It’s Week 3 in the ACC, and — despite the small sample size — the conference has the look of basketball season. A glance atop the Atlantic and Coastal Divisions reveals the highly unlikely duo of Boston College and Duke. Both schools face tough tests this week, with the Blue Devils joining the Eagles as members who have started conference play. The week features regional rivalries, conference games and unusual matchups. We’ll take a look at all of those games…right after this trivia question!
ACC trivia, week 3 (answer at the end of the column): Virginia Tech’s streak of 93 consecutive sellouts came to a close last week in a 45-3 victory over Western Carolina. Who was the Hokies’ opponent during the last game at Lane Stadium in which they did not record a sellout?
Top of the Ratings
Boston College (2-0, 1-0 ACC) at USC (1-1, 0-1 Pac-12), 3 pm ET, Pac-12 Network
Last week’s episode: Boston College 24, Wake Forest 10; Washington State 10, USC 7
Program guide: The Eagles found themselves outscored by almost ten points a game in the relatively lost 2012 season, and just two games into coach Steve Addazio’s tenure, BC faces off against USC with a lot more on the line than anyone could have anticipated. Eagle quarterback Chase Rettig has enjoyed a tremendous start to the season, completing 30-of-44 passes for 408 yards with four touchdowns and an interception in his first two games. Rettig is also blessed with one of the conference’s top receivers in Alex Amidon. Amidon and Michael Campanaro faced off last week, with both snaring five passes and Amidon outgaining Campanaro 93-86. Those 93 yards pushed Amidon over the 2,000-yard mark for his career.
Boston College has also turned into somewhat of a Linebacker U. of late, with Mark Herzlich and Luke Kuechly among the names who have transitioned from Chestnut Hill to the pros. Senior Kevin Pierre-Louis is looking to join them, and he is on the right track thus far. Pierre-Louis recorded 85 tackles in just nine games in 2012, and he leads the conference with 23 tackles through two games this season. The Eagle defense has allowed 601 yards through those two contests, and Pierre-Louis will have to play a huge role in holding USC at bay on Saturday.
The storyline in Los Angeles is quite obvious, and that storyline resides under center for the Trojans. Cody Kessler will take the snaps for Lane Kiffin’s club — to start the game, anyway — and he has arguably the better of the two current passers. Kessler has completed just 18-of-32 passes in two games, though, registering 136 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Kessler went 8-for-13 for 41 yards with a rushing touchdown in a loss to Washington State last week. USC passers actually have a lower rating (84.57) than their opponents (87.13).
BC running back Andre Williams rushed for 204 yards in last week’s outing against Wake Forest, bringing his season total to 318 yards. Williams’ average of 5.48 yards per carry faces the first real test of the season in a USC defense that is allowing a somewhat comical 0.57 yards per carry through two games. Trojan opponents have carried the ball 30 times for a paltry 53 yards on the season. Considering Rettig’s success throwing the ball and the stingy nature of the USC rushing defense, the path to victory for Addazio’s club appears obvious, if not easily reachable.
Let’s travel the conference with the assistance of our Keyword Search function!
Virginia Tech (1-1) at East Carolina (2-0), noon ET, FS1
- Rebounding: After an opening game against Alabama that saw Logan Thomas complete just 5-of-26 passes for 59 yards, the Virginia Tech signal-caller bounced back by going 17-for-31 for 200 yards in a 45-3 victory over Western Carolina. Thomas’ issues with interceptions are still present, but this is a step in the right direction for the man expected to lead Scot Loeffler’s offense.
- In the Card(en)s: Junior quarterback Shane Carden holds the keys to ECU’s high-powered passing attack. Carden has completed 63-of-79 passes this season for 638 yards. The Pirate quarterback has thrown for seven touchdowns without being intercepted, and his 79.7 percent completion percentage is good for fourth-best in the nation.
- Feeling defensive: East Carolina is working on building a defense that will at least keep them in games, if not singlehandedly winning those games. The Pirates finished 89th in the nation in total defense last year. After two games, ECU is ranked 58th in total defense. This is hardly a gigantic leap, but new defensive coordinator (and former ECU defensive backs coach) Rick Smith is clearly making strides. Smith’s defense is allowing 60 fewer yards a game than the 2012 unit.
ULM (1-1) at Wake Forest (1-1), 12:30 pm, RSN
- 2.72: The Warhawks averaged just 2.72 yards per play in their lone FBS matchup against Oklahoma. The Sooners defeated ULM 34-0 on August 31st. ULM managed just 38 rushing yards in the contest.
- 2.62: The Deacons average 2.62 yards per carry for the season. Wake rushed for 55 yards in their 39 carries against Boston College last week, a 1.41 yard per carry average.
- .500: A win this weekend would bring Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe to .500 for his time at Wake (74-75) and his career (107-108-1). ULM head coach Todd Berry is three games under .500 (18-21) during his tenure as the Warhawks’ leader, following an eight-win 2012 season. Those eight wins are the most registered by ULM in a season since moving to the FBS.
New Mexico (1-1) at Pittsburgh (0-1), 12:30 pm ET, ACC Network
- The first non-UT: New Mexico has played two schools in the University of Texas system in 2013. The Lobos were defeated 21-13 by Larry Coker’s UTSA Roadrunners in week one, and they bounced back to take down UTEP 42-35 last week. The school’s first game away from home — or a city that borders their state — takes them 1,640 miles to the northeast to take on the Panthers.
- Hit the Street: Pittsburgh wide receiver Devin Street hauled in six Tom Savage passes for 141 yards in a season-opening 41-13 loss to Florida State. Street had 73 grabs for 975 yards and five scores on the 2012 season. Those 73 catches led the team, and the 975 yards fell just nine short of the team lead.
- Carrier of the load: Lobo running back Kasey Carrier leads the nation in rushing yards (345) and yards per game (172.50). 291 of those yards came in last week’s victory over UTEP. New Mexico is 17th in the nation in rushing offense (294 yards per game).
Georgia Tech (1-0) at Duke (2-0), 3:30 pm ET, ESPNU
- 1994: The last time the Blue Devils started a season 3-0, Nancy Kerrigan was hit in the knee, we lost Kurt Cobain and O.J. Simpson ran from the police in front of a nationwide audience. Spence Fischer quarterbacked Duke that year, completing 204-of-346 passes for 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Duke defeated Maryland, East Carolina and Army in those first three games, en route to a 7-0 start. Florida State finally defeated the Blue Devils 59-20 on October 29th.
- 1997: Georgia Tech was last shut out by Florida State on October 18th, 1997. If the Yellow Jackets dent the scoreboard against Duke, that will represent the 200th consecutive game in which they have avoided being whitewashed. This is the second-longest streak in the conference, with Virginia Tech (232 games) ahead of the Ramblin’ Wreck.
- 2008: Georgia Tech defeated Elon 70-0 in week one, marking their first time holding an opponent scoreless since October 4th, 2008. Georgia Tech’s opponent that day was — interestingly enough — Duke.
- Everyone loves the backup QB: Duke quarterback Anthony Boone suffered a broken collarbone in Duke’s victory against Memphis last week, leaving the Blue Devils’ mobile backup, Brandon Connette, to run the offense against the Jackets. Connette has completed 19-of-29 passes on the year for 253 yards, with four scores and an interception. Connette has also added a touchdown on the ground, along with his 53 rushing yards.
Nevada (1-1) at #10 Florida State (1-0, 1-0 ACC), 3:30 pm ET, ESPN
- No Manuel, no problem: With starting quarterback EJ Manuel having moved on to the Buffalo Bills, freshman Jameis Winston had a first game for the ages for the Seminoles. Winston completed 25-of-27 passes for 356 yards and four scores against Pittsburgh in week one. He added another touchdown on the ground, rushing for 25 yards.
- Finding an “Ault”-ernate: Longtime Nevada coach and pistol offense architect Chris Ault retired after the Wolf Pack’s 49-48 loss to Arizona in the 2012 New Mexico Bowl. Former Texas A&M tight ends coach Brian Polian now runs the show in Reno, the first non-Ault coach since Chris Tormey was dismissed in 2004.
- Throwing strikes: This game features two top-30 quarterbacks in completion percentage. Winston leads the nation, completing 92.6 percent of his passes. Nevada’s Cody Fajardo ranks 29th among FBS passers, completing 69.8 percent (37-for-53) of his throws on the season.
Wagner (1-1) at Syracuse (0-2), 4:00 pm ET, ESPN3
- Flawless: No FCS team has ever beaten the Orange at the Carrier Dome. The ten home victories date back to 1981.
- The human highlight reel: Wagner running back Dominique Williams has 57 carries for 272 yards through two games. Williams rushed for 110 yards on 25 carries in last week’s 42-41 loss to Merrimack.
- Squeezed: The Orange defense has struggled through the team’s first two games. Syracuse ranks 100th in scoring defense (35.5 points per game) and 99th in total defense (467 yards per game). Northwestern tallied 581 yards in a 48-27 victory last week, averaging 7.2 yards per play. The Wildcats’ two quarterbacks combined to go 30-for-37 for 375 yards, reaching the end zone four times.
Maryland (2-0) at UConn (0-1), 7:30 pm ET, ESPN3
- The offense is back: The Terrapins cycled through a number of quarterbacks last year due to injuries. C.J. Brown has returned to lead the Maryland offense, and the Terps are in the top 30 in every offensive category. Randy Edsall’s club is tenth in total offense, averaging 581.5 yards per game.
- Losing to a ranked opponent: UConn fell victim to the wave of FCS opponents defeating FBS teams in week one, falling 33-18 to Towson at home. The Tigers are currently ranked fourth in the Sports Network FCS poll.
- Avenging a loss: UConn defeated Maryland 24-21 at Byrd Stadium on September 15th, 2012. The Terps scored 14 points in the fourth quarter, but could not get past the Huskies. UConn passed for just 70 yards in the victory, with quarterback Chandler Whitmer completing 10-of-16 passes for 68 of the 70 yards. The Husky victory evened the all-time series between the two teams at 1-1.
Trivia answer: I asked earlier: Virginia Tech’s streak of 93 consecutive sellouts came to a close last week in a 45-3 victory over Western Carolina. Who was the Hokies’ opponent during the last game at Lane Stadium in which they did not record a sellout?
The Hokies defeated Rutgers 47-7 on November 21st, 1998. The announced attendance at Lane Stadium was 42,452.