- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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Here are 10 things to keep an eye on in the ACC this week, in no particular order:
1. Receivers in Winston-Salem. Duke receiver Conner Vernon needs six catches to set the ACC record for receptions in a career. It is currently held by Clemson’s Aaron Kelly (232).The Deacons are led by receiver Michael Campanaro, who leads the ACC and ranks fifth nationally with nine receptions per game.
2. How teams respond. Georgia Tech is coming off a devastating overtime home loss to Miami and needs to rebound against an improved Middle Tennessee team. Florida State needs to avoid an upset by South Florida in its first road game, and Clemson is trying to avoid “pulling a Clemson” at Boston College after its loss to Florida State.
4. Running backs at Miami. Miami true freshman Duke Johnson, veteran Mike James, and NC State rookie Shadrach Thornton are all coming off impressive weeks. Thornton rushed for more than 100 yards in his collegiate debut last week against The Citadel, and James scored four touchdowns last week in the win over Georgia Tech.
5. FSU DE Bjoern Werner vs. USF QB B.J. Daniels. Werner is tied for second nationally in sacks, averaging 1.62 per game. He is also averaging 2.25 tackles for loss, which ranks him eighth nationally. South Florida’s offensive line has protected Daniels well, allowing .75 sacks per game.
6. Virginia Tech in the red zone. The Hokies’ offense has taken some heat, but they have scored 10 touchdowns on 14 trips inside the red zone. Cincinnati, though, has the nation’s No. 4 red zone defense, holding opponents to just one touchdown in four trips. The Bearcats have played only two games.
7. North Carolina’s sack attack. The Tar Heels had seven sacks against ECU last week -- after totaling just six in the first three games. It was the most the program has seen in one game since 2000, and tied NC State for the most in the ACC this season. Idaho is allowing 2.25 sacks per game. UNC defensive tackle Sylvester Williams leads the team with 3.5.
8. Georgia Tech’s third-down defense. Miami was successful on 11 of 16 third downs in last week’s overtime win against the Jackets, and Middle Tennessee will try to duplicate that. Middle Tennessee is No. 25 in the country in third-down efficiency, converting 48.72 percent.
9. BC’s linebackers. Nick Clancy leads the nation with 14.3 tackles per game. Clancy’s predecessor, two-time All-American Luke Kuechly, led the nation in tackles per game each of the past two seasons. Clancy is also the national leader in solo tackles per game (9.3), while teammate Kevin Pierre-Louis is tied for fourth with seven.
10. Big plays in Sun Life Stadium. Last year, Miami had only five scoring plays of 50 or more yards all season. The Canes have already matched that through four games. Duke Johnson, who leads the nation this week in all-purpose yardage, has accounted for four of those plays.