Wednesday, November 21, 2012
What to watch in the ACC: Week 13
By Andrea Adelson
Here are the top storylines to watch in the ACC in Week 13.
1. Can the ACC sweep the SEC? No question this is a huge weekend for the ACC with nonconference games against Florida, South Carolina, Georgia and Vanderbilt. Three of those teams are in the top 12. The ACC has taken a major hit perception-wise this season, with only two ranked teams. Keep in mind, the ACC has not posted a winning record against the SEC since 2003, when it went 5-4. Taking down teams from its rival conference would be a huge cherry on top of the weekend.
2. Florida State D vs. Jeff Driskel. OK, seriously you guys, anybody who has watched Florida and Florida State knows the Seminoles have a better offense and a better defense. Yet Florida is ranked six spots higher. That is SEC magic right there. The big matchup in this one is going to be Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel against the suffocating Florida State defensive front. Driskel is expected to play this week after sitting out last week with an ankle injury. As great as the SEC plays defense, Florida has not seen a sack duo as prolific as Tank Carradine and Bjoern Werner this season. The two have combined for 20 sacks.
Bjoern Werner, above, and Tank Carradine will be the toughest sack combo Florida has faced all season.
3. Can Clemson's offense keep up its hot streak? If Clemson has any shot at beating South Carolina for the first time in four years, it is going to need to rely on its outstanding players on offense to have a better showing than last season. The Gamecocks' defense dominated, and Clemson scored only 13 points. Clemson is much better offensively this season, and so is quarterback Tajh Boyd, who had eight total touchdowns last week. Key injury to watch: South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney missed last week with a foot injury and should be ready to play.
4. Georgia Tech D vs. Aaron Murray. The Jackets' defense has been inconsistent all season but did a good job of slowing down Sean Renfree in the second half last week. They are going to need an even better performance from that group against Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, who has thrown for nearly 3,000 yards along with 28 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions. In the previous two meetings against the Jackets, Murray has thrown for 523 yards, seven touchdowns and just one interception.
5. Going bowling? Wake Forest and Virginia Tech are the last remaining ACC teams with bowl hopes on the line. The Deacs have to beat Vanderbilt, while Virginia Tech has to take down in-state rival Virginia. Wake Forest faces the much tougher task, as Vanderbilt is 7-4 and won the matchup pretty handily last season. Virginia Tech has won 12 of the past 13 meetings and hopes to make a bowl for the 20th straight season.
6. Any distraction for Miami? After Miami announced it was imposing a postseason ban last year, the Hurricanes promptly went out and lost their next game. Will the same happen this year, now that the school has imposed another postseason ban? Miami could have been playing its game at Duke for a shot at the ACC championship. Now, it is just another game.
7. Motivation for Duke. You could ask what motivation Duke has going into the game as well. The Blue Devils already are bowl eligible and are not going to the ACC championship game. But it is senior day, and Duke has a chance to finish with a winning record for the first time since 1994. Plus, the Blue Devils have not beaten Miami since 1976.
8. Tobais Palmer: Unstoppable? What will NC State receiver Tobais Palmer do for an encore this week against Boston College? He had 496 total yards in a loss to Clemson last week -- the second-best day of any player in Football Bowl Subdivision history. This is senior day for him, so he might very well want to go out with another memorable performance.
9. Last time we see Giovani Bernard in a North Carolina uniform? Of everyone set to play Saturday, North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard probably has the highest upside when it comes to declaring early for the NFL draft. He said he would make a decision when the season ends, so his game against Maryland on Saturday very well could be the last time we see him playing for the Tar Heels if he decides to forgo his senior season.
10. Any more offensive records to fall? Two weeks ago, North Carolina and Georgia Tech set an ACC record for points scored in a game. Last week, NC State and Clemson set an ACC record for combined yards of offense in a game (1,351). There is no doubt this has been the year of the offense throughout the ACC, so perhaps another record is ready to fall this weekend.