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Athlon previews the Week 5 action in the ACC.
The ACC was in the spotlight last week, as Florida State and Clemson squared off in Tallahassee for a meeting of top-10 teams. Week 5 doesn't have many marquee matchups in the ACC, but there are enough games to provide some intrigue. Miami hosts NC State in a critical conference game for both teams, while Virginia hopes to hold off an upset bid by Louisiana Tech, and Florida State travels to Tampa to take on South Florida.
Other Week 5 Previews and Predictions
ACC's Top Storylines for Week 5
Which defense will make enough plays to win: NC State or Miami?
In two ACC games this year, Miami has scored a combined 83 points. NC State scored 21 in the opener against Tennessee and 10 against Connecticut in Week 2 but has recorded at least 31 points in each of its last two games. Both teams have momentum on their side this week, especially as both sport a 3-1 record after last Saturday’s action. The Hurricanes seem to be hitting on all cylinders on offense, as quarterback Stephen Morris threw for a career-high 436 yards against Georgia Tech, while freshman Duke Johnson is averaging eight yards per carry. NC State’s offense isn’t as flashy, but quarterback Mike Glennon is one of the best in the nation, and the rushing attack got a boost with freshman Shadrach Thornton rushing for 145 yards in the win over Citadel. With both offenses capable of scoring over 30 points, this game will be decided by a few stops on defense. The Hurricanes need to get pressure on Glennon, and the Wolfpack’s offensive line is allowing 3.5 sacks per game. If Miami is able to get to Glennon, NC State will have a hard time winning this game. When the Hurricanes have the ball, keep an eye on the matchup of Morris versus the Wolfpack’s secondary. NC State cornerback David Amerson is one of the best in the nation, and Morris has thrown one pick in three out of Miami’s four games this year.
Can Virginia Tech get its rushing game on track?
Throw out games against Austin Peay and Bowling Green, and the Hokies are averaging just 77.5 rushing yards per game and has yet to score a touchdown on the ground. Contributing to the struggles is a reworked offensive line and the lack of a standout running back. In last week’s game against Bowling Green, the running back rotation had a shakeup, with Tony Gregory leading the way with 11 carries. Redshirt freshman Michael Holmes was expected to be the team’s No. 1 back, but he has just 151 yards on 35 attempts so far this season. Saturday’s matchup against Cincinnati will be the final tune-up for Virginia Tech, as the schedule the rest of the way features just ACC matchups. Cincinnati’s defense is allowing 123.5 rushing yards per game but is averaging four sacks a contest. Even though the Bearcats had some key personnel depart from the line, this group isn’t a pushover. Virginia Tech can win this game without a big day from the running backs, but it’s crucial this group develops a pecking order among the running backs and finds some consistency from the offensive line with the rest of the ACC schedule approaching.
Will Florida State avoid a letdown against South Florida?
On paper, everything points to a blowout win by Florida State on Saturday night. The Seminoles clearly showed they are one of the best teams in the nation in last week’s win over Clemson, but there’s that pesky letdown word that always seems to circulate after a big victory. The Seminoles lost to South Florida in their only meeting, dropping a 17-7 game in Tallahassee in 2009. There’s no question the talent level has increased for Florida State since then, while the Bulls enter Saturday’s game with nine losses in their last 12 games. In his first career start, South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels totaled 341 yards and two touchdowns against Florida State, but he’s also failed to fully develop into one of the nation’s top 25 quarterbacks. Another problem for South Florida has been its defense, which is allowing 384.5 yards a game. Florida State is clicking on all cylinders on both sides of the ball right now, and unless the Seminoles turn in an uninspired, flat performance, the Bulls won’t pull off another upset over their in-state foe.
Does Boston College have any answer for Clemson’s offense?
After a 1-2 start and road games against Army, Florida State and Georgia Tech upcoming, Saturday’s game against Clemson is a big one for Boston College. The Eagles still have slim bowl hopes, but a loss to the Tigers would put them at 1-3 with five road games remaining and a late season home date against Notre Dame in mid-November. Boston College’s offense has shown improvement under coordinator Doug Martin, averaging 26.3 points and 412.7 yards per game. Quarterback Chase Rettig has not thrown an interception the last two weeks and ranks first in the ACC in total offense per game. But is that enough to beat Clemson? Probably not. The Tigers scored 37 points on one of the nation’s best defenses last week and face a Boston College defense allowing nearly 400 yards per game. The Eagles should be able to move the ball, but their defense will have a hard time slowing down Clemson’s Tajh Boyd (QB), Andre Ellington (RB) and DeAndre Hopkins (WR). The Tigers suffered a blow to their receiving corps on Thursday night, as receiver Sammy Watkins won't play due to abdominal virus.
Is it time for Virginia to switch quarterbacks?
Throw out the Cavaliers’ performance against FCS opponent Richmond and the statistics for Virginia’s offense are rather pedestrian. The Cavaliers rushed for just 32 yards against Penn State and have thrown just as many interceptions (4) as touchdowns (4) in their last two games. Quarterback Michael Rocco is completing 60.2 percent of his passes but has struggled in back-to-back games. Backup Phillip Sims has played in every game this year, throwing for 174 yards and three touchdowns on 18 completions. Although Rocco has struggled, the offensive line has failed to open rushing lanes for the running backs, and the Cavaliers rank 97th in rushing offense going into Week 5. Rocco will start this Saturday, but Mike London could have a quick hook if the offense is stuck in neutral early in the game. With a high-scoring Louisiana Tech team coming to Charlottesville, the Cavaliers can’t afford to fall behind 20-0 once again.
Can Duke move closer to bowl eligibility?
The Blue Devils are off to a 3-1 start for the first time since 2008 and making a bowl game isn’t too far out of reach. Duke needs to catch a few breaks the rest of the way, beginning this Saturday against Wake Forest. The Blue Devils have not defeated the Demon Deacons since 1999, but there have been close calls along the way, including last year’s 24-23 loss in Durham. Although the rushing attack still needs work, Duke’s defense is showing signs of improvement, ranking 19th nationally with three sacks per game and allowing 106.5 rushing yards per game. Quarterback Sean Renfree is also off to a good start, throwing for nine touchdowns and 1,078 yards. However, the biggest concern for the Blue Devils has to be a secondary that ranks 74th nationally and has yet to face a quarterback/receiver combination like Wake Forest’s Tanner Price and Michael Campanaro. This is David Cutcliffe’s best team in his tenure at Duke, and the pieces are in place to get six wins. However, if the Blue Devils want to go bowling, they have to snap a 12-game losing streak to the Demon Deacons, especially with the schedule only getting tougher the rest of the year.
Easy Wins for North Carolina, Georgia Tech
After back-to-back losses against Wake Forest and Louisville, North Carolina got back into the win column with a solid 27-6 victory over East Carolina. Even more important for the Tar Heels was the return of running back Giovani Bernard, who rushed for 50 yards and chipped in 52 yards on six receptions. North Carolina should have no trouble moving to 3-2 this Saturday, as 0-4 Idaho visits Chapel Hill. The Vandals are coming off a three-point loss to Wyoming in overtime but were handled 63-14 by LSU on Sept. 15. After blowing a 36-19 lead against Miami, MTSU should be the perfect Week 5 opponent for Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets should be able to take out their frustrations against the Blue Raiders, while figuring out a few answers on defense. Georgia Tech allowed Miami to throw for 436 yards, while adding 173 on the ground last week.
Week 5 ACC Predictions
|Week 5 ACC Games||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|MTSU at Georgia Tech||GT 42-10||GT 37-17||GT 45-13||GT 48-10|
|NC State at Miami||Miami 21-17||NC State 24-21||NC State 27-24||Miami 27-10|
|Duke at Wake Forest||Duke 28-21||Wake 34-31||Wake 30-27||Duke 21-20|
|Idaho at North Carolina||UNC 35-7||UNC 37-14||UNC 48-13||UNC 41-3|
|Louisiana Tech at Virginia||La. Tech 28-14||La. Tech 31-28||La. Tech 38-31||La. Tech 41-23|
|Clemson at Boston College||Clemson 42-21||Clemson 42-20||Clemson 38-17||Clemson 31-14|
|Virginia Tech vs. Cincy (Landover)||VT 28-21||VT 31-21||VT 30-20||VT 27-24|
|Florida State at South Florida||FSU 38-14||FSU 34-14||FSU 38-13||FSU 31-13|
by Steven Lassan