What to watch in the ACC: Week 8

October, 20, 2011
10/20/11
10:15
AM ET
For the only time this year, the schedule will feature an all-ACC lineup, with six league games. Two important division games will be played with Georgia Tech at Miami and Maryland at Florida State. Here are 10 things to watch in the conference this week, in no particular order:

1. Miami’s defensive line: How the Canes handle the suspension of starting tackle Micanor Regis will help determine how the run defense fares against the nation’s No. 2 rushing offense. Adewale Ojomo is expected to start in place of Regis, who punched UNC receiver Dwight Jones in the groin last week. Regis is the Canes’ healthiest and most experienced defensive tackle.

2. Miami quarterback Jacory Harris vs. Georgia Tech DB Rod Sweeting. Harris has thrown 89 passes without an interception, a span of three straight games. Sweeting, though, has intercepted a pass in three of Georgia Tech’s past four games, including one against Virginia last weekend that he ran back for a touchdown.

3. Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins. You should be watching him every week, but he’s on the verge of breaking freshman ACC records this weekend. Entering Saturday’s game against North Carolina, Watkins has 46 catches for 728 yards and eight receiving touchdowns. He needs 125 receiving yards and two touchdown catches to set the ACC records in both areas. Koren Robinson of NC State had 853 receiving yards a freshman in 1999. Greg Carr of Florida State had nine touchdown receptions in 2005 and Heath Miller of Virginia had nine TD receptions as a tight end in 2002.

4. Field position in Death Valley. Speaking of Watkins, he’s No. 6 in the country in kickoff returns, but he’s not the only one who has been playing well on special teams this season. UNC is No. 29 in the country in kickoff return defense, and the Tar Heels are No. 10 in the country in punt return yardage defense, allowing just 13 total yards on six attempts.

5. David Wilson’s 100-yard streak. He enters Saturday’s game against Boston College needing 97 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for the season. Wilson currently ranks third nationally in rushing yards (903), and fifth in rushing yards per game (129). He has surpassed 100 yards in six of the Hokies’ seven games.

6. Boston College on third downs. The Eagles have struggled to sustain drives this season and are No. 80 in the country in third-down conversion percentage at 37.93 percent. That could be a problem against a Virginia Tech defense that held Wake Forest to just 1-of-13 third-down attempts last weekend.

7. Big plays against Duke’s defense. Coach David Cutcliffe said he expects Wake Forest to try and do what Florida State did, which was exploit the defense with big pass plays. Duke allowed three passes of at least 50 yards in the first quarter against FSU. Wake Forest receiver Chris Givens is averaging more than 18 yards per catch, and this series has a history of high-scoring games.

8. NC State’s rushing defense. Virginia is coming off a season-high 272 rushing yards, and NC State’s defense is No. 77 in the country, allowing 172.33 rushing yards per game. UVa running backs Perry Jones and Kevin Parks are coming off their best game of the year.

9. Virginia’s pass defense against quarterback Mike Glennon. Glennon has already thrown 16 touchdown passes in six games. Virginia’s pass defense is No. 8 in the country at 166.83 yards per game. Cavaliers' cornerback Chase Minnifield is tied for third among all active FBS players with 12 career interceptions.

10. Florida State’s defense against Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown. After running for 286 yards in the past two games, Brown isn’t a secret anymore. FSU’s rushing defense, which is No. 9 in the country and holding opponents to 86.83 yards per game, should be prepared for Brown’s ability to take off. He ran for 162 yards against Clemson.

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