Clear Your Schedule – ACC 2015, Week 9

By Brian Wilmer -

Welcome back, everyone! Everyone needs a bye week, and I took mine on what turned out to be one of the crazier weeks of the year. Of course. It’s as though the universe knew.

Since we know what the universe knows, it’s time to figure out what I know.

These Things I Know

  • Mike Glennon and Jeff Driskel. What do the current Tampa Bay Buccaneers backup quarterback and Louisiana Tech starting quarterback have to do with anything, you might ask? Well, they’re the last quarterbacks to defeat Florida State in a regular-season game. Glennon’s 30-for-55, 259-yard performance led NC State to a 17-16 victory on October 6, 2012. That was the last ACC game the Seminoles lost before Georgia Tech and Justin Thomas marched a missed Roberto Aguayo field goal into the end zone as time expired on Saturday. Driskel went 15-of-23 for 147 yards in a 37-26 Florida win on November 24, 2012, the last regular-season game of any type lost by the Seminoles.
  • The haves and the have-nots: After all of our focus on Operation ACC Coastal Chaos, we now have an interesting division — pardon the pun — at the top of both sides of the league. Eight of the 14 league schools have one or fewer wins in league play. Five have three or four league wins. Five are already bowl-eligible (Clemson, Florida State, Pitt, Duke and North Carolina). One more (NC State) is a game away from eligibility. Conversely, five other teams already have five losses (Wake Forest, Boston College, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech).

Another wild week clearly awaits us. In order to get our minds right for Week 9, let’s exercise them with some trivia!

ACC Trivia, Week 9 (answer at the end of the column): Pitt’s 23-20 victory over Syracuse made Pat Narduzzi just the second coach in ACC history to win his first four conference games as a head coach. Who was the other, and when did it happen?

Keyword Search (all times Eastern and rankings AP)

North Carolina (6-1, 3-0) at #23 Pitt (6-1, 4-0 ACC)
7:00pm (Thursday) | ESPN

  • A previous classic: Pittsburgh and North Carolina are hardly strangers to Thursday night festivities. Foge Fazio’s first game as the Panthers’ head coach in 1982 was a Thursday night affair against the Tar Heels, a game his club won 7-6. The quarterback that night — a name you may know, Dan Marino — got ripped four times and was just 15-for-28 for 126 yards. He threw a four-yard score to running back Bryan Thomas that eventually provided the winning margin, however. The Panthers were top-ranked and the Tar Heels fifth that night, though the game was also memorable for featuring one of the best names ever for a kicker: Snuffy Everett.
  • Crowded airspace: This game features a matchup of top-15 pass defenses. Carolina’s pass defense is second-best among FBS teams (137.3 yards per game), while Pitt is 15th (174.6). Amazingly, no opponents have thrown for 200 yards against the Tar Heels this season — Wake Forest was closest at 197 yards. Duke was the last school to throw for 200 against UNC, last November 20. This may not matter, however, as Pitt is 99th in the land in passing offense (186 yards per game). The Panthers had their season high in passing last week, completing 21-of-28 passes for 239 yards in a victory over Syracuse.
  • Let’s get it started: A victory for Pitt would represent their first 5-0 conference start since 2009. The Panthers defeated Louisville, UConn, Rutgers, South Florida and Syracuse to start the Big East slate that year, before falling to West Virginia and Cincinnati. Pitt — interestingly enough — defeated North Carolina 19-17 in that year’s Belk Bowl. Carolina, on the other hand, last started a league slate 4-0 in 1997, defeating Maryland, Virginia, Wake Forest and NC State. They finished that season 11-1, falling only to Florida State.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: Who among you had this game circled as a battle for first place in the ACC Coastal before the season started? I did not.

Louisville (3-4, 2-2 ACC) at Wake Forest (3-5, 1-4 ACC)
7:00pm (Friday) | ESPN2

  • A “tractor pull” awaits: Don’t expect an offensive battle in this game — on paper, at least. Louisville ranks 76th in total offense (387.3 yards per game), and ranks 90th or worse in both scoring offense and rushing offense. Wake, meanwhile, ranks 105th or worse in every offensive category, except for passing offense (66th, 230.4 yards per game). The teams have combined for just 39 touchdowns, only two more than conference leader Georgia Tech.
  • Falling on hard times: Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson still ranks in the top ten — ninth, to be exact — among ACC rushers. His last two games have been a struggle, though, as he has managed just 47 yards on 33 carries over the Cards’ last two contests. Wake has allowed 460 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns over their last two contests.
  • Sack lunch: Louisville had eight sacks last week in a 17-14 victory over Boston College. The last time they had eight in a game was in last year’s 20-10 victory over — wait for it — the Demon Deacons. Wake has again experienced their share of quarterback protection issues, allowing 27 sacks this season. The only ACC school to allow more will line up on the opposite side of the ball, as the Cardinals have been sacked 29 times.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: Louisville’s recent hot streak seems likely to continue, with Syracuse and Virginia at home before a key matchup at Pitt on 11/21.

Syracuse (3-4, 1-2 ACC) at #17 Florida State (6-1, 4-1 ACC)
Noon | ABC

  • Oh, Orange: Everyone remembers Syracuse as the darling of the early season. The Orange started 3-0, with victories over Rhode Island, Wake Forest and Central Michigan. Since then, they’ve lost four straight, starting with a 34-24 loss to LSU in the Carrier Dome. Syracuse has surrendered an average of over 36 points per game in those four losses, which is not a great omen against what is sure to be a furious Seminole club.
  • On the subject of bad omens: Syracuse has one victory against Florida State in eight all-time games. That win came in a stadium that no longer exists. Syracuse defeated Florida State 49 years ago in now-demolished Archbold Stadium, 37-21. The Orange have lost their two ACC games against FSU by a combined score of 97-23.
  • Unprecedented: There’s not a lot of recent history to show how Florida State plays after a loss. That can easily happen when your last loss came three years ago. The ‘Noles clearly weren’t affected by their last loss, though, as they came back to beat Georgia Tech 21-15 to win the ACC Championship Game, then rolled Northern Illinois 31-10 in the Orange Bowl.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: This is about the worst possible place in which Scott Shafer’s Orange could find themselves. Yikes.

Virginia Tech (3-5, 1-3 ACC) at Boston College (3-5, 0-5 ACC)
12:30pm | ACC Network

  • Fearing five: Boston College would lose their fifth consecutive game if they fall to Virginia Tech on Saturday. That last happened three years ago. The Eagles lost to Northwestern, Clemson, Army, Florida State and Georgia Tech in 2012, then defeated Maryland before another losing streak — this one their final four games of the year — ensued. The 2012 Eagles finished 2-10 (1-7 ACC), and Frank Spaziani was fired as head coach after the year.
  • Speaking of streaks: That 2012 season was the only year in which BC has suffered more than five ACC losses. A loss here would drop Steve Addazio’s club to 0-6 in the league, with conference games against NC State and at Syracuse remaining. The Orange have lost 9 of their last 11 conference games, with two victories over Wake Forest their only wins during that period. This might set up quite the…intriguing (?) game between the two to finish the year’s league schedule.
  • And even more streaks: Virginia Tech’s streak of 22 consecutive bowl game appearances is in severe jeopardy. The Hokies need to win three games out of their final four (at Boston College, at Georgia Tech, North Carolina, at Virginia) to become bowl-eligible. The Hokies were 2-8-1 in 1992, the last season they did not play in a bowl game. Frank Beamer’s club beat JMU and Temple that year, then later tied NC State.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: BC is averaging 219 yards of offense per game in their five conference games. Look for another anemic outing against the Hokies.

Georgia Tech (3-5, 1-4 ACC) at Virginia (2-5, 1-2 ACC)
3:00pm | RSN

  • Miracle on Techwood: Last week’s finish against Florida State was so inexplicable that all we can do here is show you this. It almost doesn’t seem real.
  • 25 years later: Top-ranked Virginia — and wow, does it feel every day of 25 years since we could make that claim — fell to Georgia Tech 41-38 on a Scott Sisson field goal nearly exactly 25 years ago at UVa’s Scott Stadium. The Jackets rode the momentum of that 1990 victory to their own share of a national championship that year. (Writer’s note: Let’s make this the last mention of that game, as a certain humble correspondent who grew up a Virginia fan counts this as one of his darkest sports days — or so I’m told.)
  • Righting the ship: Much was made of Mike London’s 0-11 record against primary rivals North Carolina and Virginia Tech after the ‘Hoos fell to North Carolina this past weekend. It should also be noted that London is just 1-4 against the Ramblin’ Wreck. That lone win was a 24-21 takedown of the then-number 12 Jackets in Charlottesville in 2011. UVa has lost the three games after that victory by a combined margin of 126-55.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: Georgia Tech is in a must-win situation. UVa is in a can’t-win situation. Look for the Jackets to continue their recent dominance.

#3 Clemson (7-0, 4-0 ACC) at NC State (5-2, 1-2 ACC)
3:30pm | ABC/ESPN2 (reverse mirror)

  • Tim’s tidbits: Regular readers of this feature are well aware of our adoration of Clemson SID Tim Bourret. Tim came up with another outstanding note this week. That note:
  • Tracking the Textile: This rivalry is referred to as the Textile Bowl, offering a nod to the storied history of textile mills in both Carolinas. Since the game picked up this moniker (1981), Clemson has won 24 of the 34 games played between the two. 10 of those 24 Clemson wins have come in the last 11 games of the series. The ‘Pack belted Clemson 37-13 in 2011 for their only win in the period.
  • Righteous runners: Florida State’s Dalvin Cook is dominating the ACC rushing stats, toting the rock for greater than 148 yards per game. Look right behind him, though, and you’ll see the two featured backs in this game. NC State’s Matt Dayes is second among league rushers (113.29 yards per game), with Clemson’s Wayne Gallman (100.29 yards per game) coming on strong in third place. Dayes had four consecutive 100-yard outings to start the season, before slipping to two consecutive sub-70 yard rushing performances. He then bounced back to carry for 205 yards and two scores against Wake last week. Gallman, for his part, has four 100-yard games in his last five. This week will be a wonderful test for both backs, as they will each face a top-15 rush defense.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: In past years, some may have feared this to be a trap game for Clemson, with Florida State on the horizon for next week. Not this year, though.

Miami (4-3, 1-2 ACC) at #22 Duke (6-1, 3-0 ACC)
7:00pm | ESPNU

  • Scott free: As nearly everyone is now aware, Miami has relieved Al Golden of his duties, and assistant Larry Scott will take over in a tough place to win, Duke’s Wallace Wade Stadium. Scott said the following in this week’s comments to the media:

“I think that change is relevant. What I want to do is make sure that everything is a positive, fast-moving, very forthright, honest, pure, genuine emotion every day in what we’re doing. Football is a real sport. It takes real emotion, and it takes real passion to motivate young people to do things that sometimes they don’t want to do. When you talk change, it starts with me obviously, and it starts with our staff and everybody that is going [to] touch our young men. That’s a relevant term. They’ll feed off whatever you give them.”

  • Bye Felicia: The Miami Herald reports that star quarterback Brad Kaaya is expected to miss the game Saturday, and may not even travel with the team. Kaaya suffered a concussion last week against Clemson, and has not practiced this week. Freshman Malik Rosier stands poised to take over the Hurricane offense, which has to — initially, anyway — be a cause for alarm. Rosier is 9-for-28 passing this season, throwing for 66 yards and two picks.
  • Getting revenge: Miami has won five of six games played in Durham against the Blue Devils. That one loss came two years ago, as backup quarterback Brandon Connette rushed for four scores on just 11 carries in a 48-30 Duke triumph. Connette also completed 5-of-9 passes for 81 yards and another touchdown.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: Our prayers to the family of Miami cornerback Artie Burns, who lost his mother earlier this week. As for the game, Duke should handily win.

Trivia answer: I asked earlier: Pitt’s 23-20 victory over Syracuse made Pat Narduzzi just the second coach in ACC history to win his first four conference games as a head coach. Who was the other, and when did it happen?

Boston College’s Jeff Jagodzinski‘s Eagles defeated Wake Forest, NC State, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech to start the 2007 season. BC won the Atlantic Division that year, fell to Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game, then clipped Michigan State 24-21 in the Champs Sports Bowl to finish 11-3. Jagodzinski went 20-8 as the Eagles’ head coach, won Atlantic Division titles in both of his years in Chestnut Hill, and was fired after interviewing for the New York Jets’ vacancy.

  1. Josh
    October 29, 2015 at 10:48 am

    That 1990 GT-Virginia game finished 41-38 Tech, not 19-17.

    • Brian Wilmer
      October 29, 2015 at 11:14 am

      You’re right – just misfired on that one (I looked at the 19-17 Pitt Belk Bowl thing earlier in the piece and, for whatever reason, typed it again). Corrected. :)

  2. jerry wilmer
    October 30, 2015 at 11:12 am

    Really good piece,yet again.The ACC is really strange this year.With Tech struggling and Carolina and Pitt up around the top,it is most unusual.I guess the fans at Carolina are staying in their seats and not going after a hotdog,as Fedora told them to do.

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