Thursday, October 25, 2012
What to watch in the ACC: Week 9
By Andrea Adelson
Here is a look at what to watch in the ACC in Week 9.
1. Can Clemson break its Thursday night jinx? The Tigers travel to play Wake Forest Thursday, and one thing you will continue to hear throughout the day leading up to the game is how bad they have played on Thursday nights. Clemson is 1-9 in its past 10 Thursday night appearances, with its lone win coming at NC State in 2005. One of the more recent losses came to Wake Forest, 12-7 in 2008. That was the last win for Wake Forest in the series. You should also note that Wake Forest is 4-0 in Thursday night games on ESPN.
2. The best in North Carolina? The annual rivalry game between NC State and North Carolina has arrived. NC State, leader in the Atlantic, will try to extend its winning streak over the Tar Heels to six straight. North Carolina enters off a tough loss to Duke and is 0-2 against state teams this year, also losing to Wake Forest earlier in the season. Coach Larry Fedora wanted to get the attention of his players headed into this game so he had the locker room decorated in red. By the way, Duke has early bragging rights, with a 2-0 record against state teams; Wake Forest is 1-1. This is NC State's first game against an ACC team from North Carolina. The Wolfpack and Blue Devils do not play this year.
Dabo Swinney will try to get Clemson a rare Thursday night win. The Tigers are 1-9 in their past 10 Thursday night appearances.
3. Can Duke compete with Florida State? Duke leads the Coastal Division while Florida State still has its eyes on winning the Atlantic, but the big question is whether or not the Blue Devils have what it takes to beat the Seminoles. Becoming bowl eligible has its perks, of course, but beating Florida State for the first time while retaining its lead in the Coastal would be huge. Florida State is 17-0 in the series and has won those contests by an average score of 50-16. Florida State's smallest margin of victory is 19 points -- winning 25-6 in 2007.
4. How does Maryland handle a new QB? The Terps have just been snake-bitten at quarterback, testing their depth at the position. Starter Perry Hills is done for the season with a torn ACL, leaving Maryland scrambling with a real shot at bowl eligibility. Coach Randy Edsall hasn't said who will start, but he is expected to play Devin Burns and Caleb Rowe. It's not as if Maryland has a reliable ground game to help out -- though Wes Brown had a great game last week with 121 yards and a touchdown.
5. Does that mean Boston College has a better chance at its first FBS win? The Eagles have had their share of struggles, but they are the favorite over the Terps in Las Vegas. They are at home for the first time since Sept. 29, and they are facing a team with major questions at quarterback. Still, coach Frank Spaziani has had to deal with his own questions about his future. Losing a very winnable game will only make those questions grow louder.
6. Run D vs. Run O in Atlanta. The game between BYU and Georgia Tech presents your classic matchup between one great rushing offense and one great rushing defense. In this case, Georgia Tech ranks No. 3 in the nation in rushing offense, and BYU ranks No. 8 in the nation in rushing defense. The Cougars were a few plays away from upsetting Notre Dame last week, but they have really struggled to find any consistency on offense this year. BYU ranks No. 87 in the nation in scoring offense, and that could play right into the hands of a Georgia Tech defense making strides in its reconfigured scheme.
7. Can Michael Campanaro help Wake Forest? The Deacs have really struggled offensively since Campanaro went down with a broken hand against Duke. Last week, they had 213 total yards of offense in a win over Virginia, their fewest in an ACC win since 1966. In the past two games without him, Wake has scored 30 total points. So coach Jim Grobe is hopeful that a less-than-100 percent Campanaro is better than no Campanaro at all.
8. North Carolina secondary vs. Bryan Underwood and Quintin Payton. The Tar Heels are going to have to keep an eye on Underwood and Payton. Underwood has caught a touchdown pass in a school-record seven straight games. Underwood has 22 catches on the season, but eight of them have gone for scores. Payton, meanwhile, leads the team in receptions and yards and has come up with huge plays for the Wolfpack.
9. Florida State without Chris Thompson. The Seminoles have lost their leading rusher for the season, a big blow when you consider just how well he had been playing in his return from a broken back. But coach Jimbo Fisher is confident in the depth behind Thompson, and will rely on Devonta Freeman, James Wilder Jr. and Lonnie Pryor to shoulder the load. Florida State did fine with Freeman and Wilder against Miami, but there's no question the Noles were much more effective rushing the ball this year with Thompson in the lineup.
10. Bowl watch. NC State (5-2) becomes bowl eligible with a win over North Carolina; Boston College (1-6) will officially be eliminated from bowl contention with a loss.