Florida State’s Thursday night victory over Louisville garnered most of the attention last weekend in the ACC, but the conference had three games decided by a touchdown or less, including Duke’s critical win over Pittsburgh in overtime.
Heading into Week 11, there’s not a marquee national matchup on the slate, but five matchups with conference implications provides some intrigue. Louisville’s trip to Boston College should be the best game of the weekend, while Duke travels to Syracuse, Florida State hosts Virginia and Georgia Tech hits the road for a matchup against NC State.
Duke maintains a lead in the Coastal Division, but the Blue Devils can’t afford a misstep with Miami a game behind in the standings, while Georgia Tech needs to beat NC State with a tough matchup against Clemson ahead in Week 12.
ACC Week 11 Game Power Rankings
1. Louisville (-3) at Boston College
7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2
The first meeting between Louisville and Boston College as ACC members highlights the Week 11 slate in the ACC. The Cardinals nearly upset Florida State last Thursday but fell short after a furious second-half rally by the Seminoles. The Eagles seem to be finding their stride recently by winning three out of their last four games. The only loss in that span was a four-point defeat to Clemson. The battle in the trenches is under the spotlight in Chestnut Hill, as Louisville’s run defense allowed a season-high 173 yards on the ground to Florida State. Boston College features a veteran offensive line and ranks second in the ACC with an average of 274.9 rushing yards per game. Four players have rushed for at least 263 yards this year, with quarterback Tyler Murphy closing in on 1,000 (965) to lead the Eagles. Louisville has the personnel to devote extra attention at the line of scrimmage, as its cornerbacks Terell Floyd and Charles Gaines lead a secondary that ranks first in the ACC in pass defense efficiency. When the Cardinals have the ball, keep an eye on an offensive line that has allowed 28 sacks this year. Boston College has recorded 25 sacks in nine games and has generated 69 tackles for a loss. Of Louisville’s four highest scoring games this year, two have occurred in the last two weeks. That’s largely due to the return of receiver DeVante Parker, along with the emergence of Michael Dyer at running back. Quarterback Will Gardner is also coming off his first 300-yard game of the season (330 against Florida State). Will the run-first style of Boston College win out? Or can Louisville slow down the Eagles’ rushing attack and jump ahead on the scoreboard to force Boston College out of its gameplan on offense? This should be the best game of the week in the ACC.
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2. Georgia Tech (-5.5) at NC State
12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network/ESPN3
This is the first meeting between these two teams since 2011, and there’s plenty at stake for the Yellow Jackets and Wolfpack after both programs picked up key wins last Saturday. Georgia Tech needs to win out to have any shot at claiming the Coastal Division title, while NC State is a win away from bowl eligibility. In order for the Wolfpack to get their sixth win, stopping the run has to be a priority. Georgia Tech leads the ACC by averaging 319.7 rushing yards per game, while NC State is allowing 171.1 yards per contest. Quarterback Justin Thomas is the catalyst for the Yellow Jackets’ offense, but running back Synjyn Days has recorded back-to-back 100-yard efforts with Zach Laskey and Charles Perkins sidelined by injury. Establishing the run and controlling the clock is a priority for Georgia Tech with a defense that is allowing 6.4 yards per play in ACC games. NC State’s offense scored at least 41 points in four of its first five games but has not managed more than 24 points in a contest over its last four matchups. Playing better opponents has factored into the drop in production, and the Wolfpack need better play from an offensive line that has allowed 17 sacks in five ACC games.
3. Duke (-3.5) at Syracuse
12:30 p.m. ET, RSN/ESPN3
Duke’s overtime escape last week in Pittsburgh kept the Blue Devils atop the Coastal Division. And with three of Duke’s next four games at home, coach David Cutcliffe’s team has a good chance at repeating as division champs. Syracuse has lost six out of its last seven games, with the only victory coming in that span at Wake Forest (30-7). The Orange is struggling on offense (13th in ACC in yards per play), but the defense ranks fourth in the conference in fewest yards per play allowed (4.8). Syracuse’s defense will be tested against a Duke offense that is one of the most-balanced attacks in the league. The Blue Devils have passed for 755 yards and rushed for 654 yards in ACC play. Protecting quarterback Anthony Boone has been a strength for Duke all season – four sacks allowed in eight games – but Syracuse (61 tackles for a loss) will be aggressive in sending pressure. Another factor in Duke’s success this year has been its lack of turnovers. The Blue Devils have lost just five in eight games. The Orange needs to get pressure on Boone and force a couple of turnovers to have a shot on Saturday. True freshman quarterback A.J. Long has showed promise in four appearances this year, but the Orange has to do a better job of establishing a presence on the ground. Over the last two games, Syracuse has managed just 126 rushing yards. Duke gave up 358 rushing yards in last week’s win over Pittsburgh and has allowed seven scores on the ground over the last three contests.
4. Virginia at Florida State (-19.5)
6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Florida State’s win streak stands at 24, and the Seminoles should make it 25 on Saturday against a Virginia team that has lost its last three games. The Cavaliers were the last ACC team to win in Tallahassee, recording a 14-13 victory in 2011. In order to pull off the upset this year, Virginia needs several things to bounce its way. The offense is averaging only 19.4 points in ACC games, and quarterback Greyson Lambert has tossed four interceptions in his last two games. The strength of the Cavaliers rests with their defense, limiting opponents to five yards per play in ACC games and ranking in a tie for fourth in the league with 62 tackles for a loss. Florida State’s offensive line has struggled at times this year and should be challenged by a Virginia defensive line that features standout end Eli Harold (seven sacks) and a linebacking corps that ranks among the best in the ACC. Quarterback Jameis Winston suffered an ankle injury in last week’s win over Louisville, but the ailment is not expected to prevent him from playing on Saturday. If Winston’s offensive line provides adequate protection, the sophomore will test a secondary that has allowed 12 (second-most in ACC) in conference play this year. As if trying to stop Winston, receiver Rashad Greene and tight end Nick O’Leary wasn’t enough, Florida State has three true freshmen – running back Dalvin Cook and receivers Ermon Lane and Travis Rudolph – ready to emerge over the final month of the season. With a game against Miami next week, the Seminoles have avoid a letdown against Virginia, especially with this team entrenched at No. 2 in the college football playoff rankings.
5. Clemson (-21.5) at Wake Forest
7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN (Thursday)
Clemson won the last two meetings in this series by a combined score of 98-20, and the Tigers are a heavy favorite once again on Thursday night. Freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson is expected to miss his third consecutive game due to a hand injury, leaving senior Cole Stoudt back under center for Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. Stoudt is completing 63.2 percent of his throws but has just one passing score against Power 5 opponents in 2014. The Tigers won’t need a huge effort from their offense, as the defense is one of the best in the nation, and Wake Forest is averaging just 2.7 yards per play in conference games. Offensive line play is a huge problem for the Demon Deacons and this group will be challenged against a veteran and talented Clemson defensive front. Wake Forest has allowed 31 sacks in eight games and has not rushed for more than 71 yards in an ACC game this year. The Tigers need a lot of help to pass Florida State in the Atlantic Division, but Clemson still has plenty to play for with a potential berth in the Orange Bowl on the table if the Seminoles make the playoffs.
ACC Week 11 Predictions
UL (-3) at BC
GT (-5.5) at NC State
NC State 34-33
Duke (-3.5) at Syracuse
UVa at FSU (-19.5)
Clemson (-21.5) at Wake