In the immortal words of a famous announcer, “it’s…tiiiiiiiime”. The ACC is starting to take shape — such as it is — and we’re well in the throes of conference play. The prevailing narrative seems to be “Separation Saturday”, and we might not see a whole lot of separation in this league until the final Saturday. As a wise man once said — paraphrasing — the only thing we know is that we know nothing.
Since we know nothing, this is a perfect segue to…
These Things We Know
- Boston College has spent the entirety of their capital. Much was said about BC — even in this space — after their first two dominant weeks. We thought this may be the year they turned the corner. Fast-forward to ACC play, and the Eagles have scored seven points in three league games. That number seems almost unfathomable. When Wake Forest shuts you out, there’s a problem. BC is averaging just 256.7 yards per game (90.3 passing) in league games.
- Virginia’s best opportunity to win an ACC game may have passed them by. The Cavaliers played Pittsburgh about as evenly as possible, yet still managed to lose by a touchdown. UVa converted 5-of-15 third downs in the contest, and the ‘Hoos had two running backs with long runs comprising most of their rushing totals. Albert Reid had a 71-yard run, but carried three times for three yards outside of that carry. Smoke Mizzell had a 20-yard carry, but gained just 22 yards on six other carries. Add a crippling Matt Johns interception to the equation, and things continue to get worse in Charlottesville.
- NC State continues to be maddening in ACC play. The Wolfpack were a team, like BC, that started off like a house afire. That house has now burned to the ground, as a loss to Virginia Tech lowers Dave Doeren’s ACC record to 3-15. The four non-conference wins for State seem like a distant memory now, as they have scored just 13 points in each of their two league games. Doeren needs to right the ship — and quickly — to avoid yet another lost season.
Before we get to trivia, let me announce here — as I did on The Sixer — that next week will be a “bye week” for this column. Every team needs one, as does every columnist. Enjoy this week’s games, and we’ll see you again in Week 9!
ACC Trivia, Week 7 (answer at the end of the column): Which ACC player leads all true freshmen in rushing among FBS teams?
Keyword Search (all times Eastern and rankings AP)
Louisville (2-3, 1-1 ACC) at #11 Florida State (5-0, 3-0 ACC)
Noon | ESPN
- The run stops here: Louisville’s offense is clearly much-improved from the beginning of the year, but if you want the real change for the Cards, look at the defense. Teams rush for one-fifth the yards against Louisville in the last two games, compared to the first three (206 per game in the first three, 40.5 per over the last two). Louisville has surrendered just three rushing touchdowns on the year, with NC State carrying 30 times for just 45 yards (and one of those scores) against Bobby Petrino’s crew.
- Taking Tallahassee: It’s really not bad enough that Florida State holds wins in 13 of the 15 contests they’ve played against U of L. The Seminoles have taken eight straight in Tallahassee, with Louisville’s only victory in Florida’s panhandle coming 63 years ago. The Cardinals defeated Florida State 41-14 in 1952. You may know the name of the Louisville quarterback in that game — he was a young man named Johnny Unitas.
- Throwing troubles: Whatever happens on Saturday, both teams have to hope that they do not fall behind early and find themselves compelled to throw the football. The teams are 71st (Louisville) and 67th (Florida State) in passing offense. The schools have only combined to break the 300-yard mark through the air twice this season. Louisville threw for just 103 yards in last week’s victory against NC State.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Florida State has won 34 of 38 and 18 straight in Tallahassee under Jimbo Fisher. As hot as Louisville is, that’s tough to overcome.
Pitt (4-1, 2-0 ACC) at Georgia Tech (2-4, 0-3 ACC)
12:30pm | ACC Network
- It’s been awhile: In what was seemingly 50 conferences and head coaches ago, Pitt last started a season 5-1 six years ago. Dave Wannstedt coached the then-Big East member Panthers that year, with wins over Youngstown State, Buffalo, Navy, Louisville and UConn to start the campaign, sandwiched around that one loss. Pitt finished the year 10-3 (5-2 Big East), with a win over North Carolina in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
- On the other hand: Georgia Tech last started a season 2-4 in 2012. They finished that year 7-7 with a Sun Bowl victory over USC, after an inexplicable appearance in the ACC Championship. A 2-5 start by the Ramblin’ Wreck would be arguably their worst start since they started 1-5 in 1994 on the way to a 1-10 season.
- The irresistible force against the immovable object: Georgia Tech is taking up their usual residence in the national top ten in rushing offense, coming in ninth at 271.7 yards per game. Pitt, conversely, ranks sixth among FBS teams in rush defense, allowing only 84.8 yards per game. The Panthers’ performance has been boosted by a 33-carry, nine-yard performance by Virginia Tech. The Jackets’ 71 yards against Clemson last week was their lowest total since a 79-yard effort in a 10-7 win against Gardner-Webb in 2008.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: It seems unfathomable that the Jackets could slip to 0-4 in the ACC with their collection of athletes. It does, however, look quite likely.
Syracuse (3-2, 1-0) at Virginia (1-4, 0-1 ACC)
3:30pm | RSN
- No rude welcome: The ACC has expanded numerous times in the last 35-plus years, but Virginia has been quite the hospitable host to teams facing Virginia for the first time. It took the ‘Hoos 35 years and six losses to finally beat a first-time ACC opponent, defeating Louisville last season. Though this will be the fifth time the schools have faced each other, this is their first game as ACC foes.
- Triple digits: Part of UVa’s struggles rests in their rankings in the hundreds among FBS teams. Virginia ranks 100th or worse in five major categories, including scoring offense (106th), rushing offense (118th), scoring defense (108th), passing defense (106th) and turnover margin (122nd). Virginia is one of eight teams in the FBS and just one of two Power Five schools (Maryland the other) with a turnover margin of minus-1.5 or worse.
- Ruling the red zone: One place Virginia does not struggle as much is red zone defense. Virginia has surrendered scores on 16 opponent tries out of 21 attempts in the red zone; however, just nine of those scores have been touchdowns. The Cavs rank 25th in the FBS in red zone defense. Syracuse, however, is tremendously efficient inside the 20. The Orange have 15 scores on 16 tries, which leads the ACC. Nine of those 15 scores have been touchdowns.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Mike London would need to win out this year and go 12-0 next year to get to .500 as UVa’s coach. That won’t happen.
Virginia Tech (3-3, 1-1 ACC) at Miami (3-2, 0-1 ACC)
3:30pm | ESPNU
- He started it: You may recall Duke Johnson’s gashing of the Hokies last season, running 29 times for 249 yards and a touchdown in a Hurricane victory. The Tech rush defense has seemingly not been the same since, allowing nearly 191 yards per game (96th in FBS). The Hokies have allowed 141 rushing yards or greater to eight of the ten FBS foes they have faced since that Miami game. Miami has also regressed in the run game, sinking to 98th among FBS teams at 143.8 yards per tilt.
- Hi, Felicia: ‘Canes sophomore quarterback Brad Kaaya has experienced no sophomore slump whatsoever, building on a solid freshman year by leading the league in total offense this year. Kaaya averages 292.4 yards of total offense. He is also tied for second in fewest interceptions in the league with one (Florida State’s Everett Golson has zero).
- The Golden doesn’t rule: Some disgruntled Miami fans have called for Al Golden to be on the hot seat in Coral Gables, and a loss here would give them two more numbers as ammunition. A loss would hang a three-game losing streak on Golden’s ‘Canes. Further, it would drop the fifth-year coach to just one game over .500 at home in ACC play for his career.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: The winner still might be able to make something — albeit a smaller something — of their season. The loser is likely done — or close.
Boston College (3-3, 0-3 ACC) at #5 Clemson (5-0, 1-0 ACC)
7:00pm | ESPNU
- To the winner goes the spoils: This game’s victor gets to claim the O’Rourke-McFadden Trophy. Charlie O’Rourke (Boston College) and Banks McFadden (Clemson) faced each other in the 1940 Cotton Bowl, and the trophy depicts both from that game. Clemson is 6-1 against the Eagles in games involving the trophy.
- Caged Tigers?: No opponent has gained greater than 225 yards in any game against BC this season. Clemson has gained 296 yards or greater in each game this year, including games of 500-plus against Wofford and Georgia Tech. The Tigers have gained fewer than 225 yards once since the start of the 2012 season, a 190-yard outing against Georgia Tech last season.
- Cracking the century mark: Clemson’s Wayne Gallman is the first Clemson back in ten years to have three consecutive 100-yard games. BC has allowed greater than 100 rushing yards as a team just five times since the start of the 2014 season. One of those games included a 214-yard effort by Pitt’s James Conner last season. Clemson went for 113 against BC in a 17-13 win over the Eagles last season.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Absent a crazy development, BC’s skid looks poised to continue. This game likely ends up closer than Clemson would like, however.
Wake Forest (3-3, 1-2 ACC) at North Carolina (4-1, 1-0 ACC)
7:00pm | RSN
- Hello old friend; This series is the ACC’s oldest rivalry; however, this will only be their fifth meeting in the last 10 years. North Carolina has beaten the Deacs just once in those four tries. The schools have a wacky plan afoot to play each other in 2019 and 2021…as non-conference games.
- How is this possible?: North Carolina is attempting to start the ACC slate 2-0. This would be the first time that has happened — wait for it — in 18 years. That 1997 season was such a rousing success for the Tar Heels that Mack Brown bailed for Texas before the then 10-1 club beat the doors off Virginia Tech in the Gator Bowl. Carl Torbush took over the reins after Brown’s departure, going 17-18 (10-14 ACC) as the Heels’ leader.
- Crowded airspace: This is an intriguing battle of two top-ten passing defenses. Wake Forest ranks eighth nationally against the pass, while UNC ranks fourth. Wake allows just over 142 yards per game through the air, compared to Carolina’s 123. UNC’s rush defense is ranked 116th, though, allowing 234 yards per game on the ground. Unfortunately for the Deacs, they are hardly prepared to capitalize on the advantage. Wake rushes for 114.7 yards per game, 114th-best in the FBS.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: These teams have been maddeningly frustrating to their fans. Carolina might be back. Wake Forest may be relevant again. Interesting.
Trivia answer: I asked earlier: Which ACC player leads all true freshmen in rushing among FBS teams?
Louisville’s Lamar Jackson leads all true freshmen in rushing. Jackson averages 87 yards per game.