ACC preview: game of the century

ACC preview: game of the century
October 17, 2013, 9:30 am
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Will Maryland overcome all the defensive injuries?

Schedule:

No. 10 Miami @ North Carolina, Thurs. 7:30 p.m.
Syracuse @ Georgia Tech, Sat. 12:30 p.m.
Maryland @ Wake Forest, Sat. 3:30 p.m.
Duke @ Virginia, Sat. 3:30 p.m. on CSN and CSN+
Old Dominion @ Pitt, Sat. 7:00 p.m. on CSN
No. 5 Florida State @ Clemson, Sat. 8:00 p.m.

Matchup of the week: No. 5 Florida State @ No. 3 Clemson, Sat. 8:00 p.m.

This is the one we have all been waiting for! ACC fans have had this one circled in their calendars since the beginning of the season when Florida State and Clemson were heralded as the class of the conference. Any doubt as to whether these teams would live up to those expectations was erased in the very first week as Clemson defeated SEC opponent Georgia and Florida State romped Pitt in the debut of freshman quarterback Jameis Winston.

Since then we have kept our fingers crossed, hoping both teams could make it through to this game unscathed, hoping that this game would not lose its luster because of an all-too-familiar ACC collapse. Luckily the Seminoles and the Tigers have bucked that trend and so will grab the national spotlight this weekend for the conference as these two unbeaten teams fight to keep their national title hopes alive.

This game will be a duel between Winston and Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd to see just who can outlast the other; the ACC’s future star against the fifth-year senior. Winston’s incredible freshman season has somewhat overshadowed Boyd’s swansong, but that will all be forgotten if Clemson can defend their home field on Saturday.

But this is not just about the quarterbacks. Florida State as a team has shown remarkable consistency this season, ranking fourth in the nation in total offense and seventh in total defense. Perhaps no game illustrates that better than their 63-0 drubbing of Maryland two weeks ago.

Not surprisingly, Clemson has shown similar balance ranking 13th and 21st in offense and defense respectively. The Tigers came out of the gate swinging as they defeated Georgia in the opening weekend giving Clemson a signature win right out of the gate.

There is not much to separate these two powerhouses. Florida State had a bit more time to prepare as they are coming off a bye, but Clemson will have the home crowd behind them.

This looks like one for the ages.

Player to watch: Jameis Winston, QB, freshman, Florida State

In a game where both teams are so evenly matched, the key likely rests with Winston. This will be the first big test of his young career. With all due respect to Pitt, a night game against the Panthers will be nothing compared to this.

At the beginning of the season, Florida State had high hopes for their young quarterback. He did not disappoint, going 25 for 27 passing for 356 yards and four touchdowns in his very first game. That performance justified all the hype surrounding the Seminoles and put them on a collision course for their October showdown in Clemson.

The Panthers, however, are not the No. 3 Clemson Tigers and Winston is not simply hoping for a good debut; now he is playing to keep Florida State in contention for a national title.

With 1441 passing yards, 19 total touchdowns and only two interceptions in five games, it certainly appears Winston has ice water in his veins and he’ll need that heading into Death Valley.

As good as Winston has looked, he is still just a freshman. It would not be surprising if the crowd, the pressure, and the situation all got to Winston to start the game, but the Tigers are so good on both sides of the ball, the Seminoles likely cannot afford a slow start.

If Winston can play as well as we have seen him play already this season and lead the Seminoles to victory in Death Valley, Winston will no longer be the future of the ACC; he will be its present.

Upset alert: Maryland @ Wake Forest, Sat. 3:30 p.m.

Maryland just narrowly avoided an upset at home by Virginia last week thanks to a missed field goal at the end of the game, but this one was much closer than many would have perhaps guessed.

Yes, the Terps were without starting quarterback C.J. Brown, but it was the defense that struggled Saturday allowing 505 total yards to the Cavaliers. Virginia managed 27 points against Ball State and only three points against Pitt, but still put up 26 against Maryland.

Wake Forest, meanwhile is feeling rejuvenated after a 28-13 win over NC State. Quarterback Tanner Price led the way with 350 total yards and four touchdowns.

Hopefully Brown’s return will give the Terps more confidence on both sides of the ball, but this is not a game the defense can phone in.

On CSN: Duke @ Virginia, Sat. 3:30 p.m. on CSN and CSN+

Both Duke and Virginia will be looking for their first ACC win this weekend as both teams stand at 0-2 in conference play. Duke, at 4-2 overall, is only two wins away from becoming bowl eligible for the second consecutive season, but they have really taken advantage of a soft opening schedule. Their two losses have come against ACC teams and if the Blue Devils lose in Charlottesville, it is very possible they could lose out.

Virginia heads into this game desperately trying to save their season. After a heartbreaking loss to Maryland, the Cavaliers have now lost three straight and things are not going to get any easier with Clemson, Miami, and Virginia Tech still on the schedule.

Virginia may have begun to turn the corner last week, putting up 26 against Maryland after struggling offensively in their two previous games. To see if they can stop their skid this Saturday, tune into CSN and CSN+ at 3:30 p.m.

Old Dominion @ Pitt, Sat. 7:00 p.m. on CSN

After a disappointing 19-9 loss to Virginia Tech, the Panthers will look to rebound this weekend as they host Old Dominion under the lights. The Monarchs roll into Pittsburgh having won four straight, but this will be their first game against an FBS opponent since their loss to Maryland on September 7.

Old Dominion could be in trouble depending on which Pitt team shows up. Will it be the offensive juggernaut that scored 49 against New Mexico and 58 against Duke or the timid Panthers that managed only 14 against Virginia and nine against Virginia Tech?

Catch the action on CSN starting at 7:00 p.m. this Saturday to find out!