With Miami's win over Virginia Tech last week, the race to win the ACC Coastal and Atlantic Division is starting to clear. The Hurricanes hold an edge in the Coastal, while the Seminoles still have a one-game edge on Clemson. Miami hits the road to play Virginia this Saturday and can tighten its grip on the Coastal with a victory. The Week 11 slate of ACC games doesn't feature much in the way of national excitement, but there's some solid matchups with North Carolina hosting Georgia Tech and Notre Dame visiting Boston College.
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ACC's Top Storylines for Week 11
Can Virginia Tech’s offense have success against Florida State?
With three games to go, it’s a surprise to see Virginia Tech sitting at 4-5 and in a fight just to get bowl eligible. The Hokies should be able to beat Boston College and Virginia in the final two weeks of the season to get to six wins. However, Thursday night’s matchup against Florida State is an opportunity to knock the Seminoles out of the ACC title game, along with erasing some of the disappointment from the first nine games of the season. For the Hokies to have any shot at beating Florida State, the offense will need its best effort of the year. And that’s easier said than done against a Seminoles’ defense ranked first nationally in yards allowed and third in scoring defense. Quarterback Logan Thomas has to be more careful with the ball (12 interceptions), while the offense also has to find a spark from the ground attack. Although Thomas recorded 323 total yards last week, he simply can’t carry this team on his own. The Thursday night crowd in Blacksburg should give Virginia Tech a little momentum. However, it will require a near-perfect effort to knock off the Seminoles.
Will Georgia Tech’s defense have an answer for North Carolina’s offense?
The recent series between the Yellow Jackets and Tar Heels has been a one-sided affair. Georgia Tech has won six out of the last seven games, including a 35-28 shootout in Atlanta last season. The Yellow Jackets desperately need this game to have a shot at getting bowl eligible, while the Tar Heels look to build on Larry Fedora’s successful first season. Georgia Tech’s defense has struggled all season long, allowing 28 points and an average of 394.7 yards per game. As if the statistics weren’t bad enough for head coach Paul Johnson, things may not get much better this Saturday. The Yellow Jackets have to find an answer for North Carolina’s offense, which is scoring nearly 40 points a game. Running back Giovani Bernard has emerged as a fringe Heisman candidate and has at least 135 rushing yards in each of his last four games. Considering Georgia Tech’s offense can’t really afford to fall behind 21-0, the defense has to make some early stops, as well as get pressure on quarterback Bryn Renner. The recent trend in this series suggests there should be plenty of points for both teams, but a struggling Yellow Jackets’ defense needs to have a flawless effort to help earn the victory on Saturday.
Will Miami move one step closer to winning the Coastal?
Thanks to last week’s 30-12 victory over Virginia Tech, Miami is in the driver’s seat for the ACC Coastal title. With Duke on bye this week, the Hurricanes can’t clinch the division crown this Saturday, but they can move one step closer to playing for the conference title with a victory. Of course, this also depends on whether or not the school decides to self-impose a bowl ban this year. But for now, Miami is the favorite to represent the Coastal in Charlotte. The Hurricanes don’t have an easy path to an outright division title, especially since Virginia appears to be revitalized after a win over NC State last week. Miami has lost two out of its last three games in Charlottesville and will have to contend with an offense that scored 33 points last week. The Hurricanes rank 113th nationally in scoring defense but held North Carolina and Virginia Tech to just 30 combined points. Miami is the better team, but as the past few weeks have shown, anything can happen in the ACC.
Tevin Washington or Vad Lee?
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson went into last week’s game with an unsettled quarterback situation, and the Yellow Jackets left with no real clarity. Of course, it’s a lot easier to sort through a position battle when you are coming off a 33-13 victory. However, the quarterback battle will be under the spotlight even more this Saturday, especially as Georgia Tech’s offense will need to have a huge day against North Carolina. Tevin Washington started last week’s game and rushed for 30 yards and one touchdown on four attempts. Lee recorded 60 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries and threw only two passes. Considering both quarterbacks had their moments last week, expect the same type of gameplan from Georgia Tech once again this Saturday. If Washington or Lee gets into a rhythm, the Yellow Jackets will probably ride the hot hand. However, Washington’s experience and Lee’s playmaking ability give Georgia Tech’s offense different looks. Expect both to play significant snaps against North Carolina.
Can NC State get back on track?
Even though the Wolfpack was coming off a 43-35 loss to rival North Carolina, no one could have expected what happened against Virginia. NC State was a double-digit favorite over the Cavaliers, yet suffered a crushing 33-6 defeat. The loss only amplified the grumblings in the fanbase over coach Tom O’Brien, but his future shouldn’t be in any real danger - unless NC State loses against Wake Forest or Boston College. The Wolfpack host the Demon Deacons this Saturday, which is an opportunity to get back on track after last week’s disappointing loss. Wake Forest’s passing attack threw for 293 yards against Boston College last week, which figures to test an NC State secondary allowing 269.2 yards per game.
Maryland’s quarterback carousel
Considering Shawn Petty spent most of the season at linebacker, it’s hard to criticize his performance against Georgia Tech last week. The freshman completed 9 of 18 throws for 115 yards and two touchdowns, while adding 24 rushing yards on 17 attempts. The Terrapins won’t ask a lot of Petty but they might need a little more this week. Maryland has to travel to Death Valley to take on Clemson, which has an offense averaging 42.7 points a game. Petty should be more comfortable with another week to take snaps as the No. 1 quarterback, but it’s a lot to ask a converted linebacker to win a shootout in his second start.
Wake Forest and Georgia Tech won’t be playing against each other this Saturday, but bowl representatives and ACC officials will have their eyes on these two teams. The Demon Deacons need just one victory to get bowl eligible and face NC State, Notre Dame and Vanderbilt to close out the year. The Yellow Jackets need two wins to get bowl eligible, and their path to six wins is very narrow, especially with road trips to North Carolina and Georgia still to come. With only three teams eligible for the postseason after 10 weeks, the ACC needs Wake Forest and Georgia Tech to get to six wins to be able to fill out its bowl allotment.
Will Maryland’s defense slow down Clemson’s offense?
With injuries taking a toll on the offense, it’s up to Maryland’s defense to carry this team the rest of the year. So far, Brian Stewart has proved to be a tremendous coordinator hire, with Maryland ranking 11th nationally in total defense and 33rd in points allowed. The Terrapins’ defense will have their hands full this week, taking on a Clemson offense averaging 42.7 points a game. The Tigers scored 56 points on this defense last year, but Maryland should be able to keep the total a little lower this season. In order for the Terrapins to win this game, they have to win the battle in the trenches. Maryland’s defensive line is averaging 2.8 sacks per game, and this group should be able to take advantage of an inexperienced Tigers’ offensive line. It’s not all about winning the battle up front, as the Terrapins will have to lock down on pass coverage, especially with Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins playing at an All-ACC level. There’s really no way to completely shut down Clemson’s offense. However, Maryland’s defense has to force a few turnovers and disrupt the timing by getting pressure on quarterback Tajh Boyd.
Frank Spaziani’s last chance?
With a 2-7 record this season and a 22-26 overall mark in his Boston College career, Frank Spaziani sits squarely on the hot seat. The Eagles have watched their win total decline in each year since 2009 and are just 6-15 over the last two seasons. Barring a surprise finish to 2012, all signs point to a new coach taking over in Chestnut Hill next year. If Spaziani has any hope to keep his job, Saturday’s game against Boston College is a must-win situation. There’s little to suggest the Eagles will be able to win this game, but they have lost two out of the last three matchups by a combined six points. Of course, this Notre Dame team is much better than the one Boston College played last year, but it should give the Eagles some hope for an upset.
Can Virginia pull off another surprise?
In one of the biggest upsets of Week 10, Virginia snapped a six-game losing streak and defeated NC State 33-6. The Cavaliers had one of their best overall efforts of the season, scoring the most points they have managed in ACC play this year (33) and held the Wolfpack to a season low of six points. Having an off date before playing NC State certainly helped to spark Virginia, and it’s important for Mike London and his coaching staff to build on last week’s win. The Cavaliers play the next two weeks at home and have a chance to play spoiler in the Coastal race, along with getting bowl eligible by winning their last three games. Virginia’s offense found a spark by using a quarterback rotation last week, while the rushing attack generated 248 yards against the Wolfpack. Miami’s defense has struggled this season, which should be good news for what appears to be an improving Cavaliers’ offense.
Week 11 ACC Predictions
Week 11 ACC Games
Florida State at Va. Tech
Miami at Virginia
Ga. Tech at North Carolina
Wake Forest at NC State
NC State 31-27
NC State 30-23
NC State 34-17
Maryland at Clemson
Notre Dame at Boston College
Notre Dame 21-10
Notre Dame 27-7
Notre Dame 31-10
Notre Dame 27-3
by Steven Lassan
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