Week 6 was one of the crazier weeks in recent memory around college football, as three of the top five teams in the nation fell. This obviously had a large impact on the ACC, as well, with Florida State losing in the final minute at Carter-Finley Stadium.
The ACC’s Atlantic Division has a new complexion, as the Coastal now sees a new team in second place outright behind the Miami Hurricanes. Let’s take a look at what to watch for a somewhat light ACC schedule in Week 7.
Top of the Ratings
Duke (5-1, 2-0) at Virginia Tech (3-3, 1-1), 12:30pm ET, ACC Network
Last week’s episode: Duke 42, Virginia 17; North Carolina 48, Virginia Tech 34
Program guide: I mentioned there is a new second place team in the ACC Coastal, and that team is the Duke Blue Devils. David Cutcliffe’s troops ascended to this spot after a 25-point dismantling of the Virginia Cavaliers in Durham last weekend. The ‘Hoos considerably outgained the Blue Devils (461 to 394), but two interceptions from Virginia quarterback Phillip Sims and a tremendous outing by Duke backup quarterback Anthony Boone helped seal the deal. Boone completed 18-of-31 passes for 212 yards and four touchdowns, as starter Sean Renfree continued to nurse an injury. Though Cutcliffe has not announced a starter as of press time, the task gets a bit tougher this week, as the Blue Devils face a top-30 pass defense in the Virginia Tech Hokies. Whomever is under center will have the same task — be efficient and get the ball to Conner Vernon (7-93-2 against Virginia). Duke also needs to look to get themselves in more third-and-manageable situations in Blacksburg, as they converted only 3-of-14 third downs in last week’s contest.
The Hokies return home a bit staggered by Giovani Bernard’s 262-yard performance in Chapel Hill last weekend. Duke’s rushing tandem of Juwan Thompson and Jela Duncan may not be able to match that level of production, but if these two can put together some decent numbers, it may open things up a bit for Boone or Renfree through the air. The Hokies allowed 533 yards in total offense to the Tar Heels, and this game may represent a chance for Virginia Tech’s defense to authoritatively make a statement that last week was an aberration.
Hokie quarterback Logan Thomas and his running game are also looking to make a statement that they are still alive and kicking. Thomas put together decent numbers against Carolina, completing just 26-of-49 for 354 yards and two touchdowns, to go with one interception. Thomas’ completion percentage is down 7% from the 2011-12 season, and he needs to take advantage of Duke’s 78th-ranked pass defense early and often in this one. Thomas was also his team’s leading rusher last week, rushing seven times for just 20 yards and a score. Michael Holmes’ ability to get blocks and hit holes will be a major storyline in this one.
Duke has, for right or wrong, drawn the attention of many skeptics who point to their lack of recent success and upcoming schedule as reasons that their run cannot continue. Virginia Tech needs to right the ship right now and make a charge to play in the level of bowl game to which the student body and fan base has grown accustomed. The sense of urgency on both sidelines makes for one of the more fascinating games we’ve seen in the ACC in quite some time.
Set Your DVR
North Carolina (4-2, 1-1) at Miami (4-2, 3-0), 2:30pm ET, ESPNU
Program guide: We’ve already talked about what the Heels did against Virginia Tech last week, but Larry Fedora’s crew is clearly on an impressive run. Carolina has defeated their last three opponents by a combined score of 141-40, and that may spell bad news for a Miami team that got slapped around in South Bend last Saturday evening. Notre Dame benched starting quarterback Everett Golson for an unspecified violation of team rules, but that clearly didn’t slow down the Irish. Golson replaced Rees and finished 17-of-22 for 186 yards as Notre Dame piled up just under 600 yards of total offense. I spoke last week of Miami’s defensive issues, and there is certainly little reason for confidence this week.
Miami needs to find some semblance of a run game this week — they had to throw early and often last week, so they never really established much on the ground — and keep Carolina’s high-octane offense on the bench. Miami had one drive last week that went over four minutes, and that drive ended in a turnover on downs. If that is the case this week, Bryn Renner can continue to feed Giovani Bernard and let him run wild on a ‘Canes D that allows almost five yards per carry. Should Bernard see this kind of workload, expect Miami’s run of allowing 30-plus points per game to conference opponents to continue in this one.
Maryland (3-2, 1-0) at Virginia (2-4, 0-2), 3:00pm ET, FSN (regional)
Program guide: It seems hard to remember a time when this border rivalry had less “juice” than it does now, but this is the position in which fans of both schools find themselves this weekend. Virginia certainly did not get the spark it sought from backup quarterback Phillip Sims, who went 21-of-42 for 268 yards and two interceptions against Duke last week. Virginia converted on just 4-of-16 third downs, hampered partially by some questionable play calls on those third downs. The Cavaliers were dominant on the ground, with their three backs (Perry Jones, Kevin Parks and Clifton Richardson) combining for 199 yards. Jones had 100 of those yards on 19 carries. Maryland averages 2.33 yards per carry allowed on the ground and just 81 yards rushing per game. The Terrapins held West Virginia to 25 yards on 25 carries in their game two weeks ago, which puts pressure on the run game, Sims and the Virginia offensive line.
Maryland makes the trip to Scott Stadium off a somewhat lackluster 19-14 victory against Wake Forest, looking to avenge last year’s 31-13 home defeat at the hands of Mike London’s Virginia squad. The Terrapin offense bogged down numerous times in last week’s outing, leaving Brad Craddock to nail two long field goals. Maryland punted seven times, and quarterback Perry Hills threw for 191 yards on 14-of-25 passing, with a score and a pick. 63 of those passing yards came on a pass to Stefon Diggs that led to the winning score. The Terps were 5-for-18 on third down last week, and they only accounted for 53 yards rushing. Maryland was one of the primary beneficiaries of NC State’s upset victory last weekend, as they took up sole residence at the top of the ACC Atlantic Division. The Wolfpack will pay a visit to Byrd Stadium to play Maryland next week, with a visit to Boston College and a home date against Georgia Tech before Randy Edsall takes his team to Clemson for a key matchup we previewed in Stadium Journey Magazine. If things hold up for Maryland, that one could have large consequences.
Boston College (1-4, 0-2) at Florida State (5-1, 2-1), 5:30pm ET, ESPN2
Program guide: I mentioned last week that NC State might be a “trap” game for the Seminoles, with Miami waiting for Florida State. There should be no danger of that being the case this week. BC gets the unfortunate draw of going to Doak Campbell to take on an angry Seminole club. This would be challenging for just about anyone in these circumstances, but consider that the Eagles are coming off a 34-31 loss to previously winless Army in which they allowed 595 yards of total offense. Boston College is ranked 106th among FBS schools in total defense, with last week’s performance dropping them to 121st against the run. When you note that Seminole running back Chris Thompson rushed 25 times for 141 carries against NC State last week and averages 7.7 per carry in 2012, this signals a long day for the Eagles in Tallahassee.
Brian Wilmer is a contributor to FBSchedules.com. Follow him @sportsmatters.