Lauren Brownlow

Local fun makes up for bland national slate

Posted September 22

It's supposedly such a boring week of college football that ESPN's College GameDay is headed to some sleepy town called New York, New York. Wow, they must be thrilled to be getting such a big event! I think Syracuse is kind of near there, right? Well, as boring as the national slate might be, the local one is anything but. NC State seeks to continue to be the perennial thorn in the side of Florida State, while Carolina and Duke will play in a disconcertingly early September rivalry matchup. Do not want. I fear change.

There's plenty of #goacc potential out there for the rest of the league, too. Virginia travels to Boise in just the latest example of their stupid scheduling, and NOT TO BE OUTDONE, Syracuse will be playing AT LSU. At night. Why didn't GameDay go ... oh. Yeah. Top that off with a steaming heap of Wake at Appalachian and Toledo at Miami, and you've got a whole lot of "don't screw it up" happening.



Time: 12:00 p.m.


I mean, I have no idea. I'm not just saying that. Florida State will be breaking in a brand-new QB that Dave Doeren {{a href="external_link=1"}}had to find high school film on via hudl{{/a}} – a 6-5, 165-pound, WILLOWY quarterback. One would think NC State's strategy will be to try to rattle him and pressure him, maybe even hit him. But here's the thing: NC State's secondary has been shaky since Week 1 and even with the return of Mike Stevens, it's still going to be. If NC State can't get pressure with its front four, something that hasn't happened reliably all year against teams with worse offensive lines than Florida State's, then they'll have to bring pressure with extra defenders – which also means potentially leaving their secondary one-on-one with elite FSU playmakers. Do you take that chance, make Blackman make the throw? Maybe. It will be interesting to see what NC State decides to do.

And let's face it – this game is way more about intangibles than what we've seen thus far on the field from either team, anyway. Florida State hasn't even played in three weeks because of Hurricane Irma, and their only game was against an Alabama team that is still No. 1 in the country. Even that game was bizarre in the way that special teams pretty much decided it. NC State's special teams bounced back some last week, but we'll still call that an overall wash. And from NC State's perspective, we've seen them have lackluster performances against lesser teams, only to get on the field against an elite team and look great (Clemson last year says hello). So I could break this down several different ways, and it's still almost impossible to account for what FSU's layoff will do to them, and what NC State's chip on their shoulder that comes out against good teams and rivals does to them.


Nyheim Hines. To have a chance against a team like Florida State, you've got to have guys make big plays. Hines showed in last year's meeting that he can be one of those guys, finishing with 11 catches for 124 yards, albeit as a wide receiver before he was converted to tailback this season. Hines leads the team in rushing attempts this year and is averaging 5.2 yards per carry, and he also has nine catches through three games. NC State can and has used the pass to its running backs/Jaylen Samuels as almost an extension of the running game, and it likely will need to again as QB Ryan Finley might need to find a quick way to get rid of the football against a swarming FSU defense. Hines had his best game against Furman (as one might expect) with 8.4 per carry. NC State has just not managed to get the running game going consistently against FBS teams this year and if they can't run the ball at least a little against this FSU defense, they'll be in big trouble.


James Blackman. Florida State has a ton of really good players. But this is the guy we're all going to be watching, right? He has yet to attempt a collegiate pass – he came in in relief of Deondre Francois against Alabama, but wisely, he only handed the ball off – but he's a Florida State QB so he must be good, right? He did beat out a veteran for the backup job, but this wasn't the plan – De'Andre Johnson and Malik Henry both ended up at community colleges, veteran JJ Cosentino hasn't been good enough, and here we are. FSU's first true freshman starter at QB since 1985. If he doesn't play well, FSU's defense and running game can help make up for it and are talented enough to keep them in games in the ACC, if not essentially win them. But if he's good, he changes the ACC picture. Teams are going to make him prove it, starting with NC State.


NC State Win: Lose to South Carolina, beat an ACC team contending for a New Year's Six bowl. NC State really IS back!



it's not fair

Florida State Win: Bullet dodged.

spiderman dodge

Florida State Loss: FSU fans thinking about their season with Francois:

futile rage


Florida State, 42-23. It's close early, I think, and Florida State pulls away by the end. I think.

DUKE (3-0) AT NORTH CAROLINA (1-2, 0-1)

Time: 3:30 p.m.


The last time these two teams played this early, it was 1926.

We've come a long way since then. Change is inevitable. I dislike this particular change, as it feels too early to have these teams play each other. But you know what? Why not. This game is always very weird, so why not make it even weirder?

In a lot of ways, last year's matchup between these two teams perfectly encapsulated North Carolina's season: a really good start, followed by a sort of inexplicable collapse. It's like what a football team would look like if it collectively fell asleep. Duke deserves plenty of credit for that, though, and it was our first flash of sort of what the Blue Devils might look like this season. It's why people like me thought they'd actually finish ahead of North Carolina in the Coastal, in spite of a tough slate.

If we judge the teams by their body of work on the season, Duke is definitely superior, having beaten two Power 5 teams by double digits. Although I would hardly call last week's win over Baylor a trouncing, while in contrast, North Carolina went to Old Dominion and won very convincingly. Neither Baylor nor Old Dominion is particularly good, mind you. But so far this season, we've seen a Duke offense look really good most of the time (with an energized run game and a still-developing Daniel Jones) and a Duke defense that looks much improved. And we see a North Carolina defense that looks like more of the same, allowing 6.7 yards per play -- only difference is this year, the Tar Heels have stopped the run better but can't stop the pass. UNC's offense has shown progress, but the offensive line is banged up. Can they be multi-dimensional enough to match up with Duke's defense?


Joe Giles-Harris/Ben Humphreys. I'm cheating a little here by picking two guys, but Duke's linebackers are really, really good. And I'm sure North Carolina remembers both of them quite well, as they finished with a combined 40 tackles in last year's Duke win. This year, they are No. 1 and 2 respectively in tackles on the team with 39 between them (Giles-Harris has 26 of those), and Giles-Harris also has 4.5 tackles for loss, two of which were sacks (2.5 for Humphreys, one of which was a sack). Humphreys has three quarterback hurries and two pass breakups, while Giles-Harris also has a pass breakup. And both of them have shown an uncanny knack for making big plays in big moments. No bigger moment than a rivalry game, right?


Chaz Surratt. Hey, did you guys know that Surratt once committed to Duke, only to decommit and flip to North Carolina? By the end of the game broadcast, you will. Both coaches and Surratt have downplayed the significance of this as a thing, but it'll be discussed, no doubt. Duke is doing just fine without him, of course, and it worked out just fine for Surratt as well. But it SOUNDS juicy! Surratt, though, will certainly be tested against a salty defense, down some offensive linemen. But he's passed all his tests so far, completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for nearly nine yards an attempt, four touchdowns and no interceptions. After running for 66 yards against Cal, he's managed -26 since on 13 attempts but he does have some mobility and he has three rushing scores this year. And he may need it. UNC's best chance in this one is in a shootout, and Surratt will have to make all of UNC's possessions count.


Duke Win: We told you Duke was good.

rihanna told you

Duke Loss:

home alone shelf fail

North Carolina Win: At least one of the major sports can win their season series with Duke.

oh snap

North Carolina Loss:

unc lightning


Duke, 34-29. This game is always weird. I don't think this will be an exception.




Time: 8:00 p.m.


As much of a household name as Boise State football has become over the last decade or so, this will mark the first time the Broncos have ever faced an ACC team at home. Leave it to Virginia, the first drunk schedulers of the ACC, to be the ones to do it. Do you remember when I told you last week's UConn-UVa game would be a defensive struggle? Well, it will really be this week – or it could be.

Virginia has found success this year so far by being pretty solid on defense and limiting turnovers, all while QB Kurt Benkert and the offense have made strides. But Boise State will be the best defense the Cavaliers have faced so far. But Virginia's defense will be a tough test too. And that's bad news for the Broncos (wait, a Bronco playing ... the Broncos? Weird.). Virginia is 20th nationally in third-down defense and Boise hasn't been able to maintain drives. If the defense can keep Virginia in it early, they'll have a chance as their offense is better than Boise's. If not? Welp.

Also, Boise has this:


Virginia Win:

surprise clap

Virginia Loss: Stop this scheduling. Stop it.

do better


Boise State, 30-20. Stop scheduling these games, Virginia.


KENT STATE (1-2) AT NO. 19 LOUISVILLE (2-1, 1-1 ACC)

Time: 12:00 p.m.
TV: ACC Network


Well, there's good news for you here, Louisville! Kent State is very bad. The Golden Flashes just did narrowly edge out Cam Newton's little brother in Week 2, or else they'd still be winless and have scored a total of three points against FBS competition thus far. Well, the latter thing is still true. Clemson pounded them 56-3 in Week 1 and Marshall rebounded from its loss to NC State with a 21-0 win over the Golden Flashes last week. (I just like saying Golden Flashes.)

This will be by far, not even remotely close, the easiest game Louisville has played. Can they get right? Well of course. Will it mean anything? Eh. Just get a big lead, get Lamar Jackson out of the game and move on to next week, really. We won't learn anything about Louisville in this game. They'd have been better off playing a frisky FCS team.


Louisville Win:

truly don't care

Louisville Loss: Lamar Jackson, basically:

help me on the wall


Louisville, 63-13. Don't think Bobby Petrino won't pour it on. His team probably needs it.


Time: 12:20 p.m.
TV: ACC Network


Georgia Tech's trip to UCF got cancelled because of Hurricane Irma, and Pittsburgh, in a show of solidarity, also decided not to show up against Oklahoma State. Pitt might be, like, genuinely bad this year. Bill Connelly over at SB Nation releases his S&P+ rankings each week, and he also allows you to sort through them without preseason expectations factored in (it's still early, after all). In those rankings, Pitt is 122nd out of 130 teams and last in the ACC. Woof. In actuality, they're 57th.

Georgia Tech is 2-2 against Pitt since the Panthers joined the ACC, and after two blowout wins to start, the last two have been close losses. While Pitt's schedule has obviously been difficult (save Youngstown State, and, um), they haven't shown much defense to speak of and no offense to offset it, either. Pitt did throw in the towel on USC transfer Max Browne last week and go with Ben DiNucci, who had a passing touchdown and a throwing touchdown last week, but that's probably not all that fair to Browne. Both will probably see at least some time in this one.

We're going to see a different Pitt team in this game, especially as suspended safety Jordan Whitehead comes back. I mean, the defense (especially the secondary) can't get much worse. In the last few years, Pitt has been able to keep Georgia Tech's offense off the field with its own offense, winning the time of possession battle in both. This year, Pitt's offense hasn't been able to do that. They're 10-of-32 on third down against FBS opponents and are -2 in turnovers on the season. Do that against Georgia Tech and never see the football again. Can they bounce back enough after facing two really tough opponents in a row? Can Georgia Tech's week off help or hurt? We'll find out.


Pittsburgh Win:

silicon valley confused

Pittsburgh Loss: Since I can't find a GIF of the Pitt fans sleeping during last week's game

sleeping baby

Georgia Tech Win:

oh hello there

Georgia Tech Loss:

blank stare disappoint


Georgia Tech, 31-27. This one will still be close.


Time: 2:00 p.m.
TV: ACC Network


Remember when I thought Old Dominion was frisky? And look, not to disparage what North Carolina did – especially since my biggest doubts were about UNC's offensive line, and the running game averaged 5.4 per rush and allowed just one sack – but ODU can only be so frisky without an offense. The Tar Heels did a good job limiting ODU, especially during the non-garbage time portion of the game. Still, the third QB to see action for ODU was Steven Williams, Jr., who has not yet turned 18. Seriously. He did enough to be named the starter, and so the plucky 17-year-old who finished 9-of-20 passing for 139 yards and two scores against the Tar Heels will be asked to face off against a salty Virginia Tech defense and one of the best defensive minds in the country in Bud Foster. So, um, good luck.

Could the Hokies be looking ahead to their matchup next weekend in primetime with Clemson? Sure. Will it matter? Doubtful. Virginia Tech found itself down 17-7 early in Greenville and went on a 57-0 run. That is...impressive. ECU is bad, though, and ODU isn't a ton better. See you all next weekend.


Virginia Tech Win:

bored kelly

Virginia Tech Loss:



Virginia Tech, 51-13. Hokies are still looking to make a statement.

BOSTON COLLEGE (1-2, 0-1 ACC) AT NO. 2 CLEMSON (3-0, 1-0 ACC)

Time: 3:30 p.m.


Hey, Boston College! You got crushed by Notre Dame, sure, but it's on to next week! And next week....oh dear.

Just about the only potential good thing about this game is that Clemson will be coming off of consecutive emotional wins. As good at Dabo Swinney seems to be at getting his guys to focus after success (just look at the way this season has started coming off of a national title!), this is still a seemingly "easy" game sandwiched in between two really good ones and another coming up next week at Virginia Tech. Maybe Clemson will assume that this game will be easy. Except ... won't it?

Boston College remains one of the worst offenses in the country in terms of yards per play (127th out of 130 through three games at 4.03), but they used to have an excellent defense to at least keep them in games. Their defense isn't horrid, but it's not great – it's surrendering 5.77 yards per play, good for 89th nationally. Allowing 20, 34 and 49 points in the last three games isn't all on the defense, but the offense can't be relied upon, especially in a game like this. So. Um. I'm searching hard here for something...

Oh. Let's just move on.


Boston College Win:

that's not a thing

Boston College Loss:


Clemson Win:

really bored you guys

Clemson Loss:



Clemson, 47-12. Gross.

TOLEDO (3-0) AT NO. 14 MIAMI (1-0)

Time: 3:30 p.m.
TV: ACC Network


If you're ready to find out how good Miami's defense is, this isn't a bad game to use as a barometer. Toledo QB Logan Woodside led the nation in touchdown passes a year ago and has picked up where he left off, already throwing for just over 1,000 yards through three games, adding eight touchdowns to just one pick. Toledo will also run the ball and actually has more rush attempts than passes, but they have also faced FCS Elon, Nevada and Tulsa so far. Tulsa is dead last nationally in yards per play allowed (due at least in part to Toledo averaging over 10 – LITERALLY A FIRST DOWN EVERY PLAY – against them in a 54-51 win last week). Nevada is a little stouter – 62nd in yards per play – but they're not Miami. Even though the Hurricanes still have questions about their offense to answer, those likely won't get much more clarity against a Toledo defense that is pretty middle-of-the-pack. Toledo is also allowing 5.0 yards per rush and so Miami will need to lean on its running game and its defense against a potent Toledo offense.


Miami Win: I don't care. Not patting you on the head for this.

rather eat glass

Miami Loss:

you disgust me


Miami, 41-20. Toledo will put up some points. Miami will put up more points.


Time: 3:30 p.m.


Wake Forest ... offensive ... juggernaut? Don't laugh. Maybe all the Deacs needed was, you know, a former radio announcer to stop giving away their game plans.

It's interesting, at least. Some of that inevitably has to do with the competition Wake has faced, of course. And some of it has to do with the massive rebuild job Dave Clausen had, especially on the offensive side.

When analyzing Appalachian against any other Power 5 team, it seemingly always comes back to App's win at Michigan. In 2006. That was a long time ago, back when App was an FCS program (they're FBS now, which at least starts to make things more even). This wil be App's 10th game against a Power 5 team since that win over Michigan, though (seventh since beginning the transition to FBS), and App has lost all of them, and most by double digits, coming close only in the Tennessee game last season that really App should have won. Now, four of them have been ranked opponents, but the point is that App isn't quite a program yet that can consistently and reliably stand toe-to-toe.

Their numbers are good, though, and App has a good defense with a capable offense that actually put up more yards per play on Georgia's defense than Notre Dame did. Wake has looked great on both sides of the ball this year, but make no mistake – this will be a test for the Deacs, especially if they aren't ready for it. Bill Connelly's S&P+ has the Mountaineers ranked 51st in his adjusted stats, while Wake is 36th. The next-highest opponent Wake has faced so far is No. 80 Utah State. But if Wake is for real, they'll take care of business here. It will be a great barometer of where Clawson's program is.


I had a lot of GIFs this week. I figured I'd make both GIFs an homage to the Mountaineers, however:

Wake Forest Win: Thanks for the strength of schedule boost, App!

deadwood thumbs up

Wake Forest Loss: App fans will be like

swaggy mountaineer


Wake Forest, 37-20. The Mountaineers wil be game. But few teams can even hope to slow down the Clawfense.

SYRACUSE (2-1) AT NO. 23 LSU (2-1)

Time: 6:00 p.m.


Syracuse. Stop doing this. We've had this talk. You did survive last week's test – and thrived, really! – against Central Michigan. Now you're going to get angry LSU, at home, at night. Woof. At least one analyst thinks the Orange have a chance. My only issue with what Ahmad Brooks said – all good points, mind you – is that I've seen NOTHING from Syracuse's defense to suggest that they'd be able to offer much in the way of resistance. And oh by the way, it's worth mentioning that Matt Canada is LSU's offensive coordinator and has averaged 8.3 yards PER PLAY against Syracuse over the last two years. Last year's Pitt team put up 10.92 per play. Eesh.

Syracuse's defense held up pretty well against the run the last two games, but it was against Middle Tennessee (IN A LOSS) and Central Michigan. LSU's guys up front, while they struggled last week, will be...better. And Syracuse only has two sacks all season anyway.

Although ... what could be more bananas then Georgia Tech blowing a late lead to the Champions of Life, NC State losing to a meh South Carolina tea and then SYRACUSE of all teams winning at LSU?


Syracuse Win:

confused surprise

Syracuse Loss:

piper crying


LSU, 34-19. Feels about right.

Last week: 9-1 (1-0 ACC)
Overall: 28-6 (3-0 ACC)


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