Clear Your Schedule – ACC 2015, Week 3

By Brian Wilmer -

We talked a lot in this space last week about another devastating loss for Mike London’s Virginia Cavaliers, and it looked for what seemed like forever last week that the tide may turn. Notre Dame, with a backup quarterback, time dwindling, and on the road, delivered another punch below the belt to Virginia, pulling out a late victory on a long pass to the corner. The ‘Hoos struggles continue, but they should — should — get a reprieve this week in facing an FCS foe. What else did we learn last week?

These Things We Know

  • Deshaun’s back: After an injury felled Clemson’s Deshaun Watson last year, he seems to have not missed a beat this season. Watson is 37-for-48 through his first two games, throwing for 442 yards and five scores, against just one pick. Clemson has lofty aspirations this season, and as their sophomore quarterback goes, so (likely) will go the Tigers.
  • The Eagles and Jackets are rolling: Granted, it’s just two games, and the level of competition is still what it is, but it’s hard to ignore Boston College and Georgia Tech’s early success. Paul Johnson’s Jackets are averaging 67 points per game, good for second in the nation, while BC is 8th at 50 points per contest. They both get tough tilts this week, with BC facing Florida State on national TV on Friday, while Georgia Tech battles Notre Dame (see this week’s Sixer for the breakdown on that game).
  • Syracuse is this year’s first 1-0 ACC squad: The Orange notched a 30-17 decision over Wake Forest last week, as Scott Shafer’s club knocked off the Demon Deacons. The Orange get nearly a month away from conference opponents, sandwiching a home game against LSU and trip to USF around an off week before facing Virginia in Charlottesville on October 17.

We’ll take you to ten football outposts in this week’s ACC preview, including two teams facing off for the first time in their storied histories. Before we do any of that, though, it’s trivia time!

ACC Trivia (answer at the end of the column): Wake Forest’s John Wolford leads the league in passing yardage (696) through two weeks. Who was the last Wake Forest quarterback to lead the ACC in passing yardage for a season, and when did that occur?

Keyword Search (all times Eastern and rankings AP)

#11 Clemson (2-0, 0-0 ACC) at Louisville (0-2, 0-0 ACC)
7:30pm (Thursday) | ESPN

  • Williams worries: Clemson clearly missed star wideout Mike Williams last week, but you’d never know that from looking at the statistics. The Tigers completed 21 throws in a 41-10 victory over Appalachian State, including four to senior Charone Peake. Peake converted half of those grabs into scores, notching 86 yards on the day. Eight Tiger receivers recorded at least one catch.
  • Under-center uncertainty: We’ve all heard the old adage, “If you have two quarterbacks, you have none”. In Louisville’s case, they have three quarterbacks, and, as of press time, they have none. Bobby Petrino has refused to identify whomever will be taking the snaps as the sun sets over Kentuckiana. Lamar Jackson (26-47, 268 yards, TD, 3 INT), Kyle Bolin (10-18, 157 yards, TD) and Reggie Bonnafon (8-13, 67 yards) have taken snaps for the Cardinals this season.
  • Swinney successes: Four of Clemson’s five Thursday night outings under Dabo Swinney’s tutelage have ended in victory. The Tigers’ only Thursday loss under Swinney came at the hands of Georgia Tech, who dealt Clemson a 30-27 defeat in 2009. Clemson has won four consecutive Thursday games, with wins over Wake Forest (42-13, 2012), NC State (26-14, 2013), Georgia Tech (55-31, 2013) and Wake again (34-20, last season).

Print that, tweet that, whatever: It looks as though Clemson should have an inside track to a fifth-straight Thursday win. If so, the whispers around Petrino will grow louder.

#9 Florida State (2-0, 0-0 ACC) at Boston College (2-0, 0-0 ACC)
8:00pm | ESPN

  • Books, records, films – these things matter: Boston College accomplished an impressive four milestones in a 76-0 trouncing of FCS opponent Howard last week. BC set conference records for largest margin of victory, fewest total yards allowed (11), points in a first quarter (41) and points in a half (62). The output helped vault the Eagles to a tie for ninth nationally in scoring offense (50 points per game) and a tie for first in scoring defense (1.5 points per game), despite the nearly immeasurably small sample size and two FCS opponents.
  • It’s a record we’ve been listening to and enjoying, Barry: Florida State enjoys their own record. The Seminoles have the two longest conference win streaks in ACC history. Their current 24-game run is eclipsed only by a 29-game stretch from 1992-95, and equals a similar run from 1998-2001. The respective strings were snapped by Virginia (1995) and North Carolina (2001), with NC State handing the ‘Noles their last defeat before this string began.
  • What’s the name of your label? Top Five Records.: The Seminoles own five consecutive victories over the Eagles. BC last defeated Florida State 28-21 in Chestnut Hill in 2009. The Eagles held FSU to 71 rushing yards in the contest, while quarterback Dave Shinskie completed 13-of-22 passes for 211 yards and two scores. Montel Harris added 179 yards on the ground and two more trips to the end zone.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: In the highly unlikely event BC does to FSU what they’ve done to Maine and Howard, that might shock more than a few people.

Wake Forest (1-1, 0-1 ACC) at Army (0-2)
Noon | CBSSN

  • 28.6 percent: In an odd coincidence, both Wake’s Dave Clawson and Army’s Jeff Monken have won four of the 14 games they have coached at their respective schools. Both coaches had — and still have — overall coaching records of greater than .500; Clawson is 94-90, while Monken is 42-26.
  • Ground offensive: The Deacons allowed four yards per carry to Syracuse last week (149 total), and they now get the task of facing one of the nation’s most run-heavy units. The Black Knights average 218 rushing yards per game, throwing for exactly half that total. Quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw paces the club with 272 rushing yards and three scores. Army has rushed for fewer than 180 yards just once in their last 25 games, a 122-yard effort against Air Force in a 23-6 loss last November.
  • Lofty company: A note from Wake Forest’s sports information department underscores the transformation within the Deacon program. TCU, Arkansas, Memphis, Georgia Tech, Duke, and…Wake Forest — yes, Wake Forest — are the only schools in the FBS that find themselves among the top 25 in both total offense and total defense. Wake is 23rd in total offense and 22nd in total defense.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: Contain Bradshaw, go to 2-1. It honestly seems just that simple for Clawson’s charges.

Illinois (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten) at North Carolina (1-1, 0-0 ACC)
Noon | ESPN2

  • Whooooa, we’re halfway there: The next first-half point Illinois gives up will be the first. The Illini have outscored opponents 68-0 in the opening stanza this season. The Tar Heels posted 36 first-half points last week, en route to a 53-14 decision over North Carolina A&T.
  • Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?: You may recall above that we mentioned that Boston College is tied for first in scoring defense, surrendering 1.5 points per game. The team with whom the Eagles are tied? That’s right — the Illini, who have surrendered just three combined points to Kent State and Western Illinois to start the year.
  • A rare intersection: The last time these two schools played, Carolina coach Larry Fedora was just two years removed from graduating from Austin College. The Tar Heels claimed a 20-point victory over Illinois 28 years and two weeks prior to this year’s date. The schools will meet again in Champaign on September 10, 2016.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: After the malaise of Tim Beckman’s tenure, Illinois starting 3-0 seemed inconceivable. Some may now look at this matchup and call it likely.

Central Michigan (1-1, 0-1 MAC) at Syracuse (2-0, 1-0 ACC)
12:30pm | RSN (regional)/ESPN3

  • A different look: Syracuse and Central Michigan played last season in Mount Pleasant, with the Orange thumping the Chippewas 40-3. Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt combined for 267 yards (175 passing, 92 rushing) in that game, finding the end zone three times. Hunt will not play, however, as he is out for the year due to injury. Freshman Eric Dungey has performed quite well in his stead, however, completing 18-of-30 passes for 335 yards and four touchdowns. Former CMU coach Dan Enos is also gone, having moved on to become the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at Arkansas. He has been replaced by CMU alum and former Dolphins special teams coach John Bonamego.
  • Where were you 24 years ago?: Ah yes, the halcyon days. Bryan Adams’ “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)” topped the charts, Terminator 2: Judgment Day topped the box office, and Paul Pasqualoni’s then-Orangemen clipped Vanderbilt, Maryland and Florida to start the season 3-0. They’ve not done so again since, but could with a victory over the Chippewas on Saturday.
  • A special number: Much like Ole Miss and several other schools, Central Michigan has designated a uniform number to be worn in honor of a fallen teammate. Derrick Nash lost his battle with leukemia over the summer, and an honored Chippewa will don his number 21 each week. This week’s honoree is sophomore defensive back Josh Cox.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: Dungey’s development continues, and it may be time to talk some more about Scott Shafer’s skill in molding quarterbacks.

Nebraska (1-1, 0-0 Big Ten) at Miami (2-0, 0-0 ACC)
3:30pm | ABC/ESPN2 (reverse mirror)

  • What gives?: After losing running back Gus Edwards, Miami has received able returns from Joe Yearby and Mark Walton. Both backs have 24 carries on the season (for 186 and 121 yards, respectively), and none of those carries have resulted in a loss. Nebraska, meanwhile, ranks 17th in the nation in rush defense, allowing just 75.5 yards per game. Opposing offenses rush for 3.02 yards per carry against the Huskers.
  • A lack of numbers: Miami and Nebraska have played 11 times in school history. It’s been a while, though, for one of the conditions you’ll see this week. The teams have only played three times in which neither team was ranked, with the last a 36-34 Nebraska victory in the ill-fated Gotham Bowl in 1962.
  • Gimme a break: This is an unusual stretch for Nebraska, in that their schedule does not offer a bye week for the next two months. The Huskers will have played their entire out-of-conference slate and nearly the entirety of their Big Ten conference schedule (only Iowa will remain) before finally getting a week off on November 21st.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: Nebraska hasn’t won in Miami since 1951. If the ‘Canes can somehow start 3-0 without their star running back…

Virginia Tech (1-1, 0-0 ACC) at Purdue (1-1, 0-0 Big Ten)
3:30pm | ESPNU

  • Similarities: The Hokies and Boilermakers face off for the first time in program history with somewhat similar results this season. Both schools started their season with devastating losses (the Hokies to Ohio State, Purdue to Marshall), then came back to throttle FCS foes last week (Furman for the Hokies, Indiana State for the Boilermakers).
  • Strangers from the Commonwealth: Not only has Virginia Tech never played Purdue, they have never played any game in the Hoosier State. Virginia Tech has played Purdue’s in-state rival Indiana in a bowl game. Purdue, meanwhile, has played an FBS team from Virginia just once in Ross-Ade Stadium. UVa traveled to Purdue for a five-plus touchdown loss in 1968.
  • Two bills: Virginia Tech’s sports information department notes that the Hokies have won 102 of the 109 games in which they have rushed for greater than 200 yards over the last 20 seasons, including last week against Furman. The Hokies finished just one yard shy of 300 against the Paladins last week. While the Boilermakers have allowed just 163 and 160 yards in their two games this season, opponents rushed for greater than 200 yards in five of Purdue’s final six games in the 2014 season.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: Purdue may be down a bit, but this is a must-win for the Hokies. A game at East Carolina awaits before the ACC schedule arrives.

William & Mary (1-0, 0-0 CAA) at Virginia (0-2, 0-0 ACC)
3:30pm | ESPN3

Info button: The Tribe pummeled Lafayette 34-7 in week one, prior to an oddly-placed bye week. Jimmye Laycock’s club has three victories over the Cavaliers since 1976, including a season-opening victory over UVa in Charlottesville in 2009. W&M forced seven turnovers in that contest. Laycock has been the head man in Williamsburg for 35 years, winning 232 games and leading his school to nine I-AA/FCS playoff appearances.

QB Steve Cluley (20-30, 289 yards, 2 TD)
RB Mikal Abdul-Saboor (17 carries, 103 yards, 2 TD; 3 receptions, 25 yards)
DB DeAndre Houston-Carson (11 tackles)

Print that, tweet that, whatever: UVa has experienced two devastating losses this season. The Tribe can’t come up Interstate 64 and claim a victory…can they?

NC State (2-0, 0-0 ACC) at Old Dominion (2-0, 0-0 C-USA)
7:00pm | ASN

  • Outstanding offenses: The Wolfpack have opened the season against two teams known for their offensive prowess, handily defeating both Troy and Eastern Kentucky. Surprisingly enough, the Wolfpack actually shut out EKU last week, continuing the resurgence of their defense. That defense gets another test this week, facing a Monarch squad that is known for putting numbers on the board. ODU ranks 13th in the land in rushing offense, toting the rock for nearly 284 yards per game. NCSU allows just 78 rushing yards per game, though Troy and EKU were left to throw for the majority of their respective games.
  • And the young shall lead them: Old Dominion finds themselves just barely into the double digits in the number of seniors on their club. Only Wake Forest (6) and UCF and Vanderbilt (tied at 9) have more seniors than Old Dominion’s 10. There are just three seniors on ODU’s offensive 2-deep (wide receiver Blair Roberts, left tackle Connor Mewbourne, and right guard Tyler Burns), with five more on defense.
  • Lucky seven: NC State’s sports information department notes the Wolfpack’s apparent obsession with the number seven. Dave Doeren’s offense ran for 2,659 yards last year, while throwing for 2,652. Just seven yards separated those numbers. This year, the ‘Pack have rushed for 450 and thrown for 443; again, a difference of just seven yards.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: It’s hard to question senior leadership, and State has it in QB Jacoby Brissett. Watch Shuler Bentley, who took over for Taylor Heinicke.

Pitt (2-0, 0-0 ACC) at Iowa (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten)
8:00pm | BTN

  • Unexpected undefeateds: Pitt and Iowa both started the season 2-0, just as they did last season. The Hawkeyes survived challenges against Northern Iowa and Ball State in 2014, before succumbing to Iowa State. Pitt, meanwhile, beat Delaware and Boston College, then fell — interestingly enough, to Iowa — after a victory over FIU moved them to 3-0. Iowa conquered their rival this year, defeating the Cyclones 31-17 last week.
  • You’ll get nothing and like it: Pitt’s loss of James Conner to injury has been well-chronicled in this space. Backups Qadree Ollison (288 yards, 2 TD) and Darrin Hall (52 yards, TD) have ably filled in, though. On the other side of the ball, the Hawkeyes have allowed zero rushing touchdowns this season. Iowa has surrendered zero rushing touchdowns in four of their last seven games; however, the other three have seen them allow multiple scores (three at Minnesota and against Wisconsin, and four against Tennessee, all in 2014).
  • Battling Boyd: Pitt junior receiver Tyler Boyd lit up the Hawkeyes last season, pulling in 10 catches for 153 yards. Boyd has barely bested that reception total this year, notching just 11 receptions for 95 yards. The Panther star has notched greater than 2,500 yards in his career, however, moving him into the top 25 on the all-time ACC receiving yards list.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: 3-0 starts have historically led to bowl bids for both teams. That will be on everyone’s minds when toe meets leather in Iowa City Saturday night.

Trivia answer: I asked earlier: Wake Forest’s John Wolford leads the league in passing yardage (696) through two weeks. Who was the last Wake Forest quarterback to lead the ACC in passing yardage for a season, and when did that occur?

Former Deacon quarterback Brian Kuklick led the ACC in passing in 1996. He threw for 2,526 yards.


  1. jerry wilmer
    September 17, 2015 at 11:36 am

    As always,you lay out a most informative analysis,week after week.I can hear Hank Jr.singing in my head,’Are you ready for some football’ ?
    Great job,as usual and a telling week for several teams here.

  2. Richard
    September 17, 2015 at 4:09 pm

    Is this suppose to cover all ACC games? Because I don’t see Northwestern vs. Duke.

    • Brian Wilmer
      September 17, 2015 at 6:21 pm

      That game — like Georgia Tech and Notre Dame — will appear in this week’s edition of The Sixer, which will be released on Friday. :) (I hate revealing those games ahead of time, but these types of cases kind of betray me. :))

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