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ACC Football Previews: Sept. 13

Friday, September 13, 2013 12:04pm
By: Lauren Brownlow

Another week, another lack of embarrassing yourself, ACC. That’s half the battle, so. But there are plenty of chances to do that this week, and not a lot of chances to impress anyone. Yes, Boston College is at USC, but everyone is pointing and laughing at the Trojans at this point anyway, so no one would give the ACC credit for that one. But the first game on today’s docket maybe should get the league more credit than it will. You don’t see SEC teams scheduling East Carolina. And I think we all know why.



Time: 12:00 p.m.



Don’t turn it over. ECU’s defense is better this year than it was last year, but opponents have moved the ball against it. (Well, opponents not named Florida Atlantic.) Virginia Tech can move the ball on the ground, running for 153 yards against Miami and 237 against Western Carolina, but passing...yeah. Not so much. And that’s where the Hokies have three interceptions on the year to just one fumble lost. ECU has also won seven of its last eight games when it forces two or more turnovers. Logan Thomas is going to have to throw at some point, and he had two interceptions against Western Carolina. CAN EASTERN CAROLINA MATCH?!?!?! THE NATION WAITS EAGERLY TO FIND OUT!


Stay patient on both sides of the ball. It’s not like Virginia Tech is unbeatable. But if East Carolina tries to get too cute, particularly offensively, the Hokies will win easily. This is a program that will happily accept a mistake-ridden performance by their opponent and get out of town with a win. This Virginia Tech team (and last year’s) makes more mistakes than some of its predecessors, but this Hokie defense is also much better than it has been in a long time. 


Any Virginia Tech wide receiver. Seriously. Anyone. The reliable options aren’t coming through right now, and Logan Thomas is throwing to walk-ons. This offense has enough problems already, and this has made it even worse. D.J. Coles and Demetri Knowles haven’t been very good, but ECU’s secondary is vulnerable enough that they need to step up.


Shane Carden. The ECU quarterback has been as advertised, passing for 638 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions through his first two games. He’s been sacked five times, and he’ll get pressured quite a bit on Saturday. But he needs to make good decisions against easily the best secondary he’ll face all year.


Virginia Tech is 12-5 all-time against East Carolina, and Frank Beamer is 11-5. The Hokies are 5-2 all-time at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. ... Random from Gobbler Country’s preview - Virginia Tech didn’t have any negative rushing attempts last weekend against Western Carolina, a first under Frank Beamer. Logan Thomas also didn’t attempt a rush for the first time in his career. ... If ECU gets one more non-conference win, it will have notched more non-conference wins than it has in any season since 2008 (two).


Virginia Tech Win: 

Virginia Tech Loss: Welp. Frank Beamer is now officially pulling a Bobby Bowden. And it’s sad that this has become a verb. Maybe it will eventually become a “Mack Brown”. 


Virginia Tech, 31-20. The Hokies are still the Hokies, after all. I think.



Time: 12:30 p.m.



So, um, let’s get that ground game going, what do you say?! Somehow, Wake Forest is going to have to run the football well this year. Just, at some point. Whenever the Deacs are ready. They’re running it a lot, now - 93 times for 244 yards, or 2.6 per carry. Tanner Price has attempted just 55 passes through two games, and he attempted as many or more in an entire game last year. It’s just going to have to happen somehow. The option-based stuff doesn’t seem to be working. And by doesn’t seem to be working, I mean not working at all. 


Bring the Warhawk. (No really, that is an awesome mascot name. Also, what is a peace hawk? Is it like a fighting Quaker?) Or at least, bring this intro video, which is incredible. 

Louisiana-Monroe is good enough to win this game straight up. The offense is certainly good enough. The defense is probably good enough, at least because of Wake Forest’s offensive issues, if nothing else. And they’ve been here before - well, not literally. But they beat Arkansas in Little Rock last year, and they’ve played (and competed with) plenty of BCS teams.  After the first two weeks of Wake’s season, if ULM keeps it close early, they’ll make the Deacs starting doubting themselves. And then they’ll.....unleash the Warhawk! (I made that up.)


Nikita Whitlock. Wake’s ferocious nose tackle had a fantastic game at BC last week, getting two sacks (his first career multi-sack game, somehow) and blocking a punt. The only thing Whitlock didn’t get to do is play on the offensive line, or even get a goal line carry. This needs to happen, because no one else is doing anything in that department for the Deacs. But Whitlock is fun to watch always, and he’ll do all he can to win a game by himself. Unfortunately, that’s not really possible. 


Kolton Browning. The Warhawks’ senior quarterback has not been quite as good as he was last year so far, but it’s early. He’s completed 33-of-63 passes for 299 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. The dual-threat QB also has six rushes for 28 yards. Only Tajh Boyd and Johnny Manziel have more career games with at least three passing touchdowns and at least one rushing touchdown (Browning has four). 


Courtesy of USA TODAY, Louisiana-Monroe won two games last year after trailing by 21 points or more. At Arkansas, ULM was down 28-7 with six minutes left in the third, while they trailed 28-7 with four minutes left in the second against Western Kentucky. ULM won both in overtime. ... This is ULM’s second-ever trip to North Carolina and first since 1966 (a 21-14 win at ECU). ... Three more wins, and Jim Grobe ties Peahead Walker for most wins in school history (77). ... BC wasn’t called for a penalty, which is the third time that’s happened for a Wake opponent ever. The last time it happened was 1968 against North Carolina. UNC REFS!


Wake Forest Win: 

Wake Forest Loss:


Wake Forest, 23-22. I think. This is a tough one. But Wake is at home. And anytime we’re ready to count out the Deacs, they win. But that’s....yeah. Not confident.



Time: 12:30 p.m. 

TV: ACC Network


Get some confidence back. Pitt is not going to play a team as good as Florida State the rest of the year, in all likelihood. So it’s time for the team, and particularly this defense, to get back on track. Pitt can still be a pretty frisky team in its first year in the ACC, but the defense is going to have to be a lot better than it was against Florida State, strength of opponent notwithstanding. 


Bow up on defense and hope for the best? New Mexico’s strength - running the football - doesn’t match up all that well with Pitt, and so the Lobos are going to have to hope it works eventually. It will work enough, but if they get behind, it will be very difficult to come back with that kind of offense.


Devin Street. He could end up being the best receiver in the league this year, or at least close to it. He was spectacular against a very good Florida State secondary in Pitt’s season opener, pulling down six passes for 141 yards (23.5 per reception). He’s close to becoming Pitt’s all-time leading receiver, and the 6-4 senior just continues to produce game after game. Maybe, like former Pitt star Larry Fitzgerald, if you’re one of the best wideouts, it doesn’t matter who your quarterback is. (Or maybe I should have thought about that before I made my preseason All-ACC picks)


Kasey Carrier. Is there a better name for a running back? New Mexico likes to run the ball. A lot. And the senior Lobo tailback is pretty good at it. He is the nation’s leading rusher at the moment, averaging 172.5 yards per game after a 291-yard performance at UTEP last weekend. Somehow, it wasn’t the most in school or Mountain West history. That’s because Carrier himself holds that record with a 338-yard rushing game against Air Force last season. Yeah, so....he’s pretty good. 


New Mexico is 1-7 all-time in the Eastern Time Zone. ... This is New Mexico’s second game against the ACC. (Should be enough for membership, right?) They lost their previous ACC matchup to N.C. State (and Philip Rivers) in 2002 in Raleigh, 34-14. ... Pitt has only started a season 0-2 three times in the last 30 seasons. One of those was last year. ... Pitt wide receiver Devin Street is just 22 catches away from being the all-time leading receiver in Pitt history. 


Pittsburgh Win:

Pittsburgh Loss: Bob Davie bringing his team to Pittsburgh and winning is just further proof that Pitt simply can’t have nice things, evidently. (Does this have a name yet? Forgive me if it does, but Pitt is still new to the league. I’ll learn.)


Pittsburgh, 40-17. Nothing New Mexico is capable of doing offensively should scare Pittsburgh, particularly after facing Florida State.


BOSTON COLLEGE (2-0, 1-0 ACC) AT USC (1-1, 0-1 PAC-12)

Time: 3:00 p.m.

TV: PAC-12 Network/PAC-12.com


Defensive Dudes Doing Dude-like Deeds. (YES! ALLITERATION!) USC’s offense right now could best be described as....insipid. Yes. That works. Or impotent. That might be even better. Either way, anytime you put up just seven points on a Mike Leach team in your home opener, AND you’re USC? Yeah. There are problems. But there is still plenty of offensive talent at Lane Kiffin’s disposal, and the Boy Wonder knows his way around an offense. Or so we all thought. (Is this how he keeps getting jobs? Who started this rumor?) BC’s defense has played pretty well against some derp-ish offenses before (hello, Wake Forest!), but this will be a different beast altogether. The Eagles are much better on that side of the ball, and they’ll have to keep them in this game.


Control the line of scrimmage. That shouldn’t be too hard against BC, which is still rebuilding its offensive line. And especially since USC has controlled every game it has been in so far, allowing a total of 30 rushing yards through two games and just one passing touchdown to six interceptions. Oh, and ELEVEN sacks. Yeah. The defense has done its job this year for USC, and it’s probably going to have to continue to keep doing that. 


Chase Rettig. BC’s senior quarterback is returning to his homeland (kind of - he’s from San Clemente, which is halfway between LA and San Diego)! He’d probably rather not have to face a USC defensive line that has 11 sacks through two games, but hey. At least USC’s opponents have 423 yards passing (in two games)! He’s not been asked to do as much this year as he was at times last year, as BC’s offense has been more balanced. But this might end up being the best defense, or close to it, that BC will face all year. So he’ll have to try not to force the issue, and not to mention, try to stay healthy. 


I’m sorry, but it’s Lane Kiffin. He’s the guy we’ll all be tuning in to watch, after all. What kind of face will he make? How will he embarrass himself in the postgame, win or lose? We all dislike him and feel that he’s done nothing to earn this lucky streak if falling up into better jobs, but we can’t look away from him. After he is fired as the head coach of USC, he will become Commissioner of the NFL, followed by mayor of a major city, then a senator, and then....yep. But he’ll be fired from all of those jobs in disgrace and still get the next job. (Also, please do yourselves a favor, if you haven’t already, and watch this “Runaway Lane” video dedicated to him leaving Tennessee suddenly to coach USC). 

Really, he’s like the obnoxious group at the movies that talks loudly on their cell phones and to each other throughout the first few minutes. You are furious at them, and you passively-aggressively look back in their general direction repeatedly. Then an usher comes in to admonish them, and you are LOVING it. (Quietly, of course.) But they keep talking. Any time someone walks by, you hope that person tells them to be quiet, since you aren’t brave enough to do it. You relish the schadenfreude of watching them finally get kicked out, as you feel justice has been done. But you find yourself always looking around for the next loud talkers at every movie you go to, knowing Those People are all around us. That’s Lane Kiffin. He is Those People. 


USC leads the series with Boston College, 3-0. This is just BC’s sixth trip ever to the state of California. BC’s only win came against Colorado State in the 2003 Emerald Bowl. The last time BC was in California was a 20-13 loss to Nevada in the 2011 Emerald Bowl. Does BC own the Emerald Bowl this millennium, or what? ... USC is 23-11 all-time against the ACC, and they lost their last matchup in last year’s Sun Bowl to Georgia Tech, 21-7. Which means that USC has now scored less than ten points in two of its last three games dating back to last season.


Boston College Win:

Boston College Loss:


USC, 17-12. Because Lane Kiffin cannot be conquered. 

Sub-prediction: Kiffin will do something controversial during the game. I know, it’s a risky proposition....but I’m a risk-taker. And then he’ll hold a postgame press conference with only an in-house reporter so they can post it on YouTube later



Time: 3:30 p.m.



Score, score, score! And score some more! Why not, right? Duke just has to avoid making major mistakes on offense or special teams. Against Georgia Tech, those are the types of things that will hurt you more than anything else. Waste a possession, start losing the battle of field position, and you change the dynamic of the game in Georgia Tech’s favor, regardless of how well your defense plays. 


Don’t turn it over. Really, Georgia Tech can beat seemingly almost anyone if it doesn’t turn it over. Duke’s front is pretty good and experienced, and they’ll know how to defend this Georgia Tech offense that is comprised strictly of wizardry and magic. But considering Paul Johnson compared Duke’s defense to the Pittsburgh Steelers, maybe they’ll be up to the task. And by the way? He said “old” Pittsburgh Steelers, not the 2013 version that have already allowed more points in one week (16) than Duke has in two weeks (14). 


Brandon Connette. He’s a first-time starting quarterback...but he’s not really a first-time starter, considering all the game action he’s had. He’s not unlike this year’s starter Anthony Boone in that way, seeing spot duty throughout his career until it was his time. It was probably not going to be his time ever, so he played tight end and wide receiver and Wildcat and whatever else Cutcliffe asked him to play so he could get on the field. He played pretty well at Memphis, and he’s a dual-threat guy that won’t be afraid of the moment. (The real question is, who’s going to vulture the goal line carries if he’s not around to do it? No reason.)


Vad Lee. Believe it or not, Lee didn’t escape the imaginary fence surrounding North Carolina to keep the best players inside without a fight. Cutcliffe wanted the Durham native badly, but it wasn’t to be. But he’ll be back in his hometown, and he’s sure to have a lot of family and friends in attendance like he did in Chapel Hill last year. And if that means what it did last year, then Duke is in big trouble. But Lee has gotten off to a great start already as the starter, completing 7-of-11 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns, adding six rushes for 49 yards and a score. Yeah, it was just Elon. But Lee is capable of worse. Duke’s going to have to keep him contained.


Georgia Tech is 15-15 all-time in ACC openers, and under Paul Johnson, the Yellow Jackets are 11-10 against Coastal Division teams on the road. ... Duke has not started 3-0 since 1994, and this is the first 2-0 start since 1998. ... Despite hte painful memories of Duke fans, Cutcliffe is actually 19-2 at Duke when ahead after three quarters. Which is pretty good. There is another football team in the area that play on the professional level in a city that rhymes with "Scarlette" that is the exact opposite of that, so there’s that. Not that I’m bitter.


Duke Win: Duke is reaching new heights! Paul Johnson’s triple-option offense is totally beatable with or without a bye now! LOOK OUT, ACC, DUKE IS COMING!

Duke Loss: The Blue Devils and David Cutcliffe have reached the Glass Ceiling portion of the program (building). And that Glass Ceiling has a sneering Paul Johnson staring down from above, cackling maniacally as his players do nothing but beat opponents not coming off of bye weeks with their evil cut-blocking and stupid offense. (Did I do that right?)

Georgia Tech Win:

Georgia Tech Loss: 


Georgia Tech, 24-21. Duke’s getting closer and closer to beating this team. It will happen soon enough. Just not this time. Not without their quarterback. 



Time: 3:30 p.m.



Not getting too full of themselves. I know, it’s cliche. But come on. Florida State players have heard nothing but praise and fawning since their 41-13 win at Pitt on September 2. So let’s not get cute here, Seminoles. No one is back until we decide they’re back. Or until they get through a grueling ACC season winning games that they’re supposed to win. Or until...no forget it, FSU is probably back, we’re all in baby! A-C-C! A-C-C! But seriously though, if the players listen to Jimbo Fisher - who is warning everyone who will listen that Nevada is the best team ever that no one knows about - they’ll be just fine.


Keeping pace offensively, if that’s even possible. This Nevada defense wasn’t very good last year, and it’s still not great this year. UCLA put up 56 on the Wolf Pack in Week 1, and while they held UC-Davis to seven points, who is UC-Davis, really? But Nevada has the potential to be explosive offensively, and it had better be. Because if FSU’s last game was any indication, the Seminoles are going to put up some points. 


Lamarcus Joyner. Scary, scary good. Last year, FSU’s strength was up front. This year, the secondary might be better than the front, led by Joyner at cornerback (switched from safety last year). He’s a ridiculous athlete, which we already knew. First-year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt promised a more aggressive scheme and for once, that wasn’t coachspeak, seemingly. He’s going to let his athletes go, and after no cornerback got a sack all of last season, through one game this year, Joyner has two. He led the defense with nine tackles as well. 


Listen, I’m sure Nevada has some random guy on offense that might be the next Colin Kaepernick or whatever. But who cares. They have a defensive end with THE MOST AMAZING MULLET and a name to match (Brock Hekking)? Sounds - and looks - like an 80’s Cold War movie villain. So I hope for Florida State’s sake that Jameis Winston has been training in Siberia.

HEKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKINGGGGGGGG! (Also, if you don’t watch and love every second of that from start to finish, we can’t be friends.)  

If you think you loved Winston already, you have no idea. He was the one who brought up the mullet

Hekking is hardly a nobody - he does have eight tackles (2.0 for loss) this season, and the junior made a number of pre-season watch lists. But if none of those watch lists had to do with his sensational mullet, I’m not interested. 


Last weekend in a win over UC-Davis, Nevada ran 91 plays while UC-Davis ran 52. ... Florida State is 33-2 in its last 35 home openers dating back to 1978. ... Not a stat, but I can’t decide whether first-year Nevada head coach Brian Polian (yes, he’s in the famous Polian family) loses cool points for this or not:



Florida State Win: #AllJameisWinstonEverything #AllJameisWinstonEverything #AllJameisWinstonEverything #AllJameisWinstonEverything <3 <3 <3 <3

Side note: hey, even Jameis Winston is a fan boy!

Also, he can unfold a fortune cookie without breaking it!

Florida State Loss: See? This is what happens when you build up a quarterback after just one game! THIS IS WHY NO ONE CAN HAVE NICE THINGS ANYMORE AND WE MUST DOUBT EVERYONE BEFORE THEY’VE GIVEN US ANY REASON TO DO SO! 


Florida State, 59-17. No idea why. Just seems about right. 



Time: 4:00 p.m.



Oh, the passing game. It’s been mostly the Drew Allen Show through two weeks, with one appearance from Terrel Hunt (four pass attempts).  And the Drew Allen Show is quite frightening. The senior Oklahoma transfer has one touchdown and six interceptions on the young season. While he acquitted himself a bit better against Northwestern - 27-of-41 for 279 yards - four of his interceptions came in that game. It’s not all on him, obviously. But it doesn’t matter whose fault it is - Syracuse has to find a way to generate some offense, and fast. (Related: evidently Allen will start this week, but head coach Scott Shafer praised Hunt’s ability to play....basketball. Welp.)


Take advantage of Syracuse miscues. In Wagner’s only other game against an FBS team (at FAU last year, a 7-3 loss), the Seahawks had nearly as many yards punting (208) as they did total (220). Eesh. They had their chances - Florida Atlantic lost four fumbles - but they couldn’t manage more than a field goal. And after two of the fumbles - both in FAU territory - they missed a field goal and had an interception. Wagner led 3-0 until early in the fourth quarter when FAU hit on a long touchdown pass. But that’s all it takes sometimes.


Jerome Smith. Syracuse’s star tailback can’t do it all on his own, but he’ll sure try. And good on him. He had three rushing touchdowns all of last season, and he already has three this year in just two games. He has 27 rushing attempts this year and is averaging 4.4 yards a carry. His teammates have 44 carries for 86 yards (1.9). Taking out sacks - just to be fair - his teammates have still combined for just 111 yards on 41 carries (2.7). Just saying. Might want to feed that guy. He’s hungry.


Dominique Williams. A fifth-year senior, the tailback is 5-9 and thus impossible to find and tackle. Or so his career numbers (3,580 yards rushing, 22 100-yard rushing games and 105.3 career average) would indicate. Through two games this year, he has 272 yards on 57 carries (136.0 per game) and three touchdowns. He’s also caught four passes for 23 yards and a score. 


Syracuse has never lost to an FCS team since the divisions separated in 1978. So that means the Orange is good to go here. Oh....wait. Oh no. This seems bad. Especially since Syracuse’s last two wins over FCS schools in 2011 and 2012 came by a combined 18 points. ... Wagner is playing just its second game against an FBS opponent, the first coming at Florida Atlantic last year (a 7-3 loss). ... Wagner’s starting quarterback Matt Misley is also the punter. Yes, you read that right. .... Wagner head coach Walt Hameline is also the athletic director. Which I’m pretty sure means he’ll be coaching for a long time, since he’s not going to fire himself. Right? 


Syracuse Win: Savor this and the Tulane game next week, Orange men and men. Because after that, the winning ways might just be....

Syracuse Loss: 


Syracuse, 44-13. Syracuse, we need this. (“We” being the ACC.) Also, what do Syracuse and Pitt get for their first ACC wins? What do you get the school that has everything? 



Time: 7:30 p.m.



Show up on time? Don’t get caught up in the emotion of your head coach (Randy Edsall) returning to the place he used to coach? See, now I’m just making things up. Obviously, if Maryland gets too cute and starts turning the ball over, or the defense doesn’t play well, there’s a possibility the Terps could lose this game. So don’t get cute, keep it simple and please, whatever you do, don’t let Edsall catch you flipping into the end zone, you hear me? THIS IS NOT A GAME OF FUN! IT’S A GAME OF HANDING THE BALL TO THE OFFICIAL AND POLITELY GOING ON YOUR WAY, YOUNG MAN


Just...um...yeah. Make something happy happen. Yes. Make someone happy during this game. We’ll go with that. Things in Storrs...well, they’re not great. It’s been over two weeks since UConn lost at home to Towson, 33-18. That’s right. To Towson. At home. And I’m not sure what’s more sad about this: UConn head coach Paul Pasqualoni’s Tweet itself, or the responses:

He hasn’t Tweeted since. But he has done press conferences. Also, UConn’s former head coach Randy Edsall (who didn’t leave under the best of circumstances) is doing pretty well so far this yera with his new team, while UConn sinks deeper into despair. So just give your fans a happy moment or feeling throughout this game, Pasqualoni. They need it. A moral victory, if you will. 


C.J. Brown. After missing nearly two years with an injury, Maryland’s quarterback looks as good as ever. Maybe even better, somehow. He is the second-leading rusher through two games with 135 yards on 15 carries (9.0 per rush) and he had four rushing touchdowns. He’s completed 34-of-45 passes for 556 yards and five touchdowns (and no interceptions), too. It doesn’t really matter who Maryland has played - that’s pretty impression. But still, the competition he’s facing is going to get significantly stiffer this week. Even though UConn’s defense didn’t look amazing based on the fact that THEY LET TOWSON SCORE 33 POITNS ON THEM! TOWSON! I’m sorry. But the UConn defense is usually pretty good. Either way, it will be stouter than ODU.


Yawin Smallwood. Maryland’s junior linebacker made a number of preseason watch lists, and it certainly wasn’t his fault that they lost to Towson. Considering he made 16 tackles (just two solo, which is a weird stat line). Oh, and last year against Maryland? He had 14 tackles (3.5 for loss) and 2.5 sacks. UConn’s defense is going to have to do a lot better than they did last week, and Smallwood can make plays. 


UConn had actually lost to Towson before August 29, evidently. Because UConn is now 0-2 against Towson. So, there’s that. ... Maryland had three interceptions last week against Old Dominion, and it was the first time the Terps had three picks in a game since 2009. ... After its bye week last year, Maryland had a six-game stretch where it scored a total of 92 points (it still won two of those). In just two games this year, Maryland has 90 points already.


Maryland Win: I mean, no one’s going to care if Maryland wins this game. It’s become too depressing. So we’ll portray this in two images, the first of which is perhaps the saddest costumed mascot ever, not just in UConn history, but in the world: 

And also, this.

Maryland Loss: Well, Connecticut was coming off a bye and was well-rested hahahaha sorry I can’t. Perhaps we can get Maryland to change its helmet stickers from “ACC Fare Well Season” to simply “Farewell Season”. 

Oh, and this.


Maryland, 33-9. Randy Edsall will probably take it easy on his old team if he can. But I’m sure Towson said the same when they went up 26-10 with 5:14 to go in the fourth two weeks ago. (Seriously...did that REALLY happen? It did, didn’t it? Wow.)


Week 2: 8-2 (0-1 ACC)

Overall: 20-3 (1-1 ACC)