What to watch in the ACC: Week 13

November, 21, 2008
11/21/08
10:13
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Heading into this weekend, nine teams still remain in contention to play in the ACC championship game and everyone, I repeat everyone, can still become bowl eligible if they're not already. No other conference can say that.

1. The scenarios. Miami's loss to Georgia Tech opened things up for almost everyone in the Coastal. Everyone but Duke has three losses in that division. The Terps can clinch a berth in the ACC championship game if they beat FSU and Wake Forest beats Boston College.

2. Florida State's changes in the secondary. The Noles will definitely be without starting safety Darius McClure (torn cartilage in his left knee), and could be without starting safety Myron Rolle, who could be late-arriving because of his interview in Alabama for the Rhodes Scholarship. Defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews hasn't revealed much during the week about his rotation.

3. Maryland's second half defensive adjustments. The Terps have been at their best late in the game, giving up an average of 140 yards and 23 total points in the final 30 minutes of their six ACC games. Last week, the Terps halted six second-half UNC drives. Defensive coordinator Chris Cosh said he has relied heavily this season on his veteran players contributing to the sideline discussions about what works and what doesn't.

4. The quarterbacks in the I-40 rivalry. Will Butch Davis go with Cam Sexton or his original starter, T.J. Yates? Will either one of them be able to outperform the Pack's Russell Wilson, who has thrown 12 touchdowns and no interceptions in his past six starts? NC State has lost 11 of its past 15 games to UNC, but five of the past six losses have been by eight points or less.

5. The battle of the backs in Charlottesville. Since recovering from his Oct. 9 pulled hamstring, Clemson running back C.J. Spiller has 589 all-purpose yards over the past three weeks, an average of 196.3 yards per game. Virginia tailback Cedric Peerman hasn't quite been himself since he fumbled against Miami, but the Cavaliers are 11-1 when he gets 15 or more rushing attempts. The lone loss? Miami.

6. Wake Forest kicker Sam Swank. The Demon Deacons' top scorer is expected to return for the first time since injuring his quadriceps in early October. Is he still up to game-winner form?

7. Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper. It's time to pay attention to this guy again. Since having surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder on Oct. 19, Harper has thrown for at least 240 yards in each game. His improvement over the past three weeks boosted him from fifth to first in the ACC in passing efficiency.

8. Maryland quarterback Chris Turner. He has quietly developed into one of the league's better quarterbacks this season. Turner has just one interception in his last 188 pass attempts, dating back to the fourth quarter of the Sept. 20 win over Eastern Michigan. Will the offensive line protect him from FSU's aggressive pass rush?

9. The defensive struggle in Winston-Salem. Boston College leads the nation in interceptions with 21, and the defense or special teams has scored a touchdown in six games this season, including five straight. Wake Forest, though, is No. 4 in the nation in turnover margin, having gained 29 and lost 15.

10. Virginia Tech kicker Dustin Keys. Odds are he won't be kicking any game-winners against Duke, but Keys is just four field goals away from setting the school season record. Another note on the Hokies: If you're wondering about the stickers on their helmets this weekend, they say "JD" and are in remembrance of Joseph "JD" Burroughs, a student manager for the football team who was killed in a car accident this past summer.

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