Sneak peek at Week 9 in the ACC
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Boston College at North Carolina
You know this one will be a low-scoring, defensive struggle. BC ranks in the top 25 in the nation in nine different categories and boast the best pass-efficiency defense and red zone defense in the country. The defensive front seven is one of the best in the league, with B.J. Raji, Ron Brace and Mark Herzlich leading the way.
UNC's defense has assumed the role Wake Forest had last year and leads the ACC with five nonoffensive touchdowns (three interception returns, one punt return and one blocked punt recovery in the end zone). Last week was the first time in six games that UNC didn't grab an interception. Would you believe that neither of UNC's past two opponents have been able to muster more than 90 yards on the ground?
Butch Davis is 6-0 against the Eagles as a head coach, but BC has been one of the nation's best road teams over the past six seasons at 24-10. The Eagles are one win away from their 10th straight bowl appearance.
Wake Forest at Miami
The Deacs are unranked for the first time this season and will be playing their second straight ACC road game. Last week's 26-0 loss to Maryland marked the first time Wake Forest had been shut out by an ACC opponent since 1996. Sam Swank is listed as questionable for this game, and so is the WF offense, especially since the offensive line took another big hit.
Redshirt sophomore Trey Bailey, who had a tough task this season in replacing Steve Justice, suffered a broken right ankle against Maryland and underwent surgery on Sunday. Bailey is expected to be out six weeks and miss the remainder of the regular season. It is possible he could return if the Deacons are invited to a bowl game.
He was replaced at center by guard Russell Nenon. True freshman Joe Looney took Nenon's spot at left guard. Should Looney start against Miami, he would be the first true freshman to start for Wake since Chris DeGeare earned a start at right guard against NC State on Oct. 22, 2005.
The offensive line has been at the root of Wake's problems this season, and the loss of Bailey obviously won't help this weekend against an aggressive Miami defense.
Duke at Vanderbilt
Duke coach David Cutcliffe should be familiar with his next opponent from his time in the SEC, and is well-aware of the success Bobby Johnson has had this season. Like many teams in the SEC, though, Johnson has been winning with defense. Vandy ranks 118th in the nation in total offense with 249 yards per game, but the Commodores lead the SEC in sacks. Still, they're close to their first bowl game for the first time since 1982, and will have extra motivation in trying to rebound from the loss to Georgia.
Virginia Tech at Florida State
While the Hokies are still trying to find their offense, Florida State is running the ball an average of 18 times more per game and is 3-0 since its loss to Wake Forest. And the Noles success on third downs -- both converting them and stopping them -- has been significant. In their past two games, Florida State has converted 62 percent of its third downs. They're on a streak of 28 consecutive drives without a three-and-out. FSU leads the nation in stopping teams on third downs.
Meanwhile, the Hokies are 110th in the nation in total offense. They're even worse (114th) in passing offense. Coach Frank Beamer insists that it's not just one person (Tyrod Taylor), rather it's missed assignments on the offensive line or blown routes by receivers. The Hokies do have the fifth-best rushing defense in the ACC, though, and that will obviously be a factor against Antone Smith and FSU's run-based offense. Virginia Tech is holding its opponents to an average of 122.6 yards, while the Seminoles are averaging 216.
Virginia at Georgia Tech
The battle to watch in this game will be defensive end Michael Johnson against left tackle Eugene Monroe, and there will be plenty of scouts in the press box to see it firsthand. Both have first-round draft potential. Considering that matchup, it's no surprise this game will feature the ACC's leader in sacks (Georgia Tech), against the league's co-leader in fewest sacks allowed (Virginia).
Also, the Cavaliers have averaged 27.3 points and 377.3 total yards per game during its three-game winning streak, but Georgia Tech has the stingiest scoring defense in the ACC (11.6 points per game).
NC State at Maryland
NC State coach Tom O'Brien has deemed that the fickle Terps have everything they need to be a "championship-caliber football team," and Maryland enters its homecoming game in a four-way tie for first place in the Atlantic Division. The Wolfpack, though, are aiming to be the spoiler. In last week's shutout of Wake Forest, though, the Terps finally put it together in all three phases of the game, and a breakout performance by receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was a huge difference in the offense. Another difference has been the offensive line, which has allowed just two sacks in the past four games.
NC State has also made improvements in recent weeks. The Pack hasn't turned the ball over once in the past two games, the first time that has happened since 2002. It's a much different offense when quarterback Russell Wilson and tight end Anthony Hill are healthy and in the lineup.