Week 5: Seven Make-or-Break Matchups


How will Miami's Brad Kaaya (pictured) fare against Duke's secondary? (PHOTO: hurricanesports.com)

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5. Louisville’s QBs vs. Wake Forest’s Secondary
Will Gardner is day-to-day with a balky knee. Meanwhile, rookie Reggie Bonnafon has been taking first-team snaps. Whoever gets the nod from Bobby Petrino will face the tall task of navigating Wake Forest’s veteran defensive backfield. The Demon Deacons are only allowing 148 passing yards per game and an ACC-low 8.8 yards per completion. Kevin Johnson and Merrill Noel are all-star-caliber corners, while S Ryan Janvion will make Card receivers James Quick and Eli Rogers reconsider crossing the middle of the field.

4. Syracuse’s Front Seven vs. Notre Dame’s Ground Game
The Irish are desperate to run the ball better, so much so that Brian Kelly completely reshuffled his offensive line during the team’s bye week. The coach wants backs Cam McDaniel, Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston to provide more support for QB Everett Golson, who’s had his hand in 11 of ND’s 13 touchdowns. Standing in the way, though, is Syracuse’s underrated, Cameron Lynch-led front seven that’s held opponents to 2.7 yards per carry through three games.

3. Clemson QB Deshaun Watson vs. North Carolina’s Secondary
A new era begins at Clemson, as Watson gets set to start for the first time. The precocious true freshman from Gainesville, Ga. has impressed as Cole Stoudt’s backup, including completing 19-of-28 for 266 yards in last Saturday’s loss to Florida State. Watson’s first assignment comes against a reeling Carolina secondary that was just picked apart by East Carolina QB Shane Carden. If Watson quickly develops chemistry with young receivers Artavis Scott and Mike Williams, it’ll be the advent of something very special for the Tigers.

2. NC State’s O-Line vs. Florida State’s D-line
Since 1998, the ‘Noles have lost five times when traveling to Raleigh as a ranked team. For the Pack to run that number to six, it must control the line of scrimmage. NC State is gradually turning things around for second-year head coach Dave Doeren, because QB Jacoby Brissett and backs Shadrach Thornton and Matt Dayes are being put in a position to make plays. Now, it’s up to the overachieving Wolfpack front wall to keep the FSU linemen, particularly DE Mario Edwards Jr. and DT Eddie Goldman, from blowing up plays in the backfield.

1. Miami QB Brad Kaaya vs. Duke’s Secondary
Kaaya is evolving on the fly in his first season out of Chaminade (Calif.) College Prep. In just the last two games, he’s thrown for 701 yards and seven touchdowns, while completing two-thirds of his passes. The game is slowing down. But here come the Blue Devils, with a ball-hawking secondary that’s yet to allow a touchdown pass in four games. Duke, with its five-DB alignment, has been blanketing receivers and jumping routes to break up throws. If Kaaya passes this test, it’ll mean he’s maturing beyond even Miami’s expectations.