Clear Your Schedule – ACC 2014, Week 6

By Brian Wilmer -

Good grief.  Your humble correspondent takes a week off, and everything goes crazy.  NC State had Florida State’s shoulders on the mat before being distracted while the manager argued with the referee, being hit with a chair or something.  Duke had a chance to put themselves in tremendous shape in the Coastal before a subpar effort at Miami.  Pitt lost a second-straight game they should have won, but now find themselves tied at the top of the Coastal, thanks to the aforementioned Duke loss.  Virginia eclipsed last year’s win total after just five weeks, thanks to their hammering visiting Kent State.  Finally, Clemson’s offense answered their wake-up call, but have they slept through their chance to play in a big-time bowl game?

We have just six conference games on the docket this weekend, but there are still a number of questions.  Florida State is clearly not the team they were last year — despite their continued number-one ranking — but what should we expect from the Seminoles going forward? Can one of the teams who has slipped early (Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Clemson) turn it around and become a factor for the conference title? Can Virginia continue their improbable — nay, impossible run to Charlotte? We might get closer to answers this week, but until we do, let’s ask our trivia question!

ACC Trivia, Week 6 (answer at the end of the column):  Georgia Tech has started the season 4-0.  When was Georgia Tech’s last four-game winning streak, and whom did the Yellow Jackets beat to achieve it?

Top of the Ratings

There are no real “marquee” matchups this week, so all six get equal billing.  Off we go to the Keyword Search feature!

Keyword Search (all times Eastern)

Louisville (4-1, 2-1 ACC) at Syracuse (2-2, 0-0 ACC)
7:00pm (Friday) | ESPN

  • Take your pick:  Have you found yourself wondering who leads the nation in interceptions? That would be Louisville’s Gerod Holliman, who has already recorded six picks.  Holliman recorded two rips each in a loss at Virginia and a victory at Florida International, with single interceptions against Miami and Wake Forest.
  • Welcome back:  This game will mark the first time Louisville and Syracuse will face off as ACC foes, but it certainly does not mean the schools are unfamiliar with each other.  The teams battled in the Big East Conference for many years, with the schools splitting a 6-6 record in a series that began in 1985.  The Cardinals had won three consecutive outings against the Orange from 2009-11, before Syracuse took home a 45-26 decision in the final Big East game between the pair on November 10, 2012.
  • Defending the nest:  Louisville features a top-fifteen unit in every major defensive measure.  The Cardinals are ninth nationally in scoring defense (14 points per game), tops in rush defense (58.2 yards per game), 15th in pass defense (167 yards per game) and third in total defense (225.2 yards per game).  Meanwhile, Syracuse ranks outside the national top 40 in each major offensive category, except for rushing.  The Orange are 24th in rushing, toting the ball for 232.5 yards a game.

Virginia Tech (3-2, 0-1 ACC) at North Carolina (2-2, 0-1 ACC)
12:30pm | ACC Network

  • Saying thanks:  Saturday will be the fourth-annual Military Appreciation Day at Kenan Stadium. -The Tar Heels won the first two in 2011 and 2012, before being defeated by ECU in last season’s installment.  Each service branch will be honored during the game, and North Carolina will wear special patriotic-themed uniforms to celebrate the occasion.
  • Can’t stop, won’t stop:  North Carolina has the dual honor — such as it is — of leading the conference in scoring offense (40.8 points per game) and being dead last in total defense.  The Tar Heels allow 543.0 yards per game, a full 140 yards greater than the average of the next “worst” team, Florida State (just over 403 yards per game).  UNC has allowed greater than 500 yards to each of its previous three opponents, as 500-plus yard efforts from San Diego State and Clemson sandwiched the 789-yard gashing offered by East Carolina in their 70-41 victory two weeks ago.
  • No-fly zone:  Opposing passers have completed the lowest percentage of passes against any ACC team when facing Virginia Tech.  Just 44 percent of passes thrown against the Hokies this year have found the hands of a receiver.  North Carolina’s duo of Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky, meanwhile, have completed 61.9 percent of their passes, good for fifth-best in the conference.  Williams completed 63.2 percent of his passes against Clemson last week, just shy of his year-to-date percentage (63.6 percent).

NC State (4-1, 0-1 ACC) at Clemson (2-2, 1-1 ACC)
3:30pm | ESPN

  • Ghosts on the ground:  Much was made during the telecast of last week’s NC State-Florida State contest about how the ‘Pack seemed to abandon the conventional running game and limit the ground game to the Wildcat formation.  That decision produced the lowest rushing output of the season for State, as they carried for just 161 yards on 37 attempts.  Things get no easier for Dave Doeren’s squad, as Clemson sports information director Tim Bourret points out that Clemson has allowed just 104 rushing yards over the last three games, which is the fewest rushing yards surrendered in a three-game span in 23 years.
  • Dominant Deshaun:  Clemson freshman Deshaun Watson had a first start for the ages against North Carolina last week.  Only one quarterback (Duke’s Dave Brown in 1989) threw for a higher total in his first ACC start than did Watson last week.  Watson also joined former Boston College and Patriots/Bills quarterback Doug Flutie as the only passers to find the end zone six times against North Carolina.  No ACC passer in history has thrown for more scores in his maiden voyage than Watson managed last week.
  • Looking out for number one:  NC State’s Dave Doeren is one of just two conference coaches yet to record a win in ACC play.  Wake Forest’s Dave Clawson is 0-1 after a loss to Louisville last week, while Doeren’s club has lost each of the nine conference games they have played since he arrived from Northern Illinois.

Wake Forest (2-3, 0-1 ACC) at #1 Florida State (4-0, 2-0 ACC)
3:30pm | ABC

  • Whoooa-oh, we’re (over) halfway there:  Florida State allowed just 170 points during the entirety of their undefeated national championship season in 2013.  The 2014 Seminoles have allowed 101 points through their first four contests in 2014.  They are also surrendering a points-per-game average more than twice that of last season (25.3 this year, 12.1 last season).
  • Stuck in neutral:  The Demon Deacons rank dead last in the FBS in rushing yardage.  Wake has gained just 146 yards on 140 carries this season, which translates to 1.04 yards per carry.  Making matters worse, the Deacs have 74 carries on the road for negative 50 yards.  Dave Clawson’s club averages 29.2 yards per game on the ground.  This is a nearly 70-yard decrease from Wake’s paltry 95.42 yards per game in 2013.  Even worse than that — if that’s possible — is that Wake’s 146 rushing yards matches the average total number of offensive yards the Deacs have posted against Florida State in the schools’ two previous meetings.  Yikes.
  • Righting the ship:  After a three-game losing streak by the Seminoles in the series from 2006 to 2008 in which FSU scored just 24 combined points, the ‘Noles have won four of the last five between the teams, scoring 30 or greater in each outing.  The lone Wake victory in that stretch came in Winston-Salem in 2011, with the Deacs securing a 35-30 decision.

Miami (3-2, 1-1 ACC) at Georgia Tech (4-0, 1-0 ACC)
7:30pm | ESPN2

  • Racking up the Ws:  Georgia Tech won each game played between these two teams between 2005 and 2008.  Miami has since ripped off five in a row, with only one of those contests really being all that close.  The teams played to a 42-36 overtime victory for Miami in 2012, but each of the other four Miami wins during the last five years has featured a margin of 15 points or greater.
  • Taking a pass:  Paul Johnson is in his seventh season as Georgia Tech’s head coach.  In those seven seasons, his teams have recorded a greater total of passing yards than rushing yards in a game just seven times.  Tech has won five of those contests.  The Hurricanes rank 14th nationally in pass defense, allowing just 164.6 yards per game through the air.  Conversely, Al Golden’s squad is 52nd in rush defense, allowing 135.2 yards per game.    That number, however, is greatly influenced by Nebraska’s 343 rushing yards in a 41-31 defeat of the ‘Canes.  Just one of Miami’s other four opponents (Louisville in the season opener) has cracked the century mark on the ground.
  • No reservations for Shutty Town:  Georgia Tech has gone 214 games without being shut out.  That is the eighth-longest active streak in college football.  Florida State was the last team to hold the Jackets scoreless, hammering Tech 38-0 on October 18, 1997.  The longest active streak belongs to Florida, whose 16-0 loss to Auburn on October 29, 1988 started a run of 325 contests which paces the field.

Pitt (3-2, 1-0 ACC) at Virginia (3-2, 1-0 ACC)
7:30pm | RSN

  • Can’t keep runnin’ away:  As so often happens, this matchup involves one team that is tremendously effective at running the ball, and another that is particularly adept at stopping the run.  The Panthers rank 15th in the nation in rushing offense, rushing for 269.4 yards per game.  The Cavaliers, meanwhile, are extremely stingy against opposing runners, allowing just 86.6 yards per game.  That figure is good for tenth in the FBS.  Kent State gained just 34 rushing yards against the ‘Hoos on 33 attempts Saturday.
  • One if by land, two if by air:  While Jon Tenuta’s defense is skilled at defending the run, Pitt features a top-ten unit of their own in stopping the pass.  The Panthers are tenth in the nation in that category, allowing 158.4 yards per game.  That ability to defend the pass has vaulted Pitt to the eighth-best defense in the FBS.  Virginia is eighth-best in passing offense — in the ACC — throwing for 240.6 yards per contest.
  • Sweet Virginia breeze:  This will be Virginia’s fifth home game in their first six contests this year.  The ‘Hoos have won three of those four games, losing only to UCLA at Scott Stadium.  Virginia will wear the home jerseys just twice the remainder of this year, welcoming North Carolina (October 25) and Miami (November 22).  They will close the season in the Commonwealth, though, as they travel to Blacksburg to face Virginia Tech.

Trivia answer:  I asked earlier:  Georgia Tech has started the season 4-0.  When was Georgia Tech’s last four-game winning streak, and whom did the Yellow Jackets beat to achieve it? 

Georgia Tech last won four consecutive games in 2011.  Paul Johnson’s club won their first six that year (Western Carolina, at Middle Tennessee, Kansas, North Carolina, at NC State and Maryland), before being defeated 24-21 by Virginia in Scott Stadium.  Tech would lose six of their final eight that year, including a 30-27 overtime loss to Utah in the Sun Bowl.

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Comment (1)

Once again,very good breakdowns on the games this weekend.There is a lot to be decided in the Coastal,and right now,it is anybody’s conference.Will the cream start to rise,or will it be crowded at the bottom?
Great job,as usual ,on the game breakdowns.