Get the Athlon Sports Newsletter
Stephen Morris takes on a tough Florida defense.
Week 1 was a good debut for most of the teams in the ACC. North Carolina was handled by South Carolina on the road, but Virginia knocked off BYU, and Clemson scored a huge non-conference victory over Georgia.
Although non-conference wins aren’t necessarily a good indicator of depth for any league, it certainly helps the national perception of the ACC.
This week, Miami, Syracuse and Virginia will have opportunities for non-conference wins. The Hurricanes host Florida, the Cavaliers welcome Oregon to Charlottesville, and the Orange travel to Northwestern.
There’s only one conference matchup this Saturday, as Wake Forest plays at Boston College.
The rest of the schedule is full of one-sided affairs, including Virginia Tech against Western Carolina and Clemson versus South Carolina State.
ACC Week 2 Game Power Rankings
1. Florida (-3) at Miami (noon ET, ESPN)
Week 2 doesn’t feature many marquee matchups, but this meeting between Sunshine State rivals should be one of the must-see games this Saturday. The Hurricanes are making progress under coach Al Golden, and a win over Florida certainly wouldn’t hurt the rebuilding efforts for this coaching staff. The battle in the trenches will be worth watching, as the Gators’ defensive line is one of the best in the nation, and Miami’s offensive line ranked in the top 10 of Athlon’s preseason rankings. Quarterback Stephen Morris and a solid group of receivers will test a Florida secondary that ranked 17th nationally against the pass last season and is led by future NFL cornerbacks in Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson. Running back Duke Johnson is explosive and is due for a heavy workload after recording 19 carries in the opener. Miami’s defense was one of the worst in the ACC last year but showed improvement - albeit against FAU - in Week 1. Stopping Florida's offense will be a bigger challenge for the 'Canes, especially with quarterback Jeff Driskel improving, and a solid duo of running backs in Matt Jones and Mack Brown. If the Hurricanes can slow down the Gators’ rushing attack, it’s a good sign for a defense that was shredded for 217.9 yards per game on the ground last year.
2. Oregon (-22) at Virginia (3:30 ET, ABC/ESPN2)
After a last-minute win against BYU last Saturday, the schedule doesn’t get any easier for Virginia in Week 2. Even without Chip Kelly calling the plays, the Ducks didn’t miss a beat on offense against Nicholls State. Oregon recorded 66 points and 772 yards on less than 20 minutes on time of possession last week. Virginia struggled to generate much offense against the Cougars last Saturday (223 yards), but its defense limited BYU to only 175 passing yards. The Ducks are more explosive and deeper on offense than the Cougars, which presents an even bigger challenge for the Cavaliers. Although the Cavaliers need to get stops on defense, they need to play keep away on offense. The running back trio of Kevin Parks, Khalek Shepherd and freshman Tiquan Mizzell has to have success on early downs, as Virginia hopes to wear down Oregon’s defense. Even if the Cavaliers defense manages to limit quarterback Marcus Mariota, the Ducks have other weapons, including running back De’Anthony Thomas and receiver Josh Huff.
3. Syracuse (+12) at Northwestern (6 ET, Big Ten Network)
Even though the Orange suffered a loss to Penn State in the opener, all is not lost in Syracuse. A new coaching staff and quarterback is a lot to overcome in the first week of the season, so Syracuse has plenty of room to grow over the next few contests. But the Orange will have their hands full on Saturday night. Northwestern’s offense recorded 508 yards in last week’s win over California – and that was with top quarterback Kain Colter and running back Venric Mark sidelined due to injuries. Both players are expected to be back in the lineup on Saturday. The Wildcats should have no trouble scoring, so it’s up to Syracuse’s offense to improve after recording only 260 yards against Penn State. Quarterback Drew Allen was 16 of 37 for 189 yards in his first start, but he will have an opportunity to throw against a Wildcats’ secondary that allowed 455 passing yards to California.
4. Wake Forest (+3) at Boston College (Friday, 8 ET, ESPN2)
Although both Wake Forest and Boston College were victorious in Week 1, it’s hard to glean too much from playing FCS opponents. However, both teams had to be pleased with some of the individual performances in their early tune-up. Take out Presbyterian’s 66-yard run in the first half, and the Blue Hose managed only 85 yards on 42 plays against Wake Forest’s defense. The Eagles trailed 14-7 in the first half but rallied behind the steady play of quarterback Chase Rettig, and a defense that held Villanova without a point in the final two quarters. Boston College’s defense was aggressive against the Wildcats (four sacks), which will test a Demon Deacon offensive line that struggled mightily last year. After a good showing against Presbyterian, this matchup against a balanced Boston College offense should give the rest of the ACC a better idea of where Wake Forest’s defense stacks up in 2013.
5. Old Dominion (+18) at Maryland (4 ET, ESPNEWS)
Outside of Clemson and Florida State, the ACC’s most impressive team of Week 1 had to be Maryland. Even though FIU is one of the worst teams in the nation, the Terrapins seem to have the right pieces in place on both sides of the ball. Quarterback C.J. Brown was sharp in his return from a torn ACL, recording 386 total yards and five touchdowns. And a defense with only four returning starters allowed just 171 yards to the Panthers. Old Dominion is transitioning to the FBS level and features a high-scoring offense, led by quarterback Taylor Heinicke (338 yards last week against East Carolina). While the Monarchs can move the ball on offense, the defense gave up 6.3 yards per play against the Pirates last week and ranked 94th nationally in total defense among FCS teams in 2012. Old Dominion will make Maryland sweat more than it did against FIU, but the Terrapins should be 2-0 heading into Week 3.
6. Duke (-6) at Memphis (4:30 ET, ESPN3)
Although it’s only Week 2 of the college football season, it’s never too early to start thinking about bowl eligibility. If Duke wants to make a return trip to the postseason, it has to win this game. Memphis is a team headed in the right direction under coach Justin Fuente, and the Tigers closed out 2012 by winning three consecutive games. Duke easily handled North Carolina Central in its opener, recording its first shutout since 1989 in a 45-0 win. Memphis is a mystery team after a bye in Week 1, and redshirt freshman Paxton Lynch unseated Jacob Karam in the quarterback battle this fall. Memphis’ defense returns eight starters, so this should be a good test for Duke quarterback Anthony Boone in his third career start.
7. MTSU (+17.5) at North Carolina (12:30 ET, ESPN3)
The Tar Heels lost to South Carolina 27-10 last Thursday night, but there were a few positives for coach Larry Fedora to build on this week. A rebuilt offensive line held its own, and after struggling early, the defense held the Gamecocks to just seven points in the second half. The Blue Raiders defeated Western Carolina 45-24 last Thursday, but the win came at a price. Quarterback Logan Kilgore suffered a shoulder injury against the Catamounts and may be at less than full strength against the Tar Heels. With Kilgore at less than 100 percent, North Carolina should expect a heavy dose of sophomore running back Jordan Parker (156 yards last week), especially after struggling to stop South Carolina’s ground attack. Even if MTSU can move the ball, the Tar Heels simply have too much firepower and should take advantage of a Blue Raider defense that allowed 440 yards per game last year. With Georgia Tech up next, it’s important for North Carolina’s defense to have a good outing to build confidence for the ACC opener.
8. Richmond (+23) at NC State (6 ET, ESPN3)
New NC State coach Dave Doeren had an impressive debut last week, and the first-year coach should start off with a 2-0 mark with Richmond coming to down on Saturday. The Wolfpack handled Louisiana Tech 40-14 in Week 1, but the win was costly. Quarterback Brandon Mitchell suffered a foot injury and will miss at least four weeks. With Mitchell sidelined, Pete Thomas is expected to be the No. 1 quarterback, and the coaching staff can use this game to get him acclimated to the new offense, especially with a date against Clemson on Sept. 19. The Spiders won’t be a pushover, as they rank No. 15 in the FCS poll and are led by former Virginia quarterback Michael Strauss.
9. South Carolina State (+52.5) at Clemson (12:30 ET, ESPN3)
After a huge victory over a ranked opponent, it’s always a good idea to put for the winning team to be on letdown alert the next week. But there should be little concern for Clemson this Saturday. The Tigers take on South Carolina State in Week 2, a team that went 5-6 in 2012 and ranked 101st nationally in scoring offense last year. Don’t expect quarterback Tajh Boyd to play more than a half for the Tigers, but this matchup is a good opportunity to pad his stats for Heisman voters. Expect Clemson to get plenty of young players a handful of snaps in this game.
10. Western Carolina (+42) at Virginia Tech (1:30 ET, ESPN3)
As expected, Virginia Tech was handled by Alabama in Atlanta last Saturday. The Hokies managed only 212 yards of total offense – with 77 coming on Trey Edmunds’ touchdown run. The defense held the Crimson Tide to just 206 yards, and Bud Foster’s unit will have to carry this team until the offense gets on track. With a struggling Western Carolina team (2-20 from 2011-12), this should provide the perfect opportunity for Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas to gain some confidence. Thomas was just 5 of 26 against Alabama but should have no trouble against the Catamounts. The Hokies should regain the services of running back Joel Caleb (suspended for the opener), while J.C. Coleman is still on the mend from a preseason ankle injury.
ACC Week 2 Pivotal Players
Drew Allen, QB, Syracuse
It’s easy to list the quarterbacks in this section, but Syracuse’s offense managed just 17 points in last week’s loss to Penn State. With a matchup against Northwestern’s high-scoring offense ahead this Saturday, the Orange need a better effort from their passing attack. In his first start, quarterback Drew Allen threw for 189 yards on 16 completions and tossed two picks. Northwestern’s secondary struggled to stop California last week, and with Allen having another week to jell with the rest of the offense, expect a better performance on Saturday.
Trey Edmunds, RB, Virginia Tech
The Hokies are searching for answers on offense after last week’s 35-10 loss to Alabama. With Western Carolina up this week, Virginia Tech shouldn’t have to sweat much to break into the win column. However, we are listing Edmunds here with eye to the rest of the season. In the opener, Edmunds rushed for 132 yards – 77 on one carry – on 20 attempts. The Hokies struggled to find a No. 1 back last year and desperately need to find someone to take the pressure off of quarterback Logan Thomas. While this game will be a one-sided affair, Edmunds can solidify his place on the depth chart with a big performance.
Ereck Flowers/Seantrel Henderson/Jon Feliciano, OT, Miami
Florida’s front seven is among the best in the nation. The Gators held an explosive Toledo offense to just six points and 205 yards, while recording two sacks against quarterback Terrance Owens. If Miami’s offense is going to get on track, it has to give quarterback Stephen Morris and running back Duke Johnson room to operate. All three tackles will be under the spotlight, especially as they try to slow down the pass rush from Ronald Powell, Dante Fowler and Jonathan Bullard.
Wake Forest’s offensive line
The Demon Deacons had one of the ACC’s worst offensive lines last year. This unit allowed 2.3 sacks per game, while rushers averaged just three yards per carry. Although Presbyterian isn’t the toughest of opponents, there were encouraging signs in Week 1. Wake Forest’s offensive line allowed just one sack and rushers averaged 3.5 yards per carry. After recording four sacks against Villanova, Boston College’s front seven should provide a good litmus test for this unit.
David Watford, QB, Virginia
With one of the nation’s most prolific offenses coming to Charlottesville this weekend, the Cavaliers need to score more than 19 points they recorded against BYU to have a chance at an upset against the Ducks. Watford was just 18 of 32 for 114 yards and one touchdown against BYU, and he won’t get any breaks against an Oregon defense that has one of the best cornerback tandems in college football. The sophomore doesn’t need to throw for 300 yards but avoiding turnovers, while making plays with his legs will be crucial to Virginia’s upset hopes.
ACC Week 2 Predictions
|Game||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|Wake Forest (+3) at Boston College||BC 24-14||Wake Forest 24-21||Wake Forest 27-24||BC 20-17|
|Florida (-3) at Miami||Florida 28-24||Florida 27-21||Florida 24-20||Florida 24-20|
|SC State (+52.5) at Clemson||Clemson 52-7||Clemson 38-10||Clemson 62-3||Clemson 48-0|
|MTSU (+17.5) at North Carolina||UNC 38-14||UNC 45-24||UNC 45-20||UNC 38-20|
|Western Carolina (+42) at Va. Tech||Va. Tech 21-10||Va. Tech 38-3||Va. Tech 48-7||Va. Tech 37-10|
|Oregon (-22) at Virginia||Oregon 49-14||Oregon 45-17||Oregon 41-20||Oregon 28-6|
|Old Dominion (+18) at Maryland||Maryland 31-17||Maryland 40-17||Maryland 45-24||Maryland 41-24|
|Duke (-6) at Memphis||Memphis 21-17||Duke 31-20||Duke 31-17||Memphis 21-20|
|Syracuse (+12) at Northwestern||NW 35-14||NW 34-24||NW 34-20||NW 33-24|
|Richmond (+23) at NC State||NC State 28-14||NC State 41-13||NC State 38-20||NC State 30-13|