- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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With only five games this week, the math is easy: Two things to watch in each game. Here’s your top 10 in Week 10, in no particular order:
1. BC’s offensive line against Florida State’s defensive line. This could be the game-defining matchup, as the Eagles have been playing better up front in recent weeks and their running game has flourished as a byproduct, but Florida State’s defensive line has been flat-out dominant. The Noles are No. 3 in the country in sacks, and No. 8 in tackles for loss. Bjoern Werner (7.5) and Brandon Jenkins (6.5) lead the Seminoles in tackles for loss.
2. Young running backs in Chestnut Hill. For Florida State, Devonta Freeman has totaled 226 rushing yards in the past three games. He became the first freshman to rush for 100 yards in back-to-back games since Chris Parker in 1988. For Boston College, sophomore Rolandan Finch ran for 243 yards and two touchdowns in last weekend’s 28-17 victory over Maryland; prior to that, Finch had never surpassed the 100-yard mark. He has run for 81 or more yards in each of the past three games.
3. Quarterbacks in College Park. The saga continues, as Maryland coach Randy Edsall said on Wednesday’s ACC teleconference that both Danny O'Brien and C.J. Brown continue to compete and the Terps could “get in a situation where we play both of them, play one.” Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco, meanwhile, said this week he has benefited from the diminished role of true freshman David Watford, who was sharing the reps. Rocco took all but one snap in last weekend’s win at Miami.
4. Maryland’s run defense. The Terps enter this game with the nation’s No. 118 rushing defense, and Virginia’s ability to run the ball has been crucial to its success in this series. Virginia is 22-8 against Maryland since 1937 when gaining at least 150 rushing yards. UVa has rushed for at least 150 yards in seven of eight games in 2011. In last year’s loss, the Hoos ran for just 92.
5. NC State’s pass defense against UNC quarterback Bryn Renner. Renner is the ACC’s most efficient passer, but he will face a secondary that boasts the nation’s leader in interceptions in David Amerson, who has eight. Brandan Bishop has four. Renner has thrown nine interceptions this year to 19 touchdowns.
6. UNC tailback Giovani Bernard. He needs just 35 more yards to become the program’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Jonathan Linton in 1997. Bernard has 965 yards this year and leads all freshman runners in the country with 107.2 yards per game. He leads the ACC with 12 touchdowns. NC State’s rushing defense has been holding opponents to 160.1 yards per game.
7. Duke’s defense in the second half. The Blue Devils have allowed one second-half touchdown — a fourth-quarter score by Wake Forest — in their past two games, and held Virginia Tech scoreless last weekend for the entire second half. Safety Matt Daniels has defended 16 passes, second in both the ACC and the FBS.
8. Turnovers at Miami. The Hurricanes forced seven turnovers in last year’s victory over Duke, and the Blue Devils are coming off a loss to Virginia Tech in which they had four turnovers. Quarterback Sean Renfree has thrown four interceptions in the past two games, including three against the Hokies. Since the loss to Kansas State, Miami quarterback Jacory Harris has thrown 11 touchdowns to just one interception.
9. Wake Forest’s defensive line against Notre Dame’s offensive line. The Demon Deacons will have a definite size disadvantage, and the Irish went the whole month of October without allowing a sack. Notre Dame’s offense line averages 305.6 pounds; Wake Forest’s defensive front averages 247.5 pounds. Wake will have to put some pressure on Irish quarterback Tommy Rees to help disrupt a passing game targeted at one of the nation’s top receivers in Michael Floyd.
10. Wake Forest defensive back Merrill Noel. He leads the FBS in passes defended with 16, an average of 2.0 per game. The freshman only has one interception, but he’s been a major contributor to Wake’s defense and could play a crucial role in helping slow down Floyd, who is ninth nationally with 7.9 receptions per game.