The ACC’s Week 10 slate isn’t filled with top 25 matchups, but there’s plenty of intrigue in games that should help determine which team wins the Coastal Division in 2014. Miami took a step forward in the division with a win over Virginia Tech last Thursday, and Georgia Tech stayed alive by beating a turnover-prone Pittsburgh team on Saturday.
Miami hosts an improving North Carolina team this Saturday, while Duke travels to Pittsburgh. Georgia Tech hosts Virginia, and Virginia Tech plays a crossover game with Boston College. Needless to say, after this weekend, there should be some separation at the top of the Coastal.
And of course, we can’t forget about the huge showdown on Thursday night between Florida State and Louisville. The Seminoles ranked as the No. 2 team in college football’s first playoff committee poll and will be challenged by the Cardinals, who feature one of the nation’s top defenses.
Week 10 Previews and Predictions:
Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC
ACC Week 10 Game Power Rankings
1. Florida State (-4) at Louisville
7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN (Thursday)
Remember the last time Louisville hosted Florida State? The Cardinals upset the Seminoles 26-20 on Thursday night in 2002. Fast forward 12 years later, the stakes are even higher on Thursday night in Louisville, as Florida State hopes to remain among the nation’s best with a win over the Cardinals. This matchup won’t be easy for the No. 2 ranked Seminoles, as Louisville’s defense is holding opponents to 3.9 yards per play and 14.6 points per game. Quarterback Jameis Winston will be throwing against a secondary that ranks second nationally with 15 interceptions. However, this is by far the best offense the Cardinals have played in 2014. Winston’s supporting cast at receiver has improved over the course of the season, but the rushing attack (3.9 ypc) has struggled at times and won’t have running back Mario Pender due to injury. Louisville’s front seven is active around the line of scrimmage, recording 28 sacks and 60 tackles for a loss. If Florida State can establish the run, it will slow down the Cardinals’ pass rush and allow Winston to test the secondary. Louisville needs to get pressure on Winston and force the Seminoles into third-and-long situations. Offensively, the Cardinals aren’t as prolific as most expected in coach Bobby Petrino’s first year. But there are signs of life, as running back Michael Dyer is coming off a 173-yard effort against NC State, and receiver DeVante Parker is back from injury. Florida State is allowing 5.1 yards per play and has given up at least 156 rushing yards in three out of its last four games. Louisville’s offensive line is struggling, but the Seminoles aren’t as dominant in the trenches as they were in 2013.
Listen to the Week 10 preview podcast:
2. Duke at Pittsburgh (-4)
Noon ET, ESPNU
Last week’s performance against Georgia Tech was one to forget for coach Paul Chryst. The Panthers never had a chance to get on track thanks to five fumbles in their first five possessions. After all of the bad luck last Saturday, is Pittsburgh due for some good luck this week? Duke has quietly returned to the top of the Coastal Division and plays arguably its toughest remaining games (North Carolina and Virginia Tech) at home. But this week’s road trip to Heinz Field won’t be easy, especially with the Blue Devils struggling to stop the run (193.4 ypg). Pittsburgh running back James Conner averaged 12 yards per carry (10 attempts) against Georgia Tech last Saturday and should eclipse the 100-yard mark for the sixth time this year. Duke has allowed only three passing scores this year, so it’s critical for the Panthers to get Conner on track to open up the passing game for quarterback Chad Voytik and receiver Tyler Boyd. The Blue Devils aren’t flashy on offense, but this might be one of the nation’s most-balanced attacks. Duke has 1,526 yards on the ground and 1,412 yards through the air this year. In a tight game, turnovers could be the deciding factor. Pittsburgh ranks last in the ACC at a -6 margin, while Duke is first at +8.
3. North Carolina at Miami (-17)
12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network/ESPN3
The arrow on both teams is pointing up after key victories in Week 9. North Carolina upset Virginia 28-27 in Charlottesville, while Miami won 30-6 in Blacksburg. The victories by both teams keeps them alive in the Coastal Division title picture, with both teams a game behind Duke with a month to go. Considering the Tar Heels nearly defeated Notre Dame in early October and have won two games in a row, it’s a surprise to see coach Larry Fedora’s team a 17-point underdog. But in order to pull off the upset in Miami, North Carolina has a major challenge ahead on defense. Running back Duke Johnson gashed Virginia Tech for 249 yards last week, and the Tar Heels rank at the bottom of the ACC against the run (210.6 ypg). In addition to stopping Johnson, North Carolina has to get pressure on quarterback Brad Kaaya and disrupt a passing game that has hit on 13 plays of 30 yards or more. Of concern for Miami is the offensive line, which is expected to be without starting tackle Ereck Flowers. When the Tar Heels have the ball, quarterback Marquise Williams has to carry this team once again. Williams has recorded 500 yards of total offense in two out of its last three games and will be challenged by a Miami defense allowing just 18.8 points a game in ACC play. Both teams will score, but which defense will step up with a key play at a critical moment late in the second half?
4. Virginia at Georgia Tech (-3.5)
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
With both teams having two losses in conference play, this week’s meeting could be an elimination game in the Coastal Division. Virginia has lost two ACC games in a row after a 2-0 start in conference play, while Georgia Tech rebounded from back-to-back losses to trounce Pittsburgh 56-28 last Saturday. Turnovers will be critical in this game, as the Cavaliers have lost 17 this year, and the Yellow Jackets are +7 in margin. Georgia Tech could be shorthanded at running back this week, as Zach Laskey is not expected to play due to a shoulder injury, and Charles Perkins is dealing with a knee injury. Injuries have dwindled the options in the backfield, but the Yellow Jackets’ option attack will continue to thrive as long as quarterback Justin Thomas is healthy. But Thomas will have his hands full on Saturday, as Virginia ranks third in the ACC against the run and limits opponents to 3.0 yards per carry. When the Cavaliers have the ball, expect running back Kevin Parks to test a Georgia Tech defense that ranks 12th in the ACC against the run. The Yellow Jackets have won four out of its last five games against Virginia.
5. Boston College at Virginia Tech (-3)
12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network/ESPN3
After last week’s loss to Miami, Virginia Tech sits at the bottom of the Coastal Division and is in jeopardy of missing a bowl for the first time since 1992. While the Hokies are struggling to generate consistent production on offense, the defense ranks last in the ACC (conference-only games) against the run (237.3 ypg). That’s a huge concern for coordinator Bud Foster this week, as Boston College has a veteran offensive line and averages 277 yards per game on the ground. Quarterback Tyler Murphy leads the team with 843 yards, but Jon Hilliman and Myles Willis each average over four yards per carry. The Eagles average only 135.8 passing yards per game, so expect to see Virginia Tech crowd the line of scrimmage to force Murphy to win this one through the air. When the Hokies have the ball, this offense has to find a spark after scoring just 22 points over its last two games. Mark Leal moved the offense late against Miami, but Michael Brewer is expected start at quarterback. While Brewer has struggled recently, he’s not the sole problem for Virginia Tech. The rushing attack is averaging just 3.1 yards per carry in ACC games, and the offensive line has allowed 15 sacks in eight games. Boston College’s defense ranks as one of the best in the conference, limiting opponents to 4.7 yards per game (conference-only matchups) and recording 22 sacks in eight contests.
6. NC State at Syracuse (-3.5)
3 p.m. ET, RSN/ESPN3
This matchup won’t garner much national interest, but the meeting between the Orange and Wolfpack is critical for both team’s bowl hopes. Syracuse is 3-5 and 1-3 in ACC play, while NC State is 4-4 and winless in conference action (0-4). With the upcoming schedules for both teams, a victory on Saturday could be enough to hit six wins. Additionally, the Wolfpack are still searching for their first ACC win under second-year coach Dave Doeren. In last year’s meeting, Syracuse recorded 362 rushing yards (9.1 ypc) and won 24-10. Stopping the run will be a challenge for NC State once again, as the defense ranks 11th in the ACC and has allowed five yards per carry in conference games. The Wolfpack needs to counter with a rebound game for quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Since throwing for 359 yards and three scores against Florida State, Brissett is completing just 45 percent of his throws and has not topped 225 yards in each of his last three games. Syracuse has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 69.8 percent of their throws in ACC games this year.
ACC Week 10 Predictions
FSU (-4) at UL
Duke (+4) at Pitt
UNC (+17) at Miami
UVa (+3.5) at GT
BC (+3) at Va. Tech
NC State (+3.5) at Syracuse
NC State 17-14
NC State 31-27