ACC: South Florida Bulls
At some point, you have to give credit to the other team, and South Florida deserves credit. The Bulls beat Florida State up front, and they won without starting quarterback Matt Grothe, 17-7. That's impressive.
Without taking anything away from South Florida's effort, it's fair to say Florida State could have played better. They did last week. And if the Noles want to be taken seriously again as one of the nation's best teams, they have to consistently play at their best. FSU ran for just 15 yards. Rick Trickett is going to make it a looong weekend for that offensive line.
With both FSU and North Carolina losing, that's two ACC teams of the four that didn't look like ranked teams today. That's not good for the conference, and so far, the Big East has one up on the ACC. We'll see if Maryland and NC State can help out.
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett and Heather Dinich
The ACC and Big East will square off three times on Saturday -- South Florida at Florida State, Rutgers at Maryland and Pittsburgh at NC State. Which means it's time for another round of blogger debate between the conferences.
|Melissa Majchrzak via Getty Images|
|Christian Ponder has gotten off to a fast start this season, passing for 813 yards and 4 TDs.|
Heather Dinich: Is it March yet? Look, Bennett, last I checked the ACC had four teams in the national rankings and the Big East had ... oh, that's right, Cincinnati. Isn't that the same team Virginia Tech beat in the Orange Bowl last year? South Florida lost its quarterback and Florida State found one. UNC beat Connecticut, and Rutgers ... well, I might have to give you that one. The Pitt game should be interesting, unless, of course, NC State uses the same
offense it did against South Carolina. But what exactly is it you think the Big East has on the ACC heading into this week?
BB: The Big East has a 16-5 nonconference record, compared to the ACC's 17-10 mark. Hey, we could sit here all day and discuss which conference is better -- and I'm sure some people would want us to do that -- but why don't we look at this week's games instead?
Let's start with South Florida at Florida State. What has gotten into the Seminoles? Are they really as good as they looked at BYU this week? I had to check my calendar because I thought for a minute it was 1999 again.
HD: Well, let's just say the Noles CAN be that good. Christian Ponder has been overshadowed by Jacory Harris at Miami, but he's played just as well, and I expect him to be the difference in that game, especially with Grothe out. The question for FSU is which defense will show up. They seem to have given up as many big plays as they've made. What are you expecting from that Tally quarterback, B.J. Daniels?
|AP Photo/Chris O'Meara|
|Tallahassee native B.J. Daniels will be making his first start versus FSU.|
I think we both agree that FSU has the edge in that game. What about Pitt at NC State? I watched the Wolfpack get crushed by South Florida last year and lose to Rutgers in the bowl game. Any reason not to think another Big East team will whip them?
HD: I picked NC State, but it's probably the one I was least sure of. The Pack could be starting its fourth different offensive line in as many games, and they've been banged up too much to have any consistency in their secondary. Tom O'Brien has been talking about those units as areas of concern all week, and rightfully so. He's so excited, though, to finally play some "smashmouth football," and he's hoping a win over the Panthers will open some recruiting doors in Pennsylvania.
I'll tell you what, though, Bennett, if there's one difference in this game it's on the sideline, and I'd take O'Brien over Wannstedt. You think he'll have the Panthers in the Top 25 this season? I see you have them at No. 2 in this week's power ranking behind Cincinnati.
|Randy Litzinger/Icon SMI|
|Dave Wannstedt has Pitt off to a 3-0 start.|
I think Pitt is one of the most underrated teams in the country right now. The Panthers have gobs of talent all over the field, and their one big question mark -- quarterback -- has thus far been answered by Bill Stull's solid play. He's completing 70 percent of his passes and making great decisions. If NC State has problems on the O-line and in the secondary, the Wolfpack are in trouble. Because Pitt is absolutely loaded on the defensive line and has plenty of receivers to burn those DBs, especially freakish athlete Jonathan Baldwin. I like Pitt to control this game from start to finish and win a low-scoring battle.
OK, let's get to the Rutgers-Maryland game. The Scarlet Knights apparently have three FCS teams on their schedule now with the way the Terrapins have been playing. What in the world is going on with Ralph Freidgen's team?
HD: Oh, man, there's not even enough space in the blogosphere to start dissecting Maryland's problems. The big man has pinned the Terps' 1-2 start on a bit of bad luck and a young roster, but the truth is their problems range from recruiting to staff continuity -- much deeper issues than their woes up front on both lines. At first it was the defense not holding up its end of the deal, but last week it was the offense, which had four turnovers. To lose to Middle Tennessee two years in a row and barely beat James Madison at home is worse than bad luck -- it's inexcusable.
This is quite a different Rutgers team, though, than when these teams last met in 2007 and the Terps upended a top 10 team. How low has Rutgers sunk since then?
BB: Well, I thought Rutgers was ready to break through this year, and I picked them to win the Big East -- and then they went out and laid an egg in the opener against Cincinnati. This is a team that should be pretty good, with an experienced offensive line and a talented defense. But the passing game has been slow to develop, and now they're starting a true freshman quarterback (Tom Savage) who is a little groggy from a head injury last week. The running game hasn't blossomed and the Scarlet Knights have struggled to score points. Perhaps Maryland will be the cure to what ails them, though I think this could be a sloppy game.
So let's wrap this up. I say the Big East goes 2-1 this week, with Rutgers and Pitt winning. Not bad considering all three games are on ACC turf. What do you say?
HD: Well, I say the ACC goes 2-1, with the lone loss coming in College Park. If I'm wrong, I'll talk to you in March.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
South Florida DE George Selvie won't start against NC State. He'll still play, though, and this shouldn't do much to bolster the hopes of Wolfpack fans. Sorry.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
This was the toughest week to date. The hardest games to call were Clemson, Virginia Tech and Duke. Last week was my worst performance, going 5-3. Overall, I'm 27-9 heading into this week.
Here's what I've got for Week 5:
UPSET OF THE WEEK
Maryland 24, Clemson 21 -- Because of the injuries on their offensive line, the Tigers have to rely on Jacoby Ford, C.J. Spiller and Aaron Kelly. If Maryland can control those three players -- or keep them off the field by running the ball and controlling the clock -- they can win. Because of Clemson's injuries, the Terps should win the battle in the trenches, but their pass defense could bring them down.
Wake Forest 27, Navy 24 -- This could be a trap game for the Deacs. The Midshipmen have the nation's top rushing offense, but Wake has a veteran defense and Cool Hand Luke for their quarterback. Riley Skinner will be throwing into a pass defense that allows 176 yards per game.
Miami 31, North Carolina 10 -- Considering this is the season opener for UNC's backup quarterback tandem and it's a home game for the rapidly improving Hurricanes, the odds are stacked against the Tar Heels. Bill Young's defense will force UNC into turnovers and create a short field for OC Patrick Nix.
Duke 21, Virginia 20 -- The Cavaliers might have better athletes on their roster, but the Blue Devils have the better quarterback. What they probably don't have is much confidence against ACC opponents, but considering the sorry state of both programs, I'm going with the home team and the one with the better record.
Boston College 38, Rhode Island 3 -- The Eagles' defense should have no problem containing an FCS school that ranks 113th in rushing offense with 49 yards per game and Chris Crane should pass the test against a defense that has allowed 450 yards per game. URI has three straight losses.
Florida State 28, Colorado 10 -- The Buffaloes have to travel 1,488 miles just to be smothered by the Seminoles' defense in Jacksonville. The return of tight end Caz Piurowski will help the offensive line, and freshman running back Jermaine Thomas should help against a defense that held West Virginia to 3 of 13 third-down conversions.
South Florida 31, NC State 7 -- The Wolfpack will be without their top playmakers on both sides of the ball. Backup quarterback Harrison Beck has thrown three interceptions and two touchdowns this season while USF quarterback Matt Grothe is leading the Big East with 267 yards of total offense per game.
Virginia Tech 20, Nebraska 17 -- That's right, ANOTHER 20-17 win for the Hokies. Only because this is the Huskers' first true test of the season, and Virginia Tech has already proved it's a scrappy come-from-behind team. Plus, the Hokies have the veteran coaching staff.
OFF: Georgia Tech
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Clemson -- The Tigers are expecting ACC leading rusher Da'Rel Scott to play, which will force defensive coordinator Vic Koenning to load more players at the line of scrimmage. That, of course, will open up the play-action passing game. Koenning is looking for some sacks to come from his ends in this game, as South Carolina State's tackles blocked them one-on-one last weekend and the sacks came from the interior linemen and the linebackers.
Maryland -- Backup quarterback Josh Portis is doing the best he can to put the team ahead of his frustration over a lack of significant playing time. Expect some wrinkles in the Terps' offense this week, but it's unclear if Portis will play more of a role in it. "I'm still waiting to help the team out a little more with my talents, but I'm a team guy and the bottom line is you got to win," he said. "Obviously I'm a little frustrated with what's going on, but I'm here for the team. ... I'm just rolling with the punches."
Duke -- Virginia's switch at quarterback from Peter Lalich to Marc Verica has caused a small tweak in the coaching staff's preparation. Not only isn't there a lot of film of Verica, who started his first game and saw his first significant playing time in this year's loss to UConn, but he's also a different quarterback than Lalich, which means the Cavaliers could switch up their offense. So David Cutcliffe and his staff have watched more 2007 film, thinking that Verica's mobility and athleticism is more similar to former starter Jameel Sewell.
Florida State -- Playmaker Preston Parker has been working more at receiver this week and less at tailback, and that's probably how he'll be used against Colorado. That could open an opportunity for freshman running back Jermaine Thomas, who played well in the first two games, but watched the Wake Forest game from the sidelines. The running game should also get a boost from the blocking of tight end Caz Piurowski, one of the formerly suspended players.
NC State -- Defensive coordinator Mike Archer is tasked with simplifying things for freshman Dwayne Maddox, who is taking over for injured starting weakside linebacker Nate Irving, while at the same time stopping South Florida quarterback Matt Grothe. Archer is familiar with the Bulls from his time at Kentucky and said this will be the best offensive line the Wolfpack will have faced. He also said there is a misconception Grothe just throws it, and that he is a tough quarterback who gets hit, gets back up and scrambles. The good news is that after watching practice film, NC State coach Tom O'Brien told Archer that Maddox is "practicing like a starter now."