Week 3 was supposed to be a quiet one in the ACC. With a slate of so-so matchups, Florida State, Clemson and North Carolina on bye, there wasn’t a ton of intrigue around the conference.
However, Week 3 brought several interesting games to the ACC, including East Carolina’s 28-21 upset over Virginia Tech and Virginia’s 23-21 win over Louisville. Boston College used its punishing ground game to shock USC 37-31, and Georgia Tech needed a late fumble recovery and touchdown on offense to rally against Georgia Southern.
Miami, NC State, Duke, Syracuse and Pittsburgh scored relatively easy victories on Saturday.
Key Takeaways from the ACC in Week 3
Virginia Tech…Letdown or a Reason to be Concerned?
After pulling off a surprise win at Ohio State last Saturday, Virginia Tech fell victim to East Carolina’s upset bid in Week 3. Was it a letdown? Or is Frank Beamer’s team still dealing with concerns on both sides of the ball? It’s probably a little bit of both, but there’s no question the Hokies are a work in progress on offense. Quarterback Michael Brewer tossed two interceptions on 56 attempts, the rushing attack managed only 2.8 yards per carry, and the offensive line allowed three sacks. Virginia Tech’s woes from Week 3 also extend to the defense, giving up an uncharacteristic 427 passing yards to East Carolina’s Shane Carden. While the loss is damaging for the Hokies' playoff hopes, Virginia Tech is still unbeaten in conference play and remains the favorite in a wide-open Coastal.
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Boston College’s Offense Finds its Stride
Behind a punishing rushing attack, Boston College scored one of the biggest upsets in Week 3 by defeating USC 37-31. Quarterback Tyler Murphy completed only five passes for 54 yards, but the Eagles gashed the Trojans for 452 yards and five scores on the ground. That’s right: 452 yards. Coming into Saturday’s game, USC allowed just 285 yards on the ground in its first two games. Murphy’s ability to make plays with his legs played a huge role in Boston College’s upset win, but Boston College’s five senior starters on the line also deserve credit. Even without Andre Williams, coach Steve Addazio isn’t hurting for options in the backfield. Sophomores Myles Willis and Tyler Rouse, along with freshman Jon Hilliman have proved capable of handling the duties on the ground. There will be games where Murphy has to throw for Boston College to win. However, it’s clear the Eagles are going to win their share of games by pounding opponents with their ground attack.
Progress for Brad Kaaya
Before we dive into the statistics, let’s add a disclaimer: Miami played Arkansas State in Week 3 and was a heavy favorite. With that out of the way, it’s fair to say Miami freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya took a step forward in his third career start. Kaaya was efficient (16 of 24), threw for 342 yards and tossed four touchdown passes. The freshman averaged 21.4 yards per completion and two of his touchdown scores went more than 60 yards. Again, we don’t want to overreact to one game against an overmatched opponent, but Miami has to be pleased with Kaaya’s development, especially with games against Nebraska, Duke, Georgia Tech, Cincinnati and Virginia Tech coming up next.
Virginia Will be a Factor in the Coastal
Heading into the 2014 season, the Coastal Division favorite was anyone’s guess. Six teams were considered by most for the No. 1 spot, with Virginia slated for the basement at No. 7. However, it’s clear after three weeks it’s time to adjust that thinking. Sure, it’s only three games are in the books, but let’s place the Cavaliers in that same class as Miami, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, Duke and North Carolina. Virginia’s offense is still a work in progress, but the defense is holding opponents to 4.8 yards per play and contained Louisville to just 21 points on Saturday. Quarterback Greyson Lambert still has to play better in big games (13 of 24, 162 yards against the Cardinals) for the Cavaliers to threaten for the division. However, Virginia is no longer a guaranteed win for the rest of the Coastal. With home dates against Pittsburgh, North Carolina and Miami, the Cavaliers will have a chance to factor into the division mix and should push for a bowl.
Does Louisville have a QB Battle?
In Saturday’s loss to Virginia, Louisville coach Bobby Petrino made the switch from Will Gardner to true freshman Reggie Bonnafon to help spark an offense that managed just 282 total yards. Bonnafon’s mobility helped counter the Cavaliers’ aggressive defense and compensate for the Cardinals’ struggling line, but the true freshman only finished with 39 passing yards on six completions. Gardner’s numbers weren’t much better (14 of 34, 164 yards and two picks), especially when you consider he started 4 of 4 for 49 yards and one score on the opening drive. Both quarterbacks should see time over the next few games, but Petrino is expected to turn to Gardner to start in Week 4. Regardless of which quarterback takes the first snap in Saturday’s game against FIU, they need more help from the offensive line and receiving corps.
ACC Post-Week 3 Power Rankings
at Florida State
W, 42-25, FIU
W, 41-3, Kansas
L, 28-21, ECU
W, 23-21, Louisville
W, 37-31, USC
L, 23-21, Virginia
W, 41-20, Ark. State
W, 40-3, Syracuse
W, 49-17, USF
W, 42-38, Ga. Southern
at Va. Tech
L, 36-24, Wake Forest