Boston College (2-3, 0-2 ACC) at Florida State (5-1, 3-0 ACC), Saturday, noon ET
Florida State isn’t back to the level it reached when it was contending for national championships and finishing in the top five year after year under Bobby Bowden. But the Seminoles could be headed in that direction under first-year coach Jimbo Fisher.
Florida State has put together a four-game winning streak, including a 45–17 win at rival Miami last week, since an embarrassing loss at Oklahoma in the second week of the season. The Seminoles have won four consecutive games by at least 20 points for the first time since 2000, and they have rushed for at least 200 yards in four consecutive games for the first time since 1995.
Boston College, meanwhile, is trending in the opposite direction after a 2–0 start to the season. The Eagles have suffered three consecutive losses for the first time since 1998, getting outscored by a combined margin of 94–30 during that span.
Chief among the problems for Boston College, which fell at NC State 44–17 last week, has been poor play at quarterback. Coach Frank Spaziani named true freshman Chase Rettig his starter after Dave Shinskie and Mike Marscovetra struggled early in the season, but Rettig suffered an ankle sprain in his first start against Notre Dame that kept him sidelined against the Wolfpack. Shinskie started last week and completed 7 of 24 passes for 89 yards and two interceptions before giving way to Marscovetra, who wasn’t much better before tossing a 67-yard touchdown pass against NC State’s reserves.
So if Rettig is healthy enough to play, he will start against the Seminoles. If Rettig can’t play, Spaziani has mulled the possibility of burning the redshirt of freshman Josh Bordner, who has run the scout team all year. Whoever plays quarterback for Boston College will have his hands full with Florida State’s defense, which leads the country in sacks (4.33 per game) and ranks fifth nationally in tackles for loss (8.67).
On the flip side, Florida State will try to maintain its newfound rushing success with tailbacks Jermaine Thomas and Chris Thompson. The Seminoles have yet to get a big statistical performance from quarterback Christian Ponder this season, but he might have more chances this week against a BC defense that ranks fifth nationally against the run (80.2 yards per game) but only 101st against the pass (253.0 ypg). The Eagles feature linebacker Luke Kuechly, who leads the nation in tackles (14.2 per game) after making 20 stops last week.
Maryland (4–1, 1–0 ACC) at Clemson (2–3, 0–2 ACC), Saturday, noon ET
Now in his rookie season with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, former Clemson star C.J. Spiller is scheduled to have his No. 28 retired at halftime of this game. No one would blame Tigers coach Dabo Swinney if he tried to sneak Spiller onto the field for a few snaps.
Clemson, which has dropped three consecutive games since starting the season 2–0, still is searching for its first conference win. The Tigers also started with a 2–3 record last season before responding with a six-game winning streak that produced an Atlantic Division title. They are looking for a similar rebound against a Maryland team that has beaten them in three of the last four seasons.
The Terrapins, who defeated Clemson 24–21 for their only league victory last season, have gotten off to a fast start against a soft schedule. The big question facing Maryland, which is beginning a stretch in which four of its next five games will be on the road, is whether the team finally can get a road win. The Terrapins have dropped nine consecutive road games, a drought that dates back to a 2008 victory … at Clemson.
A couple of factors have sparked Maryland’s resurgence after a 2–10 season in 2009. The Terrapins have produced plenty of big plays — Tony Logan is the nation’s leading punt returner after touchdowns of 84 yards and 85 yards in the last two games — and they rank fourth nationally in turnover margin (plus-1.60 per game).
Redshirt freshman Danny O’Brien filled in admirably for starting quarterback Jamarr Robinson, who sat out victories over Florida International and Duke with a shoulder injury, but the week off gave Robinson a chance to heal. Both quarterbacks could see action against the Tigers, who lost at North Carolina 21–16 last week despite allowing only 255 total yards.
Offensively, Swinney will stick with his decision to give youngsters Jaron Brown, DeAndre Hopkins and Bryce McNeal the bulk of the snaps at wide receiver. Changes could occur in the running game, where Swinney would like to get more carries for Spiller’s replacement, Andre Ellington. Ellington has been splitting time with Jamie Harper at tailback, but he has averaged 6.6 yards per rush on 66 carries while Harper has managed only 4.0 yards per runs on 60 carries this season.
NC State (5–1) at East Carolina (3–2), Saturday, noon ET
Points should be plentiful in this matchup as NC State travels to in-state rival East Carolina for its final non-conference game of the season. The Wolfpack, coming off a 44–17 victory over Boston College last week, rank 13th nationally in scoring (ACC-best 37.5 points per game) and eighth in passing yards (ACC-best 311.0 per game). The Pirates, who rallied from a 20–0 deficit to win at Southern Miss 44–43 last week, are 12th in the nation in scoring (37.6 ppg) and 13th in passing (297.2 ypg).
The main difference between the teams comes on defense, where NC State enjoys a big advantage. The Wolfpack are much improved from a year ago, allowing the third-fewest yards (326.2 per game) in the ACC with an attacking zone-blitz scheme designed to minimize the time their young defensive backs have to stay in coverage. East Carolina, meanwhile, ranks 114th nationally in total yards allowed (457.6 per game) and 117th nationally in points allowed (42.0 per game).
The Pirates, who have yielded at least 42 points in four of their five games this season, will be even more vulnerable this week. Starting safety Derek Blacknall, who is fifth on the team in tackles (27) and has one of East Carolina’s two interceptions this season, has been given a one-game suspension by Conference USA after a flagrant personal foul last week. That’s bad news for East Carolina against NC State quarterback Russell Wilson, who doesn’t need that kind of help. Wilson, who already has five 300-yard passing games and five games with at least three touchdown passes this season, ranks fifth nationally in total offense (ACC-best 327.5 ypg).
Miami (3–2, 1–1 ACC) at Duke (1–4, 0–2 ACC), Saturday, 1 p.m. ET
Duke could be catching Miami at the perfect time, or Duke could be catching Miami at a terrible time. It’s probably up to the Hurricanes, who are 5–0 against the Blue Devils since joining the ACC.
Miami, which entered the season with championship aspirations, must find a way to bounce back after its demoralizing loss to Florida State last week. The Seminoles waltzed into Sun Life Stadium — in front of Miami’s first sellout crowd since 2004 — and rolled to a 45-17 victory.
The key question for Miami is the health of starting quarterback Jacory Harris, who limped through last week’s loss with injuries to his groin and left shoulder. Harris, who has had difficulty all season connecting with any receiver not named Leonard Hankerson, has completed just 32 of 79 passes in the last two games. Perhaps Duke’s “defense” will be the cure for what ails him. The Blue Devils are last in the ACC in points allowed (39.8 per game), total yards allowed (431.8 per game), opponents’ pass efficiency (149.35 rating) and sacks (0.80 per game).
On the other side, the pass-happy Blue Devils aren’t equipped to attack Miami’s vulnerability. The Hurricanes allowed Florida State to rush for 298 yards last week, but they are among the nation’s best teams defending the pass. Miami leads the ACC and ranks among the nation’s top five in passing yards allowed (143.4 per game), opponents’ pass efficiency (95.8 rating) and tackles for loss (9.60 per game).
Duke, which has dropped four consecutive games since a victory over Elon in the season opener, needs quarterback Sean Renfree to deliver a strong performance.
Middle Tennessee State (2–3) at Georgia Tech (4–2), Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Middle Tennessee State and Georgia Tech never have met on the football field, but the same isn’t true for their starting quarterbacks.
Dwight Dasher and Joshua Nesbitt were high school stars in the state of Georgia, with Dasher leading his team past Nesbitt’s squad 34–33 in the 2005 state semifinals. Nesbitt will get some revenge if he can guide his favored Yellow Jackets to a victory over Dasher’s Blue Raiders this weekend.
Both quarterbacks will be on the run, as usual. Nesbitt, who engineers a Georgia Tech offense that ranks third in the country in rushing (328.0 yards per game), enters this game with the ACC lead in rushing (90.5 ypg). Teammate Anthony Allen, who rushed for a Louisville school-record 275 yards against Middle Tennessee State in 2007 when he played for the Cardinals, is right behind him at 87.5 yards per game.
As long as the Yellow Jackets can keep Dasher under control, they should win the game. The Blue Raiders are just 94th nationally against the run (185.4 ypg), making Georgia Tech’s run-heavy offense a tough matchup for them, and they have the worst turnover margin (minus-1.80) in the country.
Wake Forest (2–4, 1–2 ACC) at Virginia Tech (4–2, 2–0 ACC), Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Wake Forest and Virginia Tech are headed in opposite directions as they meet this weekend. The Demon Deacons are mired in a four-game losing streak after starting the season 2–0, and the Hokies are riding a four-game winning streak after opening the year 0–2.
Wake Forest, making its first trip to Lane Stadium since Virginia Tech joined the ACC, is trying to bounce back from back-to-back heartbreaking defeats at home. The Demon Deacons gave up game-winning touchdown passes in the final 30 seconds of losses to Georgia Tech and Navy, falling to 0–9 in games decided by four points or fewer since Nov. 1, 2008.
The Demon Deacons have been plagued by injuries under center — they have used four quarterbacks already this season — but their best signal caller is healthy again. True freshman Tanner Price, who missed the Georgia Tech game with a concussion he suffered against Florida State, returned last week against Navy and passed for 326 yards and two touchdowns.
Virginia Tech, meanwhile, has had no such problems at quarterback with senior Tyrod Taylor, who has established himself as one of the best dual threats in the nation. Taylor leads the ACC in pass efficiency (151.0 rating) and has ripped off a touchdown run of at least 70 yards in each of Virginia Tech’s last two games.
The Hokies have been playing without starting tailback Ryan Williams, who has missed the past 3½ games with a strained right hamstring, and they might do so again this week. Although Williams’ condition is improving, Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer doesn’t want him to play again until he is 100-percent healthy. Beamer can afford to be patient, given that backups Darren Evans and David Wilson have rushed for a combined 592 yards (on 6.8 yards per carry) and eight touchdowns over the last four games.
North Carolina (3–2, 1–1 ACC) at Virginia (2–3, 0–2 ACC), Saturday, 6 p.m. ET
What do Mack Brown, Carl Torbush, John Bunting and Butch Davis have in common? All four men have taken North Carolina’s football team on the road to Virginia without recording a single win in those games.
The Tar Heels, who have lost 14 consecutive times in Charlottesville since 1981, get another shot this weekend to end the streak. If nothing else, they have some momentum on their side this time. North Carolina has won three consecutive games, including a 21–16 victory over Clemson last week, since opening the season 0–2 amid an NCAA investigation into the program.
The Tar Heels have played much of the season without several key contributors, and they found out this week that they’ll have to go the rest of the year without star defensive linemen Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn and starting wide receiver Greg Little. Quarterback T.J. Yates, who is second in the ACC in pass efficiency (141.7 rating), and tailback Johnny White have helped hold the team together. Yates leads the nation with a 0.63 interception percentage (one interception in 160 attempts), and White paces the ACC in yards from scrimmage (121.4 per game).
Defensively, North Carolina welcomed back All-ACC safety Deunta Williams from a four-game suspension last week and will get back cornerback Kendric Burney before next week’s trip to Miami. In the meantime, the Tar Heels hope star linebacker Quan Sturdivant gets healthy. Sturdivant, who has missed the last two games with a strained hamstring, is questionable to play this week against a Virginia offense that has struggled early in games.
The Cavaliers, who are looking for their first win against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent under first-year coach Mike London, combined for just seven points and 149 total yards in the first half of losses to Florida State and Georgia Tech. Their task gets even tougher this week with some shuffling on the offensive line. Starting left tackle Landon Bradley is out after having hand surgery Monday, leaving either Oday Aboushi (usually the right tackle) or redshirt freshman Sean Cascarano to protect quarterback Marc Verica’s blind side.