What to watch in the ACC: Week 7

October, 11, 2012
10/11/12
10:00
AM ET
Four teams have a bye this week, so there are only four conference games. There are still plenty of plotlines to keep an eye on. Here’s a look at what to watch in Week 7, in no particular order:

1. Duke’s bowl eligibility. The Blue Devils are the only team in the ACC that can become bowl eligible this weekend, and a win at Virginia Tech would be historic for Duke’s program. At 5-1, Duke is off to its best start since 1994, which also is the last time the program went to a bowl game.

[+] EnlargeDuke's David Cutcliffe
Mark Dolejs/US PRESSWIREDavid Cutcliffe could have his Blue Devils bowl eligible this weekend.
2. The Coastal Division standings. Miami and Duke are the only two teams still undefeated in league play, and they both have tough tests this weekend. Miami hosts North Carolina, which already has one conference loss but is ineligible, while Duke travels to Virginia Tech. The Hokies already have lost to UNC, so another Coastal Division loss this weekend would create further separation in the race.

3. Florida State’s attitude. How do the Noles respond from last week’s loss to NC State? Do they come out angry in the first quarter, looking to take it out on Boston College? Or do they start flat, and allow BC to hang around like South Florida did? There should be no sign of an upset, but it will be interesting to see how long it will take FSU to bounce back. Last year’s loss to Oklahoma turned into a three-game losing streak.

4. Virginia Tech’s defense. North Carolina’s 48 points against the Hokies last week were the most Virginia Tech has ever allowed an ACC opponent. This is not what Virginia Tech fans are used to seeing from defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s groups. The Hokies will have a legitimate test against Duke, which has the No. 4 scoring offense in the ACC and leads the league with fewest sacks allowed.

5. Miami’s rushing defense vs. Giovani Bernard: The UNC sophomore is averaging 9.1 yards per carry, and rushed for 262 yards last week against the Hokies. Miami’s rushing defense is No. 116 in the country, allowing 250 yards per game.

6. UNC’s defensive line vs. Miami’s offensive line. The Canes have allowed just one sack -- Sept. 29 against NC State -- in the past four games. During that span, the Canes have averaged 492.8 yards of total offense. UNC senior defensive tackle Sylvester Williams is third in the ACC with five sacks, and UNC is fourth in the ACC with 2.5 per game.

7. Turnovers in Charlottesville. Virginia has struggled to create turnovers this season and ranks 119th in the country out of 120 teams in turnover margin. They have gained three and lost 15 this year. Maryland hasn’t fared much better. The Terps are No. 115 in the country in turnover margin, having gained eight and lost 16. Something’s gotta give in this game.

8. Play-calling in Tallahassee: Think you can do better? Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher came under scrutiny this week following the Noles’ loss to NC State. It’s easy to play Monday morning quarterback, but were the Noles too conservative in the fourth quarter with the game on the line? FSU fans likely will be keeping an eye on what adjustments the staff, including defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, makes this weekend.

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