Around the ACC Week Ten Preview

  • Duke @ North Carolina, Saturday 12 p.m. on ESPN2
  • #5 Notre Dame @ Pittsburgh, Saturday 12 p.m. on ABC
  • N.C. State @ Boston College, Saturday 12:30 p.m. on ESPN3
  • Syracuse @ Louisville, Saturday 12:30 p.m. on ESPN3
  • Virginia @ Miami, Saturday 3 p.m. on ESPN3
  • #16 Florida State @ #1 Clemson, Saturday 3:30 p.m. on ABC

Editor’s Note: We’ve begun using the College Football Playoff rankings as they’re the only ones that matter now.


Duke (6-2, 3-1) @ #21 North Carolina (7-1, 4-0)

The battle for the Victory Bell has been a big-time affair in the last few years, and this year the stakes are as high as the Coastal Division crown. Duke lost in epic fashion in the closing moments against Miami, but facing the school’s biggest rival should make it easy to refocus. “I’ll say this: this is the best North Carolina team that I’ve seen,” David Cutcliffe said. “They’re extremely balanced as a team, and what I mean by that is that they have such weapons in the kicking game, on defense and offense.” Jeremy Cash and the Duke defense will certainly have their hands full in slowing down the Tar Heel attack as it’s really clicking right now.

Larry Fedora’s unit has risen to 24th in the country in total offense, but the defense has been very impressive as well under Gene Chizik. That group is 40th in total defense, but third-ranked nationally against the pass. That mean the Tar Heels likely have a leg up on a Duke passing game that often leaves something to be desired. “It’s not like they’re real complicated with what they’re doing on offense, but they’re very efficient in doing it,” Fedora said.


#8 Notre Dame (7-1) @ Pittsburgh (6-2, 4-1)

Just one week after losing its first conference game, Pittsburgh can reclaim its national ranking with an upset of top ten foe Notre Dame. The Irish have had a very impressive season despite a spate of serious injuries that could have easily derailed the season early. “Our guys have that unique ability to really bear down and play for four quarters, overcome things, and find a way to win,” Brian Kelly said this week. Notre Dame is ranked eighth in the country and 7-1, just as they were last season at this point. That didn’t end well as the team finished 8-5. ND looks to avoid a similar slump starting with Pitt.

The Panthers still have a strong shot at the Coastal division crown and a major bowl berth if they can return to their winning ways. The defense was burned for a number of big plays against North Carolina. “If you don’t do the little things right then you’re not going to be a very good defense. That’s what we’ve showed the last couple of weeks,” Pat Narduzzi told reporters. “If you throw a 71-yard pass, I’m okay with that. But you better stop the run. So that will be a major focus this week.” Both will pose a challenge as running back C.J. Prosise (917 yards, 11 touchdowns) and quarterback DeShone Kizer (1,669 passing yards, 318 rushing yards, 16 total touchdowns) have both been terrific replacements after Irish injuries.


N.C. State (5-3, 1-3) @ Boston College (3-6, 0-6)

N.C. State’s leading rusher Matt Dayes is now out for the year after undergoing foot surgery. He carried the ball 134 times for 865 yards (6.5 YPC) and 12 touchdowns. No one else on the team has more than 208 yards, and that’s utility player Jaylen Samuels who to this point at least hasn’t played much as a pure running back. The Wolfpack will need to get very creative to maintain the nation’s 31st best ground game. “We’re really fortunate Jaylen Samuels has the skill set he does because he can go back there and carry the load if he needs to,” Dave Doeren said. “To take Jaylen Samuels’ role and give it to someone else, I don’t know if we have someone like that. He does a ton of stuff for us on the field.” Dakwa Nichols and Reggie Gallaspy will need to step up in a big way.

Walk-on John Fadule played his first game as quarterback for the Eagles last week and his play was encouraging for the floundering offense “I wasn’t surprised. I kind of felt that was going to happen, but you never know,” Steve Addazio said of his QB. “I think we’ll keep developing all of our quarterbacks. But as we go into the week, John Fadule will be getting his share of the reps with the ones.” BC now ranks 126 out of 127 teams in total offense, so any kind of hope is Heaven sent at this point. The defense continues to play fantastic, but Fadule will have to get the Eagles in the end zone to change the trend, something they’ve only done 12 times this season.


Syracuse (3-5, 1-3) @ Louisville (4-4, 3-2)

Louisville need to win its next two games against Syracuse and Virginia, because the final two are at Pittsburgh and Kentucky and those will be considerably tougher foes. Lamar Jackson hurt his ankle in the narrow win over Wake Forest, and it hampered his performance enough that he was removed in the second half. “I just thought it was the best decision to make at the time,” Bobby Petrino said. “Not only just looking and seeing how he’s moving around but sometimes body language and the look in their eye…I made the decision to put Kyle in and execute our offense with him in there.” Bolin was 3-of-4 for 38 yards and moved the offense, though they were unable to finish. He may be asked to step up again if Jackson isn’t healthy.

Syracuse could still conceivably win six games and squeak into a bowl as well, but with Clemson and N.C. State still to come, that makes Louisville a must-win game. The Orange will rely on a defense that has had its issues defending the pass, rating 104th in passing yards allowed to this point. “Most of their mistakes is inconsistency with their eyes,” Scott Shafer told the press. “Playing DB, especially corner is probably more about training their eyes than anything else. They have the feet, they have the ability to play, but it’s consistency with their eyes that we have to continue to work on.” That presents a bad match up, particularly if Kyle Bolin plays quarterback, as he’s a much stronger passer than Lamar Jackson.


Virginia (3-5, 2-2) @ Miami (5-3, 2-2)

Miami could build a little momentum with a win here after the emotional high of upsetting Duke in a wild, controversial finish in Durham. Road trips to North Carolina and Pittsburgh still remain, so taking care of business against the struggling ‘Hoos is imperative. Brad Kaaya is once again questionable and Mailk Rosier is working through some soreness in practice but should be fine. Rosier was terrific against Duke throwing for 272 yards and two touchdowns one week after barely completing anything against Clemson. “I think the biggest thing for Malik was that was a heck of a learning experience,” interim coach Larry Scott said. “In the first week he had a chance to play against Clemson, he wasn’t prepared…now he understands that everyone has to be prepared as a starter.”

Virginia has won two out of its last three games and, like seemingly every team in this conference, could still conceivably qualify for a bowl if things fall their way. With Miami, Louisville, Duke, and Virginia Tech remaining however, it’s tough to envision that happening. The Cavaliers are 77th nationally in total defense and 94th in total offense. The good news is that the Wahoos are finally running the ball well and the defense is creating some turnovers and that’s helped improve the field position battle. The turning point may have been the drubbing put on the ‘Hoos by Boise state. “Obviously you’re embarrassed by a loss like that and you have a group of individuals that have to decide whether or not your next practice, your next team meeting, your next lift session is going to put more of an emphasis on enough is enough,” Mike London said.


#17 Florida State (7-1, 5-1) @ #3 Clemson (8-0, 5-0)

The weekend’s premier match up will decide the Atlantic division champion and have major implications on the College Football Playoff. “It’s just so irrelevant at this point,” Dabo Swinney said of the rankings. “Last year Ohio State was not in the top 10 and won the national championship. I think three teams in the top four in the first poll last year didn’t make it to the playoff.” It’s true and the main thing for Clemson is avoiding any distraction, something they’ve done well this season. Clemson is the better team all around, but Florida State is more than capable despite some key injuries.

Quarterback Everett Golson’s status is still up in the air for Saturday as is that of running back Dalvin Cook. If they can’t go, we’ll see a repeat of last week when Sean McGuire and Jacques Patrick started and flourished. McGuire threw for over 300 yards in the first half and Patrick had 162 yards and three touchdowns against Syracuse. “He played well, caught the ball well, and he picked up blitzes well,” Jimbo Fisher said about Patrick. “All of his blitz pickups were there. Caught the ball, what, I think six catches, six catches out of the backfield. We use Dalvin a lot out of the backfield.” In other words, the offense won’t change much no matter who is on the field against Clemson.

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