After its first win of the season, Florida State has a bit of momentum heading into Chapel Hill to face North Carolina this Saturday. Outside of Tallahassee, the rest of the ACC is in quite a flux. Only two teams are ranked, and Clemson, the conference's juggernaut since 2014, is not one of them. With each week that passes, it looks more and more clear that the conference will not have representation in the College Football Playoff for the first time since its creation in 2014.
Although most ACC teams are on their bye week, I previewed the conference games we do have for this week below. I also touched on what's at stake for each program moving forward.
Syracuse (3-2) vs. #19 Wake Forest (5-0) - Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Wake Forest barely squeaked past Louisville (37-34) last week, thanks to a game-clinching field goal from kicker Nick Ssciba. The Demon Deacons held a 10-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter, but saw it quickly evaporate after several breakdowns in the secondary. They allowed 309 passing yards, and are giving up close to 253 yards through the air per game.
After a 33-30 loss to Florida State Saturday, the Orange return to the Carrier Dome with a huge opportunity to pull off the upset. The defense will have their hands full with Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman, who is fifth in the ACC with 11 passing touchdowns. Meanwhile, Syracuse has its own weapon at quarterback in Garrett Shrader. The Mississippi State transfer rushed for 137 yards and three touchdowns last week, while also throwing for 150 passing yards and one touchdown.
While some might see a blowout on the horizon, I can see the game being a lot closer than many expect. I think the Orange will be highly motivated to spoil the Demon Deacons undefeated record, and have a bit of revenge on their mind from a year ago. Wake Forest won last season's bout 38-14.
Louisville (3-2) vs. Virginia (3-2) - Saturday, 3 p.m.
Both of these programs are coming off last second field-goals, but they happened to end up on different sides. As I stated above, Louisville lost to Wake Forest at the last second. For the Cavaliers, kicker Brendan Farrell converted on a game-winning field goal last week to defeat Miami 30-28.
This matchup will be headlined by the quarterbacks, who are playing some of the best football of their careers. Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong is second in the nation in passing yards (1,973), while Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham has the offense averaging 35.6 points in the last three games.
These teams could produce one of the most high-scoring, eventful games of the weekend.
Duke (3-2) vs. Georgia Tech (2-3) - Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
In last year's matchup between these two, Jeff Sims and Georgia Tech’s offense totaled 523 yards in a 56-33 victory. This game should be more competitive, especially with both teams coming off blowout losses.
Sims managed to throw 359 yards in last Saturday’s loss against Pittsburgh (52-21), but he also threw two interceptions and had a 48.9 quarterback rating. For the Blue Devils, they fell 38-7 against Mack Brown and the Tar Heels. Duke was 2-for-15 on third downs and averaged just 3.2 yards per rush
With a bye week on the horizon, look for the Yellow Jackets to have a sense of urgency to avoid falling two games below .500.
Virginia Tech (3-1) vs. #14 Notre Dame (4-1) - Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
The Hokies haven’t played since Sept. 25, where they scored just seven second-half points in 21-10 win over Richmond. Virginia Tech wide receiver Tre Turner will be relied upon as the primary target for quarterback Braxton Burmeister. Turner had 102 yards and one touchdown on six receptions versus Richmond.
Notre Dame quarterback Jack Coan was replaced in the second half by sophomore Drew Pyne in last Saturday's 24-13 loss to Cincinnati. Don’t be shocked if head coach Brian Kelly gives the starting nod to Pyne or true freshman Tyler Buchner, who each have more talent than Coan. Whether he is healthy or not, many Notre Dame fans have given up on Coan, and are ready for Buchner or Pyne to take the reins.
Not only would this be a signature win for head coach Justin Fuente and the Hokies, but it would give them momentum heading into next week’s divisional matchup against Pittsburgh.
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