2015 Around the ACC Week Eight Preview

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  • #5 Clemson @ Miami, Saturday 12 p.m. on ABC
  • #25 Pittsburgh @ Syracuse 12 p.m. on ESPNU
  • N.C. State @ Wake Forest 12 p.m. on ESPN3
  • Boston College @ Louisville 12:30 p.m. on ESPN3
  • Virginia @ North Carolina 3:30 p.m. on ESPN3
  • #23 Duke @ Virginia Tech 3:30 p.m. on ESPNU
  • #9 Florida State @ Georgia Tech 7 p.m. on ESPN2

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No. 5 Clemson (6-0, 3-0) @ Miami (4-2, 1-1)

Clemson continues to post impressive offensive numbers while churning out victories. Last week, the Tigers thrashed the top-ranked Boston College defense to the tune of 532 total yards and 34 points. DeShaun Watson passed for a season-high 420 yards and three touchdowns and Artavis Scott caught 10 of those passes for 162 yards. Watson has been tremendous this season, passing for 1,410 yards with 14 touchdowns to seven interceptions. “We’re not one of those teams that tell our quarterback what to do all the time. Our quarterbacks are trained to do a lot of different things. That’s why he’s tough to beat,” Dabo Swinney said this week.

Clemson will take on an equally dynamic passer this week in Miami’s Brad Kaaya. Kaaya’s number’s have been even better than Watson’s this season with 1,795 yards, ten touchdowns and an interception. There should be plenty of fireworks in this game, and while Clemson’s stout defense could give the Tigers an advantage, Miami leads the nation in turnover margin. “The ball is going to get challenged this weekend, both up front and down the field,” Al Golden said. “They have an excellent defense. We’re going to have to protect the ball on offense and try to take it away on defense.”

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#25 Pittsburgh (5-1, 3-0) @ Syracuse (3-3, 1-1)

Pittsburgh continues to win close games late, thanks largely to the steady play of quarterback Nate Peterman. Since becoming the full-time starter, Peterman has settled in and shown why he was chosen, passing for five touchdowns without an interception in the last three games. He passed for three of those TDs in a 31-28 win over Georgia Tech. With success comes attention however, and the freshly ranked Panthers are now a target. “I think they’re going to react just like when no one knew who they were and they had that no-name defense,” Pat Narduzzi said this week. “I think that’s who they are. That’s what we’ve coached in this room. I don’t think we’ll get anything different than that.”

Syracuse is still trying to find its footing after a close loss to Virginia last weekend. This game marks a likely turning point in the Orange season, as things could turn around or go south in a hurry. “I like this team,” Scott Shafer told the media. “I think it’s a team we can continue to grow up and be pretty good down the road. Right now, we are just kind of hoping to get one game over .500 this weekend.” That will be a tall order for a very bad Orange offense about to face the Pitt defense, currently ranked 17th nationally in total defense.

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NC State (4-2, 0-2) @ Wake Forest (3-4, 1-3)

The Wolfpack had a week off to try and get things right after consecutive losses to Louisville and Virginia Tech quickly soured a promising season. “I think every time you get a pause you have to look at what’s happened and talk about things you can learn from,” head coach Dave Doeren said. “I think the best thing we did last year that we were really hard on ourselves as coaches we looked at everything, took things out added things that fit us better.” The offense has to find a way to get back on track, after Jacoby Brissett threw his first interception of the season and passed for a season-low 113 yards against the Hokies. Matt Dayes had some success running, but the Wolfpack abandoned the ground game once they trailed. Balance will be a major focus going forward.

Wake Forest struggled in all phases in a 50-14 blowout loss to North Carolina last week. “We got humbled,” Dave Clawson told the press. “North Carolina played really well and we didn’t. They executed at a high level and we didn’t. It’s as simple as that.” Wake QB Kendall Hinton has added some punch to the Wake offense, but he’s still very raw and, frankly, a liability in the passing game where he’s tossed four interceptions to two touchdowns. He’s already the team’s leading rusher however with 255 yards and four scores in five games. He’ll need to find a way to finish drives in the red zone, which was a major issue against the Tar Heels.

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Boston College (3-4, 0-4) @ Louisville (2-4, 1-2)

This game features two teams with strong defense and floundering offenses, though the Cardinals are clearly more advanced when it comes to moving the football and scoring points.

The Boston College offense is as bad as the Eagles’ defense is good. BC ranks 121st out of 127 teams in total offense, while the defense is still first in the nation despite getting burned against Clemson. “We played a talented team. They are athletic, fast and explosive,” Steve Addazio said of the Tigers. “There’s a reason they’re number six in the country. But we were right in the middle of that game, coming out of that half and through the third quarter.” Stopping Louisville’s run game and forcing freshman Lamar Jackson to throw will be a major priority.

Louisville is 37th in total defense, but the unit has really solidified after a tough start to the season. The Cardinals are 77th in total offense, but Lamar Jackson has helped boost that unit. It’s a high-risk, high-reward proposition with Jackson, who has 467 rushing yards, 905 passing yards and 11 total touchdowns, but has turned the ball over too many times. A concern is the loss of linebacker Keith Brown for the first half, who was ejected from the last game for targeting after a hit on Florida State quarterback Everett Golson. This is a crucial game for both team’s chances to make a bowl game. Two games under .500 for BC or three for Louisville would dig an enormous hole that might just be insurmountable.

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Virginia (2-4, 1-1) @ North Carolina (5-1, 2-0)

The Wahoos got a much-needed win last week over Syracuse, and that’s a huge lift for the sagging spirits of Mike London’s club. Their major challenge is containing dynamic quarterback Marquise Williams. “Now, Marquise is a guy that you see, you look at his stats, his rushing stats, he’s got five rushing TDs, he’s a guy that will run the option, he’ll pull the ball on the read play, and he does present a threat that you have to make — be aware and alerted for,” London said. The offensive performance against Syracuse is encouraging, after the ‘Hoos gained 393 total yards in a three-overtime home win. The Carolina defense is a different animal however.

UNC gave up 34 points per game last season, and they’ve cut that in half under new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik. The unit still struggles against the run, but it’s difficult to throw against the third ranked pass-stoppers in the country. That’s not a great match up for Virginia. Run prevention should get a boost as well, as standout freshman Jalen Dalton gets more into the flow after making his collegiate debut against Wake Forest. “Jalen brings some explosiveness,” Larry Fedora said. “He brings a lot of great power in his hips. He comes off the ball really well.” The highly touted freshman finished with four tackles and one quarterback hurry in his debut.

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#23 Duke (5-1, 2-0) @ Virginia Tech (3-4, 1-2)

Virginia Tech had chances to beat Miami, but four turnovers gave the game away and backed the Hokies into a corner if they want to make a bowl game. The good news is that Michael Brewer finally saw the field again in brief action late after Brenden Motley struggled, and he’s expected to start against the Blue Devils. “I think he’s experienced,” Frank Beamer said about Brewer. “What happened last week effects what goes on this week. I think it’s the right thing to do.” There isn’t much time to knock the rust off, but he does appear to finally have a running game to lean on with the emergence of Travon McMillian.

Duke and Tech seemingly always play close games in recent years, but Duke comes off a bye week, which has to slightly favor a rested Blue Devil squad. “That’s one of the great things about being fortunate,” head coach David Cutcliffe said. “We never know when they [open dates] are going to come, but that it came halfway through this year we feel blessed by that opportunity.” Duke looks mostly good on the injury front but linebacker Kyler Brown will be a question mark heading into the weekend. Regardless, you know Duke will come out with an even, solid performance. What the Hokies do at this point is anyone’s guess.

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#9 Florida State (6-0, 4-0) @ Georgia Tech (2-5, 0-4)

The Seminoles have to be off to one of the quietest 6-0 starts in recent memory. There are folks still somewhat skeptical of Everett Golson, but he’s been as good as anyone possibly can be. Golson has completed 67.2% of his passes for 1,449 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. Meanwhile Dalvin Cook is giving Leonard Fournette a run for his money as the nation’s best running back. Cook has gained 8.7 yards per carry and will likely surpass the 1,000-yard mark this weekend if his hamstring cooperates. ” It’s getting stronger and stronger,” Jimbo Fisher said this week. “Like he says, it’s not like it was the first time. And it’s just something that’s like anything, you’ve just got to continue to strengthen. And we’ll have to monitor how much time we give him off to how much we work him and things like that.”

Georgia Tech’s youth has shown itself plenty this season, but there may be a simpler answer to the Yellow Jackets’ struggles. “I think probably experience certainly factors in,” Paul Johnson said. “I think, truthfully, if you look at this season, it’s like I said after the game, I don’t know if there’s a huge difference between last year and this year. With the exception of the offense is not quite as good.” The ground game is still ranked 8th nationally, but quarterback Justin Thomas hasn’t played as well as expected. It’s tough to expect that to suddenly improve against the Seminole defense, but a standout performance from Thomas could quickly turn the season around for Georgia Tech.

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