What a wacky week in conference play. There weren’t a lot of things we really learned, per se, but a lot of things are now quite apparent. Duke looked to severely stumble after the controversial ending against Miami. Virginia keeps losing close games. Clemson made a statement, even after being punched in the mouth on Florida State’s opening drive. Louisville has really bounced back after a rough start to the season.
Clemson has clinched the Atlantic, but there are still a number of interesting storylines awaiting us over the final couple of weeks of the conference slate. A couple of those will play out this week. Enjoy the ride, ACC fans! For now, though…it’s trivia time!
ACC Trivia, Week 11 (answer at the end of the column): Virginia’s 27-21 loss at Miami last week was their 14th consecutive road loss. Whom did Virginia defeat to secure their last road victory?
Keyword Search (all times Eastern and rankings AP)
Virginia Tech (4-5, 2-3 ACC) at Georgia Tech (3-6, 1-5 ACC)
7:30pm (Thursday) | ESPN
- Thirty Thursdays: Legendary Virginia Tech beat writer Andy Bitter has an interesting note about this week’s contest. This will be the Hokies’ 30th — and final — Thursday night contest under Frank Beamer. Tech has won 20 of those prior contests. Bitter also mentions that just one team has played in more Thursday games — their Thursday opponent, the Yellow Jackets. Finally, as Bitter also notes, Georgia Tech is the only team to play in as many Thursday games as Beamer’s crew has won.
- Speaking of Beamer: The ACC points out an incredible number this week. Frank Beamer has the highest win total (277) of any active FBS head coach. Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher has the best average win total in any coach’s first five years (11.6 per year), but would have to maintain that average until 2034 to pass Beamer’s total.
- Threeeeeeee baaaaall: This game features the kicker tied for second-most field goal attempts in the league (Virginia Tech’s Joey Slye, 15-for-20) in the ACC and the kicker tied for the fewest (Georgia Tech’s Harrison Butker, 7-for-10). Slye made four of those field goals in Virginia Tech’s last game, as the Hokies took down Boston College. Two of Butker’s three misses came in the Jackets’ loss to Notre Dame earlier this year. Both men are deadly on extra points, combining to hit 64-of-64 attempts this season.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Georgia Tech is in do-or-die mode. Any loss knocks them out of bowl contention. Virginia Tech wants the Beamer farewell tour to be a party.
Pitt (6-3, 4-1 ACC) at Duke (6-3, 3-2 ACC)
Noon | ESPNews
- More wackiness ahead?: For two teams that are not commonly known as producing this type of game, Pitt and Duke have lit up the scoreboard in their last two meetings. Pitt beat Duke 58-55 in 2013, their last meeting in Durham. Last year, Duke returned the favor by clipping Pitt 51-48 in two overtimes in Pittsburgh. Both teams are currently outside the top 40 in scoring offense. Duke ranks 48th at 32.4 points per game, while Pitt is tied for 84th at 26.6 points per game. Duke put up 970 total yards in those two games against the Panthers, compared to Pitt’s 1192.
- Speaking of defense — or lack thereof: Duke had allowed no greater than 305 yards all season in any game prior to their most recent three. The Blue Devils entered the contest at Virginia Tech having allowed just 168 yards to the Black Knights in a victory, when things suddenly hit the skids for David Cutcliffe’s crew. Duke has surrendered an astonishing 1547 yards of total defense in their last three games, including 704 in last week’s 66-31 thrashing by North Carolina. Those three games represent greater than half of Duke’s allowed defensive output this season (3064 total yards).
- Stayin’ alive: While Duke’s loss last week essentially put the Blue Devils out of the Coastal chase (they would need to win out and have Carolina lose out), Pitt is still alive. The Panthers also need help, however, with Carolina having a one-game lead and the tiebreaker advantage, due to their 26-19 victory in Pittsburgh on October 29. Pitt needs to continue winning, and hope for two Carolina losses. The Tar Heels finish their season with Miami at home this weekend, followed by trips to Virginia Tech and NC State.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Pitt has won four of their five games on the road, and Duke appears to have hit a slick patch. The consequences are huge on both sides.
Virginia (3-6, 2-3 ACC) at Louisville (5-4, 4-2 ACC)
12:30pm | RSN
- So…this is random: Virginia will play in Louisville for the third time this weekend, but only the second time against the Cardinals. Louisville won 30-28 over the ‘Hoos in 1988. However, football wasn’t so much the story for UVa’s first trip to Louisville — they beat Vanderbilt 18-0 there in 1898 — the story was…well, take it away, UVa sports information department:
According to the Nov. 13, 1898 edition of Louisville’s Courier-Journal, the UVA football team attended “The Royal Box” at Macauley’s Theatre after the win over Vanderbilt. The theatre was located on Walnut Street, which is current day Muhammad Ali Boulevard. It was reported that the squad occupied three boxes and they filed in “to a ripple of applause” from the audience. According to the Louisville’s Courier-Journal, each player wore a big yellow chrysanthemum and a “large streamer of orange and blue.”
- QB questions: Louisville seems to be adjusting the quarterback position based upon what matchup best fits the offense they face. Pocket passer Kyle Bolin got the nod against Syracuse last week, completing 24-of-35 passes for 362 yards and three scores. Three Cardinal quarterbacks have appeared in four or more contests this season, with Lamar Jackson (eight), Bolin (four) and Reggie Bonnafon (six) tallying the appearances. Bolin is 56-for-91 for 795 yards and four scores against three picks this year, and is listed atop this week’s two-deep.
- You can’t do what you can’t do: Louisville is still a top defensive team, ranking in the top 15 in two major defensive categories. The Cards are 11th in rush defense (110.6 yards per game) and 15th in total defense (306.7 yards). This seems to align poorly for the ‘Hoos, who are 105th in rush offense (137.6 yards) and 90th in total offense (367.4 yards). The Cardinals have allowed 911 yards of offense to Clemson and Florida State, but just 859 total yards against their other four ACC opponents.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: This matchup looks horrendous on paper for the Cavaliers. Louisville, meanwhile, looks to take another step toward bowl eligibility.
NC State (6-3, 2-3 ACC) at #18 Florida State (7-2, 5-2 ACC)
12:30pm | ACC Network
- ‘Pack’ your bags: NC State’s 24-8 victory over Boston College made Dave Doeren’s club eligible for their second-consecutive bowl trip. The Wolfpack clipped UCF 34-27 in last year’s St. Petersburg Bowl, which inexplicably started an 11-game losing skid for the Knights and cost them their coach, as George O’Leary resigned earlier this year. A postseason game would mark the Wolfpack’s fifth in six seasons since 2010, the lone exception being the 3-9 year in Doeren’s initial season at the helm.
- Switching the series: Florida State has won 24 of the 35 meetings between the schools, but things have evened out a bit. Since Jimbo Fisher took over full-time in Tallahassee in 2010, the ‘Noles are just 3-2 against the Wolfpack. One of those losses came in 2012, as NC State claimed a 17-16 victory in Raleigh. After that loss, the Seminoles again launched into a winning streak against conference foes that was only snapped earlier this year against Georgia Tech.
- Incremental improvements: Dave Doeren is renowned for his defensive expertise, and that has come to pass on the field in Raleigh. The Wolfpack were 62nd in total defense in Doeren’s first season, surrendering 399.4 yards per game. They improved to 47th last year, allowing 373.1 yards per outing. The improvement has been more obvious this year, as the ‘Pack rank ninth in total defense. Opponents are gaining just 296.2 yards per game against State in 2015. In fact, just under a quarter of the offense State has surrendered this season came in one game — Clemson’s 623-yard output against the Wolfpack in a 56-41 victory.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: The outlook on this game has changed a bit as the year has progressed. FSU has a 19-game home win streak, but doesn’t look as invincible.
Miami (6-3, 3-2 ACC) at #17 North Carolina (8-1, 5-0 ACC)
3:30pm | ESPNU
- Resurgence of the run: Miami’s devotion to the run game has returned under interim coach Larry Scott. The ‘Canes rushed for 143 yards last week against Virginia, just 19 shy of the three-game total they compiled prior to Al Golden’s dismissal. Miami’s top two backs, Joe Yearby and Mark Walton, combined to carry 28 times for 137 yards. Yearby has 38 carries for 160 yards (4.21 average) in two games under Scott.
- What gives?: Now that Brad Kaaya has returned to the lineup for Miami, we get to see a wonderful matchup. Kaaya leads the league in passing offense at 266.5 yards per game, while Carolina is tied for third in the nation in pass defense, allowing just 159.4 yards per game. Just two opponents have thrown for greater than 200 yards against the Tar Heels this season — their most recent two, as Pitt threw for 262 yards and Duke 206. Carolina’s M.J. Stewart and Des Lawrence are first and second in the ACC in passes defended (13 and 11, respectively), while Stewart ranks third in interceptions with three.
- A broken record: Carolina broke a number of records in last week’s victory over Duke, and a lot of those records individually belong to quarterback Marquise Williams. Williams broke four school records last week, including total offense in a single game (524 yards), passing in a single game (494 yards), passing yards in a half (404 yards) and yards per completion in a single game (21.48). Williams’ team also broke their single-game scoring record for an ACC contest (66 points), along with compiling the most offensive yards between both teams in any game in UNC history (1,237).
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Miami has been an intriguing story in Scott’s early tenure. That story may have a less than desirable chapter written in Chapel Hill Saturday.
#1 Clemson (9-0, 6-0 ACC) at Syracuse (3-5, 1-4)
3:30pm | ABC/ESPN2 (reverse mirror)
- Live from New York: Much like LSU’s first trip to New York in 70-some years when they played Syracuse earlier this year, Clemson is also making a somewhat unfamiliar voyage. Before 2013’s 49-14 win over the Orange in Syracuse in 2013, Clemson had last played in New York 61 years prior. That 1952 game at Fordham ended in a 12-12 tie. Clemson and Syracuse have played just three times in their history, with the only Syracuse victory a 41-0 blanking of the Tigers in the Gator Bowl in 1996. Clemson has won their two ACC contests (2013 and 2014) by a combined margin of 65-20.
- Knocking off number one: Syracuse has just one win in ten tries (five at home) in the program’s history against the nation’s top squad. The Orange claimed a 17-9 victory against Nebraska on September 29, 1984. Florida State was the last top-ranked team to visit the Carrier Dome, defeating Syracuse 38-20 on October 11th of last season.
- A run 35 years in the making: Clemson is trying for their second 13-game win streak in those aforementioned 35 years. Their current 12-game streak is the second-longest active string in the nation (behind Ohio State’s 22). That 13-game win streak in 1980-81 culminated in the Tigers’ 22-15 national championship victory over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, then ended with a 13-7 loss at Georgia to begin the 1982 season.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Clemson obviously needs to guard against a hangover following the Florida State win. That said, it’s really tough to see a Syracuse win.
Wake Forest (3-6, 1-5 ACC) at #6 Notre Dame (8-1)
3:30 pm | NBC
- Hitting the skids: After a strong start to the season, the Deacs’ offense has really lost its way in recent weeks. Wake is ranked 111th or worse in three of four major offensive categories, with their 229.9-yard per game passing offense (tied for 61st) being the only departure from that group of rankings. The Deacs are averaging just 294.2 yards of offense against ACC foes, and have fallen short of 300 yards of total offense in their last two ACC games.
- Problems for Prosise: Notre Dame rusher C.J. Prosise may find himself on the sidelines for this contest. As of press time, Prosise was in the concussion protocol because of an injury suffered against Pittsburgh. The Irish are hardly shorthanded, however, as backup Josh Adams has 54 carries for 412 yards and three touchdowns on the year. 20 of those carries and 147 of those yards came in relief of Prosise last week.
- Unfamiliar territory: This game will mark just the third time these teams have faced off. The schools played in Winston-Salem in 2011 and South Bend in 2012, with Notre Dame winning by a combined score of 62-17.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: No Prosise, no problem. This game and Boston College next week provide much-needed breathers in a tough stretch for the Fighting Irish.
Trivia answer: I asked earlier: Virginia’s 27-21 loss at Miami last week was their 14th consecutive road loss. Whom did Virginia defeat to secure their last road victory?
Virginia defeated NC State 33-6 on November 3, 2012. The ‘Hoos game at Louisville this weekend is their final road tilt of 2015.