Tajh Boyd and Clemson visit NC State Thursday night. (Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports)
Week 4 has arrived in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and we have an interesting group of games completing the conference slate. The two Florida schools are welcoming HBCUs, the Maryland-West Virginia rivalry fires up again and two marquee conference games take place. ACC teams registered a 6-3 record last weekend, with one of those losses (Duke) coming in a conference game. We have a number of storylines to cover in this week’s ten league outings, but first, we have our weekly trivia question!
ACC trivia, week 4 (answer at the end of the column): Clemson and NC State renew their rivalry on Thursday. What is the name of the rivalry, and in what year was that name created?
Top of the Ratings
#3 Clemson (2-0) at NC State (2-0), 7:30 pm ET Thursday, ESPN
Last week’s episode: Clemson 52, SC State 13 (9/7); NC State 23, Richmond 21 (9/7)
Program guide: Clemson’s high-powered offense suffered a bit of a blow during the team’s off week, as wide receiver Charone Peake tore an ACL and will miss the remainder of the season. This is a painful loss for the Tigers — literally and figuratively — but freshman receiver Germane Hopper (6 catches, 66 yards, 2 TD) appears ready to step in for Peake as Dabo Swinney’s club takes on the Wolfpack in Raleigh. The Tigers are a top 25 team in total offense (16th) and passing offense (25th), and quarterback Tajh Boyd set a school record with 529 total yards in a 62-48 victory over NC State last year.
The Tiger defense is still a bit questionable, though their numbers are still shaped by the season-opening 38-35 victory over Georgia. The results were considerably better two weeks ago against the FCS Bulldogs, allowing just 11 first downs and 201 yards of total offense. Constant pressure from defensive lineman Vic Beasley (2 sacks) and linebacker Spencer Shuey (15 tackles, one quarterback hurry) will be a requirement to slow down the new-look Wolfpack offense.
Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren has never lost any game he has coached at home in his career (14-0), and he will look to continue that streak against the Tigers. The streak was perilously close to ending two weeks ago against Richmond. The Spiders led the game 21-13 at the half, but could muster very little against the ‘Pack defense in the remaining quarters. Niklas Sade nailed a 48-yarder with 33 seconds remaining to give Doeren’s club the victory.
Colorado State transfer Pete Thomas continues to fill in at quarterback for injured starter Brandon Mitchell, and Thomas’ efficiency was a key part of the State win. Thomas completed 24-of-31 passes for 237 yards, though he was unable to find the end zone. He was 4-of-5 for 31 yards on the final drive, which set up the game-winner. The heralded Wolfpack rushing attack was relatively effective, carrying 41 times for 188 yards (4.5 yards per carry).
NC State’s rushing defense has been tremendous in the first two games, allowing just 16 yards on 26 carries to the Spiders. The key item to watch in the contest is how the NCSU defensive secondary holds up against Tajh Boyd. The club is tied for 76th in pass defense in the early going, and Virginia transfer Michael Strauss shredded the team for 300 yards and two scores in a 29-for-45 performance. Tajh Boyd has gotten off to a 32-of-53 start for 439 yards with three scores in essentially one and a half games, and he destroyed State through the air last year, throwing for 426 yards in his club’s victory. If the pass defense does not improve in a hurry, State could be in for a long night against the Tigers.
Set Your DVR
North Carolina (1-1) at Georgia Tech (2-0, 1-0), noon ET, ESPN
Program guide: The Tar Heels bounced back from a season-opening loss to South Carolina by defeating Middle Tennessee 40-20 when they last took the field on September 7th. Carolina held MTSU to just 14 yards in the second quarter, taking a 23-0 lead to the locker room. The Blue Raiders bounced back in the second half, outscoring Larry Fedora’s club 20-17 in that stanza. Quarterback Bryn Renner completed 23-of-34 passes for 339 yards with a touchdown and an interception against Middle, and he will need to continue that success against the Yellow Jackets. Three Carolina running backs carried greater than 10 times for 40-plus yards against Middle Tennessee.
Georgia Tech opened ACC play last week by hammering Duke 38-14 at Wallace Wade Stadium. Quarterback Vad Lee completed 8-of-16 passes for 125 yards against the Blue Devils, though four of those passes went for scores. Lee shares the conference lead in touchdown passes (six) with Jameis Winston and C.J. Brown. The Yellow Jackets, for their part, are in the national top ten in four categories (scoring offense, rushing offense, scoring defense and total defense), and Duke tallied just 254 yards of total offense against Georgia Tech’s stout defense, while allowing 469 total yards (344 rushing). North Carolina’s rush defense is 92nd in the nation, allowing 193.5 yards per game, which obviously presents a considerable problem for the Tar Heels. There is a lot of individual talent on defense for Carolina, however, including safety Tre Boston (14 tackles) and linebacker Norkeithus Otis (10 tackles, 3 sacks), and they will be tested early and often by Paul Johnson’s team.
Marshall (2-1) at Virginia Tech (2-1), noon ET, ESPNU
- 73 long years: Marshall’s last victory over the Hokies came in 1940. The game was played in Huntington, WV, where Marshall is located. The two schools last played in 2011, a 30-10 Hokie win.
- Upside down: If you knew before the season that one team would be tied for 20th with Louisville in total offense going into this game and the other would be 108th, the likely guess would be that the Hokies would be tied with Louisville, while Marshall would be further down in the pecking order. Marshall, however, is tied with Louisville (527.3 yards per game), while Virginia Tech is one of four ACC teams with a ranking 108th or lower (Boston College, Wake Forest and Virginia being the others). The Hokies average 328.3 yards per game.
- Though the offense has struggled…: …Virginia Tech’s defense has been more than effective. The Hokies last allowed greater than 217 yards in a 30-23 victory over Boston College last November 17th. The Eagles gained 296 yards in that contest. Marshall’s lowest output last year was 337 yards, which came in a 38-31 loss to UAB. The Herd’s lowest total this year came last week, as they compiled 482 yards in a 34-31 loss to Ohio.
Wake Forest (1-2, 0-1) at Army (1-2), noon ET, CBSSN
- Staying grounded: The Deacons can look for a steady diet of rushing from Army on Saturday. Army has attempted just 38 passes this year. Only three teams (Miami-OH, Georgia Tech and Navy) have attempted fewer. Army attempted just ten passes last week against Stanford, completing six for 49 yards and a touchdown.
- Must-win situation: It may be a bit early to declare a game a must-win for anyone, but Wake Forest likely finds itself in this situation. The Demon Deacons travel to Clemson next week, followed by home contests against NC State and Maryland before hitting the road to face Miami.
- Offensive explosion: The two clubs combined for 1023 yards of total offense when they faced each other last season in Winston-Salem. 52 total first downs were registered, with Demon Deacon receiver Michael Campanaro catching twice as many passes (12) as Army threw (six). Wake Forest won the game 49-37.
Pitt (1-1, 0-1) at Duke (2-1, 0-1), 12:30 pm ET, ACC Network/ESPN3
- Looking for firsts: Duke is looking for their first ACC victory of 2013, having fallen 38-14 to Georgia Tech in Durham last week. Pitt, meanwhile, is looking for its first-ever ACC victory. The Panthers were defeated 41-13 by Florida State in the season opener.
- Dual century mark: Pitt had two running backs (James Conner and Isaac Bennett) go for greater than 100 yards each in a 49-27 victory over New Mexico last week. Though no Georgia Tech rusher broke the 100-yard barrier against Duke last week, the Yellow Jackets ran for 344 yards. Ten Yellow Jackets recorded at least one carry in that game.
- Making connections: The two schools have some interesting connections. Former Pitt coach Johnny Majors gave David Cutcliffe his first college coaching job at Tennessee in 1982. Duke defeated Pitt 7-0 in Durham on November 26, 1938. No team scored on Duke that year. Also, Duke and Pitt played in the first game carried over the NBC Network in 1951. Duke defeated Pitt 19-14 in that game.
Tulane (2-1) at Syracuse (1-2), 12:30 pm ET, RSN (regional)/ESPN3
- One down, more to go: Orange coach Scott Shafer recorded his first victory last week against FCS opponent Wagner. Syracuse left the Carrier Dome with a 54-0 victory.
- Son of a legend: Washington transfer (and son of former 49er and Chief Joe) Nick Montana has led the Green Wave passing attack in 2013. Montana has completed 55-of-97 passes for 706 yards, adding seven touchdowns and two interceptions.
- On the Hunt: Syracuse sophomore quarterback Terrel Hunt completed 15-of-18 passes for 265 yards and three scores against Wagner. This performance is expected to earn Hunt the start against the Green Wave.
West Virginia (2-1) vs. Maryland (3-0) (at Baltimore, MD), 3:30 pm ET, ESPNU
- I haven’t seen you since last decade: The Terrapins last started a season 3-0 in 2001; however, they have not defeated West Virginia since 2004. Maryland defeated West Virginia twice during the 2003-04 season — once during the regular season and once in the Gator Bowl.
- Brown digs Diggs: C.J. Brown has found a favorite target in sophomore wideout Stefon Diggs. Diggs has 16 catches for 387 yards and three scores on the season, catching five of those passes for 110 yards and a touchdown in last week’s 32-21 victory over UConn.
- 604: West Virginia hung 604 yards of total offense on Georgia State in a 41-7 victory last week. 245 of those yards came on the ground. Georgia State’s running backs coach was dismissed following the game.
VMI (1-2) at Virginia (1-1), 3:30pm ET, ESPN3
- 0-26: The Daily Press’ David Teel reports that VMI is 0-26 all-time against teams from the Football Bowl Subdivision. VMI was defeated 37-24 by Division II North Greenville last week.
- Things are tough all over: Virginia ranks higher than 99th in the nation in just one category, passing defense. The Cavaliers are 35th in that category. Quarterback David Watford has completed 47-of-73 passes for 275 yards on the season, but has managed just one touchdown against four interceptions.
- 4-0: Virginia has won their last four outings against FCS-level competition. Their last loss came in a 26-14 defeat to William & Mary on September 5, 2009.
Bethune-Cookman (3-0) at #8 Florida State (2-0), 6 pm ET, ESPN3
- Nationally ranked: Both teams in the contest have a spot in their respective polls. Florida State is ranked 8th in the FBS, while Bethune-Cookman is ranked 19th in the Sports Network FCS poll.
- Looking to go back-to-back: Bethune-Cookman recorded its first-ever victory over a team from the FBS last week, defeating Florida International 34-13. Running back Anthony Jordan ran for 150 yards in that game, earning MEAC Player of the Week honors.
- Winston Cup: Florida State freshman quarterback Jameis Winston continued his blazing start last week, completing 15-of-18 passes for 214 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Winston is 40-for-45 through his first two games, throwing for 570 yards and six scores against that lone interception.
Savannah State (1-2) at #16 Miami (2-0), 7 pm ET, ESPN3
- Starting slow: Savannah State got off to a bit of a bumpy start to the season. The Tigers were outscored 143-12 by their first two opponents (Georgia Southern and Troy) before notching their first win of the season against Division II Fort Valley State. Savannah State returns to MEAC play after this contest.
- Being stingy: The Hurricanes rank 11th in the nation in scoring defense. Miami has allowed just 11 points per game, including 16 to then-ranked Florida two weeks ago. The ‘Canes allowed just 2.8 yards per carry to Florida runners in that contest.
- Handling the MEAC: The Hurricanes look to leave the field with their fifth-straight victory over a MEAC school. Miami defeated Bethune-Cookman in 2011 and 2012 after wins over Florida A&M in 2009 and 2010.
Trivia answer: I asked earlier: Clemson and NC State renew their rivalry on Thursday. What is the name of the rivalry, and in what year was that name created?
This rivalry is called the Textile Bowl, and it was first played under that name on October 24, 1981. Clemson defeated NC State 17-7 in Memorial Stadium en route to the 1981 national championship, the most recent title for the school.
Brian Wilmer is a contributor to FBSchedules.com and Stadium Journey. Follow him @sportsmatters.