We get to flip another page on the calendar this week, as November is upon us. With a new month comes a narrowing race to Charlotte in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Virginia Tech appeared to be on a collision course — and still might be, honestly — with Miami next week to claim the inside track in the Coastal, before Duke put a minor dent in the Hokies’ chances. One more key Coastal game awaits for Miami before that matchup, however, and we will certainly talk about that game at great length.
Things are a bit clearer in the Atlantic. Florida State would need a combination of two losses against Miami, Wake Forest and Syracuse combined with Clemson winning out against Virginia and Georgia Tech to allow the Tigers to make the two-hour (or so) drive to Charlotte. Wake Forest’s microscopic hopes were dashed by a late loss to Miami, and the Queen City looks poised to welcome Jimbo Fisher’s troops for a return visit.
There are a half-dozen games on the conference slate this weekend, but before we talk about any of those games, it’s time for trivia!
ACC Trivia, Week 10 (answer at the end of the column): This week’s Miami-Florida State game marks the second game in ACC history where both teams had a record of 7-0 or greater. What was the other game?
Top of the Ratings
#7 Miami (7-0, 3-0 ACC) at #3 Florida State (7-0, 5-0 ACC), 8:00pm ET, ABC
Last week’s episode: Miami 24, Wake Forest 21; Florida State 49, NC State 17
Program guide: After the previous “game of the year” candidate between Florida State and Clemson resulted in a blowout victory for the Seminoles, the conference gets another crack at a season-defining contest. The Florida State-Miami rivalry has been one of the more historic in college football over the last three decades, so the significance and excitement level will be ramped up as high as it can go this year.
The Hurricanes enter this game coming off a less-than-impressive 24-21 victory over Wake Forest. Miami’s reliance on Duke Johnson is more than justified. Johnson, who scored the game-winner last week, leads the conference in all-purpose yards (182.9), and trails only Boston College running back Andre Williams in total offense. Johnson and the ‘Canes face a top-thirty rush defense in Florida State, but this may be Miami’s best chance to get on the board. NC State’s Shadrach Thornton torched the ‘Noles last week (more on his performance later), and FSU is unbelievably stingy through the air.
Florida State’s pass defense is the number one such unit in the FBS. The Seminoles have allowed no more than 203 passing yards in any game this year, with four opponents tallying fewer than 200 yards. Jimbo Fisher’s team is allowing just 186 passing yards per game against ACC opponents. Miami quarterback Stephen Morris turned in a somewhat pedestrian effort last week, completing just 17-of-28 passes for 191 yards and a score. Morris threw four interceptions in another late victory over North Carolina in his prior outing, so the matchup against FSU — through the air, certainly — is not a great one for Al Golden’s squad.
The Seminoles are certainly an offensive juggernaut, averaging 553.7 yards and 52.6 points per game, ranking in the top five nationally in both categories. The ‘Noles average 50.4 points per game against conference opponents, hanging 63 and 49 on visitors to Doak Campbell Stadium. Quarterback Jameis Winston ranks fifteenth in the FBS in total offense, registering 329 yards per game. He will face a Miami pass defense that allows just over 200 yards per game, good for seventeenth in the FBS.
FSU running back Devonta Freeman ranks third in the ACC in rushing yards per game (80.4), and his task against Miami’s 39th-ranked run defense is not as easy as it looks on paper. The ‘Canes gave up 335 yards to run-heavy Georgia Tech, but limited North Carolina and Wake Forest to just 164 total rushing yards. Freeman does have 239 yards and four touchdowns in his last three ACC games, however. Freeman also carried 10 times for 70 yards and two scores in last year’s 33-20 victory over Miami.
Both teams will take the field in Tallahassee with nine-game winning streaks. As we previously mentioned, Florida State enters this game having defeated Miami last season. Miami has not defeated the Seminoles since a 38-34 decision in 2009. Most expect Florida State to emerge with a huge victory, but the potential for Miami to fully proclaim their program as having returned to the national conversation live in prime time certainly has to loom large for the ‘Canes. A win for the Seminoles essentially locks in their trip to Charlotte, and this game could be a preview of the opponent they would see in the Queen City.
Virginia Tech (6-2, 3-1 ACC) at Boston College (3-4, 1-3 ACC), noon ET, ABC/ESPN2
- Cloud nine: BC running back Andre Williams has rushed for 1,010 yards thus far this season. If he continues at his current pace (144.3 yards per game), he would pass the Eagles’ single-season rushing leader, former BC and Kansas City Chiefs running back Mike Cloud. Cloud rushed for 1,726 yards in 1998.
- Unlucky seven: Counting the 2007 ACC Championship game, Boston College is just 1-6 against the Hokies in their last seven outings, including losses in the ’07 and ’08 ACC title contests. The lone Eagle victory came in Chestnut Hill in 2008. BC secured the 28-23 victory despite five turnovers, including two Chris Crane interceptions that the Hokies returned for touchdowns.
- 87 percent: The Hokies have won 27 of their 31 November ACC games since joining the conference before the 2004 season. This mark is even better than Tech’s .789 overall ACC winning percentage.
North Carolina (2-5, 1-3 ACC) at NC State (3-4, 0-4 ACC), 12:30pm ET, ACC Network
- Righting the ship: The Tar Heels finally got back on the winning side of the ledger against the Wolfpack last season, ending a string of five consecutive losses to NC State. The Heels won 43-35 in Chapel Hill. Giovani Bernard racked up 304 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns in the win.
- First time in triple digits: NC State had not seen a running back register a 100-yard game this season until Shadrach Thornton rushed for 173 yards against Florida State last week. The team rushed for just 15 yards, aside from Thornton’s total.
- Home field advantage: The Wolfpack have won three straight against Carolina at Carter-Finley Stadium. UNC won 31-24 in Raleigh in 2005, followed by three straight NCSU wins (31-27, 28-27, 13-0) on their home turf.
Wake Forest (4-4, 2-3 ACC) at Syracuse (3-4, 1-2 ACC), 12:30pm ET, RSN (regional)
- Back to a bowl?: After playing in the 2011 Music City Bowl, the Deacons are trying to get back to the postseason. Wake needs to defeat Syracuse and win against Florida State, Duke or at Vanderbilt to secure bowl eligibility. Florida State and Duke have already reached the six-win plateau.
- A much-needed break: The Orange enter the game coming off a bye, following a loss in which they allowed 394 rushing yards to Georgia Tech. The Deacs rank dead last in the conference in rushing, averaging just 95.88 yards per game. Wake Forest has rushed for fewer than 100 yards in five of their eight games this season, including just 106 total yards in their previous two contests against Maryland and Miami.
- Climbing the leaderboard: Wake Forest receiver Michael Campanaro would move past former Clemson receiver Aaron Kelly into second place all-time among career ACC reception leaders with six receptions in this game. Campanaro has double-digit receptions in four games this season, including his previous three games, in which he has caught 33 passes.
#8 Clemson (7-1, 5-1 ACC) at Virginia (2-6, 0-4 ACC), 3:30 pm ET, ESPN
- Long time, no see: Despite being members of the same conference, the two teams last met in Death Valley in 2009. Tiger quarterback Kyle Parker completed 19-of-26 passes for 234 yards and two scores in a 34-21 Clemson victory, with current NFL running backs C.J. Spiller and Andre Ellington each making a trip to the end zone against the Cavaliers. The two teams will next play in 2020 in Clemson.
- Quieting the gamebreakers: Clemson sports information director Tim Bourret points out that the Tigers have allowed 27 fewer plays of 20 yards or greater this season, versus their 2012 total through eight games. The Cavaliers rank second-to-last in the conference in such plays (23).
- I stand alone: Should Clemson’s Tajh Boyd rush for 16 yards this week, he will reach a tremendous milestone. Boyd would become the only player in conference history to pass for 10,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a career. Boyd is also trying to finish his career with a perfect 4-0 record against teams from Virginia, from which he hails. Boyd won his lone game played in the Old Dominion, defeating Virginia Tech 23-3 in Blacksburg in 2011.
Pitt (4-3, 2-2 ACC) at Georgia Tech (5-3, 4-2 ACC), 7:00pm ET, ESPNU
- What a rush: Pitt gets to face their second consecutive top-ten rushing opponent, as they take the field against Georgia Tech (4th, 315.63 yards per game) after a loss to Navy (10th, 292.14 yards per game). The Midshipmen rushed for 220 yards against Pitt, scoring twice. The Yellow Jackets have rushed for 394 yards in back-to-back games (Syracuse and Virginia), scoring 12 total rushing touchdowns in those two games.
- Dishing it out and taking it: As effective as Georgia Tech is in running the football, they are equally adept at stopping the run. The Jackets have allowed fewer than 100 rushing yards in a game on four occasions this season, including a season-low 55 yards against Virginia Tech on September 26th. Georgia Tech is a top-twenty national team (second in the ACC) in rushing defense, allowing 117 yards per game. The Panthers rushed for more yards (174) against Duke than they have tallied against their other three ACC opponents combined (127).
- Back home again: Georgia Tech has lost just twice on Homecoming since the start of the 1996 season. Virginia defeated Tech 24-17 in 2008, while BYU throttled the Jackets 41-14 last season. The Panthers will be Georgia Tech’s Homecoming opponent this season.
Trivia answer: I asked earlier: This week’s Miami-Florida State game marks the second game in ACC history where both teams had a record of 7-0 or greater. What was the other game?
Then-number three Florida State defeated fifth-ranked North Carolina 20-3 at Kenan Stadium on November 8, 1997. The Tar Heels’ offense managed just 73 total yards against the Seminoles in the contest.