Well, friends, Operation ACC Coastal Chaos is still in full swing. We have four teams at 2-2 in the conference, with Duke (2-1), Georgia Tech (3-1) and Virginia Tech (1-3) “gumming up the works”, depending on whether you are a fan of one of those teams or rooting for standings wackiness. To further increase the wackiness, there is a 70 percent chance of snow in Blacksburg for the Boston College-Virginia Tech game. Nice knowing you, summer and fall. Of course, there are “teachable moments” in every facet of life, and ACC football is no different. Without delay, here are our Three Big Things from last week’s action:
- UVa is finished: This might come up again later, but the ‘Hoos second-half performance was likely the death knell for their 2014 season. As you likely know, I’m a native of the Commonwealth, so I take no great pleasure in reporting this news. However, Virginia’s 130 second-half yards (47 in the fourth quarter), three points and crippling twelve-men penalty to seal the game after a time out are all symptomatic of the issues with coach Mike London and offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild. If that’s not enough for you, here’s some more: London’s teams have faced Duke, North Carolina and Virginia Tech 14 times since the end of the 2009 season. They’ve won once. The four losses to Tech are especially bad, as not only have they whiffed against their in-state rival, they’ve averaged just 6.8 points per game in doing so. They’ve been outscored 36.4-16.2 in the five losses to Carolina. Duke averages just shy of 35 points per game against them in this decade. London is 10-26 against ACC competition as Virginia’s coach. No amount of great recruiting — which is supposed to be London’s strength — will fix the fact that the program is clearly going nowhere with him as an actual in-game coach. Virginia may have already missed their window to find a good young coach. We’ll see if they act quickly, or are content to continue on the same path.
- I never want to see Syracuse play Clemson again. Ever.: Clemson is…well, different without Deshaun Watson under center. We’ve recapped this. However, watching a Syracuse team that couldn’t get out of its own way and didn’t reach 100 yards rushing or passing in Death Valley was flat unwatchable. The Orange carried 34 times for 88 yards (2.6 yards per carry), while completing 12-of-28 passes for 88 yards. Quarterback A.J. Long threw all but one of those passes, getting picked twice in the process. Scott Shafer’s club was 3-of-16 on third down, further exacerbating the problem.
- Wake Forest is…improving? Maybe?: After a first half in which they gained six (yes, six) yards, the Deacs scored 17 points in the final two periods to fall just short of defeating Boston College in Winston-Salem last weekend. Sure, the run game was as awful as ever, as Wake managed just 19 rushing yards, but freshman quarterback John Wolford threw for 233 yards in the second half. Wolford connected on 20-of-26 passes in the final 30 minutes, setting up his club for two short touchdown runs. Dave Clawson’s club is still a long way from even being mediocre in the conference, but this was one of those momentary glimpses into a rebuilding program where things should soon click.
There are still miles to go before we sleep (figuratively) in the ACC, but there’s no better place to start that journey than the conference’s third-consecutive nationally-televised Thursday night game. Before we venture to the Bluegrass State, though, it’s trivia time!
ACC Trivia, Week 10 (answer at the end of the column): Georgia Tech has an active streak of avoiding shutouts at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta. Who was the last team to shut out the Ramblin’ Wreck on their home field, and when did that take place?
Keyword Search (all times Eastern and rankings AP)
#2 Florida State (7-0, 4-0) at Louisville (6-2, 4-2 ACC)
7:30pm (Thursday) | ESPN
- Maybe bookends really do have a use: Louisville claimed a 41-13 victory over Florida State on October 4, 1952. They also took down the Seminoles 26-20 in overtime on September 25, 2002. Between those two Cardinal wins, however, lie twelve consecutive Seminole victories over Louisville. On the bright side (for Louisville), though, that 2002 win did come on a Thursday.
- Ones are wild: When looking at rushing numbers, follow the number one. Louisville’s rush defense surrenders just 66.9 yards per game, good for a national rank of — you guessed it — 1. Florida State rushes for 125.9 yards per game, good for a national rank of 101. If you want to throw in more ones, look no further than Louisville’s national rank in total defense (243.9 yards per game), along with safety Gerod Hollimon’s average interception total per game and standing in the NCAA in that category (1).
- Even more significant ones: Bobby Petrino last lost on his home turf as the Louisville coach on November 15, 2003, which was…11 years ago. That 37-7 loss to Memphis has been followed by an 18-game winning streak at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, of which four have occurred this year.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: This game seems to be the chic upset pick. Huge atmosphere, national stage — is Louisville capable? We’ll find out.
#24 Duke (6-1, 2-1 ACC) at Pitt (4-4, 2-2 ACC)
Noon | ACC Network
- Pulling rank: Duke returns to the AP Top 25 for the first time this season. They were ranked 23rd in the final AP poll last year. Duke has historically won 88 of the 129 games in which they have been nationally ranked. The Blue Devil sports information department points out that it has been nearly 50 years since Duke has received a national ranking in consecutive years. The Devils’ only regular-season loss in their last 15 games came to Miami earlier this season.
- Fumbling towards ecstasy: Pitt’s six lost fumbles last week was the largest total of fumbles recovered by any FBS team this season. The six fumbles also eclipsed Pitt’s previous season total (five) and equaled their season total from 2009. The Panthers have registered single-digit lost fumble totals in four of the last six seasons. Duke has the best turnover margin in the ACC (plus-eight), while last week’s turnover issues now have Duke last (minus-six).
- New scenery: Duke has not paid a visit to Pittsburgh since 1975. That 14-0 loss by the Blue Devils was one of five shutouts that have taken place over the 18-game series. Panther legend Tony Dorsett was part of that team, en route to a fourth-place finish in the Heisman voting.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Duke had a minor stumble against Miami, but has otherwise looked dominant. Yes, you read that right. Duke. Dominant
North Carolina (4-4, 2-2 ACC) at Miami (5-3, 2-2 ACC)
12:30pm | ACC Network (split)
- A different kind of top-25 battle: Okay, so these teams aren’t currently ranked, but there will be two top-25 teams on the field. North Carolina ranks 21st in the nation in passing offense, throwing for 296.9 yards per game. Miami, conversely, ranks ninth in pass defense, surrendering just 171.6 yards per game. The Heels average just over 314 yards through the air in conference games, while ACC teams throw for just 145 yards a game against the ‘Canes.
- One of the 20 percent: North Carolina’s Marquise Williams leads his team in passing (2035 yards) and rushing (497 yards), making him just one of five FBS quarterbacks to hold that honor. Justin Thomas (Georgia Tech), Tyler Murphy (Boston College), Keenan Reynolds (Navy) and Angel Santiago (Army) are the others.
- Hi, Felicia: Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya is truly coming into his own as a starter. After throwing just one touchdown pass against Louisville in the season-opener, Kaaya has thrown four in his other three ACC contests (16 total in the seven games since week one). He has eclipsed his completion percentage of 58.6 percent in the season-opener in every game but two since — the following week against Florida A&M (54.5 percent) and last week against Virginia Tech (43.8 percent on just 7-of-16 passing).
Print that, tweet that, whatever: North Carolina is going to have to hope for a high-scoring game to win this one. With Miami’s D, don’t count on that.
Boston College (5-3, 2-2 ACC) at Virginia Tech (4-4, 1-3 ACC)
12:30pm | ACC Network (split)
- Run a mile in our shoes: BC’s sports information department mentions that the Eagles have outrushed their opponents by a downright staggering 1,715-153 margin in their five victories this season. This is decidedly bad news for a Hokie squad that just allowed 249 yards to Miami’s Duke Johnson, which is the largest total this season by any ACC back and the greatest number of yards the Hokies have ever allowed to an opposing rusher. This is doubly bad, because…
- Running low on tread: The Hokies have been uncharacteristically ineffective at running the football. Frank Beamer’s club ranks just 82nd in the FBS in rushing yards per game (148.8 yards per game). That average gets considerably worse against ACC schools, as Tech rushes for just 111 yards per game in conference tilts. Boston College’s rush defense ranks sixth in the nation, allowing just 91.4 yards per game.
- Our streak’s in jeopardy: Virginia Tech has four losses at this stage of the season for just the second time in the 21 consecutive years in which the Hokies have played in a postseason bowl game. The other time this occurred was in 2012, where the Hokies also started 4-4, then went on to finish 3-2. Tech defeated Rutgers in the Florida Citrus Bowl that year.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: BC becomes bowl-eligible with a win. Tech would fall to 4-5, and is at Duke next week.
NC State (4-4, 0-4 ACC) at Syracuse (3-5, 1-3 ACC)
3:00pm | RSN
- Making sense of math: NC State leads the all-time series with Syracuse, winning six of seven games. The one Syracuse victory came last season in Raleigh, as the 24-10 decision came in the teams’ only ACC contest. Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren is also still in search of his first ACC victory, as 12 of his 13 NC State losses have come in conference play.
- Here’s one for Kevin: The Syracuse sports information department mentions that the Orange are 6-0 when appearing as part of the RSN package since joining the ACC. For what it’s worth, Duke’s visit to the Carrier Dome next weekend will be part of the split ACC Network coverage.
- This game will probably be offensive…in one way, at least: NC State owns the highest ranking by either team in any of the four major offensive categories. That ranking, though, is 51st, as the Wolfpack average 180.8 rushing yards per game. The Orange are tied for 55th in rushing yardage (177.1 yards per game), and the next-highest ranking by either team is 69th. Ouch.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: If State can’t get a win here or against Wake Forest in two weeks, they may be destined for a second-straight ACC donut.
Virginia (4-4, 2-2 ACC) at Georgia Tech (6-2, 3-2 ACC)
3:30pm | ESPNU
- One compelling matchup: Georgia Tech ranks third in the nation in rushing offense, toting the rock for just greater than 326 yards per game. Virginia, meanwhile, is ninth in the FBS in rushing defense, giving up just 100.4 yards per game. The single-game high achieved by a Cavalier opponent (Duke’s 155) is fewer than half the yards the Ramblin’ Wreck average per game. However, the Jackets have gone for 394, 461, 272, 477 and 362 on the ground the last five years against the ‘Hoos.
- The Equalizer: Mike London’s club is looking to draw level against the Jackets in the series between the two teams. Georgia Tech owns an 18-17-1 lead in the series, which began 49 years ago.
- Drawing closer: Paul Johnson looks to draw within three victories of tying Bob Stoops for ninth place in career victories among active FBS coaches. Of the 160 victories Paul Johnson has logged, 53 have come on the Georgia Tech sidelines. Johnson is 11 shy of Nick Saban, while being 15 behind retiring Troy head coach Larry Blakeney.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Virginia is done. So, likely, is Mike London. Last week’s loss did them in. I hope I have to retract that.
Trivia answer: I asked earlier: Georgia Tech has an active streak of avoiding shutouts at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta. Who was the last team to shut out the Ramblin’ Wreck on their home field, and when did that take place?
Georgia defeated Georgia Tech 7-0 in Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate on November 30, 1957.