Lauren Brownlow

History hangs over Week 5 in the ACC

Posted September 29

Miami visits Duke on October 31, 2015 for a Halloween trick or treat in Durham, N.C. After Duke made a late game come back Miami pulled out a trick on the final play to win 27 to 30. (Chris Baird / WRAL Contributor).

The smell of conference play is heavy upon the air this week in ACC Country. Why can't that be a thing? There's an SEC Country. So I'm making it a thing. And in our country this weekend, opponents with a lot of history between them are going to be facing off, even if they aren't traditional rivals.

Duke and Miami have The Octolateral. UNC and Georgia Tech have ... well, a lot of craziness, but also "too bad we missed that two-point conversion". (Have I mentioned that I love Paul Johnson?)

NC State and Syracuse have the longest final possession ever. Oh wait, wrong sport. But NC State is playing against history, in a sense -- that history being its tendency over the years to win a big game and then stumble. So that's the kind of history they'd like to avoid.

NC State isn't the only team looking to avoid something bad. Pittsburgh would like to, um, not be historically bad and thus should not lose to Rice. Similarly bad history would be made if Louisville were to lose to Murray State, and they've had enough news made over there recently. Boston College, of course, is just a team we avoid altogether.

Florida State has 40 ACC losses since joining the league – 15 of them have been to Wake Forest (4), NC State (8) and North Carolina (3). Duke is the only old ACC team never to have beaten Florida State. But the other 10 ACC schools (including Maryland at a time and adding the new ones) have a combined 25 wins over the Seminoles, and Clemson has eight of those.

Florida State has 13 ACC losses this decade. Seven of those have come to Wake, UNC or NC State – three each to UNC and NC State, but the danger Wake presents the reeling Seminoles this weekend is very real. Maybe they just don't like the state of North Carolina for some reason? We'll get to that later.

But now: GIFs!

FRIDAY

NO. 14 MIAMI (2-0) AT DUKE (4-0, 1-0)

Time: 7:00 p.m.
TV: ESPN

#ANALYSIS

Well, we got the history part out of the way. But the way the game ended in 2015 honestly has little bearing on this one. There's still a lot unknown about both teams, frankly. Miami has only played two games, one against FCS Bethune-Cookman and the other against high-powered passing Toledo. So Miami's defensive numbers aren't in line with what we thought this defense would be but make no mistake – they're legit. They'll be by far the best defense Duke has seen, and that's not the best news for a Duke offense that has been sputtering a bit lately. Both teams are likely going to look to lean on their defenses, which have both been excellent so far. So it'll come down to which team can execute better and make fewer mistakes – and maybe to which team can make plays. For the former, advantage Duke. For the latter? It's all about the U.

THIS GUY

Mark Walton. Arguably the best tailback in the ACC this year, Miami's junior tailback got off to an even better start than imaginable, averaging 13 yards (!!!!!!!) per rush through two games on 27 attempts. Walton hurt his ankle in the game agaisnt Toledo, but he asked his coaches for just one more play so that he could break the 200-yard mark. Yeah. He's expected to be a go for this game, and it will be a true test for Duke's run defense.

Duke is allowing just 2.33 yards per rush, which is fourth nationally, and that's even after allowing UNC to average 3.58. Even that stat is somewhat deceptive – Chazz Surratt had a 56-yard touchdown run for the Tar Heels, but the other 32 rushing attempts went for 62 yards (1.94 per rush). UNC's tialbacks combined for 49 yards on 16 attempts, and a third of UNC's total rushing attempts were for negative yardage (which of course includes sacks). But Duke hasn't played a back like this yet.

HERE'S A GUY

Daniel Jones. If there's anything I can say about Duke's back-to-back ugly wins, it's that at least Daniel Jones did a better job against North Carolina of sort of hanging in there, not forcing anything and making plays when it counted. But he still had his lowest completion percentage of the year (52.9%) and second-lowest of his career. After a really hot start to the season in the first two games where he ran for 127 yards on 20 attempts (and three touchdowns) plus completed nearly 69% of his passes for 7.4 yards per attempt, Jones has run for just 14 yards on 22 attempts (no touchdowns) and completed 55% of his passes for 5.6 per attempt in the last two games. On the aggregate, Baylor and North Carolina are better than NC Central and Northwestern. But Miami will be much, much better than both. Miami cornerback Malek Young says it's his defense's goal to {{a href="external-link-0"}}get Jones out of the game{{/a}}. This is what most defenses want to do with opposing quarterbacks, of course. But Young did cite Jones' seeming inability to slide and willingness to take hits. The hits from this defense will be a different beast than the hits he's taken all year.

NARRATIVES

Miami Win: THE U IS BACK!

miami come at me

Miami Loss:

train jump fail

Duke Win: Duke football busting on the scene like

omg hi

Duke Loss: Non-Duke fans in the Triangle, basically

told you so

PREDICTION

Miami, 23-16. The way Duke's offense has been trending lately is too concerning. Duke's defense will keep it close, though.

SATURDAY

NORTH CAROLINA (1-3, 0-2) AT GEORGIA TECH (2-1, 1-0)

Time: 12:00 p.m.
TV: ESPN2

#ANALYSIS

Believe it or not – and I'm sure to UNC fans, it won't feel this way – but the Tar Heels have won three in a row in this series. The last time EITHER team scored fewer than 20 points in this series, by the way, was 2009. The winning side has needed at least 28 points in every game since. But it's hard to analyze this game from a UNC perspective, since the Tar Heels' injury report is....lengthy.

Georgia Tech's spread-option offense is the same as always, and its defense might be taking some steps forward as well under Ted Roof although it's hard to be sure, considering their competition. But it won't matter much if the offense is working. And that's the key here. Georgia Tech is at a -5 in turnover margin on the season against FBS opponents, having lost six fumbles. If they're similiarly sloppy against UNC, the Tar Heels will have to find a way to get those turnovers and turn them into points. That's the way the Yellow Jackets lost their season opener to Tennessee in spite of dominating most of the game. And that's really the best the Tar Heels can hope for in this one.

THIS GUY

Chazz Surratt. This season is looking to be an arduous one for the Tar Heels, but perhaps the most valuable thing to have come out of it is that they've found their quarterback of the future. Last interception against Duke not withstanding, he has played really well this season, completing 64.3% of his passes for five touchdownad and one pick while adding 117 yards on the ground and four more touchdowns. His game against Duke was his first all season and he still put up 259 yards and averaged 8.1 per attempt, plus making some plays with his legs. He's now down his best receiver in Austin Proehl, but he has found connections with other guys like Anthony Ratliff-Williams. If nothing else, this season will be very valuable for him learning the ropes, almost in the same way last season was for Daniel Jones.

HERE'S A GUY

TaQuon Marshall. If you watched Georgia Tech's season-opening loss to Tennessee, you remember the plucky junior quarterback who finished with 120 yards passing and 249 rushing (on 44 attempts!) in the overtime loss. He's continued to play well since, although he has just 31 rushing attempts combined in those two games, which, he deserved a break probably. He had 112 yards on the ground on 18 carries against Pitt (6.2 per rush) and completed 4-of-7 passes for 48 yards. UNC's secondary played well last week against Duke, but they've been disappointing overall this season. Marshall will have to make plays at some point with his arm and he's shown he is capable of it, but the UNC secondary will have to be ready. Marshall is going to be a handful.

NARRATIVES

North Carolina Win:

shakes off bees

North Carolina Loss:

hit in face twice

Georgia Tech Win:

bees

Georgia Tech Loss:

bee fail

PREDICTION

Georgia Tech, 34-20. Just too much attrition for the Tar Heels.

SYRACUSE (2-2) AT NC STATE (3-1, 1-0)

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

#ANALYSIS

NC State coming off of a big win. I wonder what their history is in that situation? Well, it's not as simple as you think: in the pre-Dave Doeren era, even, NC State is still 2-3 after beating either Clemson, Florida State or UNC. Dave Doeren is actually 2-1 after his team's biggest wins to date -- he won both bowl games after his team beat North Carolina to end the season (albeit after a month layoff, but still counts) and after beating Notre Dame last year (a big win at the time), his team lost at Clemson – but it was the overtime loss and his team CERTAINLY was not flat in that game. So a history of letdowns that might already be slightly unfair is actually not a history that Doeren is a part of just yet.

Last year was NC State's first time facing Dino Babers and his up-tempo offense, but they faced it without QB Eric Dungey. It was Syracuse's first game without him, in fact. Syracuse managed just 218 total yards, fewest of the Babers era. And yet it still took NC State some time to pull away.

But Syracuse is weird like that. Against LSU last week, they racked up 384 yards and scored 26 points but reached the red zone just once in spite of running 32 plays across the 50-yard line. They went three-and-out three times and had a turnover on 13 drives but were 8-of-19 on third down and 2-of-3 on fourth. Syracuse has run at least 80 plays in three of its four games and 90 or more in two of them.

The Orange have put up over 500 yards of offense in two wins and averaged over 6 yards a play compared to 308 and 384 in two losses (and 3.31 and 4.68 per play, respectively). So they're going to run a lot of plays, they're going to be pass-heavy and they're going to make you pay for defensive mistakes. NC State must try to avoid that while also maintaining drives in their own right. Syracuse's defense was a dumpster fire a year ago, but it's better now and their front is definitely better. LSU's Derrius Guice, although hobbled, got almost nothing and LSU averaged 3.97 per rush, which is the best against Syracuse this year. You want to try to make LSU beat you through the air and ultimately, they did, but Syracuse wil take that. NC State will have to execute well on offense and maintain and finish drives.

THIS GUY

Eric Dungey. Look I hate to keep picking quarterbacks. But the dude has the ball in his hands more than anyone else on Syracuse's team, and not because he's handing it off, either – although he is doing some of that. But he leads Syracuse in rushing attempts with 52 (4.48 per rush and five touchdowns, by the way) and he's completed nearly 64% of his pass attempts to boot. Syracuse's offense is designed for hiim to get rid of the ball quickly, so that could negate some of NC State's pass rush. But when you're aware of Dungey's injury history and you watch him play, it can be downright scary. NC State's defense will have their chances to get shots in on him, but they'll have to avoid picking up penalties and Dungey will have to be careful. Well, you'd think. He hasn't been yet, so.

HERE'S A GUY

Bradley Chubb. The preseason All-American defensive end lived up to every bit of that last Saturday, forcing a fumble and notching two sacks against the Seminoles. He showed up in ways beyond the stat sheet as well, of course, but the important part is that he made his presence known, which hadn't always been the case earlier in the season. Three of his 3.5 sacks have come in the last two game now, as have 2.5 of his 7.5 tackles for loss. He appears to be rounding into form, but they need Chubb as much in games like this week as they do in games like this one, if not more. It was a different Syracuse team last year of course but he had 4.5 tackles for loss (a season-high) in that win a year ago and two of his 10 sacks, adding a forced fumble. Dino Babers knows he'll be a problem.

NARRATIVES

Syracuse Win:

phil point yeah

Syracuse Loss:

tired kid

NC State Win: You did it you avoided the bad thing

we are very proud of you

NC State Loss: Basically this

black swan

PREDICTION

NC State, 34-24. NC State pulls away after a slow start.

RICE (1-3) AT PITTSBURGH (1-3, 0-1)

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

#ANALYSIS

Good news, Pitt! Rice may be a lot of empty carbohydrates, but this week, you couldn't imagine anything that's better for you. Rice has been outscored 113-17 in three losses to FBS opponents (127-48 overall, including a win over a bad UTEP team). And that includes a 13-7 loss to Butch Davis' FIU team last week. But Pitt hasn't been able to look good against anyone so far either. Pitt's defense hasn't been good, but the offense is going to be the real concern. Last year, Pitt's defense also wasn't great but the offense could at least score some points. Pitt now can't run the ball and doesn't really know who its quarterback is (officially, anyway, and it's kind of turning into a mess).

Rice has shown some defensive improvement after Stanford put up 62 on them in the opener. But if you're Pitt, it's now or never for this offense.

NARRATIVES

Pittsburgh Win:

animal eats rice

Pittsburgh Loss:

animal stares at rice

PREDICTION

Pittsburgh, 37-20. Pitt can't do anything super easily. They'll take a 17-point win at this point though.

CENTRAL MICHIGAN (2-2) AT BOSTON COLLEGE (1-3, 0-2)

Time: 1:00 p.m.
TV: ACC Network

#ANALYSIS

Boston College played Clemson close for awhile in Death Valley last week. And frankly, that's just what disturbs me about this game. Because the rest of the year, BC has shown it is just bad enough to lose a game like this. Did they leave it all out on the field, so to speak, last weekend? Central Michigan has problems of its own, though. After starting the season 2-0, including a blowout win at Kansas, they GOT blown out at Syracuse and then lost 31-14 to Miami of Ohio. Boston College and CMU both are injury-riddled at the moment, and generally that's going to have more of an impact on the non-Power 5 school. Plus while Boston College's defense hasn't been a shadow of its former self this year, they've also faced some good teams. Central Michigan's offense at full strength is excellent. But it isn't right now. And that's where Boston College will have to win this one because they're not winning anything ever with their offense. As BC Interruption points out, their offensive approach right now is basically crawl down the field and pray.

NARRATIVES

Boston College Win:

that's fine whatever

Boston College Loss:

hiding under covers

PREDICTION

Boston College, 31-20. I don't want to watch this.

MURRAY STATE (1-3) AT NO. 17 LOUISVILLE (3-1, 1-1)

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

#ANALYSIS

Nothing like consecutive games against awful teams to bounce back! And thankfully for Louisville, with everything going on this week around campus, they get a team that they should crush in their sleep anyway. After opening the season with a 67-7 over something called Kentucky Wesleyan, the FCS Racers (great name) have lost three straight to FCS opponents, including giving Missouri State its only win. Woof. You know it's bad when the only news stories I can find on Murray State football are that one of its players got married on the field a few weeks ago and another was charged with robbery at the end of August.

NARRATIVES

Louisville Win:

shkreli nod

Louisville Loss: LOL not gonna happen

no time for lies

PREDICTION

Louisville, 62-7. Why not.

FLORIDA STATE (0-2, 0-1) AT WAKE FOREST (4-0, 1-0)

Time: 3:30 p.m.
TV: ABC

#ANALYSIS

On Tuesday, Wake head coach Dave Clawson said that the demise of Florida State has been greatly exaggerated. He's right, of course. But Florida State fans have to get twitchy at the mere presence of the resurgent Deacs on their schedule, particularly as this game is on the road. Last time Florida State's demise was indeed real, the Deacs were the main beneficiaries and FSU's nemesis, taking three of 10 meetings with the Seminoles in the 2000's and winning an ACC title in 2006. From 2012-14, the series shifted very much dramatically back in FSU's favor -- but it's starting to shift back a bit, as Wake dropped the last meeting by just 11 in Tallahassee and by just eight at home in 2015.

This is all history, though, and not relevant to this game. It's probably fair to say that we'll find out a lot about both teams in this one. Florida State lost last week to a team that always plays them tough after a three-week layoff with a new starting quarterback. Wake is 4-0, but the Deacs struggled with Appalachian last week and arguably should have lost. And they haven't played anyone nearly as good as Florida State. On either side of the ball. James Blackman is legit at QB, the FSU running game is still a thing and while Wake's front is still good defensively, the secondary can be had. Oh, and FSU's defense is still really good too and could make for a long afternoon for that offense. John Wolford probably throws his first interception in this one, I'm afraid.

NARRATIVES

Florida State Win: Oh hey a win

great party so much fun

Florida State Loss:

it's really bleak

Wake Forest Win: Wake doing what they do in the ACC

made everything weird

Wake Forest Loss:

blond shrug

PREDICTION

Florida State, 27-20. I'm still a believer in both of these teams. And the version of FSU that I believe is still better than Wake Forest.

NO. 2 CLEMSON (4-0, 2-0) AT NO. 12 VIRGINIA TECH (4-0)

Time: 8:00 p.m.
TV: ABC

#ANALYSIS

It's the game of the year in the ACC....and maybe even nationally? Rare that games live up to the hype, although some do pleasantly surprise us. We've had FSU-Alabama and Clemson-Louisville be duds already. But this one does promise to be better. Virginia Tech at night is a tough place to play always, and so while Clemson is the better team, that kind of GameDay, nighttime Lane Stadium atmosphere could mitigate things for the Hokies. Clemson has been tested this year against better opponents than Virginia Tech has, and that's not really debatable. But a schizophrenic Virginia Tech team last year managed to make Clemson sweat in the ACC title game, and these two could be headed for another rematch in Charlotte no matter the outcome of this game.

We can call the offenses a wash at this point, and maybe even give a slight edge to Clemson. Both have new starters under center, both have been poised beyond their years but Clemson probably has better weapons around Kelly Bryant. The defense gives a decided edge to Clemson, a team that has allowed exactly two non-garbage time touchdowns this year. Virginia Tech will be up there in terms of best offenses they've faced, but still. So a game like this could come down to turnovers and special teams. Clemson won the national title last year with a -1 turnover margin and have gone 7-1 in their last eight games against top-25 teams in spite of a -5 turnover margin in those games. So they've managed to overcome it. They're -2 on the year this season (although +1 in the last two games, going -2 in the win at home over Auburn. But where and when turnovers happen could matter, and as solid as Bryant has been, he's not Deshaun Watson just yet.

And then there's special teams. BEAMER BALL! Except in Blacksburg this year, special teams have not been quite the calling card that they usually are. Clemson and Virginia Tech are both in the top 5 in the ACC in punting average, both have done pretty well on punt returns and kickoff coverage and Virginia Tech has been outstanding in punt return coverage, allowing a total of one yard. But games like these are where those types of plays can turn it. And field goal kicking is worth watching. Virginia Tech's Joey Slye, normally reliable, is just 7-of-12 this year. Clemson was already struggling kicking as starter Greg Huegel was 2-of-4 on field goals and had already missed two PATs. He tore his ACL in practice this week, though, and brand-new kicker Alex Spence – he's 4-of-5 on extra points in his Clemson career, but has never attempted a field goal in a game -- is the guy. At night. In Lane Stadium.

Welp.

NARRATIVES

Clemson Win:

night king come at me

Clemson Loss: Still hanging on for dear life

stuck in window

Virginia Tech Win: Just the ACC's hopes and dreams hanging on Virginia Tech, nbd

veep smile yikes

Virginia Tech Loss: It's ok guys

baseball hug

PREDICTION

Clemson, 28-19. I do think Clemson will be tested by the Hokies. I also think that they are better and will win. I also think they will either not attempt a field goal or just not make one.

Last week: 8-2 (3-1 ACC))
Overall: 36-8 (6-1 ACC)

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