Virginia Tech trails Miami by a half-game in the Coastal Division. (Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)
Another week, another Florida State demolishing of a top conference contender. Just weeks after the Seminoles hammered Clemson, Miami became FSU’s latest victim in a 41-14 loss at Doak Campbell Stadium. Those two high-profile victories have Jimbo Fisher’s club at the top of the conference standings and near the top of the BCS standings.
With the Seminoles seemingly all but in the fold to play in Charlotte, the focus now turns to the team that will eventually oppose them in the Queen City, along with the other schools that will fill the ACC’s eight bowl berths. Florida State is obviously bowl-eligible, along with five other clubs (Clemson, Miami, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Duke). One team has five wins, with four additional clubs at four wins. The last four weeks of play for the conference’s teams shape up to be an exciting time. We’ll get the ball rolling on those last four weeks…right after we ask you this week’s trivia question!
ACC Trivia, Week 11 (answer at the end of the article): The Virginia-North Carolina rivalry has been played 118 times. Which two rivalries are the only two to have been played more often?
Top of the Ratings
Virginia Tech (6-2, 3-2 ACC) at #11 Miami (7-1, 3-1 ACC), 7pm ET, ESPN
Last week’s episode: Boston College 34, Virginia Tech 27; Florida State 41, Miami 14
Program guide: This looked a lot more like a potential Coastal Division championship game just seven days ago than it will at 7:00 Saturday night. There is still a great deal of significance behind this matchup, however. The Hokies enter the game on a two-game losing streak, having fallen to Duke and Boston College. Virginia Tech had somewhat of an offensive anomaly against the Blue Devils, rushing for 173 yards. That total quickly fell back to expectations last week, as the Hokies ran for just 55 yards against Boston College.
The Hokies have rushed for 76 yards or fewer five times this season, with four of those outings coming against conference teams. Virginia Tech averages just 81.4 yards against conference opponents, even with the great output against Duke. Miami surrenders just under 173 yards per game on the ground against ACC opponents, including 192 yards last week against Florida State. The Hurricanes are 3-0 when opposing teams rush for fewer than 100 yards, so the Hokies need to beg, borrow or steal to cobble together a run game to keep Miami on their toes.
Miami has its share of concerns in running the football, as well. Star running back Duke Johnson will miss the remainder of the year after breaking his ankle against the Seminoles last week. This injury vaults touchdown maker Dallas Crawford into the starting lineup for the ‘Canes. Crawford has carried 67 times for 294 yards this season, including nine scores. The sophomore has shown the ability throughout the season to take over a game on the ground and help control the tempo. If he can do this against a stout Hokie rush defense (ninth in the FBS – 102.7 yards per game), he can set up the suddenly-stout combo of quarterback Stephen Morris and receiver Allen Hurns.
Both teams have been quite effective at getting pressure on the opposing quarterback. The Hokies and Hurricanes have combined for 49 sacks and 113 tackles for loss. Logan Thomas had ample time to check his progressions and throw the football against Boston College, passing for 391 yards. Getting extra pressure on Thomas may lead to high and rushed throws, allowing the ball-hawking Hurricane defense to do what they do best. The ‘Canes are tenth in the FBS in interceptions (14) and 14th in turnovers gained (21).
Despite what happened to both teams last week, this game shapes up to be a defensive battle. The Hurricanes have won just three of the last ten matchups between the two, however. Virginia Tech will look to avenge last year’s 30-12 loss, and with the nation’s third-ranked defense, the Hokies will be more than ready when toe meets leather in south Florida on Saturday night. In a somewhat down week across the country, this is a true “must-see” game.
#2 Florida State (8-0, 6-0 ACC) at Wake Forest (4-5, 2-4 ACC), noon ET, ABC
Win and in: Florida State’s path to Charlotte and the ACC Championship game is quite simple. If the Seminoles bring home a victory from Winston-Salem, they will return to the Queen City to defend their ACC title. Florida State would need to lose at Wake Forest and to Syracuse at home next week, then have Clemson defeat Georgia Tech next Thursday in order for Jimbo Fisher’s club to miss their shot at a conference championship.
Camp’s closed: The Deacs will play this game without wideout Michael Campanaro, who suffered a shoulder injury at Syracuse last weekend. Campanaro leads the league in receptions (67), and is second in yards per game (100.4) and total yards (803). The only receivers with more touchdowns than Campanaro’s six are FSU’s Rashad Greene, who has eight, and Clemson’s Sammy Watkins and North Carolina’s Quinshad Davis, who are tied with seven.
12 and 7: Florida State has defeated their last 12 ACC opponents, last losing to NC State 17-16 in Raleigh on October 6, 2012. Interestingly enough, however, the Seminoles are just 3-4 in their last seven games against the Demon Deacons. The Deacs collected three straight victories between 2006 and 2008, along with claiming a 35-30 win in 2011.
Virginia (2-7, 0-5 ACC) at North Carolina (3-5, 2-3 ACC), 12:30pm ET, ACC Network
Holding the fort: Virginia’s offense has been torched for greater than 450 yards of offense six times in nine games this season, including four outings of 500 yards or greater. The Cavs allowed their season high on defense last week, surrendering 610 yards of offense to Clemson in Charlottesville.
A new name on the Marquise: With Bryn Renner having suffered a shoulder injury that will end his season — and, by extension, his time on the field at North Carolina — sophomore Marquise Williams will take over the reins of the Tar Heels. Williams has completed 40-of-66 passes for 537 yards this season, throwing for six touchdowns against three interceptions, adding 50 carries for 201 yards and a touchdown.
A long history: The Virginia-North Carolina rivalry, also known as The South’s Oldest Rivalry, has been played 118 times since its first outing in 1892. The game is tied with Texas/Texas A&M and Miami (OH)/Cincinnati for largest number of games played.
Syracuse (4-4, 2-2 ACC) at Maryland (5-3, 1-2 ACC), 3:30pm ET, RSN
A difficult feat to accomplish: Syracuse stands at 2-2 in ACC play, despite their opponents outscoring them by greater than twice their total (115 to 51). 105 of those 115 points were scored in losses to Clemson (49-14) and Georgia Tech (56-0).
Long time, no see: The Orange and Terps haven’t faced off since 1994, and they resume their series just as Maryland prepares to jet off to the Big Ten. The Orange are 4-1 in the last five meetings between the schools, winning 31-17 at Byrd Stadium in 1991. Maryland last defeated Syracuse 35-18 in the now-defunct Cherry Bowl in 1985.
Air traffic control: Syracuse has experienced their share of struggles in defending the pass. The Orange rank eleventh in the ACC in pass defense (233.4 yards per game), while Maryland ranks fourth in the league in passing offense (280.8 yards per game). The Terrapins have dealt with their share of injuries at the receiver position, but are led by quarterback C.J. Brown, who averages 210.3 yards per game in just six games.
Boston College (4-4, 2-3 ACC) at New Mexico State (1-8), 3:30pm ET, ESPN3
A tough go: New Mexico State is playing the 2013 season as an FBS independent prior to making the move to the Sun Belt in 2014. Their only victory came over first-year FCS team Abilene Christian, defeating the Wildcats 34-29.
A dubious streak: No team at the FBS level has had to wait longer between bowl appearances than New Mexico State. NMSU defeated Utah State 20-13 in a battle of Aggies in the 1960 Sun Bowl, and has not made a postseason trip since that game.
A challenging matchup: This game features a faceoff between the nation’s second-leading rusher (BC’s Andre Williams) and the lowest-ranked rushing defense in the FBS. Williams averages 147 yards per game rushing, while New Mexico State allows an eye-popping 312.11 yards per game. Williams has been held to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game just twice this season, rushing for 38 yards at USC and 70 yards at Clemson. The Aggies have allowed greater than 300 yards four times, including a season-high of 541 by New Mexico on October 5th.
NC State (3-5, 0-5 ACC) at Duke (6-2, 2-2 ACC), 4pm ET, ESPNU
A notable first: Duke has fielded a football team since 1895. In all those years, the Blue Devils have never been eligible for a bowl in back-to-back years prior to this season. Duke has only made nine bowl appearances in their history, winning three, but will almost assuredly make their tenth appearance after this regular season.
Stayin’ alive: Duke finds themselves fourth in the Coastal at 2-2. They can, however, still represent the division in Charlotte. It would take wins over NC State, Miami, Wake Forest and North Carolina, plus a Clemson victory against Georgia Tech in order for this scenario to come to fruition.
We love the 90s: Since 1990, NC State is 14-2 against the Blue Devils. Duke defeated NC State in 1993 and 2009. Despite being less than 25 miles apart in the Triangle region of North Carolina, the two teams have not played since that last Duke victory.
#23 Notre Dame (7-2) at Pitt (4-4, 2-3 ACC), 8pm ET, ABC
Less than zero: Pitt suffered their second rushing outing of fewer than ten yards this season last week against Georgia Tech. The Panthers eclipsed their previous season-low of eight yards against Virginia by rushing for minus-five yards against the Yellow Jackets. Panther running back Isaac Bennett led Pitt rushers with 16 yards on six carries.
Exactly zero: Both teams are dead-even in turnover margin on the season. Pittsburgh has forced 11 turnovers, while turning the ball over 11 times themselves. Notre Dame has committed — and caused — ten turnovers. The Panthers’ turnover margin is slightly positive (0.40) against conference opponents. This statistic is buoyed by Pitt’s performance against Duke, in which they forced four Blue Devil turnovers.
Keeping it close: This series has not seen a game decided by greater than six points since a 42-21 Fighting Irish victory in 2005. The last five games have been decided by three, three, six, five and three points, respectively.
Trivia answer: I asked earlier: The Virginia-North Carolina rivalry has been played 118 times. Which two rivalries are the only two to have been played more often?
Only Minnesota/Wisconsin (122 games) and Kansas/Missouri (120 games) have been played more.