The ACC was in the spotlight last Saturday night, as Florida State defeated Clemson in overtime to extend its winning streak to 19 games.
The Seminoles hit the road for the first time in conference play this year, traveling to Raleigh to take on an improving NC State team. Florida State will have quarterback Jameis Winston back under center after a one-game suspension.
Florida State-NC State is a key game in the ACC this Saturday, but the focus of the conference is in Miami, where the Hurricanes host Duke. Considering how tight the Coastal Division is, a win by Duke would put Miami at 0-2 and in an early hole for the conference title picture.
Week 5 Previews and Predictions
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ACC Game Power Rankings for Week 5
1. Duke at Miami (-7)
7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2
The frontrunner in the Coastal Division is really anyone’s guess after four weeks. But Saturday night’s game in Miami should provide some – but not much – clarity into the race. The Hurricanes are already 0-1 in conference play, so an 0-2 hole won’t be easy to climb out of. Duke won last year’s matchup 48-30, largely due to its production on the ground (358 yards, five scores). The Blue Devils have changed some of the faces in their backfield, but the production hasn’t faltered. Duke ranks No. 5 among the ACC in rush offense, led by true freshman Shaun Wilson (14.4 ypc) and Josh Snead (147 yards). Miami allowed just 248 yards through the first three games but was gashed by Nebraska for 343 yards. The Hurricanes present a similar challenge for Duke’s defense, as the Blue Devils have played a light schedule, yet rank No. 12 in the ACC against the run. Both teams should be able to use their ground attack to control the pace of the game, but quarterback play and mistakes are critical in a tight contest. Which passer – Miami freshman Brad Kaaya or Duke senior Anthony Boone – plays the best and makes the fewest mistakes will determine which team wins this game.
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2. North Carolina at Clemson (-14.5)
7 p.m. ET, ESPNU
The Tar Heels and Tigers meet on Saturday with both teams looking to rebound after losses in Week 4. While both teams lost last Saturday, there’s a different feeling surrounding both programs. For Clemson, true freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson is set to take the reins under center, providing an early glimpse at the future of the program. At North Carolina, there’s a sense of urgency after losing 70-41 to East Carolina. The Tar Heels have a tough upcoming schedule, including games against Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and Saturday’s trip to Clemson. North Carolina’s offense is averaging 42.7 points per game, but the defense is allowing 6.7 yards per play and 42 points per game. The Tar Heels will be tested once again on defense this week, as Watson has played well in limited action, and the Tigers are averaging 37 points per game. Another concern for North Carolina is the offensive line, which may not have guard Landon Turner or tackle Jon Heck in the lineup due to injuries. That’s bad news against Clemson’s defensive front, which has registered 10 sacks and 29 tackles for a loss in 2014.
3. Florida State (-19) at NC State
3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2
Florida State survived one of its toughest games (Clemson) of 2014 without its best player (Jameis Winston) last week. That’s a good sign for the Seminoles moving forward, but coach Jimbo Fisher has a few areas of concern heading into Week 5. Florida State needs better production from its offensive line, while its rushing attack is looking for more open lanes after averaging just 109.7 yards per game in 2014. Winston has no trouble targeting receiver Rashad Greene and tight end Nick O’Leary, but the Seminoles could use another playmaker (or two) to emerge in the passing game. NC State is one of the ACC’s most-improved teams this year, largely due to quarterback Jacoby Brissett. After sitting out 2013 due to transfer rules, Brissett has thrown for 10 touchdowns and 1,005 yards in four games. The Wolfpack average 40.3 points per game and have already surpassed their win total from last year. NC State hasn’t played the toughest schedule so far, and this game should be a good barometer for coach Dave Doeren. Three of Florida State’s last four trips to Raleigh resulted in losses. While the Wolfpack are improving, it’s still a tall assignment to beat the Seminoles in Week 5.
4. Notre Dame (-12) vs. Syracuse (East Rutherford)
8 p.m. ET, ABC
If you need any evidence of how light of a slate Week 5 is, take a look at the time for the Notre Dame-Syracuse game. That’s right, this is the primetime game on ABC. Notre Dame ranks as the No. 8 team in the nation after a 3-0 start, and quarterback Everett Golson has been sharp in his return to the field (7 TDs, 0 INTs). Syracuse’s defense allowed 17.5 yards per completion to Maryland last Saturday, and Golson has connected on 30 passing plays of at least 10 yards this year. The Orange will be aggressive to protect their secondary, likely allowing linebackers Cameron Lynch and Marqez Hodge to test a Notre Dame line that has allowed six sacks through three games. Just like Golson is the key to the Fighting Irish offense, quarterback play also holds the cards to Syracuse’s offensive hopes. Quarterback Terrel Hunt has thrown for 488 yards and leads the team with 273 yards on the ground. Despite a lot of offeseason turnover, Notre Dame is allowing just 10.3 points per game. However, the Orange should challenge a revamped defensive front with their ground attack, while Hunt can make plays with his legs. Syracuse lost despite outgaining Maryland 589 to 369 last week. Mistakes significantly hurt the Orange last Saturday, and a similar effort will be tough to overcome in Week 5.
5. Colorado State at Boston College (-7)
12:30 p.m. ET, RSN/ESPN3
Boston College steps out of conference for the final time in 2014 with a visit from Colorado State. The Eagles and Rams have only one previous meeting, with Boston College winning 35-21 in the 2003 San Francisco Bowl. This matchup features an interesting contrast in styles, as the Eagles average 336.3 yards per game on the ground, while the Rams average 340 passing yards per contest. Although Colorado State ranks No. 11 nationally in pass offense, this isn’t a one-dimensional attack. Treyous Jarrells (6.2 ypc) and Alabama transfer Dee Hart (4.8) are solid options for coach Jim McElwain on the ground. The Rams should have success moving the ball, but stopping Boston College’s offense is going to be a challenge for their defense. The Eagles have rushed for at least 400 yards in back-to-back games and average 6.3 yards per rush. Colorado State gave up 324 yards in a 37-24 loss to Boise State earlier this year.
6. Wake Forest at Louisville (-21)
1:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
As expected, Louisville’s trip to FIU resulted in an easy 34-3 win. But the win came at a price, as quarterback Will Gardner suffered a knee injury, and his status for Week 5 is uncertain. If Gardner can’t play, the Cardinals have another talented option to start in true freshman Reggie Bonnafon (14 of 20, 151 yards, 1 TD). Bonnafon brings more mobility to the offense, which is a valuable asset with Louisville’s struggling offensive line. The Cardinals are still without top receiver DeVante Parker, but running back Michael Dyer returned to action last week. The Demon Deacons are a team in transition under first-year coach Dave Clawson. True freshman quarterback John Wolford has played better recently and threw for 238 yards and two scores in last week’s win over Army. Wolford needs more help from his supporting cast, especially as Louisville’s active front seven (11 sacks) will present problems for the Demon Deacons’ offensive line (15 sacks).
7. Akron at Pittsburgh (-20)
1 p.m. ET, ESPN3
The Panthers look to get back on track after last week’s 24-20 loss to Iowa. While the loss to the Hawkeyes was a disappointment, Pittsburgh is still unbeaten (1-0) in ACC games. Akron won its opener against Howard but lost its last two games (Penn State and Marshall) by a combined score of 69-20. The Panthers have an advantage on the ground, as the Zips are allowing 179.3 rushing yards per game. Running back James Conner leads the ACC with an average of 174.5 yards per contest and should have a huge day against Akron’s undersized defensive front. Pittsburgh’s secondary has allowed 17 plays of 10 or more passing yards through four games, and the defensive backfield will be tested against the Zips’ offense, which is averaging 286.3 yards per game through the air.
8. Western Michigan at Virginia Tech (-21)
12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network
After back-to-back losses, Virginia Tech hopes to work some of the kinks against Western Michigan before ACC play starts again next Saturday. The Broncos have already surpassed their win total from 2013 (1-11) and features an emerging star at running back in true freshman Jarvion Franklin (541 yards, 6.6 ypc). Virginia Tech’s defense has an edge in the trenches, but standout defensive tackle Luther Maddy won’t play due to knee surgery. Western Michigan’s defense allowed 43 points to a struggling Purdue offense in the opener, so this should be a good opportunity for the Hokies to get quarterback Michael Brewer and the rushing game back on track.
9. Kent State at Virginia (-27)
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3
With a victory over Kent State on Saturday, Virginia would surpass its win total from 2013. The Golden Flashes are 0-3 and were outscored 63-0 by Ohio State on Oct. 13. Kent State running back Trayion Durham – the team’s top offensive player – has yet to play this season due to a foot injury. Without Durham, the Golden Flashes will have a hard time moving the ball against an aggressive Cavaliers’ defense (13 TFL, 13 sacks). Virginia quarterback Greyson Lambert may not play on Saturday due to an ankle injury suffered against BYU. If Lambert is out, sophomore Matt Johns is a capable replacement under center.
Week 5 ACC Predictions
Duke at Miami
UNC at Clemson
FSU at NC State
ND vs. Syracuse
CSU at BC
WF at Louisville
Akron at Pitt
WMU at Va. Tech
Kent State at UVA