- David M. Hale, College football
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The first top-five matchup of the season is upon us, and it turns out both teams play in the ACC. That's a big step for the conference. It's just the fourth time since 1992 that two top-five ACC teams have faced off, but while it may be the league's marquee matchup, it's not the only one. Here are a few more bits of insight into Week 8 in the ACC.
(Hat tips, as always, to the ACC's sports information departments for providing many of the stats below.)
Clemson: Quarterback Tajh Boyd is just 164 passing yards shy of 10,000 for his career, which would make him only the third ACC quarterback to reach that milestone, joining NC State's Philip Rivers and Duke's Thaddeus Lewis. With his 334 passing yards last week against Boston College, Boyd passed Charlie Whitehurst to become Clemson's all-time leading passer. It was also his 14th career 300-yard game, second most in ACC history.
Duke: Anthony Boone didn't learn he'd be starting against Navy last week until 30 minutes before kickoff, but he responded with an exceptional performance, completing 31-of-38 passes for 295 yards and three TDs. Boone got the start because of an ankle injury suffered by Brandon Connette, but the two QBs have combined to complete 70 percent of their passes, throw for 1,592 yards and 14 touchdowns (accounting for eight more TDs rushing). If those numbers belonged to just one quarterback, they'd rank among the top two in every category in the ACC this season.
Florida State: Since the start of the 2012 season, Florida State's defense has allowed just 5.17 yards per pass attempt to opposing quarterbacks, the second-best mark in the nation. Meanwhile, this week's opponent, Clemson, has averaged 8.83 yards per attempt during that same span, the eighth-best mark in the country. In last year's matchup, Clemson averaged 7.4 yards per attempt -- its second lowest mark of the season, and the second highest Florida State allowed all year.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets are averaging 17.5 passing attempts per game this season, by far the most in any year since Paul Johnson took over as head coach in 2008. During the first five years of Johnson's triple option offense, Georgia Tech averaged just 12.9 attempts per game. The ground game, meanwhile, is averaging 5.15 yards per rush this season, the lowest of Johnson's tenure. During Tech's three-game losing streak, it has averaged just 4.5 yards per carry, while the QBs have completed 35 percent of their throws with just one touchdown and five INTs.
Maryland: Behind a stellar performance from Caleb Rowe, starting in place of injured QB C.J. Brown, Maryland racked up 468 yards of offense in a win over Virginia last week. That marks the fourth time in six games this season that the Terps have topped 450 yards of offense. In the previous four full seasons, Maryland had exceeded that number just five times.
Pittsburgh: Defensive tackle Aaron Donald has racked up a whopping eight sacks and 12 tackles for loss this season, both numbers tops in the nation on a per-game basis. That earned him a nod on ESPN's midseason All-America team earlier this week. After five games, Donald has already exceeded his sack total from all of last season (5.5) and is just 6.5 shy of his 2012 total TFLs. If he maintains his pace through a full season and bowl game, Donald would finish with the most TFLs in a year (31) since USF's George Selvie (31.5) in 2009.
Syracuse: The Orange have not lost a fumble since the second quarter of the season opener against Penn State, a stretch of 416 offensive snaps without coughing up the football. Syracuse has put the ball on the ground just twice all season, second only to Notre Dame (1), and the Orange are one of nine teams to have lost just one fumble this year, a list that includes fellow ACC members Virginia Tech and Florida State.
Virginia: The Cavaliers have lost their last three games, but their struggling offense has finally shown signs of life. In its first three contests vs. FBS teams, Virginia averaged just 236 yards of total offense and 3.1 yards per play. In its last two games, Virginia has essentially doubled those numbers, averaging 964 yards per game and 5.5 yards per play. In last week's loss to Maryland, Virginia set a season high (vs. FBS foes) in rush yards, pass yards and total plays. Its 505 yards of offense were the most it's tallied in an ACC game since Nov. 5, 2011, also against Maryland.
Wake Forest: Receiver Michael Campanaro enters this week's game against Maryland with 206 catches, just 10 shy of Desmond Clark's school record. Campanaro could tie the mark with 10 more grabs, something he's done in two games already this season and six times in his career. He's also 664 yards shy of Ricky Proehl's school record for receiving yards (2,949).
The first top-five matchup of the season is upon us, and it turns out both teams play in the ACC. That's a big step for the conference. It's just the fourth time since 1992 that two top-five ACC teams have faced off, but while it may be the league's marquee matchup, it's not the only one.