Week 3: Make-or-Break ACC Matchups

(Photo by Jamie Rhodes, USA Today Images)

Rich Cirminiello of Campus Insiders for theACC.com

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6. Syracuse Linebackers vs. Central Michigan RB Thomas Rawls
Last weekend, the Chippewas took down a Power Five opponent, Purdue. For the Orange to avoid the same fate, they'll need to hem in Rawls, who has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the first two games. Syracuse, to the contrary, hasn't allowed an opposing player to rush for 100 yards in regulation during the Scott Shafer era. Maintaining that trend falls on an athletic line and senior outside linebackers Dyshawn Davis and Cameron Lynch.

5. Duke Secondary vs. Kansas WR Nick Harwell
Harwell has already proven to be worth the wait, catching four balls and a pair of touchdown passes in his first game since transferring from Miami University. He’ll face a much tougher challenge this week, though, against a Blue Devil secondary flush with aggressive playmakers. S Jeremy Cash is the enforcer of the defensive backfield, while CB DeVon Edwards is likely to draw the assignment of blanketing Harwell at all times.

4. Miami LB Denzel Perryman vs. Arkansas State QB Fredi Knighten
Knighten is the kind of shifty, elusive quarterback who can drive a defense batty. He showed last week that he won’t back down from stiffer competition, accounting for 231 yards and two scores in a loss at Tennessee. Perryman, though, has a penchant for discouraging quarterbacks from straying too far from the pocket. And at just 5-11, 189 pounds, Knighten won’t be able to absorb more than a couple of hits from Miami’s knockout puncher.

3. Boston College QB Tyler Murphy vs. USC Front Seven
If BC has any chance of shocking the nation, it’ll need Murphy to have the game of his life. He’s just seasoned and athletic enough to catch the Trojans napping the week after their upset of Stanford. Obviously, Murphy must get maximum support from his O-line to keep DE Leonard Williams and the rest of the USC linemen in check. For the first 30 minutes, the Eagles won’t have to contend with Troy’s best linebacker, Hayes Pullard, who was suspended for targeting Stanford’s Ty Montgomery.

2. Wake Forest Secondary vs. Utah State QB Chuckie Keeton
Keeton has been rusty so far in his return from last year’s knee injury. The Deacons plan to keep him out of sync in their first-ever trip to Utah State. Keeton has thrown just one touchdown and three interceptions, while completing less than 50% of his passes. Life gets no easier against corners Kevin Johnson and Merrill Noel, the mainstays of a secondary that’s yet to yield a touchdown pass.

1. Louisville QB Will Gardner vs. Virginia D
The world will learn a lot about Gardner this weekend. Not only does he hit the road for the first time as the Cardinal starter, but he’ll do so against one of the ACC’s nastier defenses. Virginia created seven turnovers last Saturday, and held UCLA to just one offensive touchdown in Week 1. Gardner is about to get a crash course in fitting balls into tight windows, courtesy of S Anthony Harris and the Cav DBs.