesboro as assistant coaches. The Tar Heels were one of two ACC clubs last week (Virginia being the other) that had to wait out a weather delay. Storms in Columbia prolonged UNC’s 27-10 loss, though quarterback Bryn Renner still had a typically decent day (26-for-43, 194 yards, 1 touchdown). UNC’s running game had trouble getting untracked throughout, averaging just 2.8 yards per carry on the contest. Two turnovers also loomed large for the Heels. The word “efficiency” is probably overused in college football, but it certainly applies to Renner and his offense. If that efficiency can be mastered this weekend, the skies in Chapel Hill will likely be Carolina blue.
#2 Oregon (1-0) at Virginia (1-0), 3:30 pm ET, ABC/ESPN2 (regional)
Program guide: Oregon makes their first trip to Charlottesville after throttling FCS opponent Nicholls, and this trip will (thankfully) not involve fording a river or members of their crew contracting dysentery. The multi-uniformed Ducks took home a 66-3 win last week, and their high-powered offense gets a crack at the bend-but-don’t-break defense of the Cavs, led by Walter Camp National Player of the Week Anthony Harris. One game is clearly a laughable sample size, but Oregon leads the nation in total offense (772 yards per game) after that one game. The Ducks also rushed for 500 yards in the game.
Virginia escaped with a 19-16 victory over BYU last week, but it did so only after Harris made a game-changing interception late in the contest. That interception led to a 13-yard touchdown carry for Kevin Parks that essentially won the game for Mike London’s squad. The first-week effort by the ‘Hoos, though, was a tale of good news and bad news. On the good news side of the ledger, UVa held dynamic BYU quarterback Taysom Hill to a 13-for-40 effort for 175 yards and forced 11 Cougar punts. The bad news, however, came from Jamaal Williams’ 33 carry, 144 yard performance (a key part of the Cougars outgaining Virginia 362-223) and Virginia’s 13 punts of their own. If two sets of numbers — 6-20 on third down and 2.6 yards per carry — do not improve in a hurry on Saturday, the Cavaliers could be the ones with a bumpy journey.
Syracuse (0-1) at #19 Northwestern (1-0), 6 pm ET, BTN
Program guide: New coach Scott Shafer’s debut as the leader of the Orange clearly did not go as planned, as Penn State took home a somewhat sloppy 23-17 victory. Syracuse forced four Penn State turnovers, held the Nittany Lions to 1-for-16 on third down and allowed just 1.5 yards per carry, but freshman Christian Hackenberg gashed the Orange to the tune of a 22-for-31 performance for 278 yards and two touchdowns. Though Hackenberg was responsible for two of his team’s four turnovers, his counterpart Drew Allen also turned the ball over twice, completing just 16-of-37 passes for 189 yards in the process.
Considering these maladies in defending the pass, one might imagine that facing a Northwestern club whose quarterback exited last week’s game after suffering a concussion might be good timing, but the success of backup Trevor Siemian against Cal seems to limit the Orange’s respite. Siemian completed 18-of-29 passes in Kain Colster’s absence, throwing for 276 yards and a score against two interceptions. Treyvon Green will look to break through the stingy Syracuse run defense and build on his 129-yard, two-score performance from last week. Pat Fitzgerald’s crew did produce six turnovers of their own against the Golden Bears, but also allowed 455 passing yards from Cal’s 64 attempts. Whether Syracuse can exploit those defensive shortcomings remains to be seen.
Wake Forest (1-0) at Boston College (1-0), 8 pm ET Friday, ESPN2
Program guide: The college football world’s ears perked up for a moment last Thursday, as Presbyterian took a 7-0 lead over Wake Forest just 2:59 into their contest. That lead was somewhat short-lived, however, as Wake Forest took a lead it would not relinquish just :32 into the second quarter. Quarterback Tanner Price had a strong game in what was essentially a tuneup for ACC play, completing 14-of-25 passes for 219 yards and the aforementioned score to put the Deacons ahead 10-7. The Deacs held the Blue Hose to just two first downs and 151 yards of total offense, forcing an amazing seven turnovers.
Steve Addazio’s first game as the Eagles’ head coach produced a 24-14 victory over FCS opponent Villanova. Star receiver Alex Amidon hauled in 13 passes for 146 yards against the Wildcats, capitalizing on Chase Rettig’s strong 23-for-30 outing. Rettig threw for 285 yards and two scores. Running back Andre Williams also had a huge day, carrying 23 times for 114 yards and a touchdown. Villanova threw some punches at the Eagles as well, rushing for almost 200 yards, including 94 from quarterback John Robertson (Robertson also threw for 158 yards and a score). BC proved last week that it can respond on the offensive side of the football, and Price and a returning Michael Campanaro give the Eagles a chance to respond on defense.
South Carolina State (0-1) at #4 Clemson (1-0), 12:30 pm ET, RSN (regional)
Program guide: The Bulldogs make the short trip from Orangeburg after a tough 27-20 loss to 25th-ranked (FCS) Coastal Carolina in week one. SCSU held a 20-12 lead in the third quarter, before 15 straight Chanticleer points turned the tide. The eventual game-winning score came on a 16-play, 99-yard scoring drive. That drive accounted for 99 of the 369 yards allowed by the Bulldog defense. Quarterback Richard Cue (13-for-23, 178 yards, TD) and running back Justin Taylor (24 carries, 92 yards, TD) pace SCSU’s offense, and will face an extremely tough task against the Tigers.
Clemson emerged victorious in their highly-anticipated battle with Georgia, becoming the first non-SEC team to defeat back-to-back top-ten SEC opponents. Tajh Boyd’s five touchdowns give him 94 for his career, behind just former NC State and current San Diego Charger quarterback Philip Rivers, who accounted for 112 scores during his time in Raleigh. The Tiger defense saw its share of struggles against the potent Georgia offense last week, allowing 575 yards to Mark Richt’s team. While SCSU does not feature a Todd Gurley-like back on their roster — Gurley ran for 174 yards and two scores against Clemson — the Tigers will look to tighten up those concerns and evaluate some talent in this week’s contest.
Western Carolina (0-1) at Virginia Tech (0-1), 1:30 pm ET, ESPN3
Program guide: We talked a bit about the Catamounts earlier, as they faced off against Middle Tennessee last week. WCU never led the Blue Raiders, but did put together 18 of their 24 points in the second quarter. Quarterbacks Troy Mitchell and Eddie Sullivan split time, with Mitchell accounting for both touchdowns on passes to Karnorris Benson and Terryon Robinson. The Blue Raiders outgained the Catamounts 475-371 in the contest, and Western Carolina now gets an angry Virginia Tech team at Lane Stadium.
The Hokies mightily struggled in a 35-10 loss to Alabama, and those struggles start with quarterback Logan Thomas. Thomas completed just 5-of-26 passes for 59 yards, adding an interception. With the Hokie running game in flux after several offseason departures, Trey Edmunds’ 20-carry, 132-yard performance was one of the few highlights for new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. Virginia Tech’s defense locked down Tide quarterback AJ McCarron, who completed just 10-of-23 passes for 110 yards. Alabama managed just 206 yards of offense, which was an encouraging sign on a day where few existed. Western Carolina will clearly not pose any of the same challenges as the nation’s top-ranked team, so this will be a key game for the Hokies to start their turnaround.
Old Dominion (0-1) at Maryland (1-0), 4 pm ET, ESPNews
Program guide: The Monarchs continue their season as an independent at the FCS level with a trip to Byrd Stadium to face the Terps. Old Dominion dropped a wild 52-38 decision to East Carolina last week, and Bobby Wilder’s wide-open offense did not disappoint. Quarterback Taylor Heinicke completed 38-of-51 passes for 338 yards and three scores, piling on 11 carries for 52 yards and another touchdown. Unfortunately for ODU, their defense showed troubles stopping another wide-open offense, allowing ECU quarterback Shane Carden to complete 46 of his 54 passes and throw for a school record 447 yards.
The Terps faced no such offensive challenge in week one, allowing just 171 yards of offense in a 43-10 victory against Florida International. The Owls converted just four third downs and managed only nine first downs in the game. Maryland also flexed their offensive muscle, hanging 576 yards on FIU. Quarterback C.J. Brown came back after missing an entire year and did not appear to miss a beat, completing 20-of-23 passes for 281 yards and three scores. Brown also led Maryland in rushing, running for 105 yards on 11 carries, along with two more trips to the end zone. Receivers Deon Long and Stefon Diggs combined for 14 grabs and 208 yards, each scoring once. This likely means ODU will have to throw a lot to stay in the game, but at least they are equipped to do so.
Duke (1-0) at Memphis (0-0), 4:30 pm ET, ESPN3
Program guide: Memphis starts their season with the Blue Devils, and this season should hopefully be better than the last for Tiger fans. Memphis is coming off a 4-8 season, in which they finished 113th in the nation in total offense. The Tigers flashed signs of brilliance on defense, which helped keep them in a lot of games. There is some hope, though, as those four wins almost reached the level (five) the program saw between 2009 and 2011.
Duke also sputtered at times last season, losing six of their final seven (including a Belk Bowl loss). In fact, had the program not enjoyed that success last season, this game would have an even lower level of interest than it already offers. Duke notched a much-needed victory over NC Central last week, putting forth a strong first outing without quarterback Sean Renfree and receiver Conner Vernon. The Blue Devils notched their first shutout in 24 seasons in the 45-0 win, with Anthony Boone completing 16-of-20 passes for 176 yards. Running back Jela Duncan also added 76 yards and a score. David Cutcliffe’s team looks to go 2-0 this week, and the matchup certainly appears to be a favorable one.
Richmond (1-0) at NC State (1-0), 6 pm ET, ESPN3
Program guide: The Spiders come to Raleigh having defeated VMI 34-0 last week, and times will get considerably tougher for Danny Rocco’s FCS club in this one. Virginia transfer quarterback Michael Strauss threw for 265 yards against the Keydets, and one would imagine he will get plenty of opportunities to sling the pigskin against the Wolfpack. The Spiders outgained VMI 539-174, so the opportunity for their offense to be prolific exists, but their ability to do so may not follow.
Arkansas transfer Brandon Mitchell was guiding Dave Doeren and Matt Canada’s offense quite well last week, before he injured his foot. While Mitchell gets his required surgery, another transfer — former Colorado State signal-caller Pete Thomas — will take the wheel. Thomas performed well in Mitchell’s absence, throwing for 212 yards and completing 55.6 percent of his passes. Thomas also has plenty of weapons at his disposal, including running backs Matt Dayes and Tony Creecy. The two combined for four touchdowns in a 40-14 victory over Louisiana Tech, and they will be joined by Shadrach Thornton, who is coming off a one-game suspension. While there is never a good time for an injury, this game will allow Thomas to continue to grow in leading the offense, which may become one of the more successful units in the conference in short order.
Trivia answer: I asked earlier: Virginia Tech allowed just 208 yards of total offense in a loss to Alabama last week, resulting in the second-lowest total of Nick Saban’s tenure with the Tide. Which team recorded the lone lower total?
The Tulane Green Wave allowed just 172 yards of total offense to Alabama in a season-opening loss, which was also Nick Saban’s 100th career collegiate coaching victory. Tide quarterback John Parker Wilson completed just 11-of-23 passes for 73 yards in that game.