What to watch in the ACC: Week 11

November, 12, 2009
11/12/09
8:00
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich

Hey, watch this ...

1. Backup quarterbacks. E.J. Manuel will get his first career start in place of injured Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder at Wake Forest, and Maryland backup Jamarr Robinson could start in place of injured starter Chris Turner against Virginia Tech. For Manuel, a bowl bid is still at stake. Florida State has won 14 of its last 15 games with a first-time starter under center. Wake quarterback Riley Skinner, though, has led the Deacs to three straight wins over the Seminoles.

2. Three scoreboards. If Georgia Tech and Clemson win, and Boston College loses at Virginia, we will know who is playing in the ACC championship game this week, as Clemson and Georgia Tech can both clinch their divisions. If Clemson and Georgia Tech lose, though, it opens the door for Boston College in the Atlantic Division and several teams in the Coastal.

3. The infielder vs. the outfielder. This will be the first time Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker and NC State quarterback Russell Wilson are on the same football field, but it’s not like they haven’t competed against each other before. Parker, a starting outfielder or designated hitter for the Tigers, and Wilson, a starting second baseman, have played baseball against each other the past two years and will be juniors in baseball this spring. Parker has already set a Clemson record for wins by a starting freshman quarterback and threw four touchdowns in the win over Florida State last week. Wilson is second in the ACC in passing efficiency and leads the ACC in touchdown passes with 24.

4. UNC tailback Ryan Houston. He’ll be the main man in the Tar Heels’ running game now that Shaun Draughn is out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury, and they’ll need him to continue UNC’s recent progress in the running game against Miami. The Tar Heels are averaging 163.5 rushing yards in their six wins and just 98.0 in their three losses. Houston gained a career high 164 yards on 37 carries in Carolina’s 19-6 win over Duke.

5. Maryland kickoff returner Torrey Smith. Now he’s breaking his own records. Last weekend at NC State, Smith returned a kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown, the third of his career and second of the season. Smith also broke his own ACC single-season kickoff return yards record (1,089 in 2008) and now has 1,113 this season. With 1,806 all-purpose yards this season, Smith is also within striking distance of the ACC single-season mark (2,054 by Virginia’s Thomas Jones in 1999). Virginia Tech is second in the ACC in kickoff coverage.

6. Virginia’s defense vs. BC running back Montel Harris. The Cavaliers have one of the better passing defenses in the conference, but they've struggled to stop the run. Harris ranks second in the conference in rushing yards per game with 103.3. Harris has now gained 930 yards on 183 carries and has 13 touchdowns. Virginia is 10th in the ACC, allowing 166.7 rushing yards per game.

7. Receivers in Durham. Sure, Georgia Tech is going to run the ball, but the ACC’s top receivers will be on the field Saturday when Duke hosts Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech’s Demaryius Thomas (86.1 ypg) leads the league in receiving yards per game. Duke freshman Conner Vernon leads the ACC in receptions per game (5.12) and Donovan Varner (74.9) ranks second behind Thomas in receiving yards per game.

8. Uniforms in College Park. While Virginia Tech will unveil its spiffy new Nike uniforms, Maryland will be dressed for a cause – the Under Amrour / Wounded Warrior Project. The Terps will be wearing customized black and desert camouflage jerseys and cleats featuring the Wounded Warrior Project logo. In addition, warrior core value embellishments such as Duty, Honor and Courage will replace the athletes’ last names on each jersey. Former U.S. Army Captains Ferris Butler and Ryan Kules, as well as retired U.S. Army Specialist Adam Mattis are all from the state of Maryland and have been selected as honorary captains. Two of the three Iraq veterans, Kules and Mattis, attended Monday’s practice and will participate in the ceremonial coin toss at the beginning of the game on Saturday in honor of the U.S. Armed Services.

9. UNC defensive end Robert Quinn vs. Miami quarterback Jacory Harris. Quinn was able to get to Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis and sack him three times last weekend. He also had six quarterback pressures. There have been times this season -- like when he was sacked six times by Central Florida -- that Harris hasn’t gotten the protection he needed. He’ll need it against this defense. Miami has allowed 26 sacks this season. Only Virginia has allowed more.

10. Florida State’s running game. With Manuel making his first career start, odds are the Seminoles bank on their experience, and that’s in the running game. Sophomore running back Jermaine Thomas enters Saturday’s game against Wake Forest with 979 career yards and needs only 21 yards to reach 1,000 for his career. Thomas has been on a roll with 305 total rushing yards in the past two games.

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