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Tuesday, November 24, 2009
What to watch in the ACC: Week 13

By Heather Dinich

It should be an entertaining rivalry week in the ACC. Here’s what to watch:

1. Turnovers in College Park. It can’t get much worse, can it? BC quarterback Dave Shinskie threw four interceptions last week against North Carolina, including one that was returned for a touchdown and another that came back to the BC 1-yard line. He also had a fumble returned for a touchdown. Overall, the Eagles had six turnovers. And Maryland made three interceptions last week at Florida State.

2. Sacks at South Carolina. The Gamecocks’ offensive line has been a weak link, and is ranked 109 in the nation in sacks allowed with three per game. Clemson is 11th in the country with three sacks per game. How many times can the Tigers get to Stephen Garcia on Saturday?

3. Florida State’s punt returns. Look out for Greg Reid, he’s been on a roll. Reid is averaging 39.6 yards per punt return over the past three games. He also had his first career punt return for a touchdown in the win over Wake Forest, and his final return against Maryland set up the Noles’ game-winning score. Florida is No. 8 in the country in punt return yardage defense, though, allowing just 3.25 yards per return.

4. Losing streaks. It’s the final chance for four teams in the conference to stop their losing streaks and end the season on a winning note. Wake Forest has lost five straight, Maryland has lost six, Virginia has lost five, and Duke has lost three. Three of those teams -- Maryland, Duke and Virginia -- will have home field advantage.

5. Dueling quarterbacks in Durham. Saturday’s game marks the first game in ACC history that will feature two quarterbacks who have thrown for over 9,000 career passing yards in Duke’s Thaddeus Lewis and Wake’s Riley Skinner. Both of their pass defense are almost identical on paper, but Duke has the better pass offense this year.

6. Takeaways in Raleigh. UNC has 14 takeaways in its current four-game winning streak, and are plus-eight in turnover margin during that streak. UNC didn’t have a positive turnover margin ranking until after the Miami game, the 10th game of the season. North Carolina leads the country with a school-record 508 interception yards and is tied for the national lead with four interception returns for touchdowns.

7. Running game in Atlanta. Georgia Tech has the No. 2 rushing offense in the country at 314.1 yards per game, and Georgia has the No. 3 rushing defense in the SEC with 120.5 yards per game, but the Bulldogs couldn’t stop the Jackets last year, and have been allowing almost 27 points per game. Over the past seven games, Georgia Tech has averaged 41.1 points, 343.9 yards rushing and 485.3 yards of total offense.

8. The endzone in Charlottesville. Virginia Tech’s defense has allowed just one offensive touchdown in the past three games, and Virginia hasn’t allowed a touchdown on first drive once this year. Virginia’s offense has been its biggest setback this season. Virginia has the No. 106 scoring offense in the country, averaging just under 20 points per game, but the Cavaliers found ways to score in the first half last week against Clemson. Will the tricks work against the Hokies?

9. Coaches on the hot seat. Al Groh and Ralph Friedgen could be coaching their final home games this weekend, and Bobby Bowden’s future is uncertain as well. Both Groh and Friedgen have declined to talk publicly about their futures, but Bowden has made it clear he would like to come back.

10. Miami’s defense. The Canes are going to make B.J. Daniels win the game with his arm, as Miami’s run defense has steadily shown improvement. Miami has allowed just two rushing touchdowns over the past six games, and is holding opponents to 88.2 rushing yards during that span. South Florida is averaging 169.7 rushing yards per game, but Daniels has matured into one of the Big East’s most efficient passers.