- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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Here’s a look at 10 things to keep an eye on this week, in no particular order:
Quarterbacks in Raleigh. Both Christian Ponder and Russell Wilson are two of the veterans in the league, but they’ve both struggled with interceptions recently. Ponder threw three in the win over Boston College and lost a fumble, and Wilson threw three in the loss at East Carolina. Odds are whichever one rebounds, comes out on top.
NC State’s run defense. It will be one of the biggest keys to the game, as FSU enters Raleigh with the No. 19 rushing offense in the nation at 211.71 yards per game. NC State is holding opponents to 148.13.
The replacements in BC. BC defensive end Alex Albright’s season ended last week with a broken fibula. It’s Max Holloway’s job now, and safety Wes Davis is definitely out after sustaining a neck injury against Maryland. Okechukwu Okoroha is expected to start in his place. Cornerback DeLeon Gause did not practice on Wednesday but is still listed as day-to-day.
Bowl eligibility. Maryland, NC State and Miami are all chasing their sixth win of the season this week. So far, only Virginia Tech and Florida State are bowl-eligible in the ACC. It’s of particular importance to the Terps and Wolfpack, who were both home for the holidays last year.
Clemson’s turnover-free streak. The Tigers have gone three straight games without turning the ball over -- a first in school history. The Clemson offense has run 196 consecutive plays without a turnover, a streak that dates to the last play of the Miami (FL) game on October 2. Overall, Clemson has four games this year when it has not committed a turnover. BC’s defense has had 18 takeaways this year.
Nation’s top tacklers in Chestnut Hill. Saturday’s game between BC and Clemson will feature two of the nation’s top tacklers in BC linebacker Luke Kuechly and Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers. Kuechly leads the nation in tackles per game with 13.9 and is three shy of 100 tackles for the season. Bowers leads the nation in sacks and tackles for loss, and he is on a record-setting pace with 10 sacks in seven games so far this season. Boston College is one of the worst teams in the country in sacks allowed with 2.86 per game. Bowers needs three more to set the record for most sacks in a season in school history by a defensive lineman.
Wake Forest running back Josh Harris. In his first career start against Virginia Tech, Harris rushed 20 times for 241 yards and two touchdowns. Harris’ 241 yards rushing were the most ever allowed by Virginia Tech, surpassing the 239 by Temple’s Paul Palmer in 1986. Harris became the first Deacon since 2005 to rush for over 200 yards in a game. Maryland has the No. 4 rushing defense in the ACC, holding opponents to 143.6 yards per game. The Terps have held each of their last three opponents (Duke, Clemson, and BC) under 100 yards on the ground. It’s the first time the defense has done that since 2004.
Maryland’s secondary. Two players who are having great seasons are flying under the radar in College Park, Md. Against Boston College, safety Antwine Perez had a career-best two interceptions and recovered a fumble. Perez is second on the team in pass breakups (six) and tied for third in the league in interceptions (0.43 pg). Kenny Tate is the leading tackler in the ACC among defensive backs (8.0 per game). He is also atop the league chart with four forced fumbles, the most by a Terp since Milton Harris also had four in 2005.
Shoop vs. Shoop. UNC offensive coordinator John Shoop will face his older brother, William & Mary defensive coordinator Bob Shoop. It is believed to be one of only three matchups in college football this season pitting brothers against each other, according to UNC’s sports information department. (The other two involve Oklahoma). Both Shoops are in their fourth seasons at their respective schools. Carolina is averaging 365 yards per game and the Tribe is allowing just 318 yards. May the best Shoop win.
Pass defenses in Charlottesville. The ACC’s top two pass defenses will be featured in the Miami-Virginia game. Miami leads the ACC with 149.1 passing yards per game allowed, and Virginia follows at 165.4. The Canes have 14 interceptions, Virginia five.
2dAndrea Adelson and Matt Fortuna