Duke travels to Virginia Tech for the 2nd straight season. (Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports)
An action-packed Week 8 in the ACC started with Miami marching down the field in their final drive at Kenan Stadium, then dodging a hail mary on the final play to escape with a 27-23 victory, then ended with a 51-14 Florida State shellacking of Clemson in Death Valley. Between those games, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest made emphatic statements, Duke scored 35 unanswered points on Virginia to take home a victory and Pittsburgh held off a game Old Dominion club.
Two ACC outposts in both the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Sunshine State will see action this weekend, along with several additional locations. Florida State essentially holds a two-game lead on Clemson in the Atlantic, while everything in the Coastal appears to be building toward the upcoming Virginia Tech-Miami matchup. The march to Charlotte continues, and we’ll take a look at some of the games that will help book tickets for the Queen City and points beyond. Before we embark on our journey, we offer you a trivia question!
ACC Trivia, Week 9 (answer at the end of the column): When did Duke last defeat a ranked team on the road?
Top of the Ratings
Duke (5-2, 1-2 ACC) at #16 Virginia Tech (6-1, 3-0 ACC), 3:30pm, ESPNU
Last week’s episode: Duke 35, Virginia 22; Virginia Tech 19, Pittsburgh 9 (10/12)
Program guide: You just saw our trivia question regarding Duke and their success against ranked opponents, and the Blue Devils have not defeated a ranked team in 20 seasons (Virginia, 1994). Anthony Boone returned for the Blue Devils last week, completing 21-of-39 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns against the Cavaliers. Jamison Crowder also had a huge game for Duke last week, catching nine passes for 113 yards and a touchdown.
Duke has not allowed any points in the second half of the last two games. This was not the case against the Hokies in Blacksburg last season, however. Duke jumped to a 20-0 lead before Virginia Tech scored 41 unanswered points to defeat David Cutcliffe’s club. Logan Thomas completed 14-of-23 passes for 256 yards, finding the end zone twice.
The Hokie defense has enjoyed even more success this year than that to which they have become accustomed. Virginia Tech leads the conference in total yardage, averaging 256 yards per game. The Hokies rank just behind FBS leader Michigan State in total defense. Tech has been even more effective on the road, allowing just 227.7 yards per game. The Hokies have allowed greater than 300 yards of offense to just two opponents, Marshall and North Carolina.
Duke has been surprisingly proficient on offense this season, led largely by Boone and backup quarterback/flex player Brandon Connette. Duke averages 452.1 yards per game, good for fourth in the conference. Virginia Tech’s 13th-ranked offense in the ACC will face its own challenges. The Hokies have been held below 100 rushing yards on four separate occasions, and have been held under 70 offensive plays four times.
This is a tough game to diagnose. Virginia Tech is ill-equipped to compete in a potential shootout, though the Hokie defense is not likely to get involved in a back-and-forth offensive contest. Virginia Tech has won each of the last 12 games against Duke, and has won all seven played between the two in Blacksburg. If Duke is fortunate enough to jump out to another early lead, they will need to find a way to put away the Hokies, which they have not yet mastered.
Wake Forest (4-3, 2-2 ACC) at #7 Miami (6-0, 2-0 ACC), noon ET, ESPNU
Filling the left-hand column: Miami has won eight straight games, tying the ‘Canes with Florida State for the longest winning-streak among ACC clubs. The Hurricanes’ last loss came on November 10, 2012 in Charlottesville, as Virginia claimed a 41-40 victory.
Winston-Salem south?: Wake Forest is 3-7 all-time against Miami. Each of those three wins was recorded in Miami. Two of the wins were shutouts. That said, the most recent win the Deacons notched in Miami came on October 27, 1944.
Dominant on paper: Miami outranks Wake in every major category, except for total defense (367.7-339.2). The ‘Canes outscore the Deacons by over 20 points per game (42.2-22.0), though the Deacs have scored more points in their last two games (62) than they had scored in their previous five combined (54).
Georgia Tech (4-3, 2-2 ACC) at Virginia (2-5, 0-3 ACC), 12:30pm ET, ACC Network
Hitting the wall: The Cavaliers scored a touchdown with 5:49 remaining in the second quarter against Duke last week to give themselves a 22-0 lead. After that drive, Virginia registered the following offensive sequences: punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, missed field goal, turnover on downs, interception. Duke scored on six of their final ten drives from that point on in tallying 35 unanswered points and a victory.
Back to the basics: The Yellow Jackets returned to their offensive calling card in a 56-0 victory over Syracuse last week. Georgia Tech registered their highest rushing output of the season against the Orange, carrying 67 times for 394 yards. Vad Lee attempted — and completed — just three passes on the game, but did throw for 88 yards and a score.
Blowing the whistle: Georgia Tech’s did not register a penalty last week against Syracuse, the first time this has happened for the Jackets in 45 years. Virginia’s lowest penalty total in the last seven seasons was one, coming against Miami on November 1, 2008, with their lowest total this season (four) taking place against Oregon . Virginia is next-to-last in the conference in penalties (46), while Georgia Tech has 10 fewer and ranks fourth in the ACC.
Pitt (4-2, 2-2 ACC) at Navy (3-3), 1pm ET, CBSSN
Stack the box: Navy has the fewest passing attempts in the FBS (74), with the next closest team (Army) having thrown the ball 22 more times this season. The Midshipmen have completed greater than 43 percent of their passes in a game just twice this year, against Air Force and FCS opponent Delaware. Pitt is fifth in the ACC in rushing defense, allowing 136 yards per game. The Panthers have allowed fewer than 100 yards on the ground in their last three games.
Walking with the Panthers: Navy has defeated Pitt just once in their last seven outings, winning a two-overtime, 48-45 decision in Pittsburgh on October 10, 2007. Prior to that victory, Navy’s last win over the Panthers came October 26, 1985 in Annapolis. Pitt won the most recent contest between the two, defeating Navy 27-14 on September 19, 2009.
Born to run: Junior running back Isaac Bennett led all ACC ball carriers last week, tallying 240 yards against Old Dominion. Bennett also added three scores. Bennett had rushed for greater than 38 yards just one other time this season, finishing with 101 yards against New Mexico. Bennett’s other two touchdowns came in that game against the Lobos.
#9 Clemson (6-1, 4-1 ACC) at Maryland (5-2, 1-2 ACC), 3:30pm ET, ESPN
Broken shell: The Terrapins have been bitten by the injury bug for the second straight year. Maryland will play this game without quarterback C.J. Brown, running back Brandon Ross and wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, all due to injury. Caleb Rowe (44-for-85, 702 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT) will call the signals for the Terps. Diggs and Long are out for the season after having each suffered a broken leg in last week’s loss to Wake Forest.
Eight away from 10K: Clemson’s Tajh Boyd stands at 9,992 career passing yards. Just two quarterbacks (NC State’s Philip Rivers and Duke’s Thaddeus Lewis) have broken the 10,000-yard mark. Rivers leads all career ACC passers with 13,484 yards.
Sending out the seniors: Clemson’s senior class is 3-0 against Maryland, outscoring the Terps 132-62 during that period.
NC State (3-3, 0-3 ACC) at #3 Florida State (6-0, 4-0 ACC), 3:30pm ET, ABC/ESPN2 (reverse mirror)
Pulling rank: ESPN’s College Football Nation mentions that NC State has defeated Florida State in each of the last four meetings in which the Wolfpack entered the game unranked with the Seminoles in the Top 25. Only one of these games took place in Tallahassee, however. Another of these upsets occurred in Raleigh last year, as NCSU won 17-16. Florida State’s season was not derailed by the loss, however, as they went on to win the ACC title. The last time NC State faced a top-10 team away from Carter-Finley Stadium was their victory at Doak Campbell in 2005.
Welcome back: Wolfpack quarterback Brandon Mitchell returns from injury to start this game against FSU. Mitchell was 3-for-3 for 93 yards passing in the Wolfpack’s first game of the season against Louisiana Tech, adding five carries for 19 yards. Backup quarterback Pete Thomas has led the ‘Pack in Mitchell’s absence, completing 117-of-192 passes for 1314 yards, throwing for just three touchdowns against eight interceptions.
Chasing Bowden: Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher is just six wins behind the man for whom he took over, Bobby Bowden, in victories through the first four seasons as an ACC coach. Fisher has won 37 games at the helm in Tallahassee, while Bowden won 43 in his first four ACC seasons. Bowden will be recognized at halftime of the NC State game.
Boston College (3-3, 1-2 ACC) at North Carolina (1-5, 0-3 ACC), 3:30pm ET, RSN (regional)
Fly like an Eagle: Boston College wide receiver Alex Amidon is fourth all-time in receiving yards among Eagle receivers. Rich Gunnell is BC’s all-time leader with 2,459 yards. Amidon’s 121 yards against Clemson brought his career total to 2,315.
Also chasing a milestone: Bryn Renner has thrown for 7,870 yards in his UNC career. Just two quarterbacks (current Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates and Darian Durant) have thrown for greater than 8,000 career yards as Tar Heels. Yates holds the all-time record with 9,377 yards.
Conquering Kenan: BC has never defeated North Carolina in Kenan Stadium. The Eagles are 0-3 all-time in Chapel Hill, having lost in 1981, 2005 and 2008.
Trivia answer: I asked earlier: When did Duke last defeat a ranked team on the road?
Duke defeated then-number ten Stanford 9-3 on October 2, 1971.