A Preview of Saturday, October 3 in ACC Football

Pittsburgh at Virginia Tech
Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Va.
Noon on RSN/ESPN3

With both teams coming off a loss, the Hokies and Panthers are looking to get back on track and start the ACC season with a 1-0 record. Virginia Tech is coming off a tough non-conference loss at East Carolina, in which they gave up a ton of yardage on the ground in a rainy afternoon. Pittsburgh is coming off a bye week after losing to Iowa on the road, a game in which their run game was not able to get started at all against the Hawkeye defense.

Without running back James Conner, the run game has certainly taken a step back with the talent but is still averaging 169 yards per game on the ground. The Hokies hope they learned their lesson from last week against the Pirates as their rushing defense have struggled in the four games this season with opponents averaging 206 yards per game (102nd in the nation).

Another issue that the Hokies could face is against Pittsburgh wide receiver Tyler Boyd, who might be the best receiver in the conference. With Kendall Fuller out for the season, the Hokies will need someone to step up in the secondary. In the last two games, Boyd has a least 10 receptions and only needs 19 more receptions to break the Pittsburgh career record of 202.

Virginia Tech quarterback Brendon Motley will look to get back on track in the passing game against a suspect passing defense, but the run game will have to produce something so the Hokies don’t become one-dimensional. It should be an interesting game seeing which offense or defense will breakdown their opponent.

The one factor the Hokies have going for them is playing at Lane Stadium, where the fans will be out in full force.

In this series, the Hokies hold an overall record of 8-6 against the Panthers, but Pittsburgh has won five of the last six meetings, including last year’s game 21-16.

PittKey StatsVirginia Tech
31.0 ppgScoring Offense

36.3 ppg

169 ypg Rushing Offense206 ypg
180 ypgPassing Offense247 ypg
23 ppgScoring Defense26 ppg
92 ypgRushing Defense205 ypg
199 ypgPassing Defense170 ypg
-1.00Turnover Margin+1.75

Louisville at NC State
Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, N.C.
12:30 p.m. on ACC Network/ ESPN3

Both teams have to be excited about heading to Raleigh for a showdown, as the Louisville Cardinals look to take on the Wolfpack of NC State Saturday afternoon. NC State has simply cruised through their non-conference schedule early on, averaging 46 points per game and defeating their opponents by an average score of 34 points. Now, their first real test against an ACC opponent certainly has fans wondering if the Wolfpack are the real deal.

NC State has continued to use a balanced attack through the air and on the ground, having several playmakers that could be an issue for the Cardinals. One factor to watch for Louisville is the defense against the rush; against their three quality opponents, Clemson racked up 202 rushing yards, Houston had 226, and Auburn racked up 190 yards on the ground. The Wolfpack have a multitude of running backs at the disposal. Leading rusher Matthew Dayes is averaging 6.0 yards per carry and as a team, the Wolfpack is coming off a seven touchdown performance last week. However, NC State will be missing running back Shadrach Thornton, who was dismissed from the team earlier this week.

For the Cardinals, quarterback Lamar Jackson was simply outstanding against Samford last week, throwing for 212 yards and rushing for another 184, scoring three times. Jackson could be the key for Louisville against a defense that hasn’t faced a dynamic threat like Jackson. But Jackson might have to do more with his legs, as Coach Bobby Petrino made a few changes to the offensive line before the Samford game.

Louisville leads the all-time series between these two 4-1 and owns a win over the Wolfpack at Carter-Finley, but this is the first time these two have met in Raleigh since 2007.

This will be a huge game for both programs, as Louisville hopes to not fall 0-2 in conference play, while the Wolfpack look to prove that they could be a team to compete for an ACC title early on.

LouisvilleKey StatsNC State
29.3 ppg
Scoring Offense
46.3 ppg
153.8 ypg
Rushing Offense
259 ypg
254.8 ypg 
Passing Offense
219.5 ypg
22 ppg 
Scoring Defense
12.0 ppg
172 ypg  
Rushing Defense
49.5 ypg
175.5 ypg 
Passing Defense
156.3 ypg
Turnover Margin

Boston College at Duke
Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, N.C.
3:30 PM ET on RSN/ ESPN3

The Blue Devils and Eagles are similar in a few ways but also different in others, which could make into a fantastic finish in Durham. Starting with Boston College, one can’t turn their head on how great Head Coach Steve Addazio and the coaching staff has done this season to create one of the top defenses in the country. The Eagles rank second in the nation in scoring defense and rushing defense (46 ypg), while ranking first in passing defense (72 ypg) and total defense (118 ypg). Looking at those stats, Head Coach David Cutcliffe will have his hands full but showed last week that when some might doubt, he proves that Duke is the real deal. The Blue Devils defense might have something to say as well, shutting down the dynamic run game of Georgia Tech last week in the 34-20 win.

Duke will have to be on top of their game once again against the run with the Eagles averaging 231 yards per game on the ground. Unfortunately, their leading rusher Jon Hilliman broke his foot against Northern Illinois last week, as Tyler Rouse, Jeff Smith, and several others will have to pick up the slack. Quarterback Thomas Sirk will have to figure out the defense of the Eagles, as all have failed to do so this season.

With both offenses hoping to get the ground game running and with the occasional air attack, this could be a defensive type of game and one that a few key mistakes could be key to victory.

Boston CollegeKey StatsDuke
29.3 ppg 
Scoring Offense
34 ppg
231 ypg 
Rushing Offense
209 ypg
109 ypg 
Passing Offense
115 ypg
7.8 ppg
Scoring Defense
11.5 ppg
46 ypg
Rushing Defense
113 ypg
72 ypg 
Passing Defense
147 ypg
Turnover Margin

Florida State at Wake Forest
BB&T Field, Winston-Salem, N.C.
3:30 p.m. on ESPN

Florida State is still going through some of their pains to start the season but remain undefeated and in contention for an ACC title. The Seminoles got a strong test against the top defense in the nation in Boston College two weeks ago, and Coach Jimbo Fisher is continuing to work with quarterback transfer Everett Golson, developing him and getting him comfortable in the Seminoles offense.

The topic of quarterbacks could be interesting in this matchup, as we look for Golson to improve his play with the Seminoles, while freshman Kendall Hinton has given the Demon Deacons a possible dynamic duo. Head Coach Dave Clawson has said that quarterback John Wolford is his starting quarterback but with Hinton’s ability to throw and run, it certainly could put pressure on a Seminoles defense that is only allowing 10 points per game.

Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook is always a dangerous talent in the backfield as well, as he goes up against a Wake Forest defense that is allowing 150 yards rushing on the ground. This matchup between these two teams has been lopsided for the last three meetings, with the Seminoles winning 154-6 combined.

The Demon Deacons have hopes that they can move the ball on the solid defensive unit in Florida State, in hopes to control field position and the time of possession. Furthermore, the turnover battle could be another big factor in this game as well.

Florida StateKey StatsWake Forest
35.7 ppg
Scoring Offense
24.8 ppg
214 ypg 
Rushing Offense
128 ypg
217 ypg 
Passing Offense
300 ypg
10 ppg
Scoring Defense
19.5 ppg
140 ypg
Rushing Defense
149.3 ypg
116 ypg
Passing Defense
145 ypg
Turnover Margin

North Carolina at Georgia Tech
Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, Ga.
3:30 p.m. on ESPNU

This could be one of the more exciting games in the ACC if we compare it to the games these two have had in recent years. North Carolina travels down to Atlanta to start their ACC conference schedule, taking on a Yellow Jacket team coming off a loss to Duke last week and seeking revenge from a 48-43 loss last season in Chapel Hill.

For North Carolina, it will be interesting to see if there will be a bigger quarterback battle between Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky, especially after Trubisky’s performance last week against Delaware (17-of-20, 312 passing yards, four touchdowns). The Tar Heels offense has plenty of weapons that have allowed themselves to put points on the board against the Yellow Jackets before. But the defense has been another story this year and could be the main factor in this game if the Tar Heels want to take home their first win in Atlanta in nine tries. The Tar Heels are giving up 228.8 yards per game on the ground, which easily plays into Paul Johnson’s hands. But will defensive coordinator Gene Chizik have an answer this year?

For Georgia Tech, it is almost a must win early for Paul Johnson’s team. Facing their second Coastal Division opponent, they certainly don’t want to fall 0-2 to start ACC play, as the chances to repeat as division champion only gets smaller from there. After dominating their opponents in the first two games, the Yellow Jackets rushing attack has taken a bit of a stumble, only averaging 194.5 yards per game in the two losses. If that happens again, it could be hard for Georgia Tech to catch up against a North Carolina team that has put up over 41 points in their last three games.

Georgia Tech leads the overall series 29-18-3, with them holding an 18-7 advantage at home over the Tar Heels.

Can the Yellow Jackets bounce back and still be in contention for a division title, or will North Carolina start the ACC season with a 1-0 record, something they haven’t done since 2012.

North CarolinaKey Stats
Georgia Tech
38.8 ppg
Scoring Offense
44.0 ppg
217 ypg
Rushing Offense
326 ypg
268.8 ypg
Passing Offense
118.3 ypg
14.8 ppg
Scoring Defense
20 ppg
228.8 ypg
Rushing Defense
154.3 ypg
113.5 ypg
Passing Defense
159.8 ypg 
EvenTurnover Margin


Notre Dame at Clemson
Memorial Stadium, Clemson, SC
8:00 p.m. on ABC

This will be the highlight game for the ACC, as GameDay will be on hand for this one. Not only does this have two top 15 programs battling it out, but also this could have early BCS implications on what the top four teams could look like at the end of the year.

This is a big game for Clemson in several ways. It is a nationally televised game, it can prove the doubters wrong and show they are a national title contender, and it would most certainly shoot Clemson up as one of the favorites in the ACC. There is no doubt about it though on who will lead the Tigers to victory and that is sensational sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson. Watson has the talent to make defenses pay, completing 77 percent of his passes at home this season and has a 5:1 touchdowns to interception ratio. In the one ACC matchup already for the Fighting Irish, Virginia quarterback threw for 289 yards and two touchdowns, almost pulling off the upset. Watson could have a chance to do the same to a defense that ranks 55th in the nation in passing defense.

The Tigers defense though will have their hands full with a confident backup quarterback in DeShone Kizer, who has been sensational in replacing Malik Zaire due to injury. It certainly helps when you have play makers such as wide receiver Will Fuller (22 receptions for 454 yards and six touchdowns) and running back C.J. Prosise (74 carries, 600 yards, and six touchdowns) though at your disposal.
The Tigers defensive line, led by Shaq Lawson, will need to put pressure on the Fighting Irish quarterback, while the linebackers and secondary will have to be on their toes at all times against the run or through the air.

One fact to watch is the battle in the trenches, as the offensive line for Notre Dame have been tremendous, led by Ronnie Stanley, who is allowing the run game to really take off (ranks 12th nationally) and take some of the pressure off Kizer.

These two teams haven’t met since the 1970’s but expect this game to be a showcase of what the ACC could be. Not only will the Clemson fans be louder than ever for GameDay, this could really put the Tigers into the national championship discussion.

Notre DameKey Stats
41.0 ppg
Scoring Offense
36.7 ppg
284.8 ypg
Rushing Offense
188 ypg
246.5 ypg 
Passing Offense
254 ypg
19.8 ppg 
Scoring Defense
12.3 ppg
137.8 ypg
Rushing Defense
114.7 ypg
203.8 ypg
Passing Defense
146 ypg
EvenTurnover Margin