We’re (largely) into the swing of ACC play, and it’s time for our look ahead at Week 4. There are nine intriguing games on the slate this week, including a few teams that are approaching “put up or shut up” territory. Before we tread into things we don’t know, we should review what we do know.
These Things We Know
- BC falls: Florida State clipped Boston College Friday night, as the Eagles’ offensive juggernaut put up a muted performance. BC passed for a measly 56 yards and converted only 5-of-15 third downs.
- #STATEment: NC State hammered yet another opponent this week, punishing Old Dominion 38-14. The Wolfpack allowed the Monarchs just eight first downs in the contest. ODU also rushed for minus-3 yards on 21 carries. The ‘Pack head to Mobile this weekend to face South Alabama.
- Marketing never sleeps: Clemson is off this weekend, but their athletic department is still hard at work. Exhibit A:
— Clemson Athletics (@ClemsonTigers) September 23, 2015
While you’re making your plans for a “hot date” this weekend, it’s trivia time!
ACC Trivia, Week 4 (answer at the end of the column): Virginia has not yet forced a takeaway on defense this year, making them one of three FBS teams to be able to make that dubious claim. Who are the other two teams? (hint: one is a fellow ACC school)
Boise State (2-1, 0-0 Mountain West) at Virginia (1-2, 0-0 ACC)
8:00pm (Friday) | ESPN
- Busting a new Bronco: Boise quarterback Ryan Finley will be unavailable Friday night, as he is expected to miss eight weeks following a broken bone in his ankle. Three quarterbacks are listed on the two-deep for the week, and at least two are expected to play. Freshman Brett Rypien (8-9, 126 yards), redshirt sophomore Thomas Stuart (9-13, 69 yards, TD) and redshirt freshman Alex Ogle (no attempts) are separated by the dreaded word “or” on the depth chart. Rypien’s uncle, Mark, played 11 NFL seasons for the Redskins, Browns, Rams, Eagles, Falcons, Colts, Seahawks, and Raiders.
- We went to different schools together: Boise has never played a game in the Commonwealth of Virginia. UVa has, however, played at Boise, despite the fact that UVa and Boise have never played each other. Confused? Don’t be. Virginia suffered a 37-34, overtime loss to Fresno State in the 2004 (and long-defunct) MPC Computers Bowl.
- 29 forever: Despite Boise’s loss to BYU two weeks ago that ended their second-longest active win streak, shed no tears for the Broncos. Since 2000, Boise leads FBS teams in winning percentage, emerging victorious in 169 of their 198 games. Their 29 losses are seven better than second-place Ohio State (36) during the period.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Virginia surrendered nearly 400 yards (on 76 plays) to FCS William & Mary last week. Whomever quarterbacks for Boise should claim a win.
#20 Georgia Tech (2-1, 0-0 ACC) at Duke (2-1, 0-0 ACC)
Noon | ESPN2
- One in the books: Death, taxes, Georgia Tech winning the first ACC game on their yearly slate. It’s been almost that automatic for Paul Johnson during his tenure in Atlanta, with a 20-17, overtime loss to Virginia Tech in 2012 being the only blemish in his seven tries. The Ramblin’ Wreck have started the league slate with Duke just once in that time, a 38-14 victory over the Blue Devils in Durham two seasons ago.
- Raise the Roof: The last coach to lead Duke to victory over the Yellow Jackets in Durham will be at Saturday’s game. He’ll just be wearing old gold and white. Ted Roof was Duke’s interim coach for the Blue Devils’ 41-17 victory in 2003. Roof replaced the fired Carl Franks (Franks went 7-45 in parts of five seasons in Durham), then went 6-45 himself as the head coach before being fired in 2007. Roof is currently Johnson’s defensive coordinator at Tech, leading a unit that ranks 20th in the FBS in scoring defense (15.3 points per game).
- #OperationACCCoastalChaos: We have made light of the ACC Coastal Division on this site from time to time, particularly of the potential chaos that could have occurred with all of the teams being so close to each other in the standings. Duke notes a statistic that seems ridiculous at first glance, but the more you think about it, sounds totally believable. The team that has lost the game between these schools in the last two years has gone on to play for the ACC championship (Duke two years ago, Georgia Tech last year).
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Both teams come in off devastating losses to teams they were expected to beat. The advantage may, oddly, go to the loser this week.
#8 LSU (2-0, 2-0 SEC) at Syracuse (3-0, 1-0 ACC)
Noon | ESPN
- Tug of war: On one side, LSU features dominant rusher Leonard Fournette, who has rushed for more yards than any runner in the season’s two opening games in LSU history (387). On the other, you have Syracuse, who features the third-best rush defense in the FBS (46.7 yards per game). The Orange have only allowed a team to rush for what Fournette averages (193 yards per game or so) once since the start of last season. Pittsburgh ran for 256 yards in a 30-7 victory over Syracuse late last season.
- A lot has changed: LSU and Syracuse have played twice in their history (1965 and 1989), but it’s been a little while longer since the Tigers have visited the Empire State. LSU played at Fordham 73 years ago, and has not returned since. The 1965 LSU-Syracuse game was played in New Orleans, with the 1989 game taking place in Tampa. The Orange will play at LSU on September 9, 2017.
- You can’t spell “Syracuse” without “SEC”: Syracuse has won 12 of the 24 games they’ve played against SEC competition, and has not lost to a team from the conference in 13 years. The only league school against whom the Orange hold a losing record is Tennessee, as the Vols have defeated Syracuse each of the three times they have played.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: On paper, this looks like a huge LSU win. Can Syracuse make a statement in the Carrier Dome?
Delaware (1-2, 0-1 CAA) at North Carolina (2-1, 0-0 ACC)
12:30pm | RSN
Info button: The Blue Hens of the Colonial Athletic Association (FCS) come into this one off a 28-21 loss at #6/3 Villanova to begin their conference slate. Delaware lost to Jacksonville of the Pioneer League to start their season, while defeating Lafayette of the Patriot League. … Delaware actually owns a reasonably impressive record of success against FBS schools, having won 78 of their 148 previous meetings. They last defeated an FBS team in 2007, downing Navy 59-52. … Head coach Dave Brock spent two years (2005-06) as an assistant in Chapel Hill, working under then-head coach John Bunting. Brock coached wide receivers, served as the assistant head coach, and coordinated recruiting during his two years of calling Kenan Stadium home. … Delaware was projected to finish sixth in the CAA by the league’s coaches and sports information directors.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: At one time, Delaware might have been a trendy upset pick. That time isn’t this year, though. A Tar Heel tuneup before heading to Atlanta.
Indiana (3-0, 0-0 Big Ten) at Wake Forest (2-1, 0-1 ACC)
12:30pm | ACC Network
- Setting the FBS ablaze: When looking for reasons for the Hoosiers’ strong start, the contributions of UAB transfer Jordan Howard cannot be ignored. The former Blazer leads the nation in rushing, having recorded 507 yards and three scores in IU’s three wins. Howard ran for 203 yards in a back-and-forth, 38-35 win over Western Kentucky in Bloomington last week.
- Hello, stranger: A win this week would give Wake Forest a 3-1 start for the first time since 2012. A 49-37 victory over Army gave the Deacons that start, with wins over Liberty and North Carolina sandwiching a 52-0 blanking at Florida State’s Doak Campbell Stadium. Indiana, meanwhile, is 3-0 for the first time in five years. That Hoosier team lost seven of its final nine games.
- 7 > 3: Indiana is outscoring Wake by greater than 15 points per game. A large part of that has to do with the Hoosiers’ success inside the 20. Indiana has found the end zone on nine of 15 such opportunities, adding four field goals. Wake has put points on the board in eight red zone trips, but the Deacs have only made 10 total trips. Wake clearly needs to create opportunities, and cash in touchdowns in place of field goals whenever possible.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: This game should be closer than we may think. Indiana’s celebration would be short-lived, though. A visit from Ohio State looms.
Northern Illinois (2-1, 0-0 MAC) at Boston College (2-1, 0-0 ACC)
1:00pm | ESPN3
- A tale of two teams: Much was made of BC’s 100-3 output against FCS foes to start the season. The Eagles set four records — as we chronicled here last week — in their 76-0 victory over Howard. Last week, however, the Eagles logged just 195 total yards in a 14-0 shutout loss dealt them by visiting Florida State. BC had more offensive snaps (58) than rushing yards (56) in the game.
- Impossible, but true: Urban Meyer’s tenure at Ohio State has been much-celebrated. The Buckeyes’ offensive prowess has been clear, including a staggering 7,674 yards of offense en route to a national title last year. Northern Illinois, though, became the first team to hold a Meyer-lead Buckeye team under 300 total yards in a 20-13 loss last week. Ohio State averaged just 4.52 yards per offensive play, the lowest average the Huskies have allowed against an FBS opponent since a 35-21 victory at Ball State last season.
- Time for some MACtion: Boston College hasn’t lost to a team currently in the MAC for 37 years, a span of 20 games. Three of those victories have come in this decade (since 2010), with a victory over Kent State and two over UMass. NIU, meanwhile, has won just once in nine tries against ACC schools. That decision was a one-point win over Wake Forest 13 years ago.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Can the Huskies overcome the hangover of taking Ohio State to the limit and not closing? Which is the real BC team? Questions abound.
Virginia Tech (2-1, 0-0 ACC) at East Carolina (1-2, 0-0 AAC)
3:30pm | ABC/ESPN2 (reverse mirror)
- Can’t keep runnin’ away: East Carolina notes that the Pirates have won 17 of their last 18 games when rushing for 200 or more yards. Oddly enough, East Carolina has experienced no such recent success against the Hokies. The Pirates have barely reached 200 combined yards (216, to be exact) in their last four meetings with Virginia Tech. East Carolina claimed a 28-21 victory in last year’s outing, despite toting the ball for just 75 yards on 25 carries. This was one of ECU’s two double-digit rushing efforts on the season; they recorded just 14 yards on 27 carries in a 32-30 loss to UCF in the conference championship game.
- Passin’ me by: Concern gripped the Hokie faithful when starting quarterback Michael Brewer was felled by injury. Fear not, though, as Brenden Motley has not missed a beat under center. The redshirt junior filled the air with completions in a 51-24 victory over Purdue last Saturday, connecting on 15-of-23 passes for 220 yards and two scores. Motley has compiled quarterback ratings of 175.72 and 174.27 in his two starts for Tech this season.
- Never stop: Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium has been quite the friendly confines for East Carolina of late. Just three opponents have left the field victorious in Greenville in the last 20 games ECU has played there. The most recent such loss, however, came at the hands of the Hokies. Frank Beamer’s club won a 15-10 slugfest in eastern North Carolina in 2013. Virginia Tech also clipped the Pirates 17-10 in 2011.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: East Carolina has defensive concerns, and doesn’t (yet) have the offense to mask them. The Hokies should win another tight one.
Samford (2-1, 0-1 SoCon) at Louisville (0-3, 0-1 ACC)
6:00pm | ESPN3
Info button: Samford, a perennial FCS playoff contender, suffered their only loss of the season last week, a 31-21 in-conference defeat at the hands of tenth-ranked Chattanooga in Birmingham. … Bulldogs head coach Chris Hatcher is familiar with the Cardinals, having come to Samford from fellow Bluegrass State school Murray State. His Racers didn’t fare so well against the Cards last year, falling 66-21 in Louisville. Louisville posted 603 yards of offense in the tilt. … Samford was projected to finish second in the SoCon in the preseason media poll, while the coaches picked them third. Chattanooga was the predicted champ in both polls. … A win over Louisville would give Samford just their fourth-ever win against current ACC foes, and their first against anyone in the conference aside from Miami. The Bulldogs defeated the ‘Canes in 1927, 1928 and 1930.
RBs Denzel Williams and K’rondis Larry (67 combined carries, 420 yards, 4 TD)
QB Michael Eubank (72-105, 907 yards, 7 TD, 3 INT)
DB Justin Cooper (25 tackles [15 unassisted], INT, reigning SoCon Defensive Player of the Week)
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Hatcher is a brilliant offensive mind who clearly knows his opponent. That won’t be nearly enough against the angry Cardinals.
NC State (3-0, 0-0 ACC) at South Alabama (2-1, 0-0 Sun Belt)
8:00pm | ESPNEWS
- Maybe you really can’t spell “Wolfpack” without a “D”: NC State was somewhat pedestrian on defense for much of last season, “peaking” (such as it was) with a 549-yard effort (479 on the ground) in a humiliating 56-23 home loss to Georgia Tech. State hasn’t lost a game since, though, ripping off a six-game stretch in which four of those opponents tallied 219 or fewer total yards. NCSU ranks behind just fellow ACC member Boston College in total defense, surrendering a stingy 188.3 total yards per game. South Alabama ranks no higher than 51st nationally in any offensive category (passing, 255.7 yards per game).
- “X” to the next: Speaking of that stout NC State defense, they will have quite the battle on their hands with Jaguar running back Xavier Johnson. Johnson averages an almost-comical 8.82 yards per carry on 33 totes, finding the end zone twice. Nearly half of Johnson’s 291 yards on the year came last week, as he tallied 142 on the ground in a 34-27 overtime victory at San Diego State.
- J. B.’s comin’ through: After losing the starting job at Florida to Jeff Driskel — who himself later transferred — few could fault anyone for questioning how successful Jacoby Brissett would be taking over under center in Raleigh. Brissett’s senior year has started with a 56-for-72 performance, notching 591 yards and four scores. The school notes that Brissett’s career 62.7 percent completion percentage is bested only by Philip Rivers at NC State.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: NC State has won the first two games of the three-gamer between the schools. Look for a sweep here before Louisville invades Raleigh.
Trivia answer: I asked earlier: Virginia has not yet forced a takeaway on defense this year, making them one of three FBS teams to be able to make that dubious claim. Who are the other two teams? (hint: one is a fellow ACC school)
Vanderbilt and Wake Forest are the other two schools without a defensive takeaway this season. Virginia is 102nd in the nation (last in the ACC) in total defense, surrendering nearly 445 yards per contest.