2015 Around the ACC: Week 3 Preview

  • (#11/9) Clemson @ Louisville, Thursday 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
  • (#9/6) Florida State @ Boston College, Friday 8 p.m. on ESPN
  • Illinois @ North Carolina, Saturday 12 p.m. on ESPN2
  • Wake Forest @ Army, Saturday 12 p.m. on CBS Sports Network
  • (#23/24) Northwestern @ Duke, Saturday 12:30 p.m. on ACC Network
  • Central Michigan @ Syracuse, Saturday 12:30 p.m. on RSN
  • (#14/16) Georgia Tech @ (#8/10) Notre Dame, Saturday 3:30 p.m. on NBC
  • Nebraska @ Miami, Saturday 3:30 p.m. on ESPN/ABC
  • William & Mary @ Virginia, Saturday 3:30 p.m. on ESPN3
  • Virginia Tech @ Purdue, Saturday 3:30 p.m. on ESNPU
  • NC State @ Old Dominion, Saturday 6 p.m. on All Sports Network
  • Pittsburgh @ Iowa, Saturday 8 p.m. on Big Ten Network


(#11/9) Clemson @ Louisville

Louisville is floundering and will likely start its third quarterback in as many games against Clemson. Kyle Bolin nearly led a comeback in a 34-31 loss last week to Houston, and he figures to get the first crack in this one. Don’t be surprised to see plenty of freshman Lamar Jackson as well, who brings tremendous athleticism and versatility but is still very inexperienced. This is Clemson’s first game against a P5 conference opponent and they look to keep the offense cranking along. Deshaun Watson is currently 11th in the nation in passing efficiency (184.6), and the offense has averaged 462.5 yards per game so far. They’ll face safety Josh Harvey-Clemons, who leads the Cardinal defense and is tied for sixth in the nation with 24 total tackles. He also has two interceptions.


(#9/6) Florida State @ Boston College

Expect to see a lot of running plays in Chestnut Hill Saturday. The Eagles come in with the 16th best rushing attack while FSU has the 17th best in the early stages of 2015. The caveat is that BC padded every imaginable stat last week in a 76-0 drubbing of Howard University. The Seminoles at least played an FBS foe in South Florida last week for Dalvin Cook’s 266-yard outburst. Everett Golson and the Seminole passing attack continue to be a work in progress as does the Eagle aerial assault with new QB Darius Wade. Both of these teams will likely rely on the run through at least the first half of the season.


Illinois @ North Carolina

Illinois is 2-0 despite having a head coach who’s had the job less than a month. Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit was promoted to interim head coach August 28 after the school fired Tim Beckman following revelations of serious player mistreatment. This is easily the toughest test for Cubit’s team so far, and they’ll attempt to confuse the Carolina offense with multiple looks, shifts, and plenty of attacking pressure on the run game. If the Illini are successful in slowing down Elijah Hood on the ground, quarterbacks Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky will have to find ways to move the offense. One key will be getting big-play receiver Ryan Switzer more involved. So far he has nine catches for 103 yards through two games.


Wake Forest @ Army

Wake Forest played well in the first half against Syracuse, but fell thanks in part to three interceptions thrown by John Wolford. The turnovers detracted from what was otherwise an encouraging performance from the sophomore quarterback. Wolford completed 30 of 45 passes for a career-high 373 yards and presently leads the 8th ranked passing offense in the nation. Wake continues its upstate New York tour with a stop at Army, a team with close losses to Fordham and Connecticut on its resume so far. The Black Knights run the triple option but are just 41st nationally in rushing offense after struggling to move the ball against UConn. The Deacons were burned at times by Syracuse mixing in some option plays, but Army is one-dimensional and should be an easier attack to slow down.


(#23/24) Northwestern @ Duke

Northwestern is having a resurgent season under Pat Fitzgerald after back-to-back 5-7 campaigns. The Wildcats knocked off Stanford in the season-opener behind a strong rushing attack and some excellent defense. They currently rank 4th in the country in total defense and the running game has accrued 284.5 yards per game so far. With wins over Duke and Ball State, they can enter Big Ten play 4-0. But Duke has also posted gaudy numbers early with both the offense and defense ranking in the top ten nationally, but those stats came against very poor competition. Still, quarterback Thomas Sirk has been extremely efficient completing 67.7% of his passes for 604 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. We’ll learn a lot about the Blue Devils in the team’s first real test of 2015.


Central Michigan @ Syracuse

For now, Syracuse sits atop the ACC Atlantic division with a 1-0 conference record. That will last at least another week, with the Orange hosting MAC foe Central Michigan. Freshman quarterback Eric Dungey has impressed so far for ‘Cuse with his steady play and maturity that belies his age. He’s thrown for 335 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in nearly two full games of action. He’s managing the offense and won’t be asked to do it by himself. The Orange defense has looked solid so far and the combination of offensive ball security and defensive pressure has Syracuse tied for first nationally in turnover margin with a mark of +6. Central Michigan only lost 24-13 in the opener at Oklahoma State, so they can certainly pose a challenge at the dome. Cooper Rush is a solid quarterback, but the Chippewas have got to find a way to run against a defense that has allowed less than a yard per carry so far.


(#14/16) Georgia Tech @ (#8/10) Notre Dame

Notre Dame has lost its starting running back, starting quarterback, and starting tight end so far this season. No matter how much talent the roster has, that’s a brutal trend. The Irish host their toughest opponent to date in Georgia Tech and the big question is can the option be stopped? Georgia Tech has steamrolled its way to the top rushing attack in the land early and the Irish have allowed only 93.5 yards per game on the ground so far, albeit against two teams that haven’t been able to run the football. Georgia Tech should certainly get its share of big rushing plays, but if the Irish can slow the attack at all, it may be enough for new quarterback DeShone Kizer to impress again. Kizer completed 8 of 12 passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns to avoid an upset at Virginia. The big key are the weapons around him highlighted by receiver Will Fuller who caught the winning touchdown in the comeback in Charlottesville.


Nebraska @ Miami

The Nebraska offense under new coach Mike Riley appears to be improved. The defense however cannot stop the pass. BYU stunned the Cornhuskers in the opener by winning with a desperation Hail Mary that was poorly defended. The trend continued as Nebraska won 48-9 over South Alabama, but allowed 313 passing yards. That’s good news for Miami’s Brad Kaaya, who hasn’t had to tax himself much so far. He’s thrown for 430 yards and three touchdowns without any turnovers, but hasn’t been asked to pitch it around a lot as the Canes attempt to establish their run game. Look for Miami to open the passing game up a bit in an effort to attack the reeling ‘Husker secondary. The Hurricane defense has been strong, allowing just 96 passing yards per game so far. We’ll see if they can slow a Nebraska aerial assault averaging 311 yards per contest.


William & Mary @ Virginia

The ‘Hoos look to get in the win column against FCS opponent William & Mary. The loss in the waning seconds against Notre Dame was a heartbreaker for Mike London’s club, but they have to move past it and focus on some encouraging signs. Quarterback Matt Johns has been impressive, especially against the Irish, where he completed 26 of 38 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns. He also added a score on the ground in the near-upset. Canaan Severin has been a big target for Johns, hauling in 16 catches for 211 yards so far. The big issue is the lack of a run game, which has averaged just 112.5 yards per game against two tough defenses. Either Taquan Mizzell or Albert Reid have to step up to take some pressure off the passing game and this matchup should present an opportunity to gain confidence in that regard.


Virginia Tech @ Purdue

The Hokies and Boilermakers meet for the first time ever in West Lafayette, and it will be the first road start for Tech quarterback Brenden Motley. Motley struggled early against Furman, but settled down eventually and gained confidence in the second half of his first career start. The Hokie defense will be without linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka who injured his MCL against Furman and will be out up to four weeks. That elevates former walk-on sophomore Sean Huelskamp to first string at a position that was already of some concern. The Boilermakers dropped a tough opener on the road at Marshall before a comfortable win over Indiana State. Purdue will look to attack with an offense that has been fairly balanced so far, but utilizes misdirection. Quarterback Austin Appleby will have to limit his mistakes after throwing four interceptions in the first two games.


NC State @ Old Dominion

Old Dominion has had some close calls early, edging Eastern Michigan 38-34 and Norfolk State 24-10. Running back Ray Lawry has been on fire rushing for 438 yards and six touchdowns while gaining 7.4 yards per carry. The 12th ranked rushing attack is a change for the normally pass-happy Monarchs and they should have a good crowd on hand for the biggest home game of the season. The State defense could stop that impressive running game in its tracks if the first two games are any indication. The Wolfpack have allowed just 35 yards per game against Eastern Kentucky and Troy while only giving up 77 yards per game through the air. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett will look to keep his 183.4 passer efficiency — good for 12th in the land — intact against a defense that has yet to distinguish itself.


Pittsburgh @ Iowa

The Pittsburgh quarterbacks will get a lot of attention this week as both Chad Voytik and Nate Peterman will see action. The plan seems to be to let whoever’s hot play the majority of the game, but if neither player breaks out it could get messy for coach Pat Narduzzi’s first quarterback juggling act. Iowa enters fresh off a 31-17 win over rival Iowa State and may just have a vintage Kirk Ferentz defense. They’ve put together the 24th best defense thus far and limited opponents to 49 yards per game on the ground. The Hawkeyes also appear to have a solid quarterback in C.J. Beathard. He’s completed 30 of 49 passes for 426 yards, four scores with no interceptions. Beathard has also gained 108 yards on 18 carries with two touchdowns.

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