I hate to start on a maudlin note, especially considering the aftermath of the historic flooding parts of my state have suffered over the last week. (Again, my/our thoughts and prayers are with you, South Carolina. May your recovery be swift.)
However, we must start this week with a funeral.
The act of delivering an inexplicably disappointing performance, usually within the context of a college football season.
Clemson had every opportunity to “Clemson” last week — even though, as some of you (justifiably) argued, losing to a top-ten team wouldn’t be “Clemsoning” (on its face, anyway), and they still walked off the field with both a victory and an epic postgame interview from coach Dabo Swinney. So, with that, let us — for now, at least — shovel dirt on the casket of “Clemsoning”. May we (hopefully) never have to mention it again.
This (Other) Thing We Know
- We need your help. As I referenced above — perhaps a bit light-heartedly — our state has suffered serious damage and loss of life in the flooding events over the last week. Our good friend Travis Jenkins from the Chester News & Reporter has a story of how one local high school is trying to help those who lost so much in the storms. If you live anywhere within driving distance, this is a wonderful way to contribute. If you live outside the area, please visit this link (courtesy of The State in Columbia) to find out how you can help.
It’s time to move ahead to this week’s ACC action, with seven big games on the slate! Before we do, though…it’s trivia time!
ACC Trivia, Week 6 (answer at the end of the column): ACC teams have just three home victories in 12 league games thus far. Duke has two of those wins. Which school has the other?
Keyword Search (all times Eastern and rankings AP)
NC State (4-1, 0-1 ACC) at Virginia Tech (2-3, 0-1 ACC)
8:00pm (Friday) | ESPN
- Blacksburg bounced: Virginia Tech’s home-field advantage is well-documented — particularly during Frank Beamer’s tenure — but it has also been on display against the Wolfpack. The Hokies have three wins and a tie in the schools’ five previous meetings in Tech’s hometown, and have won eight of the 12 games played there. Conversely, State has wins in nine of the 13 games played in Raleigh. State has gone 11 years without a win in Blacksburg, though, to be fair, they have played there just once since 2004 (a 38-10 Hokie victory in 2009).
- Next-level success: The conference notes that eight former ACC quarterbacks took the snaps for their NFL teams last week, which was the highest total of any conference. Both schools were well-represented in this total, comprising half of those starters. Former Wolfpack undergrads Philip Rivers and Russell Wilson led their clubs, while Hokie alums Tyrod Taylor and Mike Vick also drew starts.
- Avoiding 0-2: Both schools will battle to avoid starting ACC play 0-2. This is not exactly a new predicament for the ‘Pack — they started the league slate 0-4 last year before winning three of their final four, which followed a winless ACC schedule in 2013 — but the Hokies have never started an ACC season 0-2. (thanks, Josh!)
Print that, tweet that, whatever: NC State looked like a totally different club, then fell to 3-14 under Doeren in league play. What should happen may not be what will happen.
Duke (4-1, 2-0 ACC) at Army (1-4)
Noon | CBSSN
- Ground forces: As anyone who is familiar with Army football knows, Jeff Monken’s charges nearly exclusively run the ball. The Black Knights rush 51 times per game, tallying 15 touchdowns and 5.64 yards per carry. This will hardly be unfamiliar to the Blue Devils, though. Duke opponents have the second-highest total of rushing attempts against the Blue Devil defense — only North Carolina is higher — of any ACC school. Those 41 rushing attempts per game have led Duke to yield just two scores and 3.01 yards per carry.
- Making the Cut: It’s not very often that a coach gets a chance to break his own record. Duke coach David Cutcliffe is tied with legendary Blue Devil coach — and the namesake of the stadium in which his team plays — Wallace Wade for the highest win total by any Duke coach over a three-year span. Cutcliffe’s teams won 25 games between 2012-14, and three wins in his team’s final seven games would allow him to break that record. The Blue Devils are 23-9 since the start of the 2013 season.
- The red zone has always been for loading and unloading: Success inside the 20 can go a long way toward determining a team’s success. Opposing teams have found very little success against Duke in getting to this situation, traveling into the red zone just five times. Four of those trips have resulted in scores, however (two touchdowns, two field goals). Army, meanwhile, has scored on 12 of 13 trips. All 12 of those scores have been touchdowns, giving the Black Knights the highest red zone TD percentage in the FBS (92.31 percent).
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Army beat Duke the last time they played, beating Duke 35-21 in Durham in 2010. It’s tough to envision a repeat performance at West Point.
Virginia (1-3, 0-0 ACC) at Pitt (3-1, 1-0 ACC)
12:30pm | ACC Network
- Breaking the chain: Virginia snapped one streak around conference-openers last season against Louisville, and now hope to begin another. The Cavaliers had dropped four consecutive ACC lid-lifters prior to last season, but that two-point victory over the Cardinals started a string the ‘Hoos hope to continue. A defeat of the Panthers would give Mike London wins in consecutive ACC openers for the first time in his Virginia tenure.
- No room to run: As with many of our matchups each week, there are contrasting statistics that immediately jump out in our review. The primary issue of note centers around the run game. Pat Narduzzi’s Panther defense is nearly as good as there is against the run, surrendering just 71.3 yards per game on the ground. Pitt trails just Kansas State, Boise State and fellow ACC member Boston College in the category. Virginia, on the other hand, ranks last in the ACC in rushing offense. The Cavaliers average just 93.75 rushing yards per game, and have scored just three rushing touchdowns in four contests. Virginia has rushed for greater than 130 yards just once in the last seven games, a 195-yard effort in a victory against Miami last season.
- You’re my Boy(d), blue: Last week’s five-reception performance against Virginia Tech gave Pitt receiver Tyler Boyd an interesting distinction. The junior leads the league in receptions with 26, despite not even having played in the opener against Youngstown State. This will be Boyd’s third crack at the ‘Hoos, having hauled in 10 throws for 174 yards in his two prior outings. Boyd has yet to score against UVa, however.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Pitt’s defense certainly looked the part in taking down the Hokies. Until the Cavaliers win again, it’s tough to pick them in any contest.
Wake Forest (2-3, 0-2 ACC) at Boston College (3-2, 0-2 ACC)
3:00pm | RSN (FOX Sports South, FOX Sports Carolinas)
- No-fly zone: BC’s defensive prowess has seemingly been mentioned ad infinitum in this space in previous weeks, so that they lead the league in pass defense (an eye-popping 96.6 yards per game) is no grand shock. Wake still leads the league — by quite a bit, actually — in passing offense, tossing the pigskin for 1415 yards through five games. No BC opponent has thrown for 200 yards this season — Duke came closest with 195 last week — while Wake has thrown for 200 or greater in four of their last five contests.
- Yeah, about that offense…: As great as BC’s defense has been, the Eagles’ offense has trended almost equally in the opposite direction. Steve Addazio’s crew ranks 13th in the league (behind only UVa) in total offense, compiling a middling 333.6 yards per game. BC has thrown for no greater than 155 yards in a game this season, including two games in which they threw for fewer than 100. This could present a considerable problem for BC, should they find themselves on the wrong end of an early score.
- And the young shall lead them: Wake places four players in the top 50 in total offense in the league, including three freshmen (quarterback Kendall Hinton and running backs Tyler Bell and Matt Colburn) and a sophomore (quarterback John Wolford). Hinton and Wolford rank sixth and 11th, respectively. Four of BC’s five representatives in the top 50 are also either freshmen (quarterbacks Troy Flutie and Jeff Smith) or sophomores (running backs Jon Hilliman and Marcus Outlow).
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Wake Forest can put up offensive numbers, but struggle defensively. BC dominates on defense, but struggles offensively. Total toss-up.
Syracuse (3-1, 1-0 ACC) at South Florida (1-3, 0-1 AAC)
3:30pm | CBSSN
- Hey, aren’t you…?: If it seems as though you’ve seen these teams play before, it’s likely because you have. Syracuse and USF spent time squaring off in the old Big East Conference (man, do I miss that league), playing each year between 2005 and 2012. USF took six of those eight battles, including the first five.
- We can’t pass, and you can’t make us: Don’t count on a lot of passing prowess on USF’s part. The Bulls are 107th in the land in passing offense, throwing for just 166.3 yards per game. This is a good fit for the Syracuse pass defense, though, as they rank 98th in pass yards allowed at 255 yards per game. The Orange did lock down FBS Rhode Island (60 yards) and run-first LSU (157 yards), but allowed 373 and 430 (respectively) to Wake Forest and Central Michigan. USF has not thrown for 200 yards against an FBS opponent this season.
- Orange on the road: Syracuse wraps up a favorable four-game homestand by embarking on this trip to Tampa. The Orange will play four of their next five games away from the Carrier Dome, with conference trips to Virginia, Florida State and Louisville mixed in. Two of the final three opponents to face Scott Shafer’s club this season will do so in western New York, though, as Clemson and Boston College will pay visits.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: This should be a solid win for Syracuse before they venture back into conference play…shouldn’t it?
Georgia Tech (2-3, 0-2 ACC) at #6 Clemson (4-0, 1-0 ACC)
3:30pm | ABC/ESPN2 (reverse mirror)
- Avoiding crooked numbers: Clemson surrendered two passing touchdowns to Notre Dame in last week’s rain-soaked nail-biter. The Irish were the first opponent to post multiple scores through the air against the Tigers since Wake Forest pulled the trick in a 34-20 loss to Clemson last November, a streak of seven games. Georgia Tech, on the other hand, has thrown for a score in 13 consecutive games, including two in a loss to Notre Dame earlier this year. Yellow Jacket quarterback Justin Thomas has his own streak of nine straight games with a scoring throw.
- Be like Mike: Clemson announced this week that junior receiver Mike Williams would miss the remainder of the season while recuperating from a small fracture in his neck. Clemson has experienced no shortage of playmakers at the receiver spot in Williams’ absence, though. Junior Artavis Scott and freshman Ray-Ray McCloud have teamed up to snag 40 passes for 354 yards, with senior Charone Peake and freshman Hunter Renfrow providing a number of key catches. Tiger receivers have found the end zone nine times this season, good for a tie for second in the league behind North Carolina’s 12.
- A history of success: This game will match two of the better teams in the ACC in the ten years (11 seasons) since divisional play began. Clemson ranks third in that stretch, winning 55 of 81 games. The Ramblin’ Wreck is hot on their heels, with 53 of their 82 in the left column. Only Virginia Tech (58-23) and Florida State (57-25) can claim better marks. Paul Johnson has won 37 of 58 league games in Atlanta, while Dabo Swinney has won 41 of 55 ACC contests.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Clemson got a huge win in adverse conditions without having their “fastball”, so to speak. They’ll next look to clip the struggling Jackets.
Miami (3-1, 0-0 ACC) at #12 Florida State (4-0, 2-0 ACC)
8:00pm | ABC
- Got your back: Things looked at least a little bleak — if not worse — when it was discovered that Miami running back Gus Edwards would be lost for the year with a foot injury. Fear not, though, as Joe Yearby has posted three straight 100-yard performances. Yearby has recorded 7.38 yards per carry during those performances. No opposing rusher has carried for 100 yards against the Seminoles this year, with Oregon the last team to achieve the feat in last year’s College Football Playoff.
- Roll tied: Since Jimbo Fisher took over in Tallahassee, the Seminoles are tied with Alabama for the most wins among FBS teams. Florida State has won 62 games during that period, with 33 of them coming in Doak Campbell Stadium (against just four losses). Florida State has not lost at home in 16 tries, and it has been 26 games since they last suffered a conference loss.
- Swingin’ sixty: This game will mark the 60th time these Sunshine State rivals have faced off, with Miami holding a three-game edge in the series. The ‘Canes have lost five straight to FSU, though, with their last win a 38-34 decision in Tallahassee in 2009. Miami last claimed consecutivevictories against FSU by taking six straight from 2000-04 (including a 2003 Orange Bowl win).
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Miami looked largely uninspiring against Cincinnati, while FSU just keeps rolling. Rivalries aside, FSU looks good to move to 5-0.
Trivia answer: I asked earlier: ACC teams have just three home victories in 12 league games thus far. Duke has two of those wins. Which school has the other?
Syracuse defeated Wake Forest 30-17 on September 12 to open the league schedule.