It’s here, everyone. The ACC’s divisions are finally starting to decide each other, and the next two weeks should, at the very least, tell us whom to expect in Charlotte. We have just six games this week across the conference, but there are consequences in all of them, be they for division titles, bowl eligibility or late-season resurgence. While all of those issues sort themselves out — and maybe some of the league’s officials do, too — let’s look at the main thing we now know.
This Thing We Know
Virginia Tech announced earlier this week the retirement of head coach Frank Beamer, effective after the close of this season. The Hokies released a tremendous infographic showing the full impact Beamer has had on the program in Blacksburg. Growing up in Virginia, I saw the complete transformation Beamer enacted at his alma mater, and — admittedly through clenched teeth, at times — always respected the success he brought to the program and the university. Campaigns are underway to get both Gameday and Metallica to Blacksburg (the latter to play “Enter Sandman” as the team takes the field) for Beamer’s final home game as the Hokies’ coach against North Carolina on November 21.
Happy trails, Coach. Thanks for your eternal stamp on the Hokie program.
ACC Trivia, Week 10 (answer at the end of the column): Virginia’s Taquan Mizzell is 55 yards away from breaking the 1,000-yard mark in combined yards (446 rushing, 499 receiving). Who was the last Virginia runner to rush for 1,000 yards in a season?
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#8 Notre Dame (7-1) at Pitt (6-2, 4-1 ACC)
Noon | ABC
- Remember us?: Though Notre Dame is playing a “modified” ACC schedule, the Panthers are one ACC opponent with whom the Irish are quite familiar. These schools have played 69 times in a series that dates back over 100 years. Pitt has won just 21 of those contests, though 11 of those wins have come in the Steel City. Two of those wins came at Heinz Field (27-22 in 2009 and 28-21 in 2013, the teams’ last meeting) in five tries.
- Bowling for wins: Though the Panthers are already bowl-eligible, victories for the Panthers against Notre Dame are generally indicative of postseason trips. The last four victories for the Panthers against the Irish have come in seasons in which they played in a bowl game (2004, 2008, 2009 and 2013). The last year in which Pitt beat Notre Dame and did not play in the postseason was 1999 (Pitt won 37-27, but finished 5-6).
- Throwing troubles: The best possible outcome for Pitt would be to avoid falling into an early hole. The Panthers are 98th in passing offense, throwing for just 195.5 yards per game. Notre Dame, conversely, allows almost that exact number of passing yards (193.6 yards per game), good for 33rd in the FBS. The Panthers threw for their highest total this year — 262 yards — in a 26-19 loss to North Carolina last week. Notre Dame has allowed opponents to throw for greater than that 262-yard total three times this year, all victories.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: The Irish have experienced a number of close shaves this year, and this should be another. Look for a late score to decide this one.
Duke (6-2, 3-1 ACC) at #21 North Carolina (7-1, 4-0 ACC)
Noon | ESPN2
- Valuing the Victory Bell: This game touts the Victory Bell as its trophy. The winning team gets the privilege of spray-painting the non-bell portion of the trophy, and Duke blue spent a lot of time without being used. In the last 25 years, Duke has claimed the trophy just three times. Two of those wins have come in the last three years, though, with Duke winning 33-30 in 2012 and 27-25 in 2013. The 2013 victory came in Chapel Hill, which was the Blue Devils’ first victory in Kenan Stadium since a 41-0 shutout in 1989.
- Clinching the Coastal — maybe?: Two of the three teams with realistic chances of winning the Coastal Division (Pitt the other) face off in Chapel Hill this weekend. This is the first of two potential elimination games in the division in back-to-back weeks. Duke finishes the league slate with Pitt at home next week, then travels to Virginia and Wake Forest. Carolina has three league games of their own after this one, hosting Miami and traveling to Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. Pitt plays at Duke next week, then hosts Louisville and Miami.
- On a run: North Carolina fell to South Carolina to start the season, but has won seven games in a row. This is the first time that has happened in 18 years. The last time the Tar Heels had a streak of five or more was in 2013 — a streak which, interestingly enough, was ended by the Blue Devils. Last week’s controversial Duke loss ended a four-game streak for David Cutcliffe’s club.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: This may come down to how Duke fares against Carolina’s 104th-ranked run defense. Duke has run for 165 yards or greater in seven of eight.
Syracuse (3-5, 1-3 ACC) at Louisville (4-4, 3-2 ACC)
12:30 pm | ACC Network (split)
- What gives?: Louisville’s sports information department notes that the Cardinals have allowed 55 rushing yards per game over their last five games (four wins). Syracuse has rushed for more than double that in four of their last five, with a 73-yard effort against South Florida the only exception. All five of those Orange games, though, have resulted in losses. The only Cardinal opponent to run for more than 71 yards in the last five was Florida State, who ran for 133 in a 41-21 victory over Louisville.
- Stuck on 700: The Orange’s 30-27 victory over Central Michigan gave the university 700 all-time wins. It’s been nearly two months since Scott Shafer’s club put one in the left column. Only 18 schools possess more all-time victories than Syracuse.
- Memories: Syracuse could even the series at seven apiece between the schools with a victory on Saturday. As you’ll recall, the two used to meet as Big East foes, with all of their meetings coming since 1985. The series has largely been dominated by streaks, with Syracuse winning three, then Louisville the next three, followed by two for Syracuse and three more for Louisville. The teams have split the last two, with Syracuse winning in 2012 and Louisville winning last season.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Louisville would draw one game closer to bowl eligibility with a victory. Bobby Petrino’s troops look to be in good shape on Saturday.
NC State (5-3, 1-3 ACC) at Boston College (3-6, 0-6 ACC)
12:30 pm | ACC Network (split)
- A study in contrast: The ACC notes that Boston College has taken the lead in total defense again this week. However, a look at their numbers shows quite the difference in that suffocating defense versus their offense. BC is a top-five unit among FBS teams in every major measure (first in rush and total defense, fourth in scoring, fifth in passing). However, aside from rushing (73rd, 176.1), the Eagles are outside the top 100 in every offensive category. BC has totaled 270 yards or fewer in each of their last four games, including a season-low 79 in a loss to Louisville two weeks ago.
- Equal opportunity offense: NC State’s sports information department notes that the Wolfpack are about as equally balanced on offense this year as they were last year (204.5 rushing yards per game and 204.0 passing in 2014). NCSU rushes for 202.6 and passes for 206.9 per contest this season. Only Iowa and Tennessee have fewer yards between their rushing and passing totals.
- Evening the score: An NC State win would pull the series between the two level over the last six contests. BC has won three of the last four games against NC State, including a 38-12 victory in 2013, the last time the two played in Chestnut Hill.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Boston College’s defense should limit the ‘Pack, but their offense is just far too anemic to predict a victory in this one.
Virginia (3-5, 2-2 ACC) at Miami (5-3, 2-2 ACC)
3:00pm | RSN
- Speaking of offensive struggles: Virginia ranks 95th or lower in every offensive category, except for passing offense (223.6, 68th). The ‘Hoos have, however, seen a bit of an offensive renaissance in winning two of their last three contests. UVa is averaging just shy of 385 yards per game in those last three, including a 408-yard output against Georgia Tech on Halloween. The turnaround has largely been due to an increased focus on the running game. Virginia rushers have posted the three largest rushing outputs of the year in the last three games, averaging 199 yards per game (4.78 per carry).
- What a difference a week makes: Just one week after Clemson blew off Miami’s doors, the ‘Canes and interim coach Larry Scott took down Duke — with help or not, depending on your viewpoint — 30-27. The ‘Canes broke a string of three consecutive games with 100 or fewer rushing yards in that contest, rushing for 119 yards. Freshman quarterback Malik Rosier performed admirably in starter Brad Kaaya’s stead, completing 20-of-29 throws for 272 yards and a score.
- Tiebreaker: The ‘Hoos and ‘Canes each own six victories against each other, with this game helping to snap that deadlock. UVa has won four of the five games played under Mike London, with a 45-26 decision in 2013 — the last time the two played in Miami — being the only defeat in that stretch.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Virginia’s renewed ability to control the ground game could very well tell the story here. Miami allows 200.4 rushing yards per game.
#17 Florida State (7-1, 5-1 ACC) at #3 Clemson (8-0, 5-0 ACC)
3:30pm | ABC
- There’s no place like home: The visiting team has won just twice in the last 13 games in this series. The Tigers had a five-game win streak in Death Valley between 2003 and 2011, before Florida State snapped that string in 2013 by clobbering the Tigers 51-14. Those 51 points were the most ever surrendered by Clemson in Memorial Stadium. The Seminoles have won eight of the 13 games played at Clemson in the series, which began in 1970.
- Ruling the rankings: This will be the eleventh time the teams have played while both were ranked in the AP Top 25. The first such meeting took place in Clemson in 1988, which Florida State won 24-21. The ‘Noles have won eight of the ten prior such meetings, with the Tigers winning 34-23 in Tallahassee in 1989 and 35-30 in Clemson in 2011.
- Dual dominance: Florida State and Clemson have largely ruled this conference for a number of years. If you need further proof of that dominance, look no further than the timeline of the great Patrick Stevens.
Doing research on the Clemson/FSU duopoly in the ACC. Thought their 54-3 mark vs. rest of ACC since 2012 was a gem. Here’s a better one.
— Patrick Stevens (@D1scourse) November 3, 2015
The last ACC league game between two ranked teams that didn’t involve Clemson or Florida State was Virginia Tech-Virginia in 2011.
— Patrick Stevens (@D1scourse) November 3, 2015
Last five ACC games between ranked teams w/neither Clemson or FSU: VT-UVa (2011), VT-GT (2011), VT-Miami (2010), VT-GT (’09), Miami-VT (’09) — Patrick Stevens (@D1scourse) November 3, 2015
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Clemson could clinch a share of the Atlantic with a win. FSU wants a fourth straight title appearance. This one should be an absolute classic.
Trivia answer: I asked earlier: Virginia’s Taquan Mizzell is 55 yards away from breaking the 1,000-yard mark in combined yards (446 rushing, 499 receiving). Who was the last Virginia runner to rush for 1,000 yards in a season?
Kevin Parks accomplished the feat in 2013, toting the ball 227 times for 1,031 yards and 11 touchdowns. Parks became the first UVa back since Alvin Pearman nine years prior to achieve this milestone.