Clear Your Schedule – ACC 2014, Week 4

By Brian Wilmer -

What a completely crazy week in the ACC. Seven conference teams scored greater than 35 points. Virginia and Boston College scored upsets over ranked teams. Interestingly enough for the ‘Hoos, after beating the 21st-ranked team in the nation, they get to go try to do that again this week, though they’ll be two time zones away from the Grounds. Georgia Tech won their game on a touchdown pass. Everyone had that outcome, right?

To be sure, there is one true “marquee” matchup this week among ACC teams, but there are quite a few additional games worth seeing. We’ll get a lot of stamps on the conference passport, as our travels take us to Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Utah, Florida and Nebraska. Also, depending on what happens in Tallahassee, the Seminoles will either be well on the way to yet another conference crown, or we’ll have no idea what the heck will happen before we get to Charlotte. Sounds exciting, no? Crack open a bottle of soda with your name on it (you found one of those this summer, didn’t you?), and get ready for our weekly trivia question.

ACC Trivia, Week 4 (answer at the end of the column): Boston College’s victory over USC last week marked the second consecutive week an unranked ACC team knocked off a top-ten foe, following Virginia Tech’s takedown of Ohio State the previous week. When was the last time two ACC schools defeated two top-ten teams in the same year, and whom did they beat?

Top of the Ratings

#22 Clemson (1-1, 0-0 ACC) at #1 Florida State (2-0, 0-0 ACC)
8:00pm ET, ABC

Last week’s episode: Clemson 73, SC State 7 (9/6); Florida State 37, The Citadel 12 (9/6)

Program guide: Does anybody remember when Clemson’s season was sarcastically declared over just a few short weeks ago? It’s funny what a bye week can do. The Tigers rolled FCS stalwart SC State before a bye week, and they are now back in the polls and lining up for the most formidable foe they will face all year. Florida State, meanwhile, caught quite a bit of grief from their fans for not further humiliating The Citadel in their most recent outing.

Florida State has run it up on Clemson in their last two games, and the lack of Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and other weapons has left Clemson fans with reason to worry. However, young wideout Artavis Scott has joined Mike Williams, Charone Peake and the remainder of the Tiger weapons at Cole Stoudt’s disposal to form the nation’s 16th-ranked pass offense (335 yards per game). The Tigers also feature the nation’s second-best pass defense (84 yards per game) and sixth-best total defense (251 yards per game).

Of course, Dabo Swinney’s club hasn’t quite yet faced an athlete under center like Jameis Winston. Complaints about the final against The Citadel taken sarcastically, Winston is “only” 17th in the nation in passing yardage per game, completing 47-of-67 passes for 626 yards and three scores and two picks. Those picks came against Oklahoma State, but they ended up being mostly inconsequential. FSU’s rush game has not been as powerful as we may be used to, though it has not been totally required through the first two games.

(Author’s note:  Florida State has announced since the original publishing of this piece that Jameis Winston would be suspended for the first half of the game for “offensive and vulgar comments”.  Sean Maguire is the next quarterback on the two-deep.  Maguire, a 6’3″, 220-pound redshirt sophomore from Sparta, New Jersey, completed 3-of-5 passes for 28 yards against The Citadel last week.)

We also cannot comment on a Florida State game without mentioning their streak of leading games. Florida State’s sports information department reports that the streak is now up to 631 minutes and 49 seconds, as a Chad Abram touchdown catch tied the ‘Noles with Boston College in Chestnut Hill on September 28, 2013. FSU has led every second of every game since that catch.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: Tough to like this matchup for Clemson. FSU’s hung an average greater than 50 (51.5) on their last 8 ACC foes at home. Ouch.

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Georgia Tech (3-0, 0-0 ACC) at Virginia Tech (2-1, 0-0 ACC)

  • Road weird-y: Georgia Tech has played five times in Blacksburg, taking home just one victory (2006). Veteran quarterback Reggie Ball completed nine passes in the 38-27 victory, with Calvin Johnson hauling in six of those throws. Two of those grabs led to first-quarter touchdowns, giving the Jackets a lead they would not relinquish. The teams were scheduled to play in 2000, but the game was canceled due to a freak storm that, among other things, fried Lee Corso’s rental vehicle.
  • You shall not pass…but you shall: Despite our earlier mention of the Jackets claiming victory over Georgia Southern through the air last week, Paul Johnson’s squad is 109th in the nation in passing offense (161.7 yards per game) after three weeks. On the other sideline, Hokie quarterback Michael Brewer set a school record last week, throwing 56 times against East Carolina. The previous record was 53, held by both Don Strock (1972) and Sean Glennon (the aforementioned game against Georgia Tech in 2006).
  • All things equal: Virginia Tech has thrown for 763 yards through three games. The Hokies have also allowed 763 passing yards through those three games. East Carolina’s Shane Carden logged 427 of those yards in last week’s victory in Blacksburg.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: Beamer’s club always plays well in Blacksburg, but suddenly looks fallible after last week. Can Justin Thomas repeat Reggie Ball’s success?

Iowa (2-1, 0-0 Big Ten) at Pitt (3-0, 1-0 ACC)

  • Broken record: Iowa’s record for largest comeback in a game came in 2011 — interestingly enough, against Pitt. A touchdown pass from Tino Sunseri to Drew Carswell gave the Panthers a 24-3 lead late in the third quarter. An Iowa touchdown less than two minutes later sparked a furious Hawkeye rally, in which the only dent was made by a 24-yard Kevin Harper field goal. The Hawkeyes outscored Pitt 28-3 after that touchdown to claim a 31-27 victory.
  • Bottleneck at the line: Iowa ranks second in the Big Ten (sixth nationally) in rush defense, allowing 65.67 rushing yards per game. Only Penn State (65 yards per game) is more effective in the Big Ten. Opponents have logged an average of just 29 carries per game against Iowa. In contrast, Pitt has carried 50 or greater times for 300 or greater yards in all three contests this season. The Panthers are one of just five FBS teams to carry for 1,000 yards or greater this season.
  • Donuts in Pittsburgh: These schools have played five times, with three in Iowa City and two in the Steel City. The Panthers own victories in both games in their town, played in September 1952 and September 2008.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: Pitt ranks in the top 20 nationally in six major statistical categories. Iowa enjoys just one such statistical ranking.

Maryland (2-1, 0-0 Big Ten) at Syracuse (2-0, 0-0 ACC)
12:30pm ET, ACC Network

  • Remember us?: These two schools have played 35 times, with exactly one of those contests taking place with both schools as members of the ACC (2013). As everyone reading this assuredly knows, the Terps departed the ACC for the Big Ten after last season. Syracuse has won 19 of those previous 35 games, taking three of four played in the Carrier Dome.
  • Stats you can use (?): In one of the…well, more original stats we’ve ever seen in this space, Syracuse’s sports information department points out that the Orange have won six of eight games the school has played on September 20th in the history of the program.
  • The first in a generation: Syracuse last won its first three games 23 years ago. That 1991 season was the first in the Big East for the then-Orangemen. The Terrapins were one of the victims in that streak, which turned out to last for four games. Syracuse defeated Vanderbilt (31-10), Maryland (31-17), fifth-ranked Florida (38-21) and Tulane (24-0) before being hammered 46-14 by then-number one Florida State. East Carolina defeated Paul Pasqualoni’s club the following week, before another six-game winning streak closed that season.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: This is a pretty evenly-matched game. Vegas agrees, favoring ‘Cuse by just 1. Can the Orange secure some ACC bragging rights at home?

Tulane (1-2, 0-1 AAC) at Duke (3-0, 0-0 ACC)
12:30pm ET, FSN (regional)

  • Away from the friendly confines: Tulane opened a brand-new, on-campus facility this season, but the game will be played in Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham. Tulane won the only game ever played between the two in New Orleans, while holding a 1-1 series record in Durham.
  • What a rush: Tulane will have to account for Athlon Sports’ Freshman of the Week Shaun Wilson. Wilson averaged slightly greater than 20 yards per carry (12 carries, 245 yards) and scored three times in last week’s 41-3 thrashing of Kansas. The performance is the new single-game Blue Devil rushing record, and the conference states that Wilson is the first player in 14 years to gain 240 or more yards on 12 or fewer carries.
  • Two pivotal years: If you read this piece during Duke’s resurgence last year, you’re likely aware that 1971 and 1994 are two of the most memorable years in modern Duke football. It’s only appropriate that we call upon them again. Duke has allowed just 33 points through their first three games, matching the total of — you guessed it, 1994. The last year fewer than 33 points (18, to be exact) were scored on the Blue Devils in their first three games was in that other important year of 1971.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: It seems almost unimaginable to call Duke football a juggernaut, but a repeat trip to Charlotte doesn’t appear to be out of the question.

Maine (1-1, 1-0 CAA) at Boston College (2-1, 0-1 ACC)
1:00pm ET, ESPN3

  • Second-best: Only Woody Dantzler of Clemson (220) has rushed for more yards in a game as an ACC quarterback than did Tyler Murphy last week against USC. Murphy actually had more carries (13) than pass attempts (12), but rushed for 191 yards in the contest. Meanwhile…
  • Nearing the century mark: Maine has only allowed 96 rushing yards through two games. Norfolk State rushed for 67 yards against the Black Bears in week one, while Bryant managed just 29 yards on the ground. The 48 yards per game ranks third in the FCS.
  • A decade: Okay, so maybe it’s not in years, but Maine is intimately familiar with the number ten. The FCS club started the season with a 10-6 victory over Norfolk State, followed by a 13-10 loss to Bryant University.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: If this were hockey, it might be a different game. Maine beat BC 5-1 in Orono last season, but lost 7-2 in Chestnut Hill.

Louisville (2-1, 1-1 ACC) at FIU (1-2, 0-0 C-USA)
3:30pm ET, FOX Sports 1

  • Started from the bottom: FIU won the first game in the series between the schools, defeating Louisville 24-17 on the Cardinals’ home turf in 2011. Unfortunately for the Panthers, Louisville owns a 100-21 advantage in the last two meetings between the teams, including a 72-0 U of L win last year.
  • Starting all over again: FIU’s dismissal of then-coach Mario Cristobal drew a considerable amount of criticism when it took place in 2012. The program has won just two games of the following 15, defeating fellow one-win club Southern Miss last year and FCS school Wagner this season.
  • “D” versus “O”: Despite the Cardinals’ loss to Virginia last week, they still rank 11th nationally in total defense after three games, allowing just 273.7 yards per game. FIU, meanwhile, is 117th in total offense. The Panthers average just 285.3 yards per game. FIU has rushed for just 82.7 yards per game (114th in FBS), while Louisville allows just 75 rushing yards per contest (8th).

Print that, tweet that, whatever: FIU looked good for a while against Pitt before losing last week. This is a bad time to face an angry Cardinal squad, even in Miami.

North Carolina (2-0, 0-0 ACC) at East Carolina (3-1, 0-1 AAC)
3:30pm ET, ESPNU

  • I can’t drive 55: East Carolina comes into this game riding high, following not only a victory in Blacksburg last week, but a 55-31 win over the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill last season. The Pirates gained just over 600 yards in the contest, scoring at least 13 points in each quarter.
  • Regime change: Larry Fedora will become the fourth different head coach to take the Tar Heels to Greenville. Butch Davis is the only one to leave Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium with a loss, as ECU won 34-31 in 2007. John Bunting’s UNC club won 28-17 in 2003, while Everett Withers’ club won 35-20 in 2011.
  • Competitive scheduling: East Carolina is one of nine teams UNC will face this year that played in a bowl game in the 2013-14 season. Six of ECU’s 2014 opponents played in postseason games in 2013-14.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: UNC needed some late heroics to take down visiting San Diego State in Chapel Hill last week. ECU is an experienced and talented foe.

Virginia (2-1, 1-0 ACC) at #21 BYU (3-0)
3:30pm ET, ESPN

  • Blackjack: As mentioned earlier, Virginia will try to take down the 21st-ranked opponent for the second week in a row. Last week’s victory against Louisville was their second game against a top-25 opponent, meaning the ‘Hoos will join East Carolina in having played three nationally-ranked teams in their first four games.
  • Neutralizing the ground game: Virginia’s rush defense allowed greater than 170 rushing yards per game last year. Through three games — admittedly a small sample size — the Cavs are allowing just over 84 rushing yards per game. That total is good for 17th in the FBS. BYU, for their part, ranks 22nd in the FBS, toting the rock for 258.7 yards per game.
  • Get on the board early: BYU has won 64 of the 72 games under Bronco Mendenhall in which they have scored first. BYU’s safety against Houston to provide the first points of last week’s game ran their consecutive first-score streak to nine.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: We’ve asked this every week, it seems, but is this the beginning of Mike London’s resurgence at UVa? A win in Provo would go a long way.

Army (1-1) at Wake Forest (1-2, 0-0 ACC)
3:30pm ET, ESPN3

  • “D” vs. “O”, part two: This will be an interesting game to watch, primarily because of the teams’ strengths. Army is 18th in the nation in rushing, carrying for 269.5 yards per game. Wake, meanwhile, is 26th in rush defense, allowing just 100 yards per game. No team has rushed for Army’s average of 269 yards against Wake since…Army in 2013. The Black Knights carried for 271 yards in that game.
  • No-fly zone: Army is just one of five teams — joining North Texas, New Mexico, Eastern Michigan and Navy — to pass for fewer than 100 yards per game, on average. The Black Knights have only attempted 12 passes this season, completing 10.
  • Series success: The Deacs own seven consecutive victories in the series. Army’s last win came in 1989, as the Black Knights secured a 14-10 decision in West Point.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: The situation sets up nicely for Dave Clawson’s first win at Wake over an FBS opponent. Watch out for Jeff Monken’s squad, though.

Presbyterian (2-1, 0-0 BSC) at NC State (3-0, 0-0 ACC)
6:00pm ET, ESPN3

  • All square: Presbyterian first fielded a football team 101 years ago, and of their 1005 decisions, they are at .500 for that time. They have won 485, lost 485 and recorded 35 ties.
  • Turning things around: Though Presbyterian has experienced a few struggles as a Division I (FCS) club, there is reason for optimism in the South Carolina town of Clinton. PC defeated twelfth-ranked (FCS) Furman 10-7 last week. No Division I Presbyterian club has defeated a higher-ranked opponent. The Blue Hose also rank 14th among FCS schools in rushing offense.
  • Passing fancy: The Wolfpack offense has taken on a completely different look with Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett under center. NCSU ranks either first or second in the conference in five major passing statistical categories, including passing yards per game, total passing yards, completion percentage and passing touchdowns.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: An unfortunate matchup at an unfortunate time for the Blue Hose. Harold Nichols’ program is making strides, though.

Miami (2-1, 0-0 ACC) at #24 Nebraska (3-0, 0-0 Big Ten)
8:00pm ET, ESPN2

  • Bouncing back: After an effort against FCS McNeese that resulted in a late victory for the Huskers (and numerous jokes among internet denizens and fake Twitter accounts), Bo Pelini’s club rebounded quite nicely in Fresno last Saturday night. The 45-point Husker victory brought to a close the longest active home winning streak (13 games) at the FBS level. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. became the first Husker in six years (Joe Ganz in 2008) to record greater than 300 total yards in Nebraska’s first three games of a season.
  • Loving Lincoln: The two teams have played ten times, with three of those games being played in Lincoln. Nebraska has won all three, though it is important to note that the teams have not faced off on Nebraska’s home field since a 17-9 Husker victory on October 2, 1976. Also of note, Miami has not lost a game against a non-ACC opponent in the regular season since Notre Dame hammered the ‘Canes 41-3 almost two years ago.
  • Defensive domination: This game is a matchup of two top-20 defenses. Miami ranks eighth nationally in total defense (259.7 yards per game), while Nebraska is 18th (294.7 yards per game). Miami ranks 15th in rushing defense (82.7 yards per game), while Nebraska is 19th in pass defense (165.3 yards per game).

Print that, tweet that, whatever: The game at the top of the ratings gets all the “pub”, but this one should be a fun game to watch. It’ll be like the 1990s again.

Trivia answer: I asked earlier: Boston College’s victory over USC last week marked the second consecutive week an unranked ACC team knocked off a top-ten foe, following Virginia Tech’s takedown of Ohio State the previous week. When was the last time two ACC schools defeated two top-ten teams in the same year, and whom did they beat?

Georgia Tech clipped top-ranked Alabama 24-21 at Birmingham’s Legion Field to open the 1981 season. Amazingly, the Yellow Jackets would go on to lose their final ten games that season. Bill Curry’s squad scored in double digits just four times after that victory.

Clemson defeated #4 Georgia in Death Valley on September 19, 1981. The victory moved the eventual national champs to 3-0 on the season.

(Author’s note:  There will be no Clear Your Schedules next week.  I will be taking the time to mentally reboot and reconnect, and I cannot suggest enough that you do the same from time to time.  Thank you so, so much for your continued readership, and we’ll catch up in Week 6.)

Brian Wilmer is a contributor to and Stadium Journey. Follow him @sportsmatters.

Comment (1)

Another extremely well written assessment of ACC games this weekend.I see the,Clemson,and Ba.Tech games as being pivotal on tightening up the conference possibilities.With a good first half,Clemson could hold on to beat FSU.If Ga.Tech puts the ball in the air,that could be a big win,and maybe push Tech away from the table,and a could make this young team viable this year for all opponents left.
In any event,Sat.evening we shall know how the conference may shake out.Great article,as always.