How could any of us even watch football after Thursday night’s game? It gave us everything an ACC football fan could ever want - strange officiating, a Virginia Tech special teams derp that leads Twitter to sarcastically exclaim “BEAMER BALL!!!!”, and the Coastal Division cannibalizing itself yet again. Also, Paul Johnson Face.
But alas, this weekend’s games will go on as scheduled. And something else I love is coming to an end this weekend as well, and that’s the excellent TV show Breaking Bad. You might’ve heard of it. Oh, what’s that? You haven’t?
Whatever. Anyway, the rise of a man from a high school chemistry teacher to a meth lord is very similar to the ACC’s rise from ... oh forget it. There’s a metaphor to be found there somewhere.
Let’s just say the lessons learned in the show about hubris and greed and the true nature of good and evil are all around us in the college football universe, too. And sports in general.
Either way, I don’t have to have a reason. All of my narrative-related GIFs will be from Breaking Bad. Because I say so. And for those of you who think it’s somehow become cool to Tweet that you’re NOT watching the show, sadly, you’ll only have one more week left to say it. For now, you have to watch my GIFs. Enjoy.
NO. 15 MIAMI (3-0) AT SOUTH FLORIDA (0-3)
Time: 12:00 p.m.
KEY FOR MIAMI
Um....move the ball offensively? USF’s defense is not awful. And yes, we know the Bulls gave up 53 points to FCS opponent McNeese State. That game had all sorts of weirdness and derptitude that led to McNeese having four scoring drives of 42 yards or less. Oh and a pick six. And a safety. Since then, the Bulls have allowed just 246.5 yards per game in two games against FBS teams (Michigan State and FAU), and have yet to allow 100 yards passing or a passing touchdown. The Bulls’ FBS opponents have just 29 total first downs and are a collective 8-of-27 on third down. Miami had some issues against Florida’s defense - while the Bulls aren’t close to the level of the Gators, they still have some talent and athleticism on that side of the ball. And considering quarterback Stephen Morris got dinged up two weeks ago in the win over Florida, it’s going to be on the offensive line to keep him upright and not let him get hit.
KEY FOR SOUTH FLORIDA
Hope that bye week was magical for that offense. Woo, boy. Um. It’s ... well, it’s bad. Quarterbacks Bobby Eveld and Steven Bench (a Penn State transfer) have been equally horrendous, as the passing game has totaled 196 yards against two FBS opponents. USF QBs have completed 15-of-51 (!!!!!) passes and have one passing touchdown and two picks. Yeesh. The running game is kind of ... better, as the Bulls have 256 yards on the ground through two FBS games. But then there’s the fact that the offense has 27 first downs in that span and has turned it over five times, converting just 5-of-27 third downs and allowing six sacks. Yikes. Miami’s defense is better this year, it would seem, but that likely won’t even matter in this one.
HERE’S A GUY
Phillip Dorsett. In Miami’s two games against real opponents (FAU marginally qualifies, and Florida definitely does, but Savannah State does not even equal 1/2 a real opponent), Miami’s junior wide receiver/return man was targeted 11 times. He caught four of them for 63 yards and a touchdown. That touchdown came against Florida on a 52-yard play, and it ultimately showed what the Miami offense can be when Dorsett and QB Stephen Morris are on the same page. But to be targeted 11 times and only catch four (including six targets and one catch against Florida) seems out of whack. Dorsett’s coming off a 2012 when he had 58 catches and a team-high 842 receiving yards. Miami has a lot of weapons, but it just seems odd that Dorsett has been this quiet. Last year against USF, Dorsett had 11 catches for 104 yards; maybe this game will get he gets on the same page with Morris again.
DeDe Lattimore. USF’s senior linebacker is the real deal, and he has started 39 out of 40 career games. He is climbing up the charts of USF career tacklers (he has 239), and he’s probably going to play football on Sundays. (In the NFL. Not just for fun.) In two games this year against FBS opponents, Lattimore has 22 tackles (13 solo), a tackle for loss, a pass breakup, an interception and a quarterback hurry. And a lot of the damage (save the interception) was done against Michigan State, hardly a pushover. And Lattimore has some history with Miami - in 2011, he had ten tackles, 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss against the Hurricanes. Miami won that instant classic by a score of 6-3, which is just gross. If Lattimore has his way, USF will win 6-3. But unfortunately for Lattimore, you can’t always get what you want.
STATS ARE FOR LOSERS
Duke Johnson has scored a touchdown in seven straight games dating back to last season. ... Miami is fourth nationally (first in the ACC) in red-zone defense, allowing just four scores in eight opponent red-zone chances (and just one touchdown). But does USF even get to the red zone? This is debatable. ... Miami is first in the country in turnover margin with 10 takeaways and two turnovers lost (thanks again, Florida!) ... Miami is 4-1 against USF and has won the last games. The Hurricanes are also 2-0 at USF. ... Miami is 3-0 for the first time since 2004.
Miami Win: Miami is back, everyone! 4-0, baby! COASTAL DIVISION CHAMPS!
Miami, 31-3. If USF scores a touchdown, I will be stunned and saddened. Not really. While the Hurricanes might struggle some to score, it won’t be much. And their defense should have a field day.
EAST CAROLINA (2-1) AT NORTH CAROLINA (1-2)
Time: 12:30 p.m.
TV: ACC Network
KEY FOR EAST CAROLINA
Keeping the UNC offense where it has been most of the year - in check. Or at least, in self-check mode. Because while East Carolina played well defensively against Virginia Tech, the Hokies didn’t help themselves, missing two field goals (including one in the red zone). UNC’s offense was potent last year, but hasn’t been so much this year through three games. Or at least, not consistently enough. Any time the Tar Heels had a drive going, they managed to find a way to sabotage themselves with a silly penalty or a mistake, and that’s all it takes sometimes. ECU has improved enough defensively to be able to slow down the Tar Heels. If the Pirates can stymie the offense early and not let it get confident, theywill definitely have a shot.
KEY FOR NORTH CAROLINA
Getting pressure on the quarterback. So, we’ll basically throw out the Georgia Tech game. But even with it, the Tar Heels had four sacks against Middle Tennessee State and three sacks in their other two games combined. UNC’s secondary is not good enough to hold up if a quarterback has all day to look downfield and get the ball to a talented receiver, and ECU has plenty. Last year against ECU, the Tar Heel defense made things happen, with seven sacks of quarterback Shane Carden. It held the ECU offense to 13 first downs and just 124 passing yards. In the second half, it was even more dominant of a performance - six sacks, and 71 yards on 30 plays. That’s not a coincidence. UNC has to harass Carden and make sure he doesn’t have time to throw.
HERE’S A GUY
Shane Carden. Through three games, Carden has completed 82-of-110 passes (74.5%) for 796 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions (all against Virginia Tech). He’s been sacked 12 times (seven by Virginia Tech). While he doesn’t have a huge play (his longest pass went for 24 yards), he’s efficient and accurate. And he has a lot of options - five different Pirates have caught eight or more passes this year, while eight have caught four or more. Last year against UNC, he certainly wasn’t bad - 17-of-30 passing for 124 yards, no touchdowns, but no interceptions - but he wasn’t great either, and he was sacked seven times. If he has time, he could do damage against UNC’s secondary.
Bryn Renner. Renner’s not exactly struggling, per se, but ... it’s just not the same. In the last two games of 2012, Renner had 620 yards passing, eight touchdowns and no picks. In three games this year, Renner has 751 yards, but just four touchdowns and two interceptions. Renner has been over 220 yards passing just once this year after doing it in nine of 12 games in 2012, too. And he has been sacked six times after being sacked just 11 times in 2012. If there’s a good sign for UNC, it’s that it started out 1-2 last year as well and had trouble finding consistency on offense before they beat ECU 27-6, and Renner had 321 yards and two touchdowns. He’s 2-0 against ECU and has 551 yards, six touchdowns and no picks.
STATS ARE FOR LOSERS
UNC leads the series 12-2-1, and since a 34-31 loss at ECU in 2007, UNC has won the last four games by a combined score of 135-60. ... UNC’s 27 points last year were the fewest the Tar Heels had scored against ECU since 2001, and the six points by ECU were its fewest since 1981. ... UNC is 13-2 at Kenan Stadium since 2011 (7-1 under Larry Fedora). ... Counting this year, UNC is averaging 47.6 points per game at home and 25.1 on the road. (UNC had 40 points in its home opener this year against Middle Tennessee State.)
North Carolina Win: Pssh. UNC shouldn’t even have to play the stupid Pirates. IT’S A LOSE-LOSE SITUATION! Except in this case, UNC actually won. But it’s like a lose-lose-kinda win. Also, UNC is one step closer to a state championship! The Tar Heels are looking at ECU and they’re all:
North Carolina Loss: Oh, UNC not playing up to its potential? Weird.
North Carolina, 27-14. Two supposedly high-powered offenses? A defensive battle. Also, UNC’s defense is not as good as Virginia Tech’s, but is better than ODU and FIU. And they’re at home. It’s math.
VIRGINIA (2-1, 0-0 ACC) AT PITTSBURGH (2-1, 1-1 ACC)
Time: 12:30 p.m.
KEY FOR VIRGINIA
Force turnovers. Hey, it’s got to happen sometime, right? RIGHT?! Well, maybe not. Pitt had been a little turnover-prone, but the Panthers didn’t have any against Duke. None. Just the right time for a Virginia opponent to figure out its ball security, eh? After all, Virginia has a -35 turnover margin since 2008, which is sixth-worst in the nation, and in its last 15 games, it has recovered a total of 15 turnovers (just 12 all of last season). Now, the Cavaliers lose plenty (34 in the last 15 games and eight already this year), but they have some BAD fumble luck. Their opponents have fumbled eight times, and Virginia has recovered just two. Both by VMI. Sigh. Now’s as good a time as any for the Cavaliers’ turnover luck to turn around.
KEY FOR PITTSBURGH
Run the ball early and often. Pitt’s offensive line is hardly anything to write home about, or so we all thought. The front looked dominant against Duke’s front. And while the Blue Devils aren’t as physically imposing as Virginia will be, they’re still an experienced group. Yet the Panthers ran it at will, especially early, and that opened things up for their talented receivers (Devin Street and Tyler Boyd) in the play-action game. Virginia’s opponents have 578 rushing yards and seven touchdowns (4.9 per rush), and that includes VMI’s 41 yards on 25 carries. Oregon accounts for most of this (350 yards on 40 carries and six touchdowns!!!! GET OUT), but still.
HERE’S A GUY
Kevin Parks. It’s not like Pitt is the stoutest defense ever. But in order for the offense to be successful on the road, Parks and the Virginia running game need to be in top shape. After getting 125 yards on 39 carries (3.2 per) in Virginia’s first two games against two pretty good defenses, he broke out with 17 for 135 and two scores against VMI. The key letters in that sentence being “VMI”. But still. Duke had some success running the ball against Pitt, but the Blue Devils hurt themselves with turnovers. Virginia needs to make their offense multi-dimensional to give QB David Watford a chance to be successful.
Tyler Boyd. The freshman has back-to-back 100-yard receiving games now (154 yards against Duke and 134 against New Mexico), and he’s the first Pitt freshman to do that since Larry Fitzgerald. You might have heard of him. He’s averaging 104.7 yards a game and has become a great complement to the veteran receiver Devin Street. And he has averaged 195.0 all-purpose yards per game, adding 31.0 rushing yards and 22.2 yards per kickoff return. He’s dangerous, and the Cavaliers are going to have to be aware of the speedy freshman.
STATS ARE FOR LOSERS
Virginia hasn’t won an ACC opener since 2009 (a 16-3 win at North Carolina) and is 22-37 all-time in openers. ... Pitt leads the all-time series, 3-2. The last meeting was a 44-14 Virginia win in 2007. Jameel Sewell threw three first-quarter touchdown passes. Jameel Sewell! ... Between these two teams, 21 true freshmen have played already (nine Cavaliers and 12 Panthers). ... Pitt is seeking its first three-game winning streak since 2010, and its first 3-1 start since 2009. ... Pitt’s 107 points in the last two games is its highest two-game scoring stretch since 1977 (121).
Virginia Win: UVa opens up 1-0 in league play for the first time since 2009?
Virginia Loss: Oh, Virginia’s going to stink again? All those coaching changes didn’t work? Weird. Also, it’s getting a little awkward in that coaches’ meeting room.
Pittsburgh Win: Oh hai, ACC Coastal Division. Come at us, bro.
Pittsburgh Loss: Get a road win in the ACC, then lose at home to a seemingly-mediocre opponent? You’ve adapted to the ways of #goacc very quickly, new friends.
Pittsburgh, 36-27. The Panthers’ offensive machine keeps churning right along. Just like we all expected.
TROY (2-2) AT DUKE (2-2)
Time: 3:00 p.m.
KEY FOR TROY
Getting some turnovers. Good gracious. The Trojans have played four games and their opponents only have two turnovers. TWO! Virginia thinks that’s bad turnover luck. And Duke starting QB (for the moment) Brandon Connette will throw some interceptions. He threw four against Pitt, and he has five already this year on 89 passes (including four picks on 32 attempts against Pitt). And the Blue Devils were fortunate that Pitt could only turn those turnovers into two touchdowns (Pitt missed a field goal and had to punt once), and two of the early picks let Pitt take over in Duke territory. Duke has turned it over eight times this year (six picks and two fumbles), and Connette has five of them. Troy would in theory need to capitalize on those, obviously, but it’s a start.
KEY FOR DUKE
The secondary limiting big plays. Or, just the whole defense. Troy has five passes of 50 or more yards already this year, second-most in the NCAA. Amateurs. Duke and Pitt combined for four of those plays in ONE GAME last weekend. Get on their level, Troy. (And three of them came in a span of four minutes and five seconds, with Pitt scoring a 67-yard touchdown and a 69-yard touchdown in less than a minute of game action.) So, um, back to that. Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said he’s going to start playing some of his younger (and more talented) defensive backs more, and that’s probably for the best. This looks like the same old Duke secondary (minus the excellent Ross Cockrell) that we saw a year ago. Troy can make plays, now. So Duke’s defense is going to have to cover and tackle. Cover and tackle. Repeat.
HERE’S A GUY
Eric Thomas. The 6-1 senior wide receiver has caught a pass in 29 straight games dating back to 2010, and he’s the Sun Belt’s active leader in touchdown catches in a career with 23. Already this year, he has 17 catches for 274 yards and six touchdowns, and has scored at least one touchdown in every game so far. Mississippi State limited him to three catches for 14 yards last weekend, but he still managed to get a touchdown. Also, remember those 50-yard plays? Thomas has two himself, and two more catches of 35 and 23 yards as well. It will be on Duke’s secondary to, um, keep him covered. Or at least tackle him.
Jamison Crowder. Conner who? Okay, not really. Duke could still use Conner Vernon. But mostly because no one has emerged as a consistent complementary receiver to Crowder, who broke out last year and continues to be one of the better receivers in the league. Heck, just one of the better players. He hit for the cycle (so to speak) last week against Pitt with a rushing touchdown, a receiving touchdown and a punt return for a touchdown. What, no passing touchdowns? Lazy. He has at least six catches in six straight games (and 14 of his last 17), and he leads the league in receptions this year with 30. And he’s returned two punts for a touchdown this year already through four games, averaging 19.8 per return. He’s Duke’s best player right now, and it’s not close.
STATS ARE FOR LOSERS
Troy is 7-5 under head coach Larry Blakeney when scoring 35 or more points. ... If Troy QB Corey Robinson gets to 3,000 yards passing this year, he’ll be the fourth quarterback to have at least 3,000 yards in each of his four years. ... Troy is 1-10 against current members of the ACC with the lone victory coming over Florida State. (It was a long time ago. Or it had to have been, since Blakeney is in his 23rd season and he wasn’t the head coach when it happened.) ... In last week’s loss to Pitt, Duke QB Brandon Connette became the first Duke player ever to pass for 300 or more yards and run for 100 or more yards in the same game. His six touchdowns (four passing, two rushing) were tied for the most in school history.
Duke Loss: Starting quarterback out, defense still stinks, bowl looks unlikely and basketball starting up soon?
Duke, 44-27. The Blue Devils should get back on track here. Troy seemed a little frisky at the beginning of the year. And then the last two games happened.
CENTRAL MICHIGAN (1-3) AT NC STATE (2-1, 0-1 ACC)
Time: 3:30 pm.
TV: ESPN3/RSN(Through Time Warner Cable)()
KEY FOR CENTRAL MICHIGAN
Make the N.C. State offense one-dimensional. Clemson did that last week, for the most part - the Wolfpack ended the game with 165 yards rushing on 36 attempts (4.6 per carry). Not to go all Bzdelik here because they all count, but 75 of those yards came on just three attempts (two by Bryan Underwood and one by Shadrach Thornton). Neither player had more attempts than those three, and the rest of the team combined for 90 yards on 33 carries (2.7 per). Central Michigan, though, is allowing 37.2 points per game and 419.2 total yards. Opponents have 12 rushing touchdowns and six passing touchdowns, not to mention are converting on 55% of their third downs. But Central Michigan does have 13 sacks and five interceptions! So there’s that! And as N.C. State showed against Richmond a few weeks ago, it’s not immune to turnovers and general derpiness. (Who amongst us is, really?)
KEY FOR N.C. STATE
That defense we saw last Thursday night? Let’s see that again. N.C. State’s defense was good at times against its first two overmatched opponents, but it was good most of the time against an extremely potent Clemson offense. To put it in perspective, Clemson averaged the same yards per play against NC State (5.4) as Louisiana Tech did. Richmond had more first downs (24) than Clemson did (22). Anyway, you get the picture. The NC State d-line was fantastic, and Clemson had to work for every point it scored in that game. But the Wolfpack could use that effort from its defense, which came into the season with a lot more stability than the offense did, every week. And if it can’t be dominant against Central Michigan ... welp. CMU is one of two FBS teams to start three different quarterbacks in its first three games. This was listed in the game notes. This is something that is being charted. I ... have no words. The Chippewas are a complete disgrace to MACtion.
HERE’S A GUY
Titus Davis. The junior receiver is no Sammy Watkins, but what he’s done might be almost as impressive, considering he’s been dealing with a quarterback roulette situation this year. In spite of that, he has 21 catches for 404 yards through four games (and three touchdowns). His 19.4-yard-per-catch career average is second-highest among active players. The N.C. State secondary did its job pretty well last weekend, but players like Davis seem to find a way to get theirs.
(An honorable mention here goes to Saylor Lavallii. Not only becuase the sophomore tailback is pretty good, but also because that name is simply awesome. Also, his picture.)
Pete Thomas. The Pete Thomas we saw against Clemson was virtually unrecognizable from the one we saw against Richmond. He looked like a legit starting quarterback, and that’s a great sign for NC State going forward. He was 20-of-36 for 213 yards and one interception, but he stood strong in the pocket (in spite of being sacked five times) and this time, his rushing attempts didn’t seem like they were motivated by fear of being hit. He still doesn’t have a passing touchdown this year, and his 25 rushing attempts are just six fewer than NC State’s second-leading rusher Tony Creecy, but he appears to be getting the hang of this whole quarterback thing. (Assuming, of course, one didn’t already know he transferred from Colorado State, where he was a starter.)
STATS ARE FOR LOSERS
Central Michigan is 0-8 in program history against ACC opponents (0-1 against NC State). ... Dave Doeren, though, is 1-1 against Central Michigan (as the head coach at Northern Illinois) with a 48-41 loss at CMU in 2011 (and a 55-24 revenge win in 2012). ... N.C. State's defense doesn’t have any interceptions yet this season, but it does have six fumble recoveries, tied for third in the nation. ... Six different N.C. State players have at least one sack so far this year. ... CMU has had a weird situation at quarterback because the Chippewas entered this season as one of 11 FBS teams without a quarterback on the roster who had started a game.
N.C. State Win: Listen, State fans. You didn’t get the upset win over Clemson. Some calls didn’t go your way. But you’re still 3-1, and anything can happen in the Atlantic Division! Right?
N.C. State Loss:
NC State, 41-17. Yes, as the narrative goes, the letdown inevitably happens to N.C. State after a win or a good effort against a good team. But that narrative doesn’t take into account the fact that Central Michigan is terrible.
NO. 8 FLORIDA STATE (3-0, 1-0 ACC) AT BOSTON COLLEGE (2-1, 1-0)
Time: 3:30 p.m.
KEY FOR FLORIDA STATE
Cut down on those penalties! Yes, I know FSU fans. I’m sure you’ve made the 2013 supercut of the ACC officiating fails of the 2013 season already, including many that cost up probably 14 extra points against Bethune-Cookman or something. Great. But whether the penalties are “real”, the Seminoles have to knock it off. And I’m nitpicking with FSU at this point, because the Seminoles have looked pretty powerful (albeit against some bad teams, but still), and I just want the Noles to get better every day, take it one game at a time and rise and grind. Or something like that.
KEY FOR BOSTON COLLEGE
Stop the run. Yep. Just let Jameis Winston try to beat you. This seems like a crazy proposition, except the Florida State offense becomes a lot less scary without a running game. Just look at USC in BC’s last game two weeks ago - the Trojans put up 257 yards rushing, and it helped them reignite a struggling passing game (which finished 17-of-19 for 264 yards). Well, for one week, anyway. Last year against BC, Jimbo Fisher unleashed the EJ (Manuel) to the tune of over 400 yards passing. But it was just the week after FSU lost at N.C. State, so, there’s that. But the Seminoles still had 201 yards rushing in that game as well, and if BC can’t stop one or the other, it’s not going to work. It probably won’t work anyway, but regardless. The BC defense is still better than last year’s - I think. I’m not as sure as I was after the USC debacle, but it’s just one game and one road game at that.
HERE’S A GUY
Jameis Winston. The redshirt freshman QB looked mortal last weekend against Bethune-Cookman with nine incompletions. (That is the weirdest sentence I have ever typed, I think.) Through his first three games, though, he has 718 yards passing and is 50-of-64 for eight touchdowns and one interception. Now, he has not faced a great defense yet, either. And he still might not this weekend, but it will at least be better than Nevada’s and Bethune-Cookman’s. We thought Pitt was that defense (okay, at least I did) but the last few weeks seem to have ... proven otherwise. Now, Winston is going to be outside of the friendly confines of Tallahassee and in an unfriendly environment, yet again, against a defense that should be able to pressure him a little. (BC has nine sacks through three games this year after notching six sacks in ALL of 2012.) How will he react? Probably very well. But he’s still young, so who knows? By the end of the game, he could be all:
Alex Amidon. On paper, the senior wide receiver is one of the best at his position in the ACC. (He was - deservingly - voted as such last season.) And his career numbers - 134 catches for 2,030 yards and 12 touchdowns - back that up. He’s 429 yards away from setting a BC career record, and he already has 20 catches for 262 yards and two scores this year. And it’s not like he hasn’t put up numbers against legit defenses (six catches for 84 yards against Notre Dame last year, and nine for 137 against Maryland). But in two career games against FSU, he has just five catches for 57 yards and no scores. Against USC, he had two grabs for 23 yards. If he can’t get going, the passing offense likely can’t either, and FSU’s talented corners will make his life difficult.
STATS ARE FOR LOSERS
Boston College will be celebrating the 56-year anniversary of the first win in Alumni Stadium on Saturday. The opponent in that game? Florida State, whom the Eagles beat 20-7. The FSU running back? A guy named Buddy Reynolds. Otherwise known as Burt. ... A win would give Florida State its eighth straight ACC win dating back to last season. ... FSU leads the all-time series with BC, 7-4 (and 4-2 at BC). ... Florida State has not updated its game notes, which continue to claim that FSU is the only school with two starting quarterbacks in the NFL. Ahem, N.C. State? How could you forget them? Should you REALLY be forgetting N.C. State, FSU? Just saying.
Florida State Win: Oh, so Clemson’s the national title favorite, eh? Really? Don’t forget about FSU, now.
Florida State Loss: You remember when you had nice things, ACC? Huh? Do you? Well, this is what just happened to those nice things:
Boston College Win: Wait ... so you go on the road to USC and lose by 28, you only beat Villanova by ten, and ... and you take out the ACC’s second-best hope? NOW YOU PLAY WELL?!?!?!
Boston College Loss: This was the hardest one to find a GIF for, and so I just picked this one. BC fan right now is Walt in Season 1 of Breaking Bad. But they could be Walt in Season 5.1. Or just Walt as Heisenberg. Which might be better than a dude, come to think of it. #BeAHeisenberg
Florida State, 45-20. BC is at home, and I think the Eagles can move the ball some on this FSU defense. But the Seminoles’ offense is too powerful.
WAKE FOREST (2-2, 0-1 ACC) AT NO. 3 CLEMSON (3-0, 1-0)
Time: 3:30 p.m.
KEY FOR WAKE FOREST
Do not turn it over. Like, at all. And even that might not be enough, but still. That at least gives Wake a chance. Through four games this year, Wake has turned it over eight times, which is a lot for the Deacs, a team that doesn’t usually hurt themselves. N.C. State nearly knocked off Clemson by limiting its miscues (just one turnover). Last year against Clemson, Wake only turned it over once. And Wake only trailed 35-13 in the third quarter at home. The defense forced two more Clemson punts, but Wake couldn’t capitalize before Clemson scored again to put it out of reach. Still, Wake was as close as it could have been without Clemson derping it up. And so again, the Deacs need to avoid turnovers and make Clemson beat them rather than helping in the process.
KEY FOR CLEMSON
We all love Tajh Boyd, but let’s really get that ground game going. K? Opponents have had a lot of success against Wake Forest in various areas. But on the ground isn’t really one of them, as the Deacs allow just 168.2 yards per game on the ground (keep in mind, they’ve played rush-centric Army) and 4.2 per carry. Clemson’s offense has been great most of the season, but at NC State, the Tigers struggled to establish the run as Roderick McDowell looked more or less like an ordinary back. Ordinary is fine, if you’re not trying to win a national title and your o-line is fantastic, neither of which are true for Clemson. The Tigers had 197 yards on the ground (McDowell had 132) against Georgia, but of the 171 against N.C. State, 68 were from McDowell (on 14 carries). And the 171 yards came on 40 attempts (a workmanlike 4.3 per rush). The Tigers will certainly take it, but it could be better.
HERE’S A GUY
Nikita Whitlock. Nikita Whitlock is a defensive tackle. A nose guard. Nikita Whitlock is Wake Forest’s second-leading tackler with 31 stops (21 solo). Simply put, Nikita is a beast. He also leads Wake in tackles for loss (9.0), sacks (3.0), has two quarterback pressures and a team-high two forced fumbles on the year. He’s also broken up a pass and blocked a kick. NIKITA SWOON! The guy is just awesome. If you want a reason to watch Wake Forest play football that’s not named Michael Campanaro, then it’s Nikita. Trust me. Last year against Clemson, he had a sack and tied for the team lead with eight tackles. He will do everything within his own human power to win this game for the Deacs. And that in itself will be fun to watch.
Vic Beasley. A big reason Clemson’s defense has improved so much is that its defensive line is excellent, and Beasley is turning into one of the best pass rushers in the league. In two games against legit competition (Georgia and at N.C. State), Beasley has five sacks, including three at N.C. State. The fact that Wake Forest’s offensive line is seemingly just a huge paper sign that high school football teams run through is probably a bit terrifying for Tanner Price. Oh, and Beasley has had success against Wake already with two of Clemson’s five sacks at Wake last year. Interesting factoid - per Clemson’s game notes, Beasley has 13 sacks in 428 career snaps, or a sack every 32.92 plays. It’s the best rate of anyone in Clemson’s top-10 career sack list; the only one close is the No. 1 sack artist in Tiger history, Michael Dean Perry (a sack every 44.86 plays).
STATS ARE FOR LOSERS
Clemson has beaten 11 straight unranked opponents by double digits, which is the second-longest active streak in the nation. (So, Clemsoning? Is this still a thing?) ... Clemson leads the series with Wake Forest 60-17-1 (35-7 at Clemson), and has won the last four games in the series by a combined score of 141-54. ... Wake’s last win in Death Valley came in 1998 under then-head coach Jim Caldwell. In fact, Caldwell was the head coach in Wake’s only two wins in Death Valley since 1962 (the other came in 1993). Caldwell Can! Was this a thing? I don’t know. ... Wake Forest is 1-33 all-time against top-five teams and hasn’t won one since 1946 (a win at No. 4 Tennessee). Wake is 2-22 all-time against ranked Clemson teams.
Wake Forest Win: Some coaches just like to walk away as the ACC burns.
Wake Forest Loss: Wake fans:
Clemson Win: Wake continues to be terrible, while Clemson continues to be undefeated.
Clemson Loss: If one were to GIF Clemsoning, it would be this. (Though I am not a believer.)
Clemson, 51-13. Some people think it might be worse. But Dabo Swinney is going to pull his starters at some point, so. And no, I’m not being mean to Wake Forest. This is at Clemson, the Tigers are mad and Wake isn’t very good. So, yeah. Again, science.
Week 4: 8-2 (2-1 ACC)
Overall: 35-7 (4-3 ACC)