ACC preview: head games

ACC preview: head games
October 10, 2013, 11:30 am
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Maryland vs. Virginia football preview

(Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports)

Schedule:

Pitt @ No. 24 Virginia Tech, Sat. 12:00 p.m.
Navy @ Duke, Sat. 12:30 p.m.
Virginia @ Maryland, Sat. 3:30 p.m.
Syracuse @ NC State, Sat. 3:30 p.m. on CSN and CSN+
Boston College @ No. 3 Clemson, Sat. 3:30 p.m.
Georgia Tech @ BYU, Sat. 7:00 p.m.

Matchup of the week: Pitt @ Virginia Tech, Sat. 12:00 p.m.

Few would have thought this would be an important game when looking at the schedule before the season, but the resurgence of Virginia Tech as well as the impressive ACC debut of Pitt have made this a key game in the Coastal division race.

Most people expect the Hokies to roll in this one at home, but there are a lot of reasons why this one could be a real dogfight. Pitt comes into this game with only one loss on the season, a 41-13 opening loss to Florida State. They have proven they can win in a variety of ways with a 58-55 shootout win over Duke and defensively dominant 14-3 shutdown of Virginia.

The Hokies have traditionally struggled against the Panthers, dating back to their time in the Big East. Pitt has beaten Virginia Tech in four straight games, including a 35-17 thrashing last season and all three matchups in the Hokies’ final three seasons in the Big East. Since Frank Beamer became head coach at Virginia Tech, only three teams have ever won four straight against him, the other two being Miami and Florida State.

The Panthers will need more than history to win in Blacksburg, however, as Virginia Tech is on a roll with five straight wins. Their defense remains one of the best in the country and quarterback Logan Thomas is finally starting to look like the quarterback fans have been waiting to see.

Miami, Virginia Tech, and Pitt have separated themselves from the pack in the Coastal division. Both the Hokies and Panthers control their own destiny. A loss this Saturday would leave the loser on the outside of the division race looking in.

Player to watch: C.J. Brown, QB, senior, Maryland

Brown is the player to watch this week not so much for what he will do on the field, but to see if he can get on it. After suffering a concussion in last week’s loss to Florida State, Brown’s status for this week’s game against Virginia remains up in the air.

Randy Edsall has been cryptic thus far as to Brown’s status saying only that he was day-to-day and would continue to be evaluated, leaving everyone to guess as to his availability.

Last week's loss notwithstanding, the way Maryland has played to start the season really highlights the affect good quarterback play can have. The Terps won four games in 2012, but went 4-0 to start 2013. Caleb Rowe is a dependable backup and it is not as if Maryland will be turning to a backup linebacker at QB again, but Brown’s start showed he can't simply be replaced by the ‘next man up.’

Prior to last week’s disaster against Ball State, Virginia has actually played well defensively this season. The Terps have a much better chance of winning this rivalry matchup with Brown under center. Getting him on the field and keeping him upright could be vital to Maryland’s success this weekend.

Upset alert: Boston College @ Clemson, Sat. 3:30 p.m.

Every week, Clemson continues to show why they are a top five team. Not only did they beat a powerhouse Georgia team, but they continue to win comfortably against the teams they should dominate. That was certainly the case last week when the Tigers destroyed Syracuse 49-14 on the road.

So why is Clemson still on upset alert? Because next week they face Florida State.

Since the beginning of the season, Clemson and Florida State were seen as the class of the conference and ACC fans had October 19th circled in their calendars. The Tigers and Seminoles have been on a collision course ever since. Now with the epic matchup only a week away, Clemson must somehow put that game out of their minds and get up to play Boston College.

The Eagles might not be one of the best teams in the ACC, but the program has already shown dramatic improvement under first-year coach Steve Addazio. The Eagles are 3-2 and played Florida State pretty tough a few weeks ago, losing only by 14.

Players and coaches will say the right thing all week and talk about how their focus is solely on Boston College, but it would be difficult not to think of the looming showdown with the Seminoles. If the Tigers come into this game looking ahead to next week, the Eagles could surprise them.

On CSN: Syracuse @ NC State, Sat. 3:30 p.m. on CSN and CSN+

NC State will look to defend their home field against Syracuse as the Orange make their first visit to Raleigh as a member of the ACC. Both teams are in need of an ACC victory after poor showings last week.

The Wolfpack were stunned in Winston-Salem by Wake Forest who looked in danger of going winless in the ACC this year. Now at 0-2 in conference play, NC State cannot afford any more miscues.

Syracuse meanwhile lost at home to Clemson in humiliating fashion. Losing to one of the best teams in the nation may not be embarrassing in itself, but losing by 35 at home with only 74 yards passing is.

And yet, both teams have proven themselves capable of solid football throughout the season. NC State lost in a dogfight to Clemson, thanks in part to a controversial call negating a go-ahead touchdown for the Wolfpack. After a poor start to the season, the Orange looked like a completely different team after Terrel Hunt took over at quarterback.

Both teams will be in desperation mode as they try to snatch their first conference win. The action starts at 3:30 on CSN and CSN+.