You may recall before last week’s breakdowns that I mentioned there were no real marquee games in the ACC last week, and that allowed the conference to largely escape the absolute craziness that was last week in college football. Just about every result went according to plan. Of course, there are some confusing things still going on around the conference, but we’ll get to those later.
Six games involving conference teams will kick off on Saturday, with trips to New York, Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas and Indiana in the offing. “Kinda-sorta” conference member Notre Dame makes their first of three remaining appearances on the ACC slate this week, and depending on what happens in Atlanta, Virginia could be in sole possession of first place in the Coastal. Pause and process that for a second. Virginia. In first place in the Coastal. To quote a legendary vocalist, strange days, indeed.
The bus is warm, and your seat is ready. Before we leave the station, let’s pose this week’s trivia question!
ACC Trivia, Week 7 (answer at the end of the column): Pitt’s James Conner’s 83 yards against Virginia last week places him second among national rushers with 873 yards. Just four backs have cracked the 800-yard mark at this point in the season. Besides Conner, name those other three backs.
We’ll stick with the Keyword Search feature for all our games this week, so away we go!
Keyword Search (all times Eastern and rankings AP)
#1 Florida State (5-0, 3-0 ACC) at Syracuse (2-3, 0-1 ACC)
Noon | ESPN
- Who’s taking the snaps?: Orange quarterback Terrel Hunt will miss four-to-six weeks due to injury, so either Austin Wilson or A.J. Long will be under center for Syracuse. Wilson, a sophomore, is 11-for-20 for 89 yards on the season, with no scores or interceptions. Long, a freshman, has not attempted a pass this season.
- We’re goin’ streaking: Florida State currently owns two impressive streaks. The Seminoles have won 21 consecutive games overall — a school record — and six consecutive games against Syracuse. The Orange’s last — and only — victory against the ‘Noles came on November 12, 1966, as Syracuse claimed a 37-21 decision.
- One against number one: Syracuse has beaten a top-ranked team just once in school history. Nebraska lost 17-9 at the Carrier Dome on September 29, 1984. The last time Syracuse played a number-one club came in 2002, a 49-7 loss to Miami.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: It might be the biggest upset of the year if FSU’s streaks end this weekend. That’s saying a lot, after last week.
Cincinnati (2-2, 0-1 AAC) at Miami (3-3, 1-2 ACC)
Noon | RSN
- The stuff of generations: Cincinnati owns just one victory in eleven games against the ‘Canes. That victory came in 1947, with the Bearcats defeating Miami 20-7. The teams have not played since 1998.
- Is it Coach Janky Spanky or Sheriff Gonna Getcha?: Depending on the time at which you were asked, you may recognize former Miami running back Clinton Portis as…well, Clinton Portis. You may also recognize one of his many goofy nicknames/alter egos. Whichever version of Portis you recognize, Miami running back Duke Johnson is just 32 yards and a score shy of passing Portis for fourth and eighth, respectively, on Miami’s all-time list for those categories.
- Getting the Munchies: Bearcat quarterback Gunner Kiel is likely out for the game, as he is nursing a rib injury. This likely makes room for Munchie Legaux, who battled an injury of his own. Legaux was the Bearcats’ starter before tearing up his knee, which made room for Kiel. Legaux is 9-of-18 for 57 yards this season, but is 214-for-415 for 2904 yards in his Cincinnati career, finding the end zone 20 times against 16 picks.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Cincy has a nice club, but facing a top-20 defense with a backup — admittedly experienced, sure — is a tough out.
Duke (4-1, 0-1 ACC) at #22 Georgia Tech (5-0, 2-0 ACC)
12:30 p.m | ACC Network
Note: Before reading this game preview, go watch this. Seriously. I’ll wait.
- Something to be thankful for: Georgia Tech last found themselves in the Top 25 just before Thanksgiving in 2011. They are now ranked 22nd after starting the season 5-0. The Jackets lost their final two games of that 2011 season, as Georgia won Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate 31-17, and Utah clipped the Jackets in a 30-27, overtime final in the Sun Bowl.
- We’re goin’ streaking, part 2: Duke has lost every game to the Jackets since a 41-17 victory in 2003. Before that game, Georgia Tech had beaten the Blue Devils in every contest since 1994. We’ve talked about Duke’s successful 1994 season, but that 2003 Blue Devil club won just four games. In fact, that 2003 victory snapped yet another streak — Duke had lost six consecutive games at the time.
- (Nearly) first versus last: Paul Johnson’s Jackets are less than three yards shy of 300 yards per game on the ground. The Jackets’ traditionally good run game trails just Boston College among ACC squads, and is ranked 12th in the FBS. On the other hand, Duke is last in the ACC — though, granted, by a mere .20 yards per game — in rush defense. The Blue Devils have allowed nearly 200 rushing yards per game against FBS opponents this season, with their three most recent opponents having broken the 200-yard barrier. Two of those opponents (Kansas and Tulane) rank in the 60s in rushing offense among FBS squads.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Will the November 1 GT matchup with UVa decide the Coastal, or will all hell break loose again? Depends on which Duke team shows up.
Louisville (5-1, 3-1 ACC) at Clemson (3-2, 2-1 ACC)
3:30pm | ESPNU
- Feels like the first time: Louisville and Clemson have never faced off on the gridiron. It seems impossible to believe, but this is the case.
- The “red” zone: Louisville has not allowed a touchdown in the last 13 quarters of play, surrendering just five field goals in that time. Meanwhile, Clemson has scored 15 touchdowns in the last 13 quarters, primarily due to dynamic freshman Deshaun Watson taking over the offense.
- Getting sacked: If you think about Clemson’s career sack leader, would a tight end be the first name that came to your mind? With Vic Beasley’s next sack, this will become the case. Beasley was recruited as a tight end, converting to defensive end as a freshman. He has 28 career sacks, tying him with former Tiger pass rushers Michael Dean Perry and Gaines Adams.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Both teams have successful freshman quarterbacks, but Watson has completely transformed the Tiger offense.
Boston College (3-2, 0-1 ACC) at NC State (4-1, 0-2 ACC)
3:30pm | RSN
- Still trying to crack the left column: Somewhat inexplicably, the ‘Pack are 0-10 in ACC games since coach Dave Doeren’s arrival in Raleigh. Boston College won the most recent affair between these teams, as the Eagles saw Andre Williams set an ACC single-game rushing mark by hanging 339 yards on the Wolfpack in a 38-21 win last year.
- Bailing on the Bay State: If you look at BC’s 2014 schedule, you’ll notice the common state abbreviation “MA” for every game site. The Eagles opened the season by boat racing UMass in Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, before going 2-2 over the next four games in Chestnut Hill. Interestingly, BC lost 27-10 the last time they ventured to Raleigh, in 2012.
- Something in common: NC State quarterback Jacoby Brissett and BC quarterback Tyler Murphy are both former starting quarterbacks at the University of Florida. The 2011 and 2012 seasons found them both on the Gator roster. Brissett played in spot duty during those years, while Murphy saw his first appreciable playing time last season, before transferring.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: BC has the best run game in the conference, but if NC State is going to crack the streak, it’s gotta be here.
North Carolina (2-3, 0-2 ACC) at #6 Notre Dame (5-0)
3:30pm | NBC
- Score and be scored upon: North Carolina ranks fourth in the ACC in scoring offense, tallying 36 points per game. However, the Tar Heels are last in the conference in total defense — and it’s really not close. UNC surrenders nearly 506 yards per game, with no other team allowing greater than 400 yards per game. Carolina’s defense allows 42 points per game, which is 13-and-a-half points greater than the next-“best” team. Carolina opponents have each tallied greater than 346 yards in every game this year, with three opponents gaining 500 yards or greater.
- Decade of defeats: North Carolina last claimed a victory over a top-ten opponent when they beat Miami 31-28 in 2004. To be fair, they only played five top-ten teams in that period, and the last top-ten team they faced was…also Miami, in 2013. The ‘Canes were ranked tenth at the time.
- Get them early: Notre Dame’s sports information department points out that no Irish opponent has scored in the third quarter this season. Only 26 points have been scored in five separate fourth quarters against Notre Dame in 2014. When combined with Brian Kelly’s 21st-ranked overall defense (allowing just 316 yards and change per game), this is a pretty daunting task for Carolina.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Those who are sick of hearing about Notre Dame will likely be force-fed more ND love for another week.
Trivia answer: I asked earlier: Pitt’s James Conner’s 83 yards against Virginia last week places him second among national rushers with 873 yards. Just four backs have cracked the 800-yard mark at this point in the season. Besides Conner, name those other three backs.
Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska), Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin) and Tevin Coleman (Indiana) are the three additional 800-yard rushers. Abdullah leads the nation with 878 yards.