- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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The ACC race is close to being wrapped up, but that doesn’t mean the other teams aren’t worth watching this week. Here are a few things to keep an eye on in the conference:
1. Virginia’s defense vs. Clemson’s ground game. Since 1990, Virginia has won eight of 11 games when holding Clemson under 200 yards on the ground. Last year was an anomaly -- Clemson won despite only rushing for 56 yards. Virginia held C.J. Spiller to 18 yards rushing and a season-low 1.3 yards per carry last year.
2. UNC’s red zone offense in Chestnut Hill. UNC’s offense hasn’t exactly been prolific, but it’s gotten the job done inside the 20. UNC is first in the ACC and ninth in the country in red zone efficiency, converting 29 of 31 attempts. Carolina has converted its last 19 red zone opportunities. BC, though, is No. 2 in the ACC in red zone defense, holding opponents to a 76.7 percent success rate on 23 of 30 chances.
3. Super sophs. FSU running back Jermaine Thomas became the first FSU player since Greg Jones to rush for at least 100 yards in three consecutive games when he rushed for 149 last weekend against Wake Forest. Thomas has rushed for more yards in the last three games (454) than he did in the first seven games of the season (192) and has totaled nearly as many rushing yards over the past three weeks as he did in 12 games as a true freshman (482). BC sophomore running back Montel Harris needs just 19 yards to gain 2,000 in his career. Andre Callender was the last player to do it. He gained 2,971 yards from 2004-07.
4. The Bazooka. Speaking of BC’s Harris, the Eagles have been running their own version of the Wildcat formation this year with Harris, only they call it the Bazooka. It was extremely effective against NC State on October 17 as BC ran the formation five times and gained 167 yards. One of those rushes was a career-long 70-yard scamper down the right sideline for Harris, who set new Boston College records with 264 rushing yards and five touchdowns. That was NC State’s defense, though. UNC’s is significantly better, but Harris will still get his chances.
5. Final farewells. It will be Senior Day at several schools throughout the ACC, and there are two farewells that will be tougher for two particular fan bases. FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews is retiring after 26 seasons and he and his family will be recognized before Saturday’s game against Maryland, and record-setting Clemson running back C.J. Spiller will give his final performance in Memorial Stadium. The emotion involved could be an added inspiration to both Clemson’s offense and FSU’s defense.
6. Turnovers in LandShark Stadium. Miami has hurt itself the past few weeks with turnovers, and enters this week with a minus-four turnover margin. Duke is plus three. Miami quarterback Jacory Harris has accounted for nine interceptions in the past four games.
7. Broken records in Death Valley. DeAndre McDaniel is one interception away from the school record for picks in a season. Thomas Austin suffered an ankle injury against NC State and his streak of 33 consecutive starts is in jeopardy. And C.J. Spiller needs 140 all-purpose yards to reach 7,000 for his career. He also needs one more kickoff return for a touchdown to set an NCAA record.
8. The coin toss in Blacksburg. No, seriously. Virginia Tech is 0-for-10 this year in the coin toss (0-4 when calling the flip; 0-6 when the opponent calls it). The chances of losing 10 straight coin tosses are 1 in 1024 and it’s a 1 in 2048 chance of losing 11 straight. While not a stat tracked by the NCAA, Virginia Tech’s sports information director noted that Duke lost its first 10 coin tosses last year before winning the toss in its 11th game, which oddly enough came against Virginia Tech.
9. Hokies’ pass defense against Russell Wilson. Virginia Tech has the ACC’s No. 1 pass defense, holding opponents to 157.2 yards per game and seven touchdowns. Opponents are converting just 45.2 percent of their passes against Virginia Tech. Wilson, though, is completing 58.2 percent of his passes, and has thrown 26 touchdown passes. NC State is third in the ACC in passing offense.
10. Sacks in the Sunshine state. Maryland backup quarterback Jamarr Robinson was sacked six times last week against Virginia Tech. Miami has allowed 28 sacks this season -- only three more than Maryland.