Boston College (2–2, 0–1 ACC) at NC State (4–1, 1–1 ACC)
Saturday, noon ET
NC State let a golden opportunity — and an undefeated record — slip away last week when it blew a 17–0 lead at home in a 41–30 loss to Virginia Tech. The Wolfpack’s goal this week is to prevent the Hokies from beating them twice.
Boston College, making its first road trip of the season after four consecutive home games, will arrive at Carter-Finley Stadium with more questions than answers. The Eagles, who lost to Notre Dame 31–13 last week, have dropped two games in a row and are a mess offensively. They rank 98th in the country in both scoring (19.3 points per game) and total offense (309.0 yards per game).
Coach Frank Spaziani gave true freshman quarterback Chase Rettig his first start last week in an effort to ignite BC’s sluggish attack, but Rettig went down with an ankle injury in the first half and didn’t return. If Rettig is unable to play this week — and that seems likely, given that he spent the entire second half with his left foot in a protective boot — the Eagles will have to go with Dave Shinskie or Mike Marscovetra under center. Shinskie started Boston College’s first three games, but he lost the job after making several poor decisions in a 19–0 loss to Virginia Tech.
NC State coach Tom O’Brien, who was the head coach at Boston College from 1997-2006, has no such worries at quarterback. Russell Wilson wasn’t his best last week, throwing three interceptions in addition to three touchdown passes, but he engineers a unit that leads the ACC in scoring (36.2 ppg) and total offense (448.8 ypg). Wilson and his teammates also have plenty of incentive to play well, given how poorly they performed against Boston College last season.
The Eagles routed the Wolfpack 52-20 as tailback Montel Harris rang up school-record totals of 264 rushing yards and five touchdowns, doing much of his damage on direct snaps from BC’s Bazooka formation. Harris has become the focal point of opposing defenses — he rushed for just 28 yards on 15 carries against the Fighting Irish — and that will continue this week as long as Boston College fails to pass the ball effectively.
Central Michigan (2-3) at Virginia Tech (3-2)
Saturday, noon ET
The Hokies, riding a three-game winning streak that has elevated them to the top of the ACC’s Coastal Division standings, look to keep rolling against Central Michigan.
The Chippewas are coming off back-to-back losses to Northwestern and Ball State as they head to Lane Stadium for the first meeting between the programs. Central Michigan allowed 306 rushing yards in its 31–17 loss to the Cardinals last week, an ominous sign heading into its matchup with Virginia Tech. The Hokies rushed for 317 yards on 8.6 yards per carry in their 41–30 victory at N.C. State last week, with quarterback Tyrod Taylor and tailback Darren Evans combining for 281 yards on the ground.
Virginia Tech has played each of the last two weeks without its top runner, sophomore Ryan Williams, who has been bothered by a strained right hamstring. Williams has been practicing on a limited basis, and no update on his condition will be made available until Thursday. But with Evans and fellow tailback David Wilson running well, Virginia Tech can afford to keep Williams out to make sure he is healthy for his team’s six remaining conference games.
Clemson (2-2, 0-1 ACC) at North Carolina (2-2, 0-1 ACC)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Clemson and North Carolina enter this game with identical records, but they are trending in opposite directions. The Tigers have dropped consecutive games against tough opposition, Auburn and Miami, while the Tar Heels have put together back-to-back wins against Rutgers and East Carolina.
A major key for Clemson, which is making its first trip to Kenan Stadium since 2002, is to get better production from its passing game. The Tigers feature the ACC’s leading rusher in Andre Ellington (95.0 yards per game), who ran for a career-high three touchdowns last week, but they have been unable to threaten opponents with throws down the field.
Quarterback Kyle Parker is the one stuck with ugly statistics — he completed just 14-of-33 passes and threw three interceptions in the 30–21 loss to Miami — but he hasn’t been the major problem. Clemson has established no consistency at wide receiver, with seven players getting snaps at that position in each of the first four games. The Tigers plan to shorten the rotation this week and feature youngsters DeAndre Hopkins, Bryce McNeal and Jaron Brown after veterans Terrance Ashe, Xavier Dye and Brandon Clear played poorly against the Hurricanes.
North Carolina should be better prepared this week to defend Clemson through the air, regardless of who runs the pass patterns. All-ACC safety Deunta Williams will return from his four-game suspension to boost a defense that came up with three interceptions in a 42–17 victory over pass-happy East Carolina last week.
Offensively, the Tar Heels will try to build on the success they enjoyed on the ground against the Pirates. UNC rushed for a season-high 263 yards last week with 100-yard efforts from tailbacks Johnny White and Shaun Draughn, and the Tigers rank 92nd nationally against the run (181.3 yards per game). Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, who is tied for second nationally in tackles for loss (2.5 per game), will be a factor when quarterback T.J. Yates drops back to pass.
Virginia (2-2, 0-1 ACC) at Georgia Tech (3-2, 2-1 ACC)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Last year, Al Groh tried to lead his Virginia team to a victory over Georgia Tech. This weekend, he’ll try to help the Yellow Jackets beat the team full of players he recruited. Groh, who compiled a 59–53 record as Virginia’s head coach from 2001-09, is in his first season as Georgia Tech’s defensive coordinator. The Yellow Jackets have struggled to execute the 3-4 defense he has implemented, but they’ll have an advantage this week because of Groh’s knowledge of Virginia’s offensive personnel.
The Cavaliers, meanwhile, still are searching for their first victory over a Football Bowl Subdivision team under new coach Mike London. Virginia lost at home to Florida State 34–14 last week in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. The Cavaliers enter this game among the nation’s top 10 in sacks and tackles for loss, but their pass-rushing acumen won’t be a huge factor against Georgia Tech’s run-heavy offense.
The Yellow Jackets, who pulled out a 24–20 victory at Wake Forest last week despite running for a season-low 209 yards, lead the ACC and rank sixth nationally in rushing (298.2 yards per game). Georgia Tech has suffered from a lack of continuity and consistency on the offensive line because of injuries, and the trend figures to continue at least one more week. Starting left guard Will Jackson exited the Wake Forest game with a left leg injury that put him on crutches, and All-ACC center Sean Bedford was ineffective as he played through a shin injury he suffered against N.C. State the previous week.
Georgia Tech’s hobbled offensive line takes aim at a Virginia defense that has shifted back to the 4-3 scheme following Groh’s departure. The Cavaliers might not be at full strength in the secondary, with starting safety Rodney McLeod’s status in jeopardy after he left last week’s game with a head injury in the first quarter.
Navy (2-2) at Wake Forest (2-3)
Saturday, 6:30 p.m. ET
If Wake Forest struggles against Navy’s offense this weekend, it won’t be because of unfamiliarity. The Demon Deacons are getting their fifth look at the Midshipmen’s option-based attack in the last four seasons, and they played against a very similar system last week in their 24–20 loss to Georgia Tech.
That said, the biggest question for Wake Forest entering this game is on offense. As in, who will be the quarterback as the Demon Deacons try to snap their three-game losing streak? True freshman Tanner Price, who started two consecutive games before sitting out last week to recover from a concussion, likely will get the nod. Backup Ted Stachitas (broken bone in lower back) and third-stringer Brendan Cross (shoulder), both of whom were injured against Georgia Tech, are unlikely to play. Fourth-string QB Skylar Jones, who battled through turf toe last week to finish the game, likely will be the backup.
The Demon Deacons can’t afford for Price to take too many hits, so they might opt for a heavy dose of running against an undersized Navy defense. The Midshipmen, who have allowed the fewest passing yards in the nation (95.3 per game) but rank 101st nationally against the run (195.0 yards per game), must be ready for inside runs by tailback Josh Adams (101 yards last week) and perimeter sweeps by wide receivers Devon Brown and Chris Givens.
On the flip side, Wake Forest is coming off its most impressive defensive performance of the season. The Demon Deacons switched from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 look last week against the Yellow Jackets, holding Georgia Tech to a season-low 209 rushing yards on 48 attempts.
Florida State (4-1, 2-0 ACC) at Miami (3-1, 1-0 ACC)
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Florida State and Miami failed their big September tests, losing big at Oklahoma and Ohio State, respectively. But the in-state rivals have remained at least somewhat relevant on a national level in October, with both teams entering this game ranked as they look to stay unbeaten in ACC play.
The last nine meetings between the teams have been decided by eight points or fewer. The teams rank 1-2 in the nation in sacks (FSU 5.0, Miami 4.3) and tackles for loss (Miami 10.5, FSU 9.4), a staple of each program during the glory years.
The No. 13 Hurricanes have won eight of the last 11 meetings against the Seminoles, including a 38–35 victory in a thriller to open last season. Miami quarterback Jacory Harris threw for a career-high 386 yards in that contest, and he is looking to regain some of that magic after struggling with turnovers so far in 2010. Harris has thrown a total of eight interceptions in the last three games, including two picks apiece in back-to-back wins at Pittsburgh and Clemson.
Harris, who has been bothered by a sore left (non-throwing) shoulder, must be sharper this week because he might not get much help from his running game. The No. 23 Seminoles rank fourth nationally against the run (74.8 yards per game), and they allowed just 25 rushing yards last week in their 34–14 victory at Virginia.
Florida State’s offense, meanwhile, is running the ball better than it has in a decade. The Seminoles have rushed for at least 200 yards in each game of their three-game winning streak, the first time they have accomplished that feat since 2000. Tailbacks Jermaine Thomas and Chris Thompson need to be solid again this week because quarterback Christian Ponder will have his hands full with a Miami team that ranks second nationally in pass efficiency defense (84.34 rating) and sixth in the country in passing yards allowed (136.0 per game).
The Seminoles could get a boost up front if starting left tackle Andrew Datko is healthy enough to play. Datko has returned to practice after missing the last three games with a shoulder injury, and he is questionable for Saturday. Backup tailback Ty Jones, who has averaged a team-best 7.9 yards per carry, could miss his second game in a row with an ankle injury.
Miami also could be short a running back as it plays its first home game since a 45–0 victory over Florida A&M in the season opener Sept. 2. Backup tailback Lamar Miller was limited in practice this week by an injured right shoulder, which could open the door for Mike James to see more action in relief of starter Damien Berry.