The ACC features only four matchups with teams in conference play this Saturday, while Florida State, Georgia Tech, Clemson and North Carolina step out of the ACC for a non-conference affair.
With the Atlantic Division title settled, the focus of the next two Saturdays in the ACC turns to the Coastal. Duke holds the edge over Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Miami, but the Blue Devils still have two tough games remaining. Duke travels to Wake Forest this Saturday, followed by a game against rival North Carolina next week.
Pittsburgh and Syracuse square off on Saturday, with the winner earning bowl eligibility. Miami hopes to snap a three-game losing streak with Virginia visiting Sun Life Stadium, and Boston College travels to Maryland.
It’s a light slate of action, but the ACC should have a little more clarity to its conference title and bowl picture by Sunday.
ACC Week 13 Game Power Rankings
1. Pittsburgh (-1) at Syracuse (12:30 ET, ACC Network)
It’s odd the game of the week features two 5-5 teams. But this game has plenty at stake for both programs, as the winner of this one will get bowl eligible. Pittsburgh has won seven out of the last eight matchups with Syracuse. However, the Orange won 14-13 at home last year. This season’s meeting could be another low-scoring affair, with both teams ranked near the bottom of the ACC in scoring offense. Pittsburgh is averaging 21.8 points a game in conference play, while Syracuse is last at 12.3. Protecting quarterback Tom Savage is the top priority for the Panthers, especially against a Syracuse defense that has generated 30 sacks this year. If Savage has time to throw, big plays should be there for receivers Tyler Boyd and Devin Street. The Orange are averaging only 174.9 passing yards a game this year, and it’s critical for the rushing attack to get on track. In Syracuse’s five wins, it is averaging 245.6 rushing yards a contest. Pittsburgh ranks ninth in the ACC against the run, but tackle Aaron Donald is one of the league’s best and will be a tough matchup for the Orange’s offensive line.
2. Duke (-5.5) at Wake Forest (Noon ET, ESPN2)
Duke is just two wins away from playing in its first ACC Championship. But the Blue Devils won’t have an easy path to a Coastal Division title, as rival North Carolina awaits next Saturday, while Winston-Salem has been a challenging place for this program in recent years. Wake Forest has won 12 out of the last 13 meetings against Duke, but the Blue Devils won 34-27 in Winston-Salem last year. The Demon Deacons are still without receiver Michael Campanaro, who suffered a collarbone injury in the loss against Syracuse. Without Campanaro, Wake Forest scored only three points in a 59-3 loss to Florida State. Duke’s defense isn’t as dominant as the Seminoles, but this unit has stepped up in the second half of games, holding Miami to just seven points last week and 10 to NC State in a 38-20 victory on Nov. 9. The Blue Devils would like to get quarterback Anthony Boone back on track this Saturday, as the junior has seven interceptions and zero touchdowns over his last three games.
3. Boston College (+1) at Maryland (3:30 ET, RSN)
Both teams picked up the all-important sixth win last week, and with the ACC likely to have more bowl-eligible teams than available spots, the last two games of the year for Boston College and Maryland are all about improving their bowl position. The Eagles have won three in a row, largely due to the play of running back Andre Williams. The senior gashed NC State for 339 yards and two touchdowns and has at least 166 yards in each of his last four games. Maryland ranks ninth in ACC-only games against the run, and two out of their last three opponents have rushed for at least 242 yards. The Terrapins snapped a three-game losing streak last week, defeating Virginia Tech 27-24 in Blacksburg. Quarterback C.J. Brown carried the offense for Maryland last Saturday, recording 257 of the team’s 319 yards. Boston College ranks last in the ACC against the pass, so there will be opportunities for Brown to make plays through the air. With both teams limited on offense, the turnover battle will be crucial. The Terrapins rank last in the ACC in turnover margin (-2.0 per game), while the Eagles are +4 this season.
4. Virginia (+20) at Miami (Noon ET, ESPNU)
After a 7-0 start, Miami has been trending in the wrong direction with three consecutive losses. The Hurricanes are likely out of the Coastal Division title picture, but winning their last two games can help improve their bowl position. Virginia also enters this matchup looking for something positive, as the Cavaliers have dropped seven consecutive games. Miami’s defense has allowed 40 points in three-straight contests, but Virginia’s offense is averaging just 16.7 points a game. The strength of the Cavaliers’ offense resides with running back Kevin Parks (4.3 ypc, 10 TDs), while quarterback David Watford has to pickup his play to have any shot at the upset. Miami quarterback Stephen Morris has thrown for 300 yards in back-to-back games, and even with receiver Phillip Dorsett once again this week, the senior passer could reach that mark against a Virginia secondary ranked 10th in the ACC. Although Miami is a 20-point favorite this week, the Cavaliers have won three in a row in this series, including a 41-40 shootout in Charlottesville last season.
5. Old Dominion (+17.5) at North Carolina (Noon ET, RSN)
The Tar Heels hope to continue their late-season surge against a dangerous non-conference matchup in Old Dominion. The Monarchs are transitioning to the FBS and lost 35-24 at Pittsburgh earlier this year. Old Dominion’s offense is led by junior quarterback Taylor Heinicke – who has thrown for 3,892 yards and 32 touchdowns this season – and four players with at least 40 receptions. North Carolina’s secondary ranks fourth in ACC games against the pass, holding three of its last four opponents under 205 passing yards. Getting pressure on Heinicke will be critical, and senior end Kareem Martin is coming off one of the best defensive performances of his career (8 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 FF). Even if the Tar Heels struggle to keep Heinicke in check for all four quarters, the offense should have no trouble moving the ball on Old Dominion. The Monarchs are allowing 427.7 yards per game this season, and five opponents have scored at least 30 points. With a win over ODU, North Carolina will earn bowl eligibility, along with its first five-game winning streak since 2001.
6. East Carolina (-6.5) at NC State (12:30 ET, ACC Network)
The Wolfpack step out of conference play this Saturday, hoping to break a six-game losing streak with a matchup against in-state foe East Carolina. Under first-year coach Dave Doeren, NC State has struggled at times on both sides of the ball, and the defense is reeling after allowing 420 rushing yards to Boston College last Saturday. The Pirates will present a different challenge, as quarterback Shane Carden will test a Wolfpack secondary ranked third in the ACC against the pass. Carden has 29 touchdown tosses this year and is completing 72.5 percent of his throws. The senior is surrounded by a strong supporting cast, including receiver Justin Hardy (87 catches) and running back Vintavious Cooper (754 yards). If East Carolina can jump out to an early lead, it could spell trouble for NC State. The Wolfpack has struggled to get consistent quarterback play, and the Pirates are limiting opponents to three yards per carry. With Brandon Mitchell questionable to play once again, Pete Thomas is expected to start under center. However, NC State will likely focus its offensive attack around running back Shadrach Thornton (606 yards, four touchdowns), while mobile quarterback Bryant Shirreffs should also see time under center. East Carolina already knocked off one ACC team (North Carolina) and lost by five against Virginia Tech. Can the Pirates go 2-1 against the ACC this year?
7. Idaho (+57) at Florida State (3:30 ET, ESPNU)
The Seminoles have three remaining obstacles to play for the national championship, and Jimbo Fisher’s team shouldn’t have little trouble with Idaho this Saturday. The Vandals were left without a conference home in 2013, forcing a brutal schedule as an Independent. Idaho’s only victory was a two-point win over Temple and lost its two games against BCS opponents this season by a combined score of 101-14. The Vandals also have seven losses by at least 20 points. Florida State’s priorities this week should be pretty simple: Get out of this game healthy and get the backups – especially Sean Maguire at quarterback – valuable reps.
8. The Citadel (+40) vs. Clemson (12:00 ET, ESPN3)
This is the first meeting between The Citadel and Clemson since 2008, but this matchup will turn out like most of the previous games in this series – a Clemson blowout. The Tigers have outscored the Bulldogs 83-17 in their last two meetings, and The Citadel is 0-16 against ranked FBS teams. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd injured his collarbone against Georgia Tech last week, but the senior is expected to play on Saturday. This will be Boyd’s final home game, and the senior has helped to lead this program to 30 wins over the last three years. Receiver Sammy Watkins still has one more year of eligibility left, but he is expected to enter the NFL Draft. Boyd and Watkins won’t play too long, while both players should put up big numbers in their final Death Valley appearance.
9. Alabama A&M (+51.5) at Georgia Tech (1:30 ET, ESPN3)
Georgia Tech is smarting just a bit after a 55-31 loss to Clemson, but the Yellow Jackets should easily rebound with Alabama A&M coming to Atlanta on Saturday. With a win over the Bulldogs, Georgia Tech will earn its fifth season of at least seven victories under coach Paul Johnson. And while this game means nothing to the ACC title picture, there could be some scoreboard watching on Saturday, as the Yellow Jackets need Wake Forest to beat Duke to stay alive for the Coastal title. Alabama A&M is 4-7 this year, and its last matchup against a FBS team was in 2012, losing 51-7 at Auburn.
ACC Week 13 Pivotal Players
Listen to Athlon Sports writers Braden Gall and David Fox preview Week 13 in this edition of Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast.
Anthony Boone, QB, Duke
Duke is on the doorstep of its first Coastal Division title. The Blue Devils need to win their last two games to reach Charlotte, which certainly won’t be easy with matchups against Wake Forest and North Carolina up next. Even though Duke has won six in a row, its passing attack has struggled recently. Boone has tossed seven picks in his last three games and has not topped 139 passing yards in each contest during that span. Backup Brandon Connette has accounted for five touchdowns in his last two games, and the junior will share snaps on Saturday. Boone is the better passer between the two quarterbacks, and it’s important for the junior to get back on track after a subpar three-game stretch. Wake Forest’s secondary is holding opponents to 214.8 yards per game but has allowed 16 passing touchdowns.
Cole Farrand, LB, Maryland
Maryland’s defense has allowed two out of its last three opponents to rush for at least 242 yards. And there’s an even bigger threat on the ground looming this Saturday, as Boston College running back Andre Williams visits College Park off a 339-yard performance against NC State. Farrand and nose tackle Darius Kilgo have to win the battle at the point of attack if the Terrapins want to slow down the Eagles’ ground game. Farrand leads the team with 75 tackles, while Kilgo has five tackles for a loss and two sacks this year. If Maryland’s front seven struggles, Williams is in for another huge day on the ground.
Macky MacPherson, C, Syracuse
MacPherson and guards Rob Trudo and Nick Robinson have a tough assignment this Saturday. Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald has been one of the ACC’s top defenders this season, and the senior has dominated opposing offensive lines for 42 tackles (22.5 for a loss) and 10 sacks. Donald also has four forced fumbles in 2013. MacPherson is one of the ACC’s top centers, with 35 starts under his belt the last three years. Syracuse’s offense is dependent on getting its rushing game on track, which requires MacPherson to keep Donald under wraps.
Kevin Parks, RB, Virginia
Can the Cavaliers stop a seven-game losing streak this Saturday? It’s unlikely Virginia can win at Miami, but recent series history favors the Cavaliers in this matchup. The Hurricanes allowed 358 rushing yards in last week’s loss to Duke, while giving up 13 scores on the ground in their last three games. With the Cavaliers struggling to establish a consistent passing attack, it’s critical for Parks to have a huge performance. The junior rushed for 100 yards in a 45-14 loss to North Carolina and is averaging 4.3 yards per carry this season.
Jack Tocho, CB, NC State
If NC State is going to stop a six-game losing streak, it has to find a way to slow down East Carolina’s passing attack. The Pirates have thrown for 30 touchdowns this year and average 341.2 yards per game through the air. Shane Carden is one of the top non-BCS passers in college football, and receiver Justin Hardy is a handful for opposing defensive backs (87 catches). Tocho has started the last five games and has 22 tackles and two interceptions this season. The true freshman needs to hold his own on Saturday, as he will picked on by Carden and the East Carolina receivers.
ACC Week 13 Predictions
Citadel (+40) at Clemson
Old Dominion (+17.5) at UNC
Duke (-5.5) at Wake Forest
Virginia (+20) at Miami
Pittsburgh (-1) at Syracuse
East Carolina (-6.5) at NC State
Alabama A&M (+51.5) at Ga. Tech
Ga. Tech 56-10
Ga. Tech 42-10
Ga. Tech 58-7
Ga. Tech 56-0
Boston College (+1) at Maryland
Idaho (+57) at Florida State