It’s another light slate of games in the ACC for Week 5.
Six of the seven Saturday games in the conference feature a team favored by at least 10 points, with Virginia-Pittsburgh the only matchup in single digits.
The spotlight for Week 5 in the ACC will be on Thursday night. Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech is one of the key matchups every year in the Coastal Division, and this season’s game should have ACC title implications.
Outside of Thursday night’s game, it’s up to heavy underdogs like Boston College and Wake Forest to make this an interesting weekend in the conference.
Week 5 Previews and Predictions: Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC
ACC Week 5 Game Power Rankings
1. Virginia Tech (+7) at Georgia Tech (Thursday, 7:30 ET, ESPN)
Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech are the only two teams to represent the Coastal Division in the eight-year history of the ACC Championship. The winner of Thursday night’s game will have plenty of hurdles still to navigate in the next two months, but either the Yellow Jackets or Hokies will take an early lead for the Coastal title. The Yellow Jackets are already 2-0 in ACC play, scoring a key victory over North Carolina last week. Georgia Tech always has a solid rushing attack under coach Paul Johnson, but the defense and passing game have made progress this year. The Yellow Jackets are holding opponents to 11.3 points a game, while quarterback Vad Lee is tied for third in the ACC with seven touchdown tosses. Although Georgia Tech’s offense is generating 484.7 yards per game, Virginia Tech will be its toughest challenge. The Hokies are allowing just 3.6 yards per play and are limiting opponents to 233.3 yards per game. Virginia Tech’s defense might be the best in the ACC, but its offense continues to struggle. The Hokies are averaging only 4.7 yards per play and are scoring just 18 points a game against FBS competition. Quarterback Logan Thomas is off to a slow start, completing just 48.5 percent of his throws and tossing six picks. However, the Hokies have struggled to find the right mix on the offensive line and lack a No. 1 receiver.
2. Virginia (+6) at Pittsburgh (12:30 ET, Root Sports)
This game might not draw much interest nationally, but there’s some intrigue around the ACC on what happens Saturday in the Steel City. Pittsburgh lost its opener to Florida State but has rebounded with solid showings against Duke and New Mexico. Virginia played one of the toughest two-game stretches in the nation to start the year (BYU, Oregon) and easily handled VMI last Saturday. Neither team is expected to win the ACC, but this is an important game for positioning in the middle of the division. And it's a relatively even contest, as both teams matchup well in terms of strengths and weaknesses. The Panthers’ passing attack leads the ACC with an average of 289.7 yards per game, while Virginia’s secondary is holding opponents to 140 yards a contest. Pittsburgh’s defense has struggled in all three matchups this year, and the Cavaliers will hope to take the pressure off of quarterback David Watford with a strong effort on the ground. Despite just over 300 miles separating these two campuses, Pittsburgh and Virginia have played only five times, with the last matchup occurring in 2007.
3. East Carolina (+12) at North Carolina (12:30 ET, ACC Network)
In a bit of a surprise, North Carolina’s offense is off to a slow start this year. The Tar Heels averaged 485.6 yards per game in 2012 but rank 10th in the ACC in total offense after three games. Personnel losses on the offensive line and the departure of running back Giovani Bernard to the NFL have slowed the progress of this unit in 2013. Getting the offense back on track is the top priority for coach Larry Fedora this Saturday. The Tar Heels play at Virginia Tech next week, and after losing to Georgia Tech last Saturday, Fedora’s team needs to win to stay alive in the Coastal title picture. Even though the Pirates rank third in Conference USA in total defense, FAU and Virginia Tech’s offenses have struggled, and nose tackle Terry Williams has been suspended for this game. East Carolina gave Virginia Tech all it could handle two weeks ago, and the Pirates’ passing offense (269 ypg) will test a North Carolina secondary that is allowing 12.2 yards per completion. Quarterback Shane Carden is completing 74.5 percent of his throws, and running back Vintavious Cooper gives the offense some balance, averaging four yards per carry on 40 attempts this year. East Carolina should move the ball, but North Carolina has too much firepower on offense.
4. Florida State (-21.5) at Boston College (3:30 ET, ABC/ESPN2)
Since Boston College’s 28-21 victory in 2009, Florida State has won three in a row in this series by a combined score of 113-33. Despite improvement under first-year coach Steve Addazio, the Eagles will be challenged to keep Saturday’s game competitive. Behind redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston, the Seminoles are averaging 52.3 points a game and defeated Pittsburgh by 28 points in the opener. Winston is completing 78.1 percent of his throws and should be able to take advantage of a Boston College secondary that ranks 10th in the ACC against the pass. The Eagles rank last in the ACC in total offense (5.1 yards per play) but are helped by an aggressive defense that has forced seven turnovers and eight sacks in three games. In order for Boston College to keep this one close into the fourth quarter, running back Andre Williams needs to have a big day against a Florida State run defense that ranks seventh in the ACC (3.4 yards per carry). Even if Williams has success, the Eagles need a perfect effort on both sides of the ball to knock off the Seminoles.
5. Wake Forest (+29) at Clemson (3:30 ET, ESPNU)
If the Demon Deacons can’t find a spark on offense, this matchup against Clemson could get ugly in a hurry. Wake Forest is averaging just 18 points a game against FBS opponents, largely due to an offensive line that has struggled to find continuity over the last two years. To help with the struggles up front, the Demon Deacons have implemented more option looks, but the rushing attack is still managing only 3.2 yards per carry. The Tigers were held to 26 points against NC State last Thursday, which was their fewest in an ACC contest since Nov. 19, 2011. The Demon Deacons are holding opponents to 15.8 points a game this season and rank second in the ACC with 11 forced turnovers. Clemson’s offense is too explosive to keep in check for all four quarters, but Wake Forest’s defense can help a struggling offense by continuing with its success forcing turnovers, as well as generating pressure on quarterback Tajh Boyd.
6. Miami (-19) at South Florida (12 ET, ESPNU)
In the first year under coach Willie Taggart, South Florida is off to a disappointing 0-3 start. The Bulls lost to FCS opponent McNeese State in the opener and have managed only 16 points in their last two games. Although South Florida is off to a rough start, the Bulls will be motivated to play their in-state rival. In last week’s scrimmage against Savannah State, the Hurricanes cruised to an easy 77-7 win, but quarterback Stephen Morris suffered an ankle injury and has been limited in practice. Morris is expected to play on Saturday. However, Miami may not need a huge performance from Morris, especially with USF allowing 160.3 yards per game on the ground. The Bulls have struggled on offense, committing eight turnovers and averaging only 12.3 points per game. If the Hurricanes can get ahead early, it should allow coach Al Golden to rest Morris and running back Duke Johnson, especially with back-to-back ACC showdowns against Georgia Tech and North Carolina up next.
7. Troy (+10.5) at Duke (3 ET, ESPN3)
It’s only Week 5, but Duke’s bowl hopes have faded after back-to-back losses. The Blue Devils don’t have many guaranteed victories on the remaining schedule, which makes Saturday’s non-conference affair against Troy a must-win situation. The Trojans will be a pesky opponent for coach David Cutcliffe’s team, as Troy averages 457 yards per game on offense and ranks 20th nationally with 310.5 passing yards per game. The Blue Devils are allowing 200 passing yards per game, but opponents are averaging 7.6 yards per pass and have scored 10 touchdowns against this secondary. The Trojans employ a two-quarterback system, which features Corey Robinson (the passer), and Deon Anthony (a runner). Troy has enough weapons to keep this game close, but its defense has to find a way to slow down Duke’s offense. The Trojans are allowing 421 yards per game and gave up 62 points in a loss to Mississippi State last Saturday. Duke quarterback Brandon Connette has filled in admirably for Anthony Boone, but he threw four picks in last week’s game against Pittsburgh. Troy’s struggling defense should help Connette get back on track.
8. Central Michigan (+23.5) at NC State (3:30 ET, ESPN3)
Saturday’s game against Central Michigan will be NC State’s fourth consecutive home contest to start the season. The Wolfpack hung tough against Clemson last Thursday but lacked the offensive firepower to pull off the upset. The Chippewas could be the perfect medicine for NC State’s offense, as they are allowing 37.2 points a game and 6.1 yards per play. The Wolfpack won’t have Brandon Mitchell back under center this week, and the matchup with Central Michigan should give quarterbacks Pete Thomas and Bryant Shirreffs a chance to build some confidence before next week’s ACC road test at Wake Forest. These two teams have met only once, with NC State winning 38-24 in 2011.
ACC Week 5 Pivotal Players
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The Panthers held opponents to only 136.4 rushing yards per game last season, but this unit has struggled in 2013. After three opponents, Pittsburgh ranks 13th in the ACC against the run, allowing 194 yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry. Virginia’s offense relies heavily on its rushing attack, which will test the Panthers’ front seven on Saturday. Donald is one of college football’s top defensive tackles, and he needs to dominate the line of scrimmage against the Cavaliers.
Steven Chase/Dylan Intemann, OT, Wake Forest
It’s a tall order to ask Wake Forest’s defense to keep Clemson in check for all four quarters. The Demon Deacons will have to play their best game of the season to knock off the Tigers, which means the offense has to step up after generating only 54 points in three games against FBS competition. Clemson’s front four has been active this year, ranking third in the ACC with 12 sacks. Wake Forest’s line has allowed nine through four games. In order for the Demon Deacons to move the ball on offense, Chase and Intemann have to keep Clemson defensive ends Vic Beasley and Corey Crawford away from quarterback Tanner Price.
Vad Lee, QB, Georgia Tech
The success of Georgia Tech’s offense rests heavily on Lee’s shoulders. In his first year as a starter, the sophomore has rushed for 180 yards and three touchdowns, while passing for seven touchdowns and 418 yards. Virginia Tech owns one of the top defenses in the nation, forcing 10 turnovers and 16 sacks through the first four weeks. The Yellow Jackets won’t have much margin for error against this defense, and Lee needs to get the option offense on track, while not turning the ball over to an opportunistic Hokie defense.
Jack Tyler, LB, Virginia Tech
In last year’s meeting between Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, Tyler was all over the field, recording 17 tackles, with one going for a loss. His performance was a big reason why the Yellow Jackets managed only 192 rushing yards and mustered only 17 points. The senior is one of the ACC’s top linebackers and whether he’s spying Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee or stuffing the inside running plays against David Sims or Zach Laskey, Tyler will play a key role in Virginia Tech’s defensive gameplan on Thursday night.
Andre Williams, RB, Boston College
If Boston College has any hope of beating Florida State, Williams needs to have a big game. The senior leads the ACC with an average of 118.7 rushing yards per game. Florida State ranks seventh in the ACC against the run, with opponents managing 3.4 yards per rush. Nevada and Pittsburgh had some success early on the ground against the Seminoles, and the Eagles need at least 120 yards from Williams on Saturday.
ACC Week 5 Predictions
Va. Tech (+7) at Ga. Tech
Ga. Tech 28-14
Ga. Tech 27-13
Ga. Tech 24-20
Ga. Tech 31-21
Miami (-19) at South Florida
Virginia (+6) at Pittsburgh
East Carolina (+12) at North Carolina
Troy (+10.5) at Duke
Florida State (-21.5) at Boston College
Wake Forest (+29) at Clemson
Central Michigan (+23.5) at NC State
NC State 35-13
NC State 30-10
NC State 34-13
NC State 41-10