What should you be watching in the ACC in Week 6? Glad you asked.
1. Can Miami deliver a marquee victory? Just think about how great it would be for the ACC if both Florida State and Miami were Top 25 teams again, the way they used to be. Miami has a major opportunity Saturday against No. 9 Notre Dame. A win in this game would give the Hurricanes their first victory over a top-10 team since defeating No. 8 Oklahoma in 2009. They will be facing the best defense they have seen so far, but Miami has some pretty dynamic offensive players that could give the Irish fits. Stephen Morris is playing lights out right now, better than any quarterback the Irish have faced this season. Morris versus the Notre Dame D will be a great matchup to watch.
2. David Amerson vs. Florida State receivers. It is plain to see that Amerson is not the player he was a year ago. His coach, Tom O'Brien, put it more bluntly when he said, "The film doesn't lie." Amerson gave up two long touchdown passes against Tennessee in the opener, and two long touchdown passes last week to Miami, including the game winner. Florida State presents another tough challenge given the playmakers on the outside, from Kelvin Benjamin to Kenny Shaw to Rashad Greene to Rodney Smith. Amerson can't whiff this week against the Noles.
3. Hello, Phillip Sims. Coach Mike London says Sims will most likely be the starter against Duke in a critical Coastal Division game. Sims would be making his first career start, after transferring in from Alabama during the summer. The No. 1 thing the Hoos will need from him is to protect the football. Michael Rocco had too many costly interceptions and just didn't do enough in Virginia's three-game losing streak.
4. Clemson record watch. Considering what the Georgia Tech defense has looked like the past few weeks, it is a near certainty that Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd will become the school's all-time touchdown leader Saturday. Boyd needs one touchdown pass to become the school’s career leader. He has 49 going into the game, tied with Charlie Whitehurst, who set the mark from 2002 to '05. Also, receiver DeAndre Hopkins needs two catches to pass Derrick Hamilton for second place on the career receptions list. Hopkins has 166 headed into the game. Aaron Kelly set the school mark of 232 from 2005 to 2008.
5. Can Virginia Tech snap out of its funk? Though the Hokies beat Georgia Tech in the season opener, there were warning signs that this season may not go smoothly. Indeed, Virginia Tech has struggled in every phase on offense (Logan Thomas, run game, offensive line), while the defense has had breakdowns at critical moments. Can they get all that fixed at North Carolina on Saturday? Let's not forget the Hokies are 1-0 in ACC play and have won 23 straight road conference openers.
6. Can Duke keep it up? The Blue Devils are not throwing a bowl party just yet, but they are off to their best start since 1994 and have had recent success against their opponent this week, Virginia. Duke has won three of the past four meetings between the two teams. The Blue Devils need two more wins to become bowl eligible, and the way the rest of the schedule sets up, Duke has got to win this game. If they don't, it will be difficult to find two wins in their final six games (at Virginia Tech, North Carolina, at Florida State, Clemson, at Georgia Tech, Miami). Keep an eye on the status of quarterback Sean Renfree, who has an elbow injury.
7. Maryland opens conference play. Maryland, the last ACC team to play a conference game, hosts Wake Forest following a bye week. Wake Forest has really struggled defensively this year with injuries to some key starters and is going to have its hands full with Stefon Diggs, who's having a breakout freshman season. Maryland has shown signs of improvement each week and is favored to win.
8. Who can break their losing streak? Maryland, Boston College and Georgia Tech go into the weekend on two-game losing streaks; Virginia has lost three straight. Will anybody break their losing skid? Georgia Tech has had only one three-game losing streak in the past five years (in 2010 against Clemson, Virginia Tech and Miami).
9. Do we know any more about North Carolina? The last time we saw the Tar Heels in conference play, they lost to Wake Forest. They have looked good in their past two wins, but they came against overmatched opponents East Carolina and Idaho. Has the defense improved? Is the offense more in sync? Though Virginia Tech has looked shaky, Saturday's game will tell us just where the Heels stand.
10. Hitting the road. After playing three of its first four games at home, Boston College hits the road to play Army. The Black Knights run a style of offense similar to Georgia Tech's, but they have had some problems on defense -- much bigger than that of the Eagles. This is the start of a three-game road trip for BC, with games following at Florida State and Georgia Tech.