What to watch in the ACC: Week 2

September, 6, 2012
9/06/12
10:15
AM ET
Time to take a look at the top storylines in the ACC headed into Week 2:

1. Tests vs. ranked opponents. Last week, the big headliner was seeing if the ACC could enhance its image with victories over two top SEC opponents. The league went 1-1. While there are no SEC opponents on the schedule this week, the ACC has an opportunity to prove itself against two ranked teams: Miami travels to play No. 21 Kansas State, while Duke plays at No. 25 Stanford. Miami nearly beat Kansas State a year ago; Stanford looked extremely beatable in a too-close-for-comfort win over San Jose State last week. Is it possible to come out of these two road trips 2-0?

2. Moving on without Jenkins. Florida State plays its first game without defensive end Brandon Jenkins, out for the season with a foot injury. Coach Jimbo Fisher is extremely confident in replacement Tank Carradine, who has plenty of game experience and talent. But we may not really know more about how this defense will fare without Jenkins until after this game. Florida State gets Savannah State, a team that lost 84-0 to Oklahoma State last week.

[+] EnlargeVirginia's Mike London
Peter Casey/US PRESSWIREVirginia coach Mike London does not thinking playing Penn State will be a distraction.
3. Distractions, anyone? Virginia hosts Penn State, a team that is reeling because of its off-the-field scandal and season-opening loss to Ohio. Penn State will no doubt have something to prove, but coach Mike London has said repeatedly this week that he does not feel hosting a team with so much going on away from football will be a distraction. Virginia won the last meeting in Charlottesville, 20-14 in 2001. Penn State coach Bill O’Brien is familiar with the landscape. He spent 12 years in the ACC as an assistant coach at Georgia Tech, Maryland and Duke from 1995-2006.

4. Short rest. Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech went to overtime Monday night, and now both get to play on only five days' rest Saturday. Georgia Tech hosts Presbyterian; Virginia Tech gets Austin Peay in Blacksburg. Forget about either team overlooking an FCS opponent, too. I can all but assure you that will not happen to the Hokies after the James Madison debacle.

5. Battle for North Carolina. Let the battle for state bragging rights begin! North Carolina and Wake Forest meet in Winston-Salem to open up ACC play after radically different Week 1 showings against FCS teams. North Carolina whipped Elon; Wake Forest barely beat Liberty. Last year, the Tar Heels ended a two-game losing streak to the Deacons 49-24. Wake Forest owns a 5-4 edge in games played since 1999, and the teams split four games at Winston-Salem during that span. But note that they have only played three times since 2004.

6. Big East vs. ACC challenge. This weekend marks the beginning of the yearly fun that is the Big East versus ACC challenge. Last season, the conferences deadlocked 4-4 against each other. That does not count the 38-7 win that new Big East member Temple had over Maryland. The two play each other in a rematch Saturday, while NC State plays at UConn. Next week features three more Big East versus ACC meetings but there is no time to look ahead just yet. Both Maryland and NC State need much better performances this week.

7. Running backs a-plenty. There were several national standout performances in Week 1 from running backs in the ACC. Andre Ellington leads the nation in rushing with 228 yards; Duke Johnson had 135 yards against Boston College; Giovani Bernard had 203 all-purpose yards. What do they do for encore performances?

8. Go, offense, go! Clemson and Ball State play a version of the hurry-up spread so the potential exists for this game to set a new school record for most combined plays in a game. Last week against Eastern Michigan, Ball State ran 96 plays; Clemson ran 87 in a win over Auburn. The record for most combined plays in a game in Clemson history is 184, set in 1992 when the Tigers played Maryland.

9. BC does have an offense. BC slogged through last season on offense, but the Eagles showed major signs of life in a loss to Miami. That has to be encouraging, especially when you consider some of the injuries that have hit this team and the change in coordinator. Chase Rettig threw for 441 yards, Alex Amidon had 10 receptions and BC had 29 first downs, its highest total since 2006. But three turnovers were killers, so watch for this team to work on hanging onto the football against Maine.

10. Road warriors? Duke is traveling across the country to play on the West Coast, with a kickoff scheduled for 10:30 p.m. ET at Stanford. How will the players react to crossing three time zones and playing so late? Coach David Cutcliffe said the only alteration to their game-day plan is to let the players sleep in. This is the first time Duke is playing on the West Coast since 1975, when the Blue Devils lost to USC 35-7.

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