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Thursday, November 10, 2011
What to watch in the ACC: Week 11

By Heather Dinich

Here’s a look at 10 thinks to keep an eye on in Week 11, in no particular order:

1. Virginia Tech’s defensive changes. Coordinator Bud Foster has revamped his starting lineup in preparation for Georgia Tech’s spread option offense. Jack Tyler will get his first start of the season at middle linebacker, and defensive end J.R. Collins will move to defensive tackle. Tyrel Wilson will take Collins’s spot at defensive end, and for the second straight year, cornerback Kyle Fuller will play linebacker. There are a lot of redshirt sophomores in the lineup who will get their first look at the Jackets’ unique offense. How they handle that -- some in new positions -- will be critical.

David Wilson
Virginia Tech's David Wilson is looking for his ninth 100-yard rushing game of the season.
2. Georgia Tech’s rushing defense. The Yellow Jackets have allowed four different 100 yard ACC rushers this season, and Virginia Tech’s David Wilson is looking for his ninth 100-yard game of the season. The Jackets played well in their upset win over Clemson, but can they make the stops against the nation’s leading rusher and get the Hokies off the field?

3. The ACC standings. This is a critical week for the conference race. Clemson can clinch the Atlantic Division with a win over Wake Forest, Virginia Tech can eliminate Georgia Tech and Miami with a win in Atlanta, and Georgia Tech can move into a tie for first place with Virginia with a win.

4. Clemson running back Andre Ellington: He missed the Georgia Tech game with an ankle injury, and Clemson in turn missed him. Ellington is not only the team’s top rusher, but his ability to block and hang onto the ball should be a noticeable upgrade to Clemson’s offense against Wake Forest.

5. Standout receivers in Death Valley. The ACC’s top two receivers in receptions/per game will highlight Saturday’s matchup. Wake Forest junior wide receiver Chris Givens is 68 receiving yards away from tying Ricky Proehl’s single-season record of 1,053 which he set during the 1989 season. Clemson’s Sammy Watkins is No. 2 in the ACC at 108 receiving yards per game, while Givens leads with 109.4.

6. Miami running back Lamar Miller against the nation’s No. 3 rushing defense. Florida State is holding opponents to just 78.89 rushing yards per game, but Miller is coming off a 147-yard performance against Duke and became the program’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2002.

7. Florida State’s receivers against Miami’s secondary. A total of 10 Seminoles with at least five receptions are averaging more than 10.5 yards per catch. No team in the nation has more receivers averaging 10.5 yards per reception with a minimum of five catches. Miami’s defense can’t key in on one player, and the Canes rank No. 95 in pass efficiency defense.

8. Duke’s passing game against Virginia’s defense. The Hoos are No. 20 in the country in pass efficiency defense, and Duke has the No. 3 passing offense in the ACC. Virginia safety Rodney McLeod had three interceptions last weekend against Maryland, but Duke receivers Conner Vernon and Donovan Varner are two of the best in the league.

9. NC State receiver T.J. Graham. He needs 55 yards to break the ACC career kickoff return mark. Earlier this season, Graham became the first Wolfpack receiver with three consecutive games with more than 100 yards since Jerricho Cotchery had five straight at the end of 2003.

10. Maryland’s red zone defense. Over the past four games, Notre Dame has converted 17 red zone trips into 15 touchdowns. That is the highest touchdown percentage on red zone visits for the Irish over any four-game stretch since 2000. As much as Maryland’s defense has struggled this year, the Terps have fared well in the red zone, and are tied for No. 20 in the country in red zone efficiency defense.