Athlon previews the Week 4 action in the ACC.
The ACC will be under the spotlight this weekend. Clemson and Florida State meet in Tallahassee on Saturday night, and the winner of this matchup will take an early, but commanding lead for the ACC Atlantic crown. Miami and Georgia Tech meet in a key Coastal contest, while Virginia travels to TCU and Maryland plays at West Virginia.
Other Week 4 Previews and Predictions
ACC's Top Storylines for Week 4
1. Can Clemson’s offensive line block Florida State?
The biggest question mark surrounding Clemson’s offense coming into the season was its line. With the departure of three key performers, the Tigers had big concerns about protecting quarterback Tajh Boyd. The line has been a mixed bag of results through the first three weeks, as Clemson is averaging 5.2 yards per rush and has scored seven rushing touchdowns. The Tigers have allowed only four sacks but all of them came in the opener against Auburn. Considering Florida State’s defensive line is even better than Auburn, Clemson’s coaching staff has to be worried. The Tigers have the ACC’s best set of playmakers on offense, led by quarterback Tajh Boyd, running back Andre Ellington and receivers Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins. However, if the line can’t protect Boyd, Clemson’s offense will struggle to move the ball against the Seminoles.
2. Will Florida State’s offensive line protect EJ Manuel?
Just like Clemson, the biggest question surrounding Florida State in the preseason was its offensive line. This unit was a major weakness last season and features three sophomore starters for Saturday’s matchup. Florida State has yet to be tested by a top-25 team, but the line showed promise in last week’s victory over Wake Forest, recording 385 rushing yards and four touchdowns. However, quarterback EJ Manuel was sacked three times, and the Demon Deacons were able to get consistent pressure in the pocket. Clemson’s defensive line is inexperienced and has generated only three sacks through the first three games. This is the biggest test for Florida State’s offensive line, and a passing grade would go a long way to helping the Seminoles remain in the national title picture.
3. Can Miami’s defense slow down Georgia Tech?
The combination of youth and inexperience has produced some awful results for Miami’s defense so far this season. The Hurricanes rank 102nd against the run, 86th against the pass and are allowing 463.3 yards per game. Making matters worse for Miami is the loss of linebacker Denzel Perryman, who will sit out this week’s game due to an ankle injury suffered in last week’s win over Bethune-Cookman. Considering the struggles through the first three weeks of the season, Georgia Tech’s option attack is the worst possible matchup for the Hurricanes. The Yellow Jackets rank third nationally in rushing offense and had two scoring plays over 70 yards in last week’s win over Virginia. Miami has plenty of speed and athleticism to matchup against the option attack, but it will need its best effort of the year to slow down Georgia Tech this Saturday.
4. Can North Carolina win without Giovani Bernard?
Larry Fedora doesn’t say much about injuries, so it’s hard to know how serious Giovani Bernard’s knee really is. However, the sophomore running back hasn’t played in the last two games, and North Carolina has lost back-to-back contests. Bernard’s status isn’t as critical for this week’s game against East Carolina and the Week 5 matchup against Idaho. However, the sophomore will be needed for the Oct. 6 showdown against Virginia Tech. Considering he really has only one half under his belt in Fedora’s new offense, North Carolina probably would like to get Bernard some game action over the next couple of weeks. Bernard doesn’t need to play for the Tar Heels to beat East Carolina, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to get him prepared for ACC competition.
5. Does Maryland have any shot of beating West Virginia?
It’s hard to envision the Terrapins having the firepower to pull off an upset over West Virginia this Saturday. Maryland’s offense ranks 119th in the nation with an average of just 258.3 yards per game, and freshman quarterback Perry Hills isn't putting much fear into defenses so far. However, the Terrapins have options at running back, and receiver Stefon Diggs is a playmaker. Despite having some promising young talent, it’s unrealistic to expect the Terrapins to be able to match West Virginia’s scoring ability. For Maryland to have any shot at winning on Saturday, the defense has to force a few turnovers and create pressure on Mountaineers’ quarterback Geno Smith. The Terrapins ranks sixth nationally in pass defense but have yet to face a quarterback with as much ability as Smith. Anything can happen, but Maryland faces an uphill battle just to keep this game close going into the second half.
6. What’s wrong with Virginia’s offense?
A year after finishing fourth in the ACC in rushing offense, the Cavaliers’ ground attack ranks 107th nationally, and Perry Jones has barely been involved in the offense over the last two weeks (29 yards). It’s no secret Virginia doesn’t have a dynamic passing attack, which only adds to the importance of establishing the ground game. With Jones and Kevin Parks struggling to find running room, quarterback Michael Rocco has gotten off to a sluggish start, tossing three interceptions and throwing for only 143 yards in the 56-20 loss to Georgia Tech. It’s not fair to blame Rocco for all of Virginia’s struggles, especially with an offensive line that is struggling to open up rushing lanes for Parks and Jones. Getting back on track won’t be easy for the Cavaliers this Saturday, as TCU has allowed only six points through the first two weeks of the season.
7. Wake Forest, Virginia Tech look to get back on track
The Demon Deacons and Hokies suffered tough losses last week, and both look to get back on track in Week 4. Wake Forest was a heavy underdog against Florida State, and the Seminoles made quick work of the Demon Deacons. Wake Forest was blown out 52-0, managed only 126 yards and gave up 385 rushing yards. The Hokies were heavy favorites against Pittsburgh – a team that lost to Youngstown State and Cincinnati open the year – but didn’t put up much of a fight against the Panthers, losing 35-17. Both teams should get back into the win column this Saturday, as the Demon Deacons take on Army and Virginia Tech hosts Bowling Green. While these matchups aren’t as exciting as Clemson-Florida State, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech need to get back on track with key games ahead in Week 5.
ACC Week 4 Predictions
|ACC Week 4 Games||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|Bowling Green at Virginia Tech||VT 28-14||VT 38-13||VT 34-13||VT 34-13|
|Maryland at West Virginia||WVU 52-10||WVU 41-21||WVU 45-17||WVU 41-10|
|Virginia at TCU||TCU 21-17||TCU 31-21||TCU 30-13||TCU 27-17|
|Army at Wake Forest||WF 35-21||WF 34-13||WF 34-17||WF 30-10|
|Miami at Georgia Tech||GT 42-21||GT 31-17||GT 38-24||GT 37-24|
|East Carolina at North Carolina||UNC 35-14||UNC 31-17||UNC 38-17||UNC 27-10|
|Citadel at NC State||NC State 42-10||NC State 42-10||NC State 41-13||NC State 41-3|
|Memphis at Duke||Duke 35-21||Duke 34-14||Duke 42-17||Duke 38-10|
|Clemson at Florida State||FSU 35-21||FSU 34-28||FSU 31-24||FSU 34-24|
by Steven Lassan
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