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ACC Weekend Preview, Sept. 6

Friday, September 6, 2013 1:10am

ACC fans are still riding a scrumtrulescent wave of euphoria from last week, a week where - let’s face it - the ACC was the best conference in the land. Okay, maybe not the best. But the ACC didn’t fall on its face and embarrass itself, and even got to point and laugh at some leagues who did! (Ahem, Big Ten and Big 12.) And what do we in the ACC do better than point and laugh, even if it’s at ourselves? Nothing, I tell you.

This week, the ACC doesn’t really have many chances to help itself, but there are plenty of chances for embarrassment. And we all know this because the coaches’ media appearances this week are filled with quotes like “Don’t be fooled, now, Team X is really dangerous. They beat Team X from X BCS conference in 2006, so they won’t be afraid.”

So let’s not get too carried away with all the Week 1 excitement until the teams get through a spate of FCS opponents without falling on their faces. Just saying.

The only team in a huge non-conference game this week is Miami hosting Florida. And if the Hurricanes beat the Gators, putting the ACC at 2-2 against top 12 SEC teams this season, you won’t be able to tell us ANYTHING! A-C-C! A-C-C! (NOT IRONICALLY THIS TIME!)

SATURDAY

NO. 12 FLORIDA (1-0) AT MIAMI (1-0) 

Time: 12:00 p.m.

TV: ESPN

KEY FOR MIAMI

Avoid the derp. Listen, Miami. I love you guys. We all do. But this is for your benefit. STOP IT. It was Week 1, and every team is going to make mistakes early in the season. But at times, it felt like Miami was picking up where it left off early in the FAU game on Friday. I mean, after two FAU plays, Miami had the following plays IN SEQUENCE - a dropped interception, a 10-yard penalty on the punt return and a delay of game. The Hurricanes would later have a pass interference and two personal fouls. They ended with eight penalties for 67 yards, but the dropped interceptions (one of which would’ve been for a touchdown), dropped passes (mostly by freshman Stacy Coley, but still) and just general derpiness won’t fly against the Gators. Miami actually didn’t play well against any of the elite teams on its schedule last year, and The Derps won’t help. 

KEY FOR FLORIDA 

PAWWWWWWWL, WHY CAN’T MY GATORS THROW THE BALL AGAINST ANYONE, EVEN TOLEDOOOOO? IMMA HANG UP AND LISSEN! It was a problem last year, and it is again. Florida was last in the SEC in 2012 in passing offense with 146.3 yards per game. In the coaches’ preseason All-SEC ballots this year, just one Florida player made it on offense - and it was an offensive lineman. But punter Kyle Christy was a first-team LOCK. And he’ll have a lot of reps, probably. Florida can’t get away with being one-dimensional offensively against Miami. Especially if that one dimension isn’t designed to exploit Miami’s secondary. Also, I can’t imagine this is helping Florida wide receivers’ coach Joker Phillips with his excellent recruiting tactics incorporating ... well, incorporating the Joker. And Photoshop. WANT TO HAVE THE BALL THROWN FIVE FEET OVER YOUR HEAD? COME PLAY WR FOR THE JOKER!

HERE’S A GUY 

(Gruden voice) Duke Johnson? Is he some kind of royalty? ‘Cause he should be. The Duke of Juke, here’s a guy, it took him just three quarters to get 187 yards on just 19 carries. NINETEEN CARRIES! C’mon, Al Golden, give the Duke the rock so he can juke and....well, I can’t think of a word that rhymes, can you, Jaws? (/end Gruden voice)

THIS GUY

(Gruden voice) This Mack Brown guy, wow. Just like the head coach at Texas that shares his name, all this guy cares about is winning football games. He had 112 yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns against Toledo, and Toledo is no pushover, now. That’s a tough team that’s beaten some people. And he’s lived his whole life with the SAME NAME as one of the most famous men in America, and he’s overcome it? Talk about overcoming adversity! (/end Gruden voice)

Not much to add, except the presumed starter at running back (Matt Jones) will be back in action this weekend after recovering from a virus during training camp. Florida had a good running game last year and an offensive line that should be much better, and if the Gators can run against Miami at will, they’ll win the game. And also? Presumably, Mack Brown attempted to recruit Mack Brown as a defensive back. 

STATS ARE FOR LOSERS

This will be the 55th meeting between Miami and Florida, with Miami leading 28-26. ... Florida’s game notes list the Gators’ top individual performances against Miami. Tim Tebow has the most passing touchdowns with two. The most interceptions? Also two, which has been done “several times” (presumably all by Rex Grossman). ... Not that they’re counting, but Miami hasn’t allowed a touchdown at home in the last 160 minutes and 39 seconds of game time dating back to last season. (Yes, it’s in their game notes.) And the Canes have only allowed 18 points total in that span. 

NARRATIVES

Miami Win: Florida was clearly overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted after that opening-game win over Toledo. How could you possibly expect an SEC team like the Gators to get up for playing at an ACC school like Miami anyway? Come on, guys. The Gators didn’t even get up for the Sugar Bowl because they weren’t impressed by their opponent. Get on THEIR level.

Miami Loss: Welp, at least the whole “Is Miami back?” thing ends early this year, right? But they’ll probably still win the Coastal. (#goacc)

PREDICTION

Florida, 31-27. I want to be wrong about this. But it feels to me like Florida, coming off of suspending quite a few guys (especially on defense) last week, might have one of those “rally around each other” things happening. And the Gators were great on the road last year. Miami, on the other hand, is probably feeling pretty good about itself at the moment. And as ACC fans, we all know what happens when those good feelings set in. Disaster.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE (1-0) AT UNC (0-1) 

Time: 12:30 p.m.

TV: ACC Network 

KEY FOR NORTH CAROLINA

Getting some explosive plays. This offense is capable of it, and against a defense that probably doesn’t have an All-American at defensive end, they might be able to. It’s important for UNC’s confidence that the offense is able to get things going again, and they have the skill-position guys to do it. Middle Tennessee is no slouch, as Larry Fedora and everyone who is facing them that week will tell you repeatedly. Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson would certainly tell you that; the Blue Raiders pounded the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta last year, 49-28. With that caveat aside, if UNC can’t exploit a defense like this, it won’t be exploiting many ACC defenses either.

KEY FOR MIDDLE TENNESSEE 

Force - and take advantage of - North Carolina mistakes. The Tar Heels showed last week that they are still a bit mistake-prone, in all three areas of the game. So if MTSU is going to win, it has to take advantage of that the way it did at Georgia Tech last year. After the loss at South Carolina, everyone from Fedora to the players said repeatedly that their mistakes were fixable. That may be true, but if it’s a bigger issue than it seems, it will crop up again against an opponent that is good enough to beat the Tar Heels if they don’t play well.

HERE’S A GUY

Norkeithus Otis. The rare guy who lives up to the preseason hype, Otis appears to be a potential playmaker on a defense that could sure use one. He got his first extended action of his career last week at South Carolina, and he didn’t disappoint - he had five tackles (all solo), two tackles for loss (including UNC’s only sack) and two quarterback hurries. The Bandit position is a hybrid defensive end/linebacker, and Otis has the speed and strength to play both positions well. As he got comfortable, he looked pretty good and UNC could use all the pass rush it can get.

THIS GUY

Logan Kilgore. The senior quarterback was one of just seven QBs nationwide to be starting in his fourth straight season-opener last weekend. He hurt his shoulder in the game but is expected to play, and he was 12-of-18 for 144 yards and a touchdown before coming out of the game. He’s obviously experienced, and after throwing 21 touchdowns to 17 interceptions his first two years, he had 16 touchdowns to just six interceptions a year ago. He’s not going to be afraid of a road game against an FBS team, and he’s not going to be rattled easily.

STATS ARE FOR LOSERS

Not a statistic, but MTSU head coach Rick Stockstill spent the summer releasing his 75 favorite songs on Twitter. He put out one a day for 75 days under the hashtag #StocksTunes. His No. 62 song?

Go ahead....picture that guy singing that song. Or any of these songs. And try not to laugh.

And Stockstill likes some obscure songs, too. Like this one: DOUBLE DUTCH BUS! And he could appreciate Oran “Juice” Jones, too. I’ll bet Stockstill has the freshmen recite the spoken-word part as a good-natured hazing ritual. A ritual that, no doubt, involves shiny suits and trench coats. Wait.

NARRATIVES

North Carolina Win: By transitive property, does this mean that North Carolina is better than Georgia Tech? 

North Carolina Loss: Oh, so the problems on defense were fixable, Larry Fedora?

Sad puppy

PREDICTION 

North Carolina, 52-16. Any time you hear all week long about how dangerous a team is, generally speaking, that team is not all that dangerous. But for the Tar Heels, even if MTSU is frisky, going up against the Blue Raiders after South Carolina might feel just a touch easier. Just saying.

S.C. STATE (0-1) AT NO. 4 CLEMSON (1-0)

Time: 12:30 p.m.

TV: RSN 

KEY FOR CLEMSON

Not eating any of that peach fungus that the Georgia players supposedly got into before the Clemson game last week. If you need background, check out the video that an enterprising South Carolina fan made after Clemson won. (Warning: It’s NSFW and contains some bad language.) He has since made a follow-up video insisting he has been trolled. However, I am now convinced he has trolled us, and it’s brilliant. But listen, the NCAA is looking into this and I’m sure everything will be fine. No one’s taking Clemson’s wins away for any kind of fungus, peach or otherwise. But food poisoning and stomach problems are common in the South Carolina area this type of year, so the Tigers should be careful lest the whole team come down with something.

KEY FOR SOUTH CAROLINA STATE

Um ... you know how coaches talk about getting better every day, and learning something from adversity? Well, this is one of those types of games for South Carolina State. The Bulldogs don’t really stand much of a chance of winning - spoiler alert, I know - but they can see where they stack up against a really good FBS team. This should give them a good idea.

HERE’S A GUY

Charone Peake. Sammy Watkins and Roderick McDowell rightfully got any attention after Clemson’s big win over Georgia that wasn’t already going to Tajh Boyd. But both Boyd and Watkins are going to need a reliable receiving threat to develop on the other side, and Peake looks to be that guy (5 catches, 58 yards against Georgia). 

THIS GUY

South Carolina State’s Justin Taylor ran the ball 24 times for 80 yards and a touchdown in the Bulldogs’ Week 1 loss to Coastal Carolina, and SC State sure likes to run the ball. Fifty-eight times, to be specific. (Compared to 24 pass attempts.) The Bulldogs are probably going to keep running the ball regardless, and it looks like Taylor will get most of the carries.

STATS ARE FOR LOSERS

Clemson is fourth in the AP poll this week, its highest ranking by AP since September 12, 1988. ... Clemson is the only ACC school (and one of just seven schools nationally) to be ranked in one of the two polls for at least 31 straight weeks. ... After the Georgia win, six of Dabo Swinney’s 41 career wins have come over top-11 teams. ... If Clemson beats one more top-25 team this year, Tajh Boyd will have more top-25 wins than any Clemson quarterback (eight). 

NARRATIVES

 Clemson Win: Harry Potter

 

Clemson Loss: Explosion

PREDICTION

Clemson, 59-3. Which will then prompt angry fans to demand answers as to what happened to the defense. 

W. CAROLINA (0-1) AT VIRGINIA TECH (0-1) 

Time: 1:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN3

KEY FOR VIRGINIA TECH

Getting that passing game going. And by “going”, I mean completing passes. This is basically Logan Thomas right now: 

Angry kid

And it’s hard to blame him. He didn’t play all that well against Alabama, but it had to be frustrating to watch his receivers drop balls and/or run the wrong routes. That being said, why come back to school when your receiver situation was only going to get worse this year? Only Thomas can answer that question. But somehow, Virginia Tech needs to get the passing game going and get that group some confidence, from the QB to the wide receivers. 

KEY FOR WESTERN CAROLINA

Try to keep Virginia Tech’s offense in check early, and hope for a few turnovers. That’s the formula for most FCS teams to beat an FBS opponent on the road. A lot of the Hokie fans on hand will remember the James Madison loss, and some early struggles might lead to some palpable fan anxiety. That never helps the home team. But if Western Carolina lets Virginia Tech get out to a pretty sizable early lead, they’re basically done. The Catamounts don’t have what one might call a particularly dangerous offense, and Virginia Tech’s defense looked pretty good last weekend. 

HERE’S A GUY

Trey. Freaking. Edmunds. Oh, just 20 rushes for 132 yards and a touchdown in his first college game ever against Alabama’s defense, if you need him. And Virginia Tech certainly does. To be fair to the situation, though, he had a 77-yard run and his other 19 runs were for 55 yards (2.9 per carry). That 77-yarder was pretty darned impressive, though. Still, he and J.C. Coleman (whenever he returns from two sprained ankles) will have to help this offense by being able to run the ball, and Edmunds certainly showed that he can.

THIS GUY

Karnorris Benson. He was WCU’s leading returning receiver from 2012 (19 catches for 349 yards), and he got off to a pretty good start in 2013 last weekend against MTSU by catching four balls for 113 yards and a touchdown. WCU only had 257 total passing yards, and he had 44% by himself on just four catches. 

STATS ARE FOR LOSERS

Virginia Tech is 28-7 in September over the last season seasons (since 2005) and 67-12 since the bowl streak began in 1993. One of those losses was to James Madison. ... Frank Beamer is 23-3 as a head coach in home openers. (And yes, one of the three is James Madison.) ... Virginia Tech is 11-1-1 all-time against current SoCon teams but has only played two in the last 30 years. This is the Hokies’ first-ever game against Western Carolina, though.

NARRATIVES 

Virginia Tech Win: Roger Sterling

Virginia Tech Loss: Simon Cowell

PREDICTION

Virginia Tech, 48-6. The Hokies should not have any issues here. 

NO. 2 OREGON (1-0) AT VIRGINIA (1-0)

Time: 3:30 p.m. 

TV: ABC/ESPN2

KEY FOR VIRGINIA 

Let’s see ... score points. That would be good. Oregon has been held to fewer than 31 points just four times in the last three years. While it’s great that Virginia punter Alec Vozenilek had seven punts of 40 or more yards against BYU, what’s not great is he had to punt 13 times. And those 13 punts were the most by an FBS team in a win this century. It’s hard to know how Virginia’s offense stacks up, since BYU’s defense is probably better than Oregon’s. But Virginia gained just 223 yards and had 14 first downs, though it did hold the ball for over 34 minutes. Of course, Oregon needed just 19:46 time of possession against Nicholls to rack up 772 yards of offense, which is downright terrifying. Virginia’s defense will be stouter than that, but the offense has to do its part, too. Which means not so much work for you, Alec Vozenilek.

(Side note: There may not be a more contentious All-ACC selection than punter this year. Everyone is stepping their game up.) 

KEY FOR OREGON 

Don’t get cute. Run the ball. Run your absurdly up-tempo offense. Do your thing, Oregon. No need to try anything crazy that results in a turnover, and if they don’t, the Ducks should win fairly easily. Oregon’s weakness, relatively speaking, is usually its defense - but the Ducks have a number of juniors and seniors starting on that side of the ball. If Oregon scores on its first few drives and gets Virginia off the field quickly, it will take control of the game before it’s even really begun. 

HERE’S A GUY 

Eli Harold. The sophomore defensive end was a machine against BYU, totaling 11 tackles (pretty high for an end), seven of which were solo, and 3.5 tackles for loss (2.0 sacks). He also forced a fumble, if you need him. As Andrew Ramspacher of The Daily Progress points out, the Week 1 start was Harold’s second in his career ... his first was at N.C. State last year, when the Cavaliers improbably shut down a potent Wolfpack offense. Harold was a five-star recruit, and he is living up to his billing and then some. The Cavaliers could use a playmaker on defense, and he’s it. 

THIS GUY

Marcus Mariota. A total system quarterback, right? I mean, come on. Just look at the numbers all these Oregon quarterbacks put up. Since they all do it, it can’t have ANYTHING to do with them, RIGHT? I beg to differ on Mariota. A preseason Heisman candidate, he certainly didn’t hurt his chances in Week 1 with his performance, completing 12-of-21 passes for 234 yards and a touchdown, adding five rushes for 132 yards and two scores. Sheesh. UVa faced a mobile QB last week in BYU’s Taysom Hill - he didn’t throw very well (13-of-40) but he ran for 42 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown. Mariota is going to be a different animal entirely. 

STATS ARE FOR LOSERS 

Oregon will be the third non-conference team ever in the top three to play in Charlottesville. No. 3 USC won there 52-7 in 2008, and who can forget the famous matchup with North Carolina Pre-Flight in 1944, a team that included QB Otto Graham? Those teams played to a 13-13 tie. I know I’ll never forget. ... This will mark Oregon’s first-ever trip to an ACC stadium, though. And UVa is only the second ACC opponent Oregon has ever faced - name that other team! It’s Wake Forest! (The Ducks did play Miami and Pitt before they joined.) ... The game marks UVa’s fourth matchup against the Pac-12, and the Cavaliers are 0-3 in such games. Which includes the 2010 trip to then-No. 14 USC, a game Virginia nearly won in Mike London’s first road game as head coach (they fell 17-14). Now that’s a game I really do remember.

NARRATIVES

Virginia Win: LOL at Oregon and this team isn’t as good without Chip Kelly and west coast teams traveling east and really nothing that has anything at all to do with Virginia. Also, a LOT of LOLs at Oregon. That would be the narrative, though. No credit to Virginia. It will be written off as a fluke, or as just something indicative of how bad Oregon is, rather than where Virginia is. 

Virginia Loss: Yawn. Maybe a little bit of “ACC stinks!”, but not much. On to the next one for both. I’m sure London and his staff will learn a lot from the game tape, while Oregon will say that the Cavaliers played them tougher than the score would indicate. 

PREDICTION

Oregon, 49-17. Seems about right. And this is not meant as a shot at Virginia - the Cavaliers beating BYU was a pleasant surprise last weekend, and the only game I got wrong (humble brag). But Oregon is a different beast.

OLD DOMINION (0-1) AT MARYLAND (1-0) 

Time: 4:00 p.m.

TV: ESPN3

KEY FOR MARYLAND 

MOAR OFFENSIVE EXPLOSIONS! 

It took Maryland approximately five games to total 576 yards last year (okay, so more like 2-3), but the Terps did it in just ONE already in 2013! Yay for healthy QBs! Maryland scored more in the first half against FIU (40) than it did in most games last year. And with a porous Old Dominion defense coming to town, that should only continue. In a loss to ECU on Saturday, ODU surrendered 481 yards and 52 points, but the Pirates didn’t run the ball all that well (34 yards on 22 attempts). Still, they averaged 6.3 yards per play and got the ball downfield. Maryland’s defense could use the support this week against an ODU offense that is much better than FIU’s.

KEY FOR OLD DOMINION 

That scoring points thing was pretty good last week, and it almost worked! More of that. Old Dominion put up 38 points and even led the game early, staying within striking distance until the fourth quarter. But putting up points against ECU’s defense - which was sieve-like in 2012 - will seem much easier than will scoring against Maryland’s defense, which was in the top 25 nationally in 2012. But without finding a way to score, the Monarchs have no chance. Because contrary to popular belief, the team that scores more points wins in football. I know - crazy.

HERE’S A GUY

Marcus Whitfield. Maryland’s senior linebacker got a metaphorical game ball from head coach Randy Edsall after the FIU game. (It was only metaphorical because the game ball counts towards NCAA monetary limits placed on player gifts.(Ah, NCAA.) But Whitfield earned that game ball with five tackles and 1.5 sacks.

THIS GUY 

Taylor Heinicke. The junior quarterback might be the best player you’ve never heard of, mostly because of that whole FCS thing. And the whole Old Dominion thing. But he became just the second sophomore ever to win the National Player of the Year Award in FCS last year. He led all of FCS in passing yards (5,076), passing touchdowns (44), total touchdowns (55), completions (398) and attempts (579). Whew. He picked up where he left off against ECU, completing 38-of-51 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns (no interceptions). Maryland’s defense is no ECU, obviously, but considering Heinicke led 34 scoring drives of less than two minutes last year, he’s still dangerous leading that offense. 

STATS ARE FOR LOSERS

Despite their relative proximity, this is the first meeting between Old Dominion and Maryland. That’s probably because Old Dominion didn’t start a football program until 2009, but still. ... Maryland scored on its first four possessions against FIU last weekend, and it was the first time the Terps had done that since 2010 against Wake Forest. ... Old Dominion’s home stadium seats 20,068. To put that in perspective, Maryland’s Comcast Center has a capacity of 17,950. And that’s for basketball.

NARRATIVES

Maryland Win: For most teams, we might mock beating one of the worst FBS teams and a competitive FCS team - both at home - as no big deal. But considering how badly last year went? Bravo, Maryland. Standing ovation. 

Maryland Loss: Prepping for Big Ten membership early by losing to an FCS team at home, eh? We see you.

PREDICTION

Maryland, 59-24. If Maryland hits this mark, the Terps will have scored more points than they did all of last season! (Again, not really, but it feels that way.)

DUKE (1-0) AT MEMPHIS (0-0)

Time: 4:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN3 

KEY FOR DUKE 

The defense continuing to be stout. Yes, it was just N.C. Central - but a 45-0 shutout is a big moment for a program like Duke. And it wasn’t a fluke that Duke held the Eagles out of the end zone. Central had just 184 yards of total offense. Memphis, obviously, is going to be a completely different beast. (Literally, it’s a Tiger instead of an Eagle. Okay, forget it.) But Memphis got better toward the end of last year offensively, and the Tigers have the talent to move the ball. It’s going to be up to Duke’s experienced front, much-improved linebackers and veteran (by Duke standards) secondary not to be satisfied with last week’s effort. 

KEY FOR MEMPHIS 

The element of surprise, since Memphis hasn’t played a game yet? In all seriousness, it’s probably going to be whether or not Memphis can take advantage of Duke’s mistakes. Last year in Durham, Memphis got a pick-six and a kickoff return to the Duke 5-yard line that set up a touchdown, giving them an early 14-7 lead. It didn’t last, though, and Duke calmed down a bit. Still, at least Memphis put itself in position. The Tigers are going to have to do that and more, particularly early on, to give the team some confidence and keep whatever crowd actually shows up involved.

(Also, this will be an epic battle of punters with Will Monday going up against Memphis’ Tom Hornsey. According to USA TODAY, Memphis has punted 237 times since Hornsey’s freshman year (2010). Alabama has punted 130 times in that same span. Ouch.) 

HERE’S A GUY 

Jamison Crowder. Duke’s best wide receiver - and one of the best in the league, frankly - got right back to doing what he did last year, leading the Blue Devils in receiving with six catches for 62 yards. But now, he’s returning punts this year after taking a year off, and he didn’t waste any time. He had 175 all-purpose yards in the win over Central, including 113 on punt returns and a 76-yard return for a touchdown. He’s a special player, and more than enough to swing this game in Duke’s favor.

THIS GUY 

Paxton Lynch. The redshirt freshman quarterback was named the starter during Memphis’ fall camp, unseating the incumbent QB who is a redshirt senior. So clearly, the staff saw something they liked in Lynch. The 6-6, 230-pounder is a Florida native who flew under the radar in high school until an All-Star game performance that got him offers from the likes of UCF, Florida and Indiana, but by then it was too late. The real issue for Duke here is that they know next to nothing about him, because Memphis hasn’t played yet. David Cutcliffe had to go find high school film of Lynch. So that could be an interesting wrinkle.

STATS ARE FOR LOSERS

David Cutcliffe has a worse record against Memphis at Ole Miss (2-2) than he does at Duke (1-0). ... If “Phantom” quarterback Brandon Connette gets five more rushing touchdowns this year, he’ll have the most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in Duke history. ... A win would make Cutcliffe 4-3 in September road games at Duke and 11-9 in September overall. ... Yes, Duke’s shutout was its first since 1989. But it was also the program’s first shutout at home since 1978, a 3-0 classic against Wake Forest.

NARRATIVES 

Duke Win: Not only was Duke a road favorite, the Blue Devils actually WON on the road! David Cutcliffe is REALLY turning this program around! (Never mind that Duke is 4-2 in non-conference road games under Cutcliffe.)

 Duke Loss: Sad cat

PREDICTION

Duke, 37-24. Memphis might make this interesting for awhile - the team looked better under now second-year head coach Justin Fuente as last year wound down - but better than hot garbage is just slightly-warm garbage. And I like this Duke team. So don’t give me a sad, Duke.

RICHMOND (1-0) AT N.C. STATE (1-0)

Time: 6:00 p.m.

TV: ESPN3

KEY FOR N.C. STATE 

Tackle, tackle, tackle. Dave Doeren was pretty satisfied with the way his team looked in its first game, with the exception of some tackling problems. N.C. State’s defense is the much more experienced side of the ball, yet - particularly early - it didn’t look that way as N.C. State’s offense pre-Brandon Mitchell injury glided downfield. Richmond does have some talent on the offensive side of the ball, and if N.C. State’s defense isn’t careful, the Spiders will make this a closer game that it should be - at least early.

KEY FOR RICHMOND

Making the battle of the trenches on both sides of the ball perhaps closer than it should be. Richmond has a lot of experience returning on both its offensive and defensive lines, and Louisiana Tech - in spite of losing a lot of talent up front themselves - held their own at times against N.C. State’s fronts, particularly the defensive line. (“At times” being the key phrase there, but still.) If they get pushed around though, N.C. State will completely dominate. 

HERE’S A GUY

Matt Dayes. Yes, Shadrach Thornton is back after serving a one-game suspension, and he’ll get some of the carries that freshman Dayes got last week against Louisiana Tech. But if Dayes' performance in that game is any indication, he’ll still get plenty of carries. N.C. State’s running game has been pretty bland in recent years, and Dayes’ combination of good instincts with speed (he’s short but DON’T call him a bowling ball) could give the Wolfpack a dynamic back. 

THIS GUY 

Ben Edwards. The senior wide receiver had 80 catches for 852 yards and three touchdowns last year, and he’s a really good player for the Spiders. He had seven catches for 95 yards and a touchdown in the season-opening win over VMI last week, adding five carries for 32 yards. Louisiana Tech running back Kenneth Dixon was able to make some plays on the N.C. State defense last week, and Edwards could make them pay for any mistakes.

STATS ARE FOR LOSERS

N.C. State is 17-1-1 against Richmond all-time with the last loss coming in 1970. ... This will technically be quarterback Pete Thomas’ first career start at N.C. State, but it’s the 22nd start of his career (he transferred from Colorado State). ... N.C. State kicker Niklas Sade outscored Louisiana Tech by himself last weekend, 16-14. ... The 40 points N.C. State scored in Doeren’s debut were the most by an N.C. State head coach in his first game since Monte Kiffin (yes, he coached there) in 1980 (42 points). 

NARRATIVES

N.C. State Win: The Wolfpack might not have Brandon Mitchell when Clemson comes to town on Thursday night but THIS IS STILL A DANGEROUS TEAM AND OH I SMELL A CLEMSONING!

 

 N.C. State Loss: Steve Buscimi

PREDICTION 

N.C. State, 43-17. More of the same we saw in Week 1 from Doeren, the Wolfpack and company. It might not look great all the time, but with a week to adjust after losing Mitchell to a broken foot, Doeren and his staff will have figured something out. That, or we’ll see a ton of the Wild Shirreffs package (quarterback Bryant Shirreffs, who ... doesn’t throw ... so much).

SYRACUSE (0-1) AT NO. 19 NORTHWESTERN (1-0) 

Time: 6:00 p.m.

TV: Big Ten Network 

KEY FOR SYRACUSE

Figure out what’s going on with that passing game! No, really. It’s hard to run the ball against Northwestern. Cal managed just 93 yards on 35 attempts last week, and the Bears threw the ball 64 (!!!!) times for 455 yards. If Drew Allen has to throw 64 times, Syracuse is in big trouble. But if he can complete 23 out of 37 pass attempts - instead of, say, the 16 completions he had last week against Penn State for 189 yards - that will be ... well, it will be something better. And the two interceptions didn’t help.

KEY FOR NORTHWESTERN 

Don’t give Syracuse ANYTHING offensively. Northwestern played well last week defensively, particularly against the run, but they won that game because their offense put up over 500 yards. That’s not likely to happen against a Syracuse defense that performed pretty well in their opener, holding Penn State to 57 yards rushing on 38 attempts (they did allow nearly 300 yards passing, but just 23 points). Northwestern doesn’t want to have to get in another shootout, even at home, and the Wildcats will likely win very handily if they can completely shut down what looked to be a sputtering Syracuse offense.

HERE’S A GUY

Jerome Smith. He did all he could against the Penn State front, and without a passing game to support him. He still had 73 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns for the Orange. To go with a seven-yard reception, Smith was responsible for 80 of Syracuse’s 260 total yards. He’s a great back, but his line is inexperienced and these first two games certainly haven’t been easy. But to have any chance, Smith is going to need to play well.

THIS GUY

Tyler Scott. Northwestern’s senior defensive end made all the watch lists this preseason after notching nine sacks last year. His debut this season at California (in a game where the defense was on the field for 99 plays!) was pretty good - five tackles, a sack and a pass breakup - but Scott has the potential to be disruptive whenever he’s on the field, particularly against a young Syracuse offensive line.

STATS ARE FOR LOSERS 

Syracuse isn’t the only team to start out against consecutive Big Ten foes. Indiana State is also doing it (against Indiana and Purdue), as is Cincinnati (Purdue and Illinois). I’m sure Syracuse wouldn’t have minded Cincinnati’s rotation as much. ... Doug Marrone laughs at first-year head coach Scott Shafer’s problems, though. When Marrone took over in 2009, his first THREE games were against Big Ten schools - and he got his first win in the third one (against Northwestern).

NARRATIVES

Syracuse Win: YEAH! Take THAT, Jim Delany! ACC OWNS the ACC-B10 Challenge!

Syracuse Loss: Wagner and Tulane the next two weeks! But ... then Clemson, at N.C. State and at Georgia Tech. Welcome to the grind of the ACC, Syracuse. THERE ARE NO EASY GAMES! 

PREDICTION

Northwestern, 34-24. The Orange’s offense will look better - it has to, right? - but it won’t be nearly enough against a very good Northwestern team.

Last week: 12-1 (1-0 ACC)

Season: 12-1 (1-0 ACC)