What to watch in the ACC: Week 3

September, 13, 2012
9/13/12
10:15
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Here is a look at the top storylines in the ACC heading into Week 3.

1. ACC division showdown. Wake Forest travels to Florida State while Virginia travels to Georgia Tech in two critical ACC showdowns. The Demon Deacons beat Florida State last season, so you can bet the Seminoles will not be looking past Wake to their game next week against Clemson. Virginia also beat Georgia Tech last season behind a great defensive performance, so the Yellow Jackets are looking for some revenge while trying to avoid an 0-2 start in league play.

2. Upset alert? Though Wake Forest has won four of its past six against Florida State, the Deacs have not had much success against teams ranked in the top 5. Wake Forest has lost 30 straight against top-5 teams and 47 straight against top-10 teams. Its only victory ever over a top-10 team came on Oct. 26, 1946, when Peahead Walker led the Deacs to a 19-6 win over No. 4 Tennessee. All time, Wake Forest is 1-50 against top-10 teams and 1-31 against top-5 teams.

[+] EnlargeSammy Watkins
Joshua S. Kelly/US Presswire2011 ACC Rookie of the Year Sammy Watkins is making his 2012 debut this weekend.
3. Welcome back, Sammy. Clemson has been rolling on offense without 2011 ACC Rookie of the Year Sammy Watkins, but now he is back and has to find a rhythm in the offense -- and fast, with Florida State approaching next week. We have already seen Tajh Boyd, Andre Ellington and DeAndre Hopkins do just fine without Watkins. Now the Tigers have to work on integrating him into the offense and spreading the ball around to all of their playmakers without skipping a beat. Funny anecdote of the week on this topic: Coach Dabo Swinney addressed Watkins in a team meeting earlier this week and said, "We're 2-0 ... don’t mess it up."

4. The Edsall Bowl. Both Randy Edsall and the UConn players have downplayed the significance of this matchup all week, but you have to think that somewhere deep down, Edsall is going to be feeling something for many of the former players he will be seeing for the first time since he left Storrs -- particularly on defense. UConn starts seven seniors on defense, including several players whose only scholarship offer was from Edsall, who saw their potential and believed in them when nobody else did.

5. Coastal Division sneak preview. When Virginia Tech plays at Pittsburgh, ACC fans will get an early preview of what will become a yearly contest between the former Big East rivals. Though Pitt has had a rough start to the season, don't think the past history between these teams has been lost on Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer. Earlier in the week, Beamer rattled off the scores of the past three meetings with Pitt. All of them were Panthers wins. That Pitt three-game winning streak is actually the longest in the series.

6. Is Gio good to go? North Carolina already faces a tough challenge in playing on the road against No. 19 Louisville. It certainly will help the Tar Heels' cause if running back Giovani Bernard is good to go. Bernard sat out last week with a knee injury. He has been able to practice this week, but coach Larry Fedora hasn't really revealed any clues about whether Bernard will play or not. In their meeting last year, Bernard ran for more than 100 yards.

7. Can Rettig keep it up? Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig has looked really comfortable working under new offensive coordinator Doug Martin, and he has gotten some nice play out of receivers Alex Amidon and Spiffy Evans. Boston College ranks No. 1 in the ACC in passing offense. Can Rettig keep up his production against Northwestern? The Wildcats were involved in a wild game against Syracuse a few weeks ago in which Orange quarterback Ryan Nassib threw for more than 400 yards, so there are areas for this BC offense to exploit in the young Northwestern secondary.

8. Bounce-back weeks. Miami and Duke play FCS opponents this week, and it probably could not come at a better time for both teams. Each suffered disappointing losses on the road last week, so getting a win this week would at least help with some confidence. This may be even more true for the Hurricanes, who face a really tough test for their shaky defense against Georgia Tech next week.

9. No looking ahead. After playing FCS teams this week, Clemson and Miami have pretty big ACC matchups in Week 4. Clemson travels to Florida State, and Miami travels to Atlanta. Maybe more so than Miami, which is coming off a loss, Clemson has to guard against looking ahead.

"All you've got to do is look at history, and you see where teams that lost their focus end up costing them," Swinney said. "Virginia Tech a couple years ago lost to James Madison, and they went on to win 11 games. Well, that 12th win might have made a difference for them playing in the national championship. We all know about Michigan being fifth in the country and losing to App State. You saw what happened this week at Arkansas. I know that's sometimes a tendency for people to look ahead, but if we do our job as coaches and we have the kind of leadership I think we have on this team, we'll stay focused on the task at hand."

10. NC State improvement. The Wolfpack are playing an FBS young'un in South Alabama. Not as exciting as some of the other matchups, but important nonetheless for this offensive line playing without Rob Crisp. After giving up six sacks a week ago, NC State is going to want to see some major improvement from the line and the run game, which has struggled in the first two weeks.

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