Week six in the ACC was an unusual mix of the totally expected and the totally unexpected. Clemson, Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech followed the script, while Florida State, Wake Forest and Ball State surprised many. Sure, most expected the Seminoles to win, but virtually no one saw a nine-touchdown whitewashing of the Terps in the cards. Wake Forest defeated NC State 28-13, but is still being outscored 93-45 in three conference contests. Ball State’s offensive prowess — and Virginia’s struggles — were chronicled in this space last week, but 48 points on the visiting ledger in Charlottesville had to be a pleasant surprise to even the most ardent Cardinal fan.
This week features just four conference tilts. The frontrunners in both the Atlantic and Coastal have a chance to add some separation between themselves and their challengers. Virginia gets the opportunity to quiet the critics of coach Mike London, while Maryland sees how they can respond after last week’s debacle in Tallahassee. Duke and Georgia Tech step outside of ACC play for challenging foes. Our tour around the ACC begins in just a few words, but first, our trivia question!
ACC Trivia, Week 7 (answer at the end of the column): Boston College running back Andre Williams finished just one yard short of the BC single-game rushing record with a 263-yard effort against Army last week. Who holds that record, and against whom was it set?
Top of the Ratings
Pitt (3-1, 2-1 ACC) at #24 Virginia Tech (5-1, 2-0 ACC), noon ET, ESPNU
Last week’s episode: Pitt 14, Virginia 3 (9/28); Virginia Tech 27, North Carolina 17
Program guide: The Hokies just keep getting it done. Frank Beamer’s squad broke out the smoke and mirrors yet again in a defeat of North Carolina last week. Tech rushed for just 48 yards against the Tar Heels, but Logan Thomas continued his emergence from his season-long struggles to guide the Hokie offense. Thomas completed 19-of-28 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns in what was easily his best outing of the year. Former walk-on wide receiver Willie Byrn helped Thomas’ cause with four grabs for 123 yards. The Virginia Tech defense also forced three turnovers, two on interceptions by backup quarterback Marquise Williams.
The Hokies get their shot at revenge against Pitt this week, and they get that shot on their home turf. The Panthers pounded Virginia Tech 35-17 at Heinz Field last season, and they bring an impressive array of talent to Blacksburg. Quarterback Tom Savage has thrown for 1052 yards and ten scores, relying on two of the top three receivers in the league. Devin Street and Tyler Boyd rank second and third in receiving yards, respectively, at 111.3 and 106.3 yards per game. Pittsburgh running back James Conner ranks third in rushing at 88.25 yards per game, though his numbers were bolstered by back-to-back 100-plus rushing yard efforts against New Mexico and Duke.
Much was made of the Pittsburgh defense after the Virginia victory, but the question remains whether the real Panther defense is the one that allowed 55 points to Duke, or the one that allowed three points to Virginia. The Hokies rank in the top 15 in every defensive category, while Pitt’s highest defensive ranking is 52nd (passing defense). Even with a number of big-play options on offense, Pitt still needs to contain Logan Thomas, who has completed 72 percent of his passes over the last two games. Combine this with the difference in turnover margin (Pitt ranks 93rd with a negative turnover margin, while Virginia Tech ranks fourth), and the hill looks steep for the Panthers.
Set Your DVR
Boston College (3-2, 1-1 ACC) at #3 Clemson (5-0, 3-0 ACC), 3:30pm ET, ABC/ESPN2 (reverse mirror)
Program guide: The Eagle offense has somewhat awakened over the last couple of weeks, scoring 34 points against Florida State and 48 against Army. Running back Andre Williams continues his dominance of the ACC, rushing for 263 yards and five scores against Army last week. This pushed Williams’ conference lead in yards per game to greater than 40 yards (153.6), also giving him the national lead. This is the good news.
The bad news is that the Eagles have allowed 75 points over the last two weeks, and allowed over 100 passing yards to an Army offense that was averaging just 76 per game. The Eagle defense ranks next-to-last in the conference, allowing 407.6 yards per game. The rushing defense ranks last, surrendering almost 200 yards per game on the ground.
Clemson ranks in the top 20 in the FBS in scoring offense, passing offense and total offense. The Tigers have scored 105 points in their last two outings against Wake Forest and Syracuse, and they will look to keep that offensive output rolling in Death Valley on Saturday. Tajh Boyd completed 20-of-27 passes for 455 yards against the Orange, throwing for five scores before getting the rest of the day off. Star receiver Sammy Watkins continued his hot play, catching four passes for 125 yards, including a 91-yard touchdown reception. Boyd’s arsenal of offensive weapons continues to grow, with Adam Humphries, Martavis Bryant and freshman receiver Mike Williams playing starring roles at various points of the season.
The Tiger defense is stout in most regards, as well, ranking 16th in total defense, 17th in passing defense, 35th in total defense and second in turnover margin. The one concern for Clemson is stopping the run, as they rank 79th, allowing just over 171 yards per game. Stopping Andre Williams will be key for the Tigers, and forcing the Eagles to throw the ball will likely help write the story of this game.
Navy (3-1) at Duke (3-2, 0-2 ACC), 12:30pm ET, ACC Network
- Connette effect: Duke quarterback Brandon Connette has admirably filled in for starter Anthony Boone after his injury. After his two outstanding performances against Pitt and Troy, Connette is now sixth in the conference in total offense. Connette averages 249.2 yards per game of total offense, with 11 of his 17 total touchdowns coming in those two games.
- Over land and over sea: Navy ranks eighth in the nation in rushing, averaging 294 yards per game. The Midshipmen have rushed for greater than 270 yards in three of their four games this season, with their season low (107 yards) coming two weeks ago against Western Kentucky. Duke ranks 76th in the FBS in rushing defense, allowing 167.6 yards per game.
- The big 4-0: Navy and Duke meet for the 40th time on Saturday. Navy has won 20 of the 39 all-time meetings, though Duke owns victories in the previous two. Duke won the most recent affair between the two schools, defeating Navy 34-31 on October 30, 2010.
Virginia (2-3, 0-1 ACC) at Maryland (4-1, 0-1 ACC), 3:30pm ET, ESPNU
- The Byrd is the word: Virginia has won each game against the Terps at Byrd Stadium since 2005. The Cavaliers have also won eight of the twelve games at Maryland between the teams over the last 25 seasons. This is the last game they will play against each other as ACC opponents.
- Quarterback quandaries: Both teams have experienced their share of quarterback concerns, though for different reasons. Maryland starter C.J. Brown was injured in last week’s game against Florida State, leaving him questionable (as of press time) to play against the Cavaliers. Virginia quarterback David Watford ranks twelfth in the conference in yards per game (162.6), last among regulars in yards per attempt (4.8) and is tied with NC State’s Pete Thomas and Syracuse’s Drew Allen for last in interceptions (7).
- This day in history: Virginia and Maryland have played on October 12th just once in the schools’ history. The Cavaliers won that game 19-6 in College Park.
Syracuse (2-3, 0-1 ACC) at NC State (3-2, 0-2 ACC), 3:30pm ET, RSN (regional)
- Six ‘Pack: NC State and Syracuse have played six times. State has won all six games. Three of the wins came in Raleigh, with the other three in Syracuse. The most recent Wolfpack victory (38-17) took place October 1, 1998.
- Stopping the run: Both defenses rank in the top 30 in the FBS in rushing yards allowed per game. NC State is tied for 17th, while Syracuse is 27th. The Wolfpack have had five different leading rushers during a game this season. Seven Wolfpack runners rank among the top 50 in the conference. Five Orange rushers share this distinction, led by Jerome Smith, the ACC’s sixth-leading rusher (68.4 yards per game).
- There’s no place like home: The Wolfpack allow 55 fewer yards per game at home than they surrender on the road. NC State’s offense gains 89 more yards per game at home. The Orange defense allows 120 more yards per game on the road (467-347).
Georgia Tech (3-2, 2-2) at BYU (3-2), 7:00pm ET, ESPNU
- Payback time: BYU throttled Georgia Tech 41-17 in Atlanta last season, leaving the Jackets looking for revenge. The Cougars outgained Tech 411-157 in the contest, with running back Jamaal Williams running for 107 yards and three touchdowns. Current Ramblin’ Wreck quarterback Vad Lee was his team’s leading passer, completing 3-of-7 passes for 31 yards.
- Ground dwellers: Both teams rank in the top 15 in the FBS in rushing. Georgia Tech ranks seventh at 300 yards per game, while BYU ranks 13th at 277.8. The Cougars feature two rushers in the top 20, with Taysom Hill 15th and Jamaal Williams 19th. Georgia Tech’s David Sims ranks 85th. Each club also ranks in the top 40 in rushing defense. The Jackets are 28th, while BYU is 40th.
- Avoiding the sting: BYU is tied for 107th in the nation in turnover margin, turning the ball over one more time per game than their defense forces. The Yellow Jackets are 58th, with a turnover margin of 0.2. Each team had one turnover in their meeting last season.
Trivia answer: I asked earlier: Boston College running back Andre Williams finished just one yard short of the BC single-game rushing record with a 263-yard effort against Army last week. Who holds that record, and against whom was it set?
Former Eagle running back Montel Harris rushed for 264 yards on 27 carries in a 52-20 victory over NC State on October 17, 2009. Harris scored five touchdowns in the game.