Thursday, November 8, 2012
What to watch in the ACC: Week 11
By Andrea Adelson
Here are the top storylines to watch in the ACC headed into Week 11.
1. Can Florida State play well on the road? There is a huge game in Blacksburg Thursday night, even though the Hokies have fallen off the map this season. For one, nobody on the current Florida State roster has ever played at Lane Stadium, where the Hokies have won seven straight -- including a perfect 4-0 mark this season. For another, Florida State has not exactly torn up their opponents while on the road. Consider, FSU has beaten its FBS opposition by an average score of 50-13 in Tallahassee. On the road? That average score moves down to 26-18.
EJ Manuel and FSU face a tough road test against Virginia Tech.
2. On the flip side, can Virginia Tech rise up to the challenge? The Hokies have played pretty well on Thursday nights historically speaking, but looked totally out of sorts last week in a loss to Miami. Turnovers came back to haunt them, along with mistakes on special teams and defense. Now, they are playing a much better -- and higher ranked team. Can Logan Thomas outplay his counterpart from the state of Virginia, EJ Manuel?
3. Focus, Miami. The Hurricanes have a great chance to make it to their first ACC title game, but first they have to get past a Virginia team that looked vastly different from the group we had seen the majority of the season. Virginia has won four of the past six meetings between the schools and found its running game last week against NC State. If the Hoos can continue to run well against one of the worst rushing defenses in the nation while taking care of the football, they've got a chance. And that would be "so ACC," throwing the Coastal Division into disarray once again.
4. Paging NC State. Will the Wolfpack show up to play Wake Forest on Saturday? For the second straight week, NC State has bowl eligibility on the line against an opponent it is favored to beat. Things did not go as expected last week in a disappointing 33-6 loss to Virginia, a team that entered the contest on a six-game losing streak. NC State simply cannot go through the motions against a scrappy Wake Forest team with bowl eligibility on the line in this game as well.
5. Home cookin.' We mentioned Virginia Tech's home winning streak earlier. North Carolina and Clemson have played very well at home, too. The Tar Heels come off their bye and host Georgia Tech with a shot to finish the season unbeaten at home. North Carolina has gone undefeated and untied at home just seven times since 1927. Only once in school history -- 1980 -- have the Tar Heels gone 7-0 at home. The last time Carolina was undefeated at home was 1996 (5-0). Clemson, meanwhile, has a chance to set a school record with its 12th straight home win if it beats Maryland.
6. Diggs vs. Watkins. The matchup between Clemson and Maryland features last year's rookie of the year -- Sammy Watkins -- against the potential rookie of the year this year -- Stefon Diggs. Diggs is currently averaging 174.9 all-purpose yards per game to rank second in the ACC and seventh nationally. If it stands until the end of the year, it would be the best ever by an ACC freshman -- just ahead of Watkins’ 171.4 a year ago. Diggs was in a walking boot this week, and we will know more about his status later today.
7. Can BC keep it close? The Eagles are a heavy underdog against No. 4 Notre Dame, but they nearly pulled the upset on the Irish last season, losing 16-14. Chase Rettig threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Bobby Swigert with 1:57 remaining, but Notre Dame recovered the onside kick and held on for the win. Coach Frank Spaziani said staying close last year has no bearing on the matchup this year. The Eagles have no running game to speak of, so they are going to have to take their chances through the air.
8. Slowing down Giovani. Georgia Tech is the next team that gets to figure out how to slow Giovani Bernard, who had 304 all-purpose yards the last time out against NC State. Bernard had a terrific game against the Jackets last season, with 202 all-purpose yards (155 yards rushing, 47 yards receiving) but that was before he added returns to his resume. Georgia Tech has won three straight in the series.
9. Can Clemson keep rolling? The Tigers face the No. 11 total defense in the nation this week in Maryland, so will that slow their roll? Clemson ranks No. 9 in the nation in total offense, and has racked up 1,252 yards and 98 points in their past two wins. The Terps will be without one of their best defensive players in linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield, so his absence could impact how much Maryland can slow down Tajh Boyd and company.
10. Camp vs. NC State secondary. The big matchup to watch between Wake Forest and NC State will be Michael Campanaro against an secondary that ranks No. 106 in the nation in pass defense. Nobody expected to see that large number next to NC State when the season began. Campanaro leads the ACC in receptions per game (8.6) and tied an ACC single-game record with 16 catches last week against Boston College.