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Athlon previews the Week 6 action in the ACC.
As the calendar turns to October, the focus shifts from non-conference games to winning a conference title. The ACC had one marquee game in Week 4, as Florida State beat Clemson to remain in the mix for the national title. Week 6 is the perfect balance for the ACC, as there are solid conference games between Clemson-Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech-North Carolina and Florida State-NC State, while Notre Dame-Miami is a non-conference game with plenty of national interest.
Other Week 6 Previews and Predictions
ACC's Top Storylines for Week 6
Clemson or Georgia Tech: Which defense steps up?
The Clemson-Georgia Tech series has produced several entertaining games in recent memory, including a 39-34 matchup in the 2009 ACC Championship. With both teams struggling on defense this year, Saturday’s game could be one of the ACC’s highest-scoring games of 2012. The Yellow Jackets enter this week’s game reeling from a 49-28 loss to MTSU, which came one week after blowing a 36-19 lead against Miami. The Tigers have scored at least 37 points in each of their last four games and posted 45 without receiver Sammy Watkins against Boston College last Saturday. Considering Georgia Tech’s secondary ranks 75th nationally in yards allowed and Clemson’s Tajh Boyd will be the best quarterback it has faced this season, the Yellow Jackets’ secondary is in real trouble. The bad news only gets worse for the Yellow Jackets, especially since all signs point to Watkins returning this Saturday. The Tigers rank 81st nationally against the rush, which is a concern with Georgia Tech’s option attack coming to Death Valley. Considering the Yellow Jackets have struggled to contain opposing passing games, expect to see Paul Johnson’s team try to control the clock and keep Boyd, Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins on the sideline. Neither defense needs to be spectacular, but a late turnover or stop on third down could be the difference in this game.
Will Virginia Tech slow down North Carolina’s offense?
Although neither team is ranked, the Virginia Tech-North Carolina matchup is an intriguing under-the-radar matchup this weekend. The Hokies were picked by nearly everyone as the Coastal champ and opened the year with a 20-17 win over Georgia Tech. Virginia Tech has played four consecutive non-conference games and lost two out of its last three games. North Carolina enters Saturday’s matchup with momentum, as it has outscored its last two opponents 93-6. Of course, the competition steps up with a visit from the Hokies, but the Tar Heels have been impressive on offense, averaging 43.2 points a game this year. Virginia Tech’s defense was expected to be one of the best in the ACC this season, but this unit ranks 53rd nationally in yards allowed and its last two opponents have scored at least 27 points. Quarterback Bryn Renner and running back Giovani Bernard are two of the ACC’s top playmakers and will be a handful for Bud Foster’s defense. While getting stops on defense against another spread offense is a concern, the Hokies also need help from an offense that is struggling to get off to a good start each week. North Carolina is ineligible to win the ACC title, but if it knocks off Virginia Tech, the race to win the Coastal will be wide open.
Will Mike Glennon have success against Florida State’s defense?
The 2012 season has been an up and down affair for quarterback Mike Glennon, as he threw four picks in the opener against Tennessee and gashed Miami for 440 yards and four touchdowns last Saturday. The senior will have his hands full on Saturday night, as Florida State leads the ACC in total and scoring defense. An even bigger concern for Glennon has to be his offensive line, which is giving up 3.2 sacks a game. The Seminoles’ defensive line is one of the deepest in college football and is generating three sacks a game. For NC State to have any shot at winning on Saturday, the offensive line has to keep Glennon upright and allow him time to take shots downfield. In last season’s matchup, the senior threw for only 130 yards and was picked off twice. If Glennon posts similar numbers on Saturday night, NC State won’t have a chance to win. However, if the Wolfpack give him some time to throw – which won’t be easy with an offensive line missing three starters – NC State will have a shot to pull off the upset. While getting Glennon on track is crucial, the Wolfpack need a lot of bounces to go their way to win on Saturday.
Who will step up at receiver for Wake Forest?
Not only was last week’s loss to Duke damaging for Wake Forest’s bowl hopes and a winning season, but receiver Michael Campanaro suffered a broken hand and will likely miss the next three games. Campanaro was one of the ACC’s top receivers through the first five weeks of the season, catching 38 passes for 429 yards and three touchdowns. With Campanaro sidelined, it’s up to redshirt freshman Sherman Ragland III, senior Terence Davis and sophomore Brandon Terry to step up for quarterback Tanner Price. Terry ranks behind Campanaro with 191 receiving yards, while Davis ranks second on the team with 11 catches. Although Maryland isn’t going to threaten Florida State for the best defense in the ACC, the Terrapins rank 18th nationally against the pass and are allowing just 22 points a game. Replacing Campanaro won’t be easy for Wake Forest, especially against a defense that is playing well and “held” West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith to 338 yards and three scores on Sept. 22.
Will a quarterback change spark Virginia’s offense?
With a three-game losing streak and an offense that is ranked 10th in the ACC in scoring, Virginia coach Mike London is ready to give Phillip Sims a chance to start against Duke this Saturday. The Alabama transfer is the most talented quarterback on the roster but lacks Michael Rocco’s experience. Sims has played well in limited action, completing 28 of 46 throws for 340 yards and five touchdowns. The sophomore sparked Virginia’s offense against Louisiana Tech last week but is also dealing with a leg injury. If Sims can start, it will be a much-needed boost to an offense that needs something positive. In addition to generating more big plays in the passing game, the Cavaliers are still searching for the right mix on the offensive line, and the rushing attack is averaging nearly 40 yards fewer than it did last season. Although adding Sims to the lineup would be a start in the right direction, quarterback play isn’t the only thing holding Virginia’s offense back. The offensive line and rushing attack have struggled through the first five games, which is adding even more pressure to Sims or Rocco under center.
Is Saturday’s game at Army a must-win for Boston College?
The halfway point of the season isn’t until after Week 7, but Boston College faces a must-win situation against Army this Saturday. With a 1-3 record and games remaining against Florida State, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech, if the Eagles want to have any shot at a winning record, beating the Black Knights is a must. However, Army is a difficult opponent to prepare for and a rushing attack that is averaging 367.5 yards per game will test a Boston College rush defense that ranks 94th nationally. The Eagles brought in coordinator Doug Martin to spark the offense and the results have been positive so far, as they rank 13th nationally in passing offense and are averaging 27.5 points a game. Boston College coach Frank Spaziani is sitting on one of the hottest seats in college football, so a loss to Army would only increase the pressure on this team for the second half of the season.
Can Miami move the ball on Notre Dame?
The Hurricanes’ passing attack has been on fire the last two weeks. Quarterback Stephen Morris combined to throw for 1,002 yards and seven touchdowns against Georgia Tech and NC State and ranks 13th nationally in total offense. Although Morris shined over the last two weeks, Saturday night’s matchup against Notre Dame will be the toughest defense he has played this season. The Irish rank third nationally in scoring defense and are averaging 3.5 sacks a game. However, Notre Dame’s secondary has yet to be tested, and would appear to be vulnerable with freshman Kei’Varae Russell starting on one side, along with the season-ending injury of safety Jamoris Slaughter. If Miami can protect Morris and give him time to throw, the Hurricanes should be able to take some shots down the field and allow running back Duke Johnson to get the ball in open space. If the Irish defense wins the battle at the line of scrimmage, Miami will have its hands full trying to get its offense on track.
Can Duke beat Virginia without Sean Renfree?
The Blue Devils are off to their best start since 1994 and are in position to make a run at a winning record and a bowl appearance. This team has been hit hard by injuries this season, including quarterback Sean Renfree in Saturday’s 34-27 win over Wake Forest. Renfree’s status (elbow injury) is uncertain for Saturday’s game against Virginia, and the Blue Devils desperately need him available to play. Backup Anthony Boone has played relatively well in limited action in his career, completing 13 of 21 passes for 147 yards in a loss against Stanford earlier this season. If Renfree can’t go, jack-of-all-trades quarterback Brandon Connette will likely see his role expand as well. The rushing attack will also need to step up, but true freshman Jela Duncan has provided a spark with three consecutive games of at least 50 rushing yards. Not having Renfree in the lineup would be a huge loss for the Blue Devils, but there’s enough experience and talent in place for the offense to score over 30 points for the fourth consecutive game.
Week 6 ACC Predictions
|Week 6 ACC Games||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|Boston College at Army||BC 28-3||BC 31-14||BC 34-24||BC 37-10|
|Va. Tech at UNC||Va. Tech 35-28||Va. Tech 27-24||Va. Tech 27-24||Va. Tech 27-20|
|Virginia at Duke||Duke 27-21||Duke 24-21||Virginia 24-20||Duke 21-20|
|Ga. Tech at Clemson||Clemson 42-21||Clemson 42-21||Clemson 41-31||Clemson 37-24|
|Wake Forest at Maryland||MD 17-13||MD 30-27||MD 20-17||MD 13-10|
|Miami vs. Notre Dame (Chicago)||ND 31-21||ND 24-10||ND 31-24||ND 24-21|
|Florida State at NC State||FSU 35-14||FSU 42-28||FSU 41-20||FSU 30-20|
by Steven Lassan
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