Week 6 in the ACC is headlined by a huge matchup in both divisions.
In the Atlantic, Maryland travels to Florida State. The Terrapins have already matched their win total from last season, and their offense has improved with a healthy C.J. Brown under center.
The Seminoles have scored at least 40 points in all four of their games, and redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston will test a Maryland secondary that’s thin at cornerback.
In the Coastal, Georgia Tech travels to Miami. The Yellow Jackets lost to Virginia Tech last Thursday, dropping to 2-1 in ACC play. A win over the Hurricanes would put Georgia Tech back in the mix for the Coastal title.
Miami has yet to play an ACC game this year, but the Hurricanes picked up a key win over Florida in non-conference play.
ACC Week 6 Game Power Rankings
1. Georgia Tech (+5) at Miami (3:30 ET, ESPNU)
With North Carolina struggling and Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech both coming to Miami, the Hurricanes have moved into the driver’s seat for the Coastal title. But despite last week’s loss to the Hokies, the Yellow Jackets have a chance to jump back into the title picture this Saturday. Georgia Tech has lost four in a row to the Hurricanes, including the last two in Miami by a combined score of 57-24. However, due to an improved defense, the Yellow Jackets are a more complete team than they were in the last few seasons. New coordinator Ted Roof has led Georgia Tech to a No. 3 ranking in the ACC in total defense, with the secondary holding opponents to just three passing scores in four games. Miami’s offense will test the Yellow Jackets’ defense, especially with a healthy Stephen Morris at quarterback, and dynamic sophomore running back Duke Johnson. When Georgia Tech has the ball, controlling the time of possession and limiting turnovers will be crucial. Quarterback Vad Lee is likely the best passer coach Paul Johnson has had with the Yellow Jackets, but he has struggled at times with executing the option. The Hurricanes are deeper in the front seven this year, which will help to slow down Lee and Georgia Tech’s running backs. If Miami jumps out to an early lead, it will be tough for the Yellow Jackets to rally. However, if Georgia Tech controls the clock and forces the Hurricanes to play at its pace, this one won’t be decided until deep in the fourth quarter.
2. Maryland (+15.5) at Florida State (12 ET, ESPN)
Maryland is off to a fast start, but Saturday’s game at Florida State will be the Terrapins’ biggest test of the season. After winning just six games in coach Randy Edsall’s first two years, Maryland is 4-0 and is poised to post their first winning season since 2010. But how close are the Terrapins to Clemson and Florida State? That’s the big question. The Seminoles are also 4-0 and are ranked by most among the top-10 teams in the nation. Freshman quarterback Jameis Winston continues to impress and averages 9.7 yards per play. Winston has one of the best supporting casts in college football, and his receiving corps will test a Maryland defense that loves to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks (17 sacks), but is without its top two cornerbacks due to injury. The Terrapins rank just behind Florida State in the ACC in total offense, averaging seven yards per play and 498.5 yards a contest. The return of quarterback C.J. Brown has made a huge difference for Maryland, and running back Brandon Ross has emerged as a reliable weapon on the ground (332 yards, two scores). The Seminoles have struggled at times against the run, which is no surprise considering the personnel lost from last year’s team, along with the transition to a new coordinator. With a showdown against Clemson coming on Oct. 19, this matchup against Maryland’s offense should help the Seminoles prepare for the Tigers.
3. North Carolina (+7.5) at Virginia Tech (12:30 ET, ACC Network)
Coming into 2013, most expected this game to play a key role in shaping the Coastal Division. Now, it appears to be a battle of two teams headed in opposite directions. Virginia Tech picked up a huge conference win at Georgia Tech last week, while North Carolina dropped to 1-3 with a loss against East Carolina. The Tar Heels are surprisingly off to a slow start on offense, ranking 10th in the ACC in yards per game (397) and 10th in scoring offense. A revamped offensive line has allowed nine sacks, and North Carolina has struggled to establish the run. Help could be coming on the ground for coach Larry Fedora’s team this week, as true freshman T.J. Logan may play this Saturday after recovering from a knee injury. However, against one of the nation's best defensive fronts, the Tar Heels will need a better effort from their line to win. Virginia Tech is holding opponents to just 103 yards per game on the ground, while generating 17 sacks through five contests. With a stout defense, the Hokies won’t need a dynamic offense, but quarterback Logan Thomas is coming off his best performance of the season. And that’s bad news for North Carolina, which ranks last in the ACC in total and scoring defense.
4. Ball State (+5.5) at Virginia (12 ET, RSN)
Upset alert? The Cavaliers have played one of the toughest slates so far in the ACC, as BYU, Oregon and Pittsburgh are a combined 9-3. Ball State is one of the best teams in the MAC and went 9-4 last year, knocking off BCS teams Indiana and South Florida in non-conference play. Scoring points has been a problem for Virginia this year, but the Cardinals are averaging 40 points a game. The Cavaliers have a significant advantage on defense and are holding opponents to just 4.2 yards per play. One area Virginia should have an edge is in the trenches. Ball State has four new starters on the offensive line and has allowed seven sacks in five games. The Cavaliers have generated 13 sacks so far, and defensive tackle Brent Urban and end Eli Harold will be a handful for Ball State’s line. Virginia’s offense has struggled to get on track this year, and coach Mike London doesn’t want to get in a shootout against the Cardinals. Look for the Cavaliers to use their size advantage in the trenches, along with a heavy dose of running back Kevin Parks to take the pressure off of struggling quarterback David Watford.
5. NC State (-8.5) at Wake Forest (3:30 ET, RSN)
The home team has won the last five meetings in this series, but this could be the year where that streak ends. Wake Forest is averaging just 15.3 points a game against BCS competition this season and ranks last in the ACC in total offense. The main culprit of the Demon Deacons’ struggles has been the offensive line, which was a weakness in 2012 and has allowed 12 sacks through four games. NC State’s defense has nine sacks and 37 tackles for a loss so far this year and will be a tough matchup for Wake Forest’s line. The Demon Deacons have been unable to run the ball most of the season (104th nationally), which will force quarterback Tanner Price and receiver Michael Campanaro to shoulder the offense. Wake Forest’s defense has struggled to stop the run this season (167.8) and will be tested by a trio of NC State running backs, along with quarterback Bryant Shirreffs (5.1 ypc).
6. Clemson (-13.5) at Syracuse (3:30 ET, ABC/ESPN2)
After an 0-2 start, Syracuse has rebounded with back-to-back wins. Beating Wagner and Tulane isn’t going to wow most around in the ACC, but the Orange have some momentum entering this game. Syracuse’s offense found a spark behind quarterback Terrel Hunt, who completed 31 of 39 throws for 446 yards and seven scores in his first two starts. Hunt faces a tougher test in the ACC opener for the Orange, as Clemson is holding opponents to 17.2 points a game and has one of the conference’s most-active defensive lines (15 sacks). Hunt’s mobility is an x-factor for Syracuse, especially if he can avoid the Tigers’ pass rush and make plays downfield in the passing game. The Orange would prefer not to get in a shootout with Clemson, but it will be hard to keep the Tigers’ offense (43 ppg) under wraps. Syracuse’s secondary struggled in the first four games, allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 63.1 percent of their throws.
7. Army (+11.5) at Boston College (1 ET, ESPN3)
Due to the government shutdown, this game was in jeopardy of being canceled. However, on Thursday night, Army was given a green light to play this weekend. This will be the 28th meeting between these programs, with Boston College owning a 24-13 series edge. However, the Eagles lost 34-31 at West Point last year. Stopping the run is always critical when playing Army, and Boston College ranks 13th in the ACC in rush defense, allowing 170.5 yards per game. If the Eagles contain the Black Knights’ option attack, they should have a chance to take advantage of an Army defense that’s also struggling to stop the run. Running back Andre Williams has four 100-yard efforts through five games and should have another solid performance this week.
ACC Week 6 Pivotal Players
Anthony Chickillo, DE, Miami
Chickillo was active around the scrimmage in last year’s game against Georgia Tech, recording seven stops, three tackles for a loss and one sack. The Yellow Jackets are struggling at times to execute the option, but are still a handful to defend. Assignment football is an overused cliché at times, but it’s important for Chickillo and the other Miami defenders to not lose responsibility of their gaps. Georgia Tech’s offensive line struggled to block Virginia Tech last Thursday, and if Chickillo can disrupt the offense, the Hurricanes will contain quarterback Vad Lee.
James Hurst, OT, North Carolina
Hurst is the leader of a struggling North Carolina offensive line. The Tar Heels have allowed nine sacks and rank last in the ACC in rushing offense after four contests. With three new starters, North Carolina’s line was expected to be a work in progress in 2013. However, while the line is inexperienced, this group needs to have a good showing on Saturday against Virginia Tech’s defensive front. Hurst will be matched up against ends James Gayle and J.R. Collins, who have combined for 6.5 sacks in five contests.
Keon Lyn, CB, Syracuse
Syracuse’s secondary ranks 12th in the ACC against the pass and could be without cornerback Brandon Reddish against Clemson due to injury. Lyn is one of the leaders on defense, as he has 23 career starts and 14 tackles in four games this season. The senior and teammate Ri’Shard Anderson will be tasked with slowing down Clemson’s deep group of receivers, including standout junior Sammy Watkins.
Vad Lee, QB, Georgia Tech
Lee is coming off his worst performance of the season. Against Virginia Tech last Thursday, Lee completed just 7 of 24 passes for 144 yards and two interceptions. The sophomore didn’t factor much into the rushing attack, generating only 35 yards on 18 attempts. Lee and the Yellow Jackets’ offense will have their hands full on Saturday, as Miami’s defense is fast, athletic and has made improvement after an awful showing last year. If Georgia Tech is going to win at Miami, Lee needs to have his best game of the year.
William Likely/Isaac Goins, CB, Maryland
Likely and Goins have been pressed into action with injuries sidelining starting cornerbacks Jeremiah Johnson and Dexter McDougle. This duo has held up well so far, as Maryland is allowing 165.2 yards per game through the air. However, Florida State’s offense is its toughest opponent of the season. The Seminoles average 293.2 passing yards per game and have an athletic, deep and fast group of receivers, led by Rashad Greene and Kenny Shaw.
ACC Week 6 Predictions
Ball State (+5.5) at Virginia
Ball State 27-21
Maryland (+15.5) at Florida State
North Carolina (+7.5) at Va. Tech
Va. Tech 17-14
Va. Tech 24-17
Va. Tech 30-17
Va. Tech 24-20
Army (+11.5) at Boston College
Clemson (-13.5) at Syracuse
Georgia Tech (+5) at Miami
Ga. Tech 28-27
NC State (-8.5) at Wake Forest
NC State 35-10
NC State 31-20
NC State 30-20
NC State 34-24