Thursday, October 15, 2009
What to watch in the ACC: Week 7
Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
Four Virginia Tech jerseys disappeared before the Georgia Tech game in 2007. Only three were recovered. This week, the Hokies will wear maroon jerseys for the first time in a true road game since playing at LSU in 2007. And we all know how well that turned out. There’s always something worth watching when these Coastal Division teams meet, even if it is a Hokie in a Jackets’ jersey …
1. Track meet in Atlanta. Saturday’s game between Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech will feature the ACC’s top three rushing leaders in Ryan Williams, Jonathan Dwyer and Josh Nesbitt, respectively. Georgia Tech (1st) and Virginia Tech (2nd) are the ACC’s top two rushing teams. The Yellow Jackets (277.0 ypg) and the Hokies (208.5) are the only teams in the league averaging more than 140 yards per game.
2. Virginia Tech’s red zone defense. Georgia Tech is going to move the ball. It always does. But the Hokies have been at their best inside the red zone. Opponents have scored just six touchdowns on 22 trips inside the 20-yard line this season. The Yellow Jackets are coming off a 49-44 win at Florida State, the most points they’ve ever scored in an ACC road game. Can the Hokies continue their red zone success against this offense?
3. The “old guys” in Chestnut Hill. BC quarterback Dave Shinskie is 25. NC State defensive end Willie Young just turned 24 a few weeks ago, and he’ll be gunning for his elder opponent. Young is tied for eighth nationally and tied for the ACC lead in sacks with seven for the season. He had a career-high three in the loss at Wake Forest, and if he got to Riley Skinner, he should be able to get to Shinskie.
4. Frank Spaziani vs. Dana Bible. This is a matchup of two former staff members who knew each other well as coordinators at BC. Spaziani, formerly BC's defensive coordinator, used to go against NC State offensive coordinator Dana Bible every day at practice, but Bible has since tweaked some things in his playbook to accommodate quarterback Russell Wilson. Will Spaziani's familiarity pay off, or have things changed too much?
5. Virginia’s turnover turnaround. A major reason behind the Cavaliers’ newfound success has been their ability to take care of the ball. Virginia hasn't had a turnover in its last two games and its last 35 possessions, dating to an interception in the second quarter of the Southern Miss game. After being minus-6 in turnover margin the first two games, Virginia is plus-6 the last three games, including plus-5 in the two victories. Quarterback Jameel Sewell has not been intercepted in his last 86 pass attempts, dating to the Southern Miss game.
6. Maryland’s pass protection. The possible return of left tackle Bruce Campbell could help tremendously, but quarterback Chris Turner will need time to think against the No. 3 pass defense in the ACC. He’s already been sacked 22 times. The Cavaliers are No. 15 in the country holding opponents to just 163.2 yards per game.
7. Miami sophomore cornerback Brandon Harris. After defending just three passes in 13 games as a true freshman last year, Harris now leads the nation in passes broken up (10) and passes defended (11).
8. Clemson running back C.J. Spiller. He’s worth watching not only because he needs just 55 yards to become the first player in ACC history with 6,000 all-purpose yards, but also because Wake Forest held Clemson to just 21 rushing yards last year.
9. Wake Forest wide receiver Chris Givens. Quarterback Riley Skinner can’t rack up these numbers by himself. In last week’s win over Maryland, Givens caught five passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns. It was his first multiple touchdown game, and his second straight 100-yard receiving performance. Givens will face a better secondary in Death Valley this weekend.
10. BCS Standings. This is when it counts, and this is your reminder than on Sunday, between 4 and 4: 30 p.m. ET, the first official BCS Standings will be announced on FOX Sports, after the early NFL game. It will be interesting to see how the outcome of Saturday’s game in Atlanta affects both teams, particularly the Hokies, who are ranked No. 4 in the country this week.