Week 9: Five Make-or-Break ACC Matchups


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5. Boston College’s Ground Game vs. Wake Forest’s Run D
As the ground troops go, so goes Boston College. Unfortunately for BC, every opponent knows the blueprint for success, and stacks the box accordingly. When the Eagles, led by QB Tyler Murphy and a deep backfield, rush for at least 250 yards, they’re unbeaten in 2014. Under 250? 0-3. Wake Forest wants to force Murphy to extend drives with his arm, and will flood the line of scrimmage with underrated defenders, such as S Ryan Janvion, LB Brandon Chubb and linemen Zach Allen and Tylor Harris.

4. Syracuse’s Pass Rush vs. Clemson’s O-line
Attack, attack, attack. It’s the mantra of an Orange defense that aims to disrupt the rhythm of opposing backfields. If linemen Robert Welsh, Eric Crume and Micah Robinson aren’t getting the job done, the staff will gladly unleash linebackers Cameron Lynch, Dyshawn Davis and Marqez Hodge. It’ll be up to the Clemson front wall, which ranks 11th in ACC sacks allowed, to seal the gaps and the edge. If the Tigers are successful, it’s going to enhance QB Cole Stoudt’s chances of locating big-play receivers Mike Williams and Artavis Scott downfield.

3. Georgia Tech QB Justin Thomas vs. Pitt’s Front Seven
Matt House’s Panther defense has easily been one of the biggest surprises in the ACC so far in 2014. Despite losing its bell cow, DT Aaron Donald, to graduation, Pitt is No. 2 in the league in total D. This week’s assignment? Limit the damage of the versatile Thomas, who’s proven to be dangerous as a runner and a play-action passer. Despite an obvious dearth of household names or All-American candidates, the Panthers have been ultra-steady, led in the middle by Donald heirs Darryl Render and Khaynin Mosley-Smith.

2. North Carolina QB Marquise Williams vs. Virginia’s D
Williams is on a tear the last four games, accounting for 11 touchdowns. And he’s raising the level of teammates around him, including RB T.J. Logan and receivers Ryan Switzer and Mack Hollins. But the Cavs are going to present roadblocks at every level. They’ll collapse the pocket with DE Eli Harold and linebackers Max Valles and Henry Coley. And the Anthony Harris-led secondary has as many picks as touchdowns allowed. If Williams can solve this talented UVa defense, Carolina might be poised to take flight, much the way it did in the second half of last year. [Check out Marquise Williams' Five-TD Performance vs Georgia Tech]

1. Miami QB Brad Kaaya vs. Virginia Tech’s Secondary
Blacksburg. On a Thursday night. Against a Kendall Fuller-inspired secondary allowing quarterbacks to complete only 46.3% of their passes, the lowest in the country. The Hurricanes know what they’ve got in Kaaya, but the learning curve will be officially flattened if the true freshman flourishes in this spot. Consistent with most young quarterbacks, he’s been far tighter at home than on the road, with a passer rating 38 points higher in games played in Miami. East Carolina’s Shane Carden is the only hurler so far this season to throw for more than 220 yards and one touchdown on the Hokies. [Check out Brad Kaaya's Breakout Performance: Best of Miami QB vs Cincinnati]