What to watch in the ACC: Week 5

September, 29, 2011
9/29/11
10:15
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Here’s a look at 10 things to keep an eye on in the ACC this week, in no particular order:

[+] EnlargeJeron Gouveia-Winslow
AP Photo/Don PetersenJeron Gouveia-Winslow has one of Virginia Tech's seven interceptions so far this season.
1. Virginia Tech’s streak of interceptions. The Hokies have had at least one in each of the past 11 games. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd has only thrown one all season. Can the Hokies pressure him into another mistake? It would appear so. Virginia Tech has 13 sacks over its past three games.

2. Virginia Tech’s third-down defense. The Hokies are No. 12 in the country in third-down-conversion defense, allowing opponents to be successful just 27 percent of the time. Clemson is No. 13 in the nation in third-down conversions at 53 percent. The Tigers were successful on 14-of-18 against Auburn and 9-of- 17 against FSU.

3. UNC’s D in the first quarter. North Carolina has yet to allow a touchdown in the first quarter and has outscored its opponents 28-3 this season. East Carolina, on the other hand, has outscored its opponents 21-7 in the first quarter through three games, including a 7-0 lead against Virginia Tech.

4. UNC’s red zone offense against ECU’s red zone defense. Carolina has scored on 12 of 14 opportunities in the red zone, and all 12 were touchdowns. The two chances UNC did not convert were a fumble at the 2-yard line against Virginia and a victory formation at the end of the Rutgers game. East Carolina is tied for 18th in the country in red zone defense, allowing opponents nine touchdowns in 16 trips inside the 20-yard line.

5. NC State’s decimated defensive line against Georgia Tech’s offensive line. The Jackets -- led by starting right guard Omoregie Uzzi, who has twice been named the ACC’s Offensive Lineman of the Week -- lead the nation in total offense (630.5 yards per game), scoring (53.2 points per game) and pass efficiency (283.5). The Wolfpack have been hit so hard by injuries up front that each position on the defensive line has changed due to injury. Three positions have changed starters and there is now a walk-on in the two-deep.

6. NC State receiver/returner T.J. Graham. There was a bright spot in the loss to Cincy. No, really. Graham set a new school record with 336 all-purpose yards, breaking a mark that had stood for 36 years (Ted Brown had 297 in 1975). Graham, whose average of 230 all-purpose yards per game is leading the FBS and had seven receptions for 176 yards and 160 yards in kickoff returns at Cincinnati. He alone will test Georgia Tech’s defense.

7. BC’s defense against Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price. The Demon Deacons are No. 14 in the country in passing offense (322.67), and the Eagles have struggled to get after quarterbacks this fall. They have four interceptions this season, but the pass defense is No. 83 in the country.

8. Miami’s emotion meter. The Canes came out flat last weekend against Kansas State, and their will to win was questioned on the final drive when they couldn’t punch in the game winner on fourth-and-goal. It’s not easy to get amped for an FCS opponent, but the Canes need to set the tone from the start.

9. Virginia’s quarterbacks. Coach Mike London has said all week that starter Michael Rocco will still be the guy if he’s healthy, but it won’t be determined until Friday or Saturday if he will be ready to start against Idaho. It could be a chance for true freshman David Watford to see more playing time. Watford threw his first career touchdown pass in last weekend’s loss to Southern Miss.

10. Duke’s big plays. Duke had a season-high six plays of at least 20 yards in the 48-27 win over Tulane this past Saturday. After completing just two plays of 20-plus yards in the season-opening loss to Richmond, Duke has had at least three such plays in each of the past three games. Five of those plays have covered at least 30 yards and two have been over 40 yards. FIU, though, has the No. 35 scoring defense in the country at 19.75 points per game.

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