The ACC didn’t quite capitalize on its opportunity to earn national respect last week, but the conference did pickup a key victory with Clemson knocking off Auburn. Florida State easily handled Murray State, while Virginia Tech took an early lead in the race to win the Coastal Division with an overtime victory over Georgia Tech. Week 2 in the ACC features only one conference game, but some intriguing non-conference matchups, including Miami-Kansas State and NC State-Connecticut.
Other Week 2 conference storylines
1. Will NC State bounce back?
There’s no shame in losing to Tennessee, but the Wolfpack did not play their best game on Friday night. Quarterback Mike Glennon tossed a career-high four interceptions, while cornerback David Amerson had an uncharacteristic performance, giving up two long touchdowns to Tennessee receivers. NC State doesn’t have much time to dwell on the loss, especially with a trip to Storrs to take on Connecticut this Saturday. The Huskies suffocated UMass’ offense in Week 1, allowing only 59 yards and pitching a shutout. Moving the ball against Connecticut’s defense will be tough, so it’s important for NC State to eliminate the turnovers that plagued the offense last week. When the Huskies have the ball, the Wolfpack needs to stop the run and force quarterback Chandler Whitmer to win this one through the air. Whitmer was solid in his first start (15 of 25, 219 yards) but this will be his first test against a BCS defense.
2. Can Maryland slow down Temple’s rushing attack?
With a true freshman starting at quarterback, it’s going to take Maryland’s offense a few games to find its rhythm. Perry Hills threw for only 145 yards in the win over William & Mary but also tossed three picks. The Terrapins have little margin for error once again in Week 2, as they travel to Philadelphia to take on Temple. The Owls recorded 47 rushing attempts in their opener against Villanova, while quarterback Chris Coyer attempted only 11 passes. Even with Montel Harris dealing with a hamstring injury, Temple has capable backs in Matt Brown and Kenny Harper, along with quarterback Chris Coyer to test the Maryland rush defense. With the Terrapins limited on offense, it’s important for the defense to limit Temple’s rushing attack, while creating a few turnovers to put Hills in a situation to get points. If Maryland’s defense can’t slow down Brown and Coyer on the ground, the Terrapins will need a big day from their young quarterback.
3. How will Florida State replace Brandon Jenkins?
Replacing a player of Jenkins’ caliber is never easy. However, thanks to some strong recruiting by Jimbo Fisher and his staff, Florida State has depth on the defensive line and should be able to maintain one of the nation’s top pass rushes without Jenkins. Bjoern Werner registered 37 tackles and seven sacks last season and recorded four sacks against Murray State in Week 1. He should be set on one side of the line, while senior Tank Carradine holds down the other spot. Werner and Carradine should be a solid duo, but the real question for Florida State will be depth. Redshirt freshman Giorgio Newberry and true freshmen Mario Edwards Jr. and Chris Casher will have to play significant snaps the rest of the year and could be forced to start if Werner or Carradine suffers an injury. Although Savannah State won’t provide much of a test, this is a good opportunity for Florida State to get some of the young linemen reps.
4. Can Virginia keep its momentum?
Mike London has Virginia rolling in the right direction and Saturday’s game against Penn State is an opportunity to score a solid non-conference victory. While the Nittany Lions are trending down, the Cavaliers best win outside of ACC play last season was against Indiana. Quarterback Michael Rocco was solid in Week 1, completing 25 of 37 passes for 311 yards and one touchdown. Rocco needs to continue playing mistake-free ball, while developing a rapport with his improving receiving corps. Penn State could be short handed on offense due to an injury to running back Bill Belton. The Nittany Lions still have a solid defense, but if the Cavaliers don’t give Penn State’s offense any help with turnovers, Virginia should win by at least a touchdown.
5. Can Miami upset Kansas State?
With a handful of young and inexperienced players stepping into playing time, Miami was a hard team to peg in the preseason. The Hurricanes showcased some of their promising talent in the first game, including freshman running back Duke Johnson. The victory against Boston College should give Miami some confidence this Saturday for its road trip to Kansas State. The Wildcats upset the Hurricanes last season, so there’s a revenge factor going for Al Golden's team. Kansas State’s pass defense is a question mark, which should allow quarterback Stephen Morris and the receivers to make some plays downfield. Although Miami should be able to score some points, it needs to find a way to slow down Wildcats’ quarterback Collin Klein. The Hurricanes had no answer for Klein last season, as he recorded 226 total yards and three touchdowns. It will take a perfect effort, but it's not out of the question for Miami can exit Manhattan with a 2-0 record.
6. Tuneups for Clemson, Florida State and Virginia Tech
The ACC’s top three contenders – Clemson, Florida State and Virginia Tech – should all have an easy outing in Week 2. Clemson hosts Ball State, Virginia Tech welcomes Austin Peay to Blacksburg, while Florida State takes on Savannah State. The Tigers have the toughest opponent out of that trio, but none of these teams should have to sweat much to win on Saturday. While there’s not a ton the coaching staffs at Virginia Tech and Florida State can take from one-sided non-conference games, it’s an opportunity to get reps for some of the younger players. The Hokies and Seminoles need their offensive lines to jell, while Clemson needs to develop depth on the defensive line. Although all three teams should win easily, the most important aspect for all of the coaching staffs will be to make it through without any injuries.
7. Battle for bragging rights in North Carolina
Larry Fedora had an impressive debut in Chapel Hill, as the Tar Heels easily handled Elon 62-0. Things get a little tougher for North Carolina this Saturday with a road trip to Wake Forest on the schedule. Running back Giovani Bernard left last week’s game with a knee injury but all signs point to a full workload for him in Week 2. The Demon Deacons struggled to beat Liberty in Week 1, but were they saving something for this matchup? The Tar Heels have the edge on offense and if they can jump out to an early lead, it will put extra pressure on Wake Forest’s young offense. North Carolina won’t be able to play in a bowl this year, but it looks like Fedora should have this team ready to play and motivated to make a run at nine victories.
8. Georgia Tech’s passing attack against Presbyterian
Even though the Yellow Jackets don’t throw it a ton, entering the year with a cast of unproven receivers was a concern for coach Paul Johnson. No Georgia Tech receiver on the roster has a career reception and all 10 catches against Virginia Tech went to running backs. The Yellow Jackets should have no trouble beating Presbyterian this Saturday, but expect the coaching staff to allow quarterback Tevin Washington to throw a little more than usual, especially as the offense looks to work in the receivers. Georgia Tech has some ground to make up in the Coastal Division and it’s important to develop a go-to receiver before playing Virginia next week.
9. Can Duke upset Stanford?
Despite having a handful of players out due to injuries, Duke easily handled FIU (46-26) last Saturday. The win was huge for the Blue Devils’ bowl hopes, but the competition only gets tougher in Week 2 with a long trip to Stanford. The Cardinal was unimpressive in a Week 1 victory against San Jose State and is still dealing with the transition from Andrew Luck to Josh Nunes at quarterback. The Blue Devils gave up 165 rushing yards last Saturday and will be challenged even more by Stanford’s physical offensive line. Duke was crushed by the Cardinal 44-14 last season, but this matchup should be much closer in 2012. An upset over Stanford would be a huge boost to the Blue Devils’ bowl hopes this year.
Week 2 ACC Predictions
NC State (-5) at Connecticut
NC State 21-10
NC State 31-20
NC State 27-20
Penn State at Virginia (-10)
Maryland at Temple (-10)
Miami (Fla.) at Kansas State (-7)
Ball State at Clemson (-27)
Maine at Boston College
Austin Peay at Virginia Tech
Va Tech 42-10
Va Tech 34-3
Va Tech 62-3
Va Tech 61-0
UNC (-10) at Wake Forest
Savannah State at Florida State
Presbyterian at Georgia Tech
Ga Tech 35-7
Ga Tech 34-7
Ga Tech 55-3
Ga Tech 50-10
Duke at Stanford (-15)
by Steven Lassan