Around the ACC Week 11 Preview


  • Virginia Tech @ Georgia Tech, Thursday 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
  • Pittsburgh @ Duke, Saturday 12 p.m. on ESPNNEWS
  • N.C. State @ #16 Florida State, Saturday 12:30 p.m. on ESPN3
  • Virginia @ Louisville, Saturday 12:30 p.m. on ESPN3
  • Miami @ #23 North Carolina, Saturday 3:30 p.m. on ESPNU
  • Wake Forest @ #4 Notre Dame, Saturday 3:30 p.m. on NBC
  • #1 Clemson @ Syracuse, Saturday 3:30 p.m. on ABC


Virginia Tech (4-5, 2-3) @ Georgia Tech (3-6, 1-5)

The final Thursday night football game of the Frank Beamer era kicks off the college football weekend in Atlanta. The Hokies are 20-9 on Thursday nights under Beamer with a perfect 5-0 mark against the Yellow Jackets. “I asked our players and coaches to do what they do best, and that’s get down and put their eyes straight ahead and let’s prepare,” Frank Beamer said this week. “The only thing we can control right now is how we play against Georgia Tech.” The Hokies will try to continue to run the ball with Travon McMillian (665 yards, three touchdowns) leading the way out of the backfield. The offense has been considerably more balanced with the rise of McMillian and the return of quarterback Michael Brewer.

For Georgia Tech, Justin Thomas has completed just 43.6% of his passes this season, though his 12 touchdowns to six interceptions are impressive. Marcus Marshall leads the team with 531 rushing yards with Thomas a close second at 421 yards. Both Thomas and Patrick Skov have six rushing touchdowns on the year, but the rushing attack has lost some of its explosiveness this season despite strong play from the freshman Marshall. “Certainly he’s very talented and we’re excited about the future,” Paul Johnson said of Marshall. “We’d like to get a little more consistency, and Marcus understands he’s got to play much better when he doesn’t have the ball. I think that’s true of most young backs, and it’s a work in progress for him.”


Pittsburgh (6-3. 4-1) @ Duke (6-3, 3-2)

After living dangerously for the first half of the season, Pitt has lost two straight games which is enough to give any team pause. “All we can control is what’s in front of us,” Pat Narduzzi said. “It all starts with this one game this weekend, then Louisville after that, Miami. We just got to do our job, see what happens.” Qadree Ollison has been strong on the ground (748 yards, eight touchdowns) and the Panthers have finally found a quarterback with Nate Peterman (1,596 yards 11 touchdowns). The trick in this match up will be maintaining offensive balance and limiting the effectiveness of Thomas Sirk.

Sirk has guided the intermittently effective Blue Devil offense with 1,979 yards and 12 touchdowns passing, plus 555 yards and five touchdowns to lead Duke in both categories on the ground. “Well, we have to be consistent,” David Cucliffe mentioned this week. “If they’re going to force you to put drives together, the only way you do that is if you’re consistently executing. You can’t have mistakes.” That was Duke’s undoing with three turnovers in a massive loss to North Carolina last week.


N.C. State (6-3, 2-3) @ #16 Florida State (7-2, 5-2)

The Wolfpack can make themselves far more attractive to a bowl game with a win over a strong opponent. They’re built a resume thus far by feasting on inferior foes, but Florida State a different animal. The Seminoles are stumbling with losses in two of the last three games, but they’re still the more talented team by a clear margin. Dalvin Cook enters the game with 1,231 rushing yards on the season. That’s just 12 yards shy of Florida State’s single-season rushing record set by Warrick Dunn in 1995. Doctors cleared quarterback Everett Golson from a head injury, but it remains unclear if it will be Golson or Sean Maguire under center. Maguire has passed for 585 and four touchdowns in two games as the starter.

It doesn’t really seem to matter who is throwing the football for the ‘Noles this season. “Their quarterbacks are both taking care of the football,” Dave Doeren told reporters. “They’ve only thrown two interceptions the entire season, which is really impressive.” State will try to slow down the balanced attack of Jimbo Fisher’s club. The Wolfpack still have the ninth ranked group in total defense, though some of those numbers were built on the aforementioned weak non-conference schedule.


Virginia (3-6, 2-3) @ Louisville (5-4, 4-2)

Louisville can clinch a bowl berth with a win over lowly Virginia and they can help pound another nail into Mike London’s proverbial coaching coffin. The Cardinals have won three games in a row and have all the momentum heading into this one. Kyle Bolin gave the passing game a major spark with 362 yards against Syracuse and adding yet another chapter to the ongoing quarterback race that has never fully been settled for Louisville. “…As far as Kyle coming in, he really knows the offense. He does a great job of running it, executing it,” Bobby Petrino said. “He’s a very accurate passer and gave us balance between the run game and the passing game.”

The Cavaliers hit the road where they’ve yet to win a game all season. Mike London is well aware of the challenge of avoiding another loss, especially against such a unique group of quarterbacks. “You look at them from the standpoint they can throw the ball and they have three quarterbacks that can touch the balls in ways whether it’s by running, run-pass combination, or being back in the pocket and throwing the football,” London said. Finding a way to limit whatever combination of signal-callers the Cardinals put out there will be critical if UVA hopes to maintain a faint chance to qualify for a bowl game.


Miami (6-3, 3-2) @ #23 North Carolina (8-1, 5-0)

Miami has rallied under interim coach Larry Scott with two wins, but they run into the red hot Tar Heels this week. Carolina has won eight straight after a head-scratching loss to South Carolina to start the year. Marquise Williams is hitting his stride at the best possible time with 2,117 yards and 15 touchdowns through the air, plus 558 yards and six rushing scores. “He’s really doing a good job of taking care of the football, and then he can also beat you with his legs, and so we’ve always prided ourselves with being able to do both and wanting a guy, a trigger man that could do both, so that we feel like we can never be outnumbered by the defense,” Larry Fedora Elijah Hood is also a big reason why the Tar Heel offense is in high gear. Hood has posted 813 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns on the year.

Miami knows that they really have their hands full in this one, particularly on the defensive side of things. “We need to understand the tempo. We got to be able to handle the up-tempo style of offense,” Larry Scott said of UNC’s fast-paced attack. “We got to be able to get the call, get aligned, get into a defense that our kids can execute and play at a high level, tackle and cover, just be fundamental.” Offensively, the Canes can possibly match any Carolina fireworks with Brad Kaaya back healthy at quarterback after a concussion and Joseph Yearby having a fine season at running back (719 yards, five touchdowns).


Wake Forest (3-6, 1-5) @ #4 Notre Dame (8-1)

Notre Dame has some of the best playmakers in the country on offense including one-time backup quarterback DeShone Kizer. Kizer has 16 touchdowns and 1,931 yards passing, thanks in part to the outstanding play of receiver Will Fuller. He’s hauled in 44 catches for 900 yards and 12 touchdowns including a season-high three scores last week against Pittsburgh. He’s scored at least one touchdown in all but one game this season, the only Irish loss. C.J. Prosise has been terrific at running back and has run for 975 and 11 touchdowns.

That’s the kind of balance that has Notre Dame’s offense ranked 19th nationally in total production. Prosise may not be available, but Irish coach Brian Kelley knows he’ll need all hands on deck because Wake is, “…a team that’s obviously played Louisville very tough, had a chance to win that last ballgame, had a chance with the ball in their hands to beat Florida State, so a team that certainly has the capabilities to beat you if you don’t play well. Wake has to play beyond perfect football to pull off a monumental upset, but they do have some skill players who can make things interesting. Dave Clawson knows slowing Will Fuller would go a long way to making this a game. “Fuller is just outstanding, and they’re going to find five or six different ways to throw him the ball deep, whether it’s just takeoff routes, post routes, slant-and-goes, play action, deep crossing routes,” Clawson said.


#1 Clemson (9-0, 6-0) @ Syracuse (3-6, 1-4)

Clemson is just trying to stay focused in order to put the finishing touches on a perfect regular season record. “We’re really excited to have clinched our division and [have] a chance to represent the Atlantic in the ACC Championship game,” Dabo Swinney said. Clemson solidified themselves as the top team in the country with an exciting win over Florida State. Swinney happens to like some of the talent on the Orange offense, even if no one knows who will be at quarterback. “Very impressed with their receivers. The Dungey kid has done a nice job. But we don’t know for sure that he’s going to play,” Swinney said.

Dungey is more than likely done for the season after suffering what was likely his third concussion of the campaign. That puts Zack Mahoney back in the mix as the probable starter. Mahoney has passed for 217 yards and rushed for 51 in sporadic action over five games. Having young unproven quarterbacks in particular has caused trouble, but the youth is all over the field for the Orange. “…We’re playing a lot of young guys; pretty much 90 some percent of our offense is out of guys that are going to be here for another three years or two years,” Scott Shafer pointed out this week. “Defensively we have eight new starters from last year’s group, and they’re learning. They’re learning. They’re not where they need to be but they’re learning, and we just need to stay true to the process.”

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