Athlon previews Week 3 in the ACC.
It’s another light slate of games in the ACC for Week 3. For the third consecutive week, only one conference matchup highlights the schedule.
Louisville makes its first road trip as a member of the ACC with a matchup at Virginia on Saturday. The Cardinals are off to a 2-0 start under Bobby Petrino and leads the ACC in scoring by averaging 48.5 points per game. The Cavaliers have one of the ACC’s top defenses and held UCLA in check in the opener.
Outside of Charlottesville, Virginia Tech hopes to avoid a letdown against East Carolina, and Boston College hosts USC in an interesting non-conference matchup.
Florida State, Clemson and North Carolina are on bye in Week 3.
Week 3 Previews and Predictions:
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ACC Week 3 Game Power Rankings
1. Louisville (-6.5) at Virginia
12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network
Louisville’s road trip to Charlottesville is its first as a member of the ACC and only the third time these two teams have met. Both teams have impressed this season, as the Cardinals opened the year with a victory against Miami, while Virginia had a good showing in a loss versus UCLA. The strength of the Cavaliers resides on defense, holding opponents to 20.5 points per game. Virginia’s front seven harassed UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley in Week 1 and has recorded eight sacks in two contests. Louisville’s offensive line needs to play with more consistency after allowing five sacks in two games. The Cardinals should have extra help on Saturday with the return of running back Michael Dyer. The edge on offense is clearly in favor of Louisville. Virginia’s offense has shown brief flashes, but the Cavaliers need a low-scoring, defensive struggle to defeat the Cardinals.
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2. East Carolina at Virginia Tech (-11)
Noon ET, ESPN
A week after a huge win over Ohio State, Virginia Tech has to get refocused for an upset-minded East Carolina team. The Pirates nearly defeated the Hokies last year, losing 15-10 in Greenville. Much of the same core returns in 2014, including quarterback Shane Carden and receiver Justin Hardy. Carden struggled in last season’s game (19 of 31, 3 INTs), and he may not find much success once again. Opposing quarterbacks are completing only 34.6 percent of their throws against the Hokies in 2014. Making East Carolina’s upset bid even tougher is the development of Virginia Tech’s offense this year. New quarterback Michael Brewer has tossed four touchdowns in two games, and freshmen Marshawn Williams and Shai McKenzie lead an improving ground attack.
3. USC (-17) at Boston College
8 p.m. ET, ESPN
After a hard-fought victory at Stanford last week, USC makes the long trek East to play at Boston College for just the second time in program history. The Eagles opened their season with a 30-7 victory over UMass but lost to Pittsburgh 30-20 in Week 2. Second-year coach Steve Addazio is breaking in a handful of new starters on both sides of the ball, and with the new faces still getting acclimated to the lineup, this is a tough matchup for Boston College. The strength of Addazio’s team should be the defense, which has to find ways to slow down the Trojans’ offense (6.1 yards per play). Quarterback Cody Kessler has a dynamic group of receivers at his disposal, along with Buck Allen (6.4 ypc) leading the way at running back. Boston College needs a big game from its quarterback (Tyler Murphy) to keep this one close in the fourth quarter.
4. NC State (-2.5) at USF
3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network
This game won’t garner much national attention, but there’s some intriguing between two programs in rebuild mode. NC State has played 13 true freshmen, while USF lists 10 freshmen on the two-deep for this week’s contest. Quarterback play will be under the spotlight on Saturday, as Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett is off to a fast start (5 TDs, 1 INT), and USF could be without starter Mike White due to an arm injury. If White is out, Steven Bench will start. Regardless of which quarterback starts for the Bulls, freshman running back Marlon Mack should see a heavy workload against NC State’s struggling rush defense (221 ypg).
5. Syracuse (-6.5) at Central Michigan
Noon ET, ESPNEWS
Syracuse should be on upset alert this Saturday. The Orange struggled in their opener against Villanova, and Central Michigan easily handled Purdue 38-17 in Week 2. The strength of the Chippewas’ offense is on the ground, led by former Michigan back Thomas Rawls (276 yards, 4.9 ypc), while quarterback Cooper Rush is completing 61.9 percent of his throws this year. Syracuse allowed 190 rushing yards in the opener, so Rawls is a good test for Scott Shafer’s defense. The Orange will have quarterback Terrel Hunt back in the lineup after he was ejected from the opener. Hunt’s dual-threat ability will test a Central Michigan defense allowing just 4.3 yards per play.
6. Kansas at Duke (-15.5)
3:30 p.m. ET, RSN
On the basketball court, it doesn’t get much better than these two teams. But it’s a different story on the gridiron, as Duke is coming off a Coastal Division title, while Kansas has just five wins since 2012. The Jayhawks struggled in their opener against SEMO, while the Blue Devils have cruised to a 2-0 start. Duke quarterback Anthony Boone is off to a fast start (5 TDs, 0 INTs), and he will test the strength of Kansas’ defense – the secondary. The Jayhawks rushed for 261 yards in the opener, which is a concern for the Blue Devils after the preseason injury to standout linebacker Kelby Brown. Kansas is making small gains under coach Charlie Weis, but unless quarterback Montell Cozart makes a big jump in passing production this week, an upset isn’t in the cards.
7. Arkansas State at Miami (-16.5)
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
With a road trip to Nebraska ahead next week, Miami needs to work out the kinks in its offense against Arkansas State. The Red Wolves lost 34-19 to Tennessee last week, but the Hurricanes can’t afford to take this game lightly. Arkansas State’s offense is averaging 5.7 yards per play and is led by dynamic quarterback Fredi Knighten. The Red Wolves will test Miami’s defense – a unit that has shown some improvement after allowing 26.8 points per game in 2013. But the Hurricanes offense will be a handful for Arkansas State, especially with running back Duke Johnson rounding into form, and quarterback Brad Kaaya gaining a better grasp of the offense in his third career start.
8. Georgia Southern at Georgia Tech (-20)
12 p.m. ET, RSN
Georgia Southern fell one point shy of an upset over NC State in Week 1, and the Eagles will have another opportunity at an upset against Georgia Tech. Georgia Southern also runs an option attack, so the forward pass won’t be utilized much in this one. The Eagles need a big performance from running back Matt Breida (8.2 ypc) and quarterback Kevin Ellison (5.6 ypc) to test a Georgia Tech rush defense that is allowing 183.5 rushing yards (yes, it’s only two games) per contest. This game is a critical tune-up for the Yellow Jackets, as conference matchups against Virginia Tech, Miami, Duke and North Carolina are up next. Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson coached at Georgia Southern from 1997-01 and won two FCS national championships.
9. Wake Forest at Utah State (-14.5)
7 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network
The Demon Deacons broke into the win column for the first time under new coach Dave Clawson by defeating Gardner-Webb 23-7 last Saturday. Freshman quarterback John Wolford showed signs of improvement in his second start, completing 30 of 38 throws for 291 yards and two scores. Utah State’s defense was one of the best in the Mountain West last year but lost standout linebacker Kyler Fackrell in the opener and is breaking in four new starters in the secondary. The Aggies have yet to get on track on offense, as quarterback Chuckie Keeton (47.7%, 1 TD) is still trying to shake off the rust from missing a chunk of 2013 with a torn ACL.
10. Pittsburgh (-26) at FIU
Noon ET, Fox Sports 1
This one could get ugly. Pittsburgh is off to a fast start, while FIU lost to FCS opponent Bethune-Cookman in Week 1. The Panthers should use a heavy dose of running back James Conner (366 yards) and receiver Tyler Boyd (3 TDs) against a FIU defense with five new starters in the front seven. The Panthers’ offense is led by two freshmen: Quarterback Alex McGough and running back Alex Gardner.
Week 3 ACC Predictions
|Louisville (-6.5) at UVA||UL 35-21||UL 27-20||UL 27-20||UL 30-20|
|ECU (+11) at Va. Tech||VT 31-10||VT 30-17||VT 34-17||VT 31-22|
|USC (-17) at BC||USC 35-14||USC 41-17||USC 38-17||USC 30-20|
|NC State (-2.5) at USF||USF 14-10||USF 28-24||USF 27-24||USF 24-20|
|Syracuse (+6.5) at CMU||SU 17-10||SU 31-24||SU 31-27||CMU 21-20|
|Kansas (+15.5) at Duke||Duke 28-10||Duke 43-15||Duke 38-17||Duke 34-10|
|Ark. State (+16.5) at Miami||Miami 21-10||Miami 31-21||Miami 34-20||Miami 34-21|
|Ga. Southern (+20) at Ga. Tech||GT 35-14||GT 34-17||GT 38-20||GT 37-20|
|WF (+14.5) at Utah State||USU 21-17||USU 31-28||USU 31-17||USU 23-21|
|Pitt (-26) at FIU||Pitt 49-7||Pitt 45-14||Pitt 52-7||Pitt 41-0|