Heather gave you a sneak peek at the Week 3 slate earlier today. Now here are my top three early storylines in the ACC headed into the weekend.
1. Pick up the running games. Yes, it is early in the season but so far there have only been a handful of teams with really strong running games in the ACC. I think the most consistent has been Clemson with a healthy Andre Ellington. Of the four top rushing teams in the ACC so far, only Clemson has played two FBS opponents. Georgia Tech had some inconsistency in the opener against Virginia Tech before getting two guys over 100 yards against Presbyterian; Virginia Tech has yet to get a 100-yard rusher; Florida State has played two FCS teams; and North Carolina got Elon in the opener. Eight ACC teams rank in the bottom half of the NCAA rushing stats, including the Hokies, at No. 74. While that is only slightly worse than a season ago, when seven teams were in the bottom half, this season three teams are averaging less than 90 yards per game on the ground. Last season, nobody did that -- not even the worst rushing team in the league. That was Duke, at 94.08 yards per game.
2. Big ACC matchups. Virginia travels to play Georgia Tech in a Coastal Division matchup, while Wake Forest is on the road at Florida State in the Atlantic Division. The road team cannot be overlooked in either game, that is for sure. Big key for me to watch for Virginia: will this team be able to run the football after an unimpressive showing against Penn State? And what does Mike London do with Michael Rocco and Phillip Sims (sounds familiar?). Meanwhile, Georgia Tech cannot afford to lose this game and drop to 0-2 in conference after losing to Virginia Tech in the opener. Georgia Tech has not opened 0-2 in league play since 2007 when it lost to Boston College and Virginia on consecutive weekends. As for Wake, Florida State has had trouble with the Demon Deacons in recent years. Tanner Price and Michael Campanaro provide the first big test for a secondary missing Greg Reid. But Florida State should have a decisive advantage up front, with the Deacs playing an inexperienced and banged up offensive line.
3. Sammy Watkins returns. Clemson has looked better than fine without its top returning playmaker from a year ago, sitting out the first two weeks of the season because of a suspension. So now that he returns, how does Clemson distribute the football? DeAndre Hopkins has been sensational in the first two weeks of the season, with four touchdown catches and two 100-yard games. In fact, he is one of two players in the ACC with 100 yard receiving games in the first two weeks of the season (the other is Jamison Crowder of Duke). Add in the vastly improved Tajh Boyd and Ellington -- who has 269 yards and two touchdowns -- and you have the makings of a rather complete and formidable offense. Clemson already has looked more difficult to stop than a year ago. Add Watkins in and this team is going to be an even bigger handful to defend.