ACC preview: Maryland heads to Tallahassee

ACC preview: Maryland heads to Tallahassee
October 3, 2013, 9:15 am
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(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)

Schedule:

No. 25 Maryland @ No. 8 Florida State, Sat. 12:00 p.m.
Ball State @ Virginia, Sat. 12:00 p.m. on CSN
North Carolina @ Virginia Tech, Sat. 12:30 p.m.
Army @ Boston College, Sat. 1:00 p.m.
NC State @ Wake Forest, Sat. 3:30 p.m. on CSN
No. 3 Clemson @ Syracuse, Sat. 3:30 p.m.
Georgia Tech @ No. 14 Miami, Sat. 3:30 p.m.

Matchup of the week: No. 25 Maryland @ No. 8 Florida State, Sat. 12:00 p.m.

Maryland keeps making the matchup of the week because they just keep on winning. Many were not surprised when they went 3-0 with a relatively tame schedule, but people are really starting to take notice after the 37-0 drubbing they put on West Virginia. With WVU’s upset win over Oklahoma State this past weekend, it is time to ask the question: are the Terps for real?

West Virginia, however, is no Florida State.

The Seminoles are also 4-0 and have regained some of the national swagger they had been lacking for the past few years. Led by freshman phenom quarterback Jameis Winston, Florida State looks like a true national contender. From the onset of the season, most analysts boiled that Atlantic division down to Clemson and Florida State, with the winner of their October 19 matchup claiming the division, the conference, and posing the ACC’s best chance for a national title bid.

Maryland would love to spoil those plans.

But beating the Seminoles will be easier said than done. The Terps are 2-21 all-time against Florida State and have never won in Tallahassee. Maryland also cannot expect to fly under anyone’s radar anymore after their statement win over West Virginia. The Seminoles will be ready.

With C.J. Brown and Stefon Diggs, the Terps have the ability to score points on any defense. Florida State offensively is fourth in the nation in points per game. Are the Terps strong enough on defense to keep this game within reach?

Player to watch: Duke Johnson, RB, sophomore, Miami

Currently the ACC’s second leading rusher with 388 yards through four games, Johnson has been one of the vocal points of Miami’s offense this season. He has scored at least one touchdown in eight straight games, but that streak could be in jeopardy this weekend.

Georgia Tech boasts the ACC’s best run defense, allowing only 94.3 yards per game. Johnson also ran afoul of head coach Al Golden last week during Miami’s game against South Florida. Johnson fumbled twice within the Bull’s 5-yard line, both in the second quarter. Had the Hurricanes been playing a tougher opponent, either fumble could have been critical. Miami ultimately won 49-21, but Golden still wanted to get his message across.

This week in practice, backup RB Dallas Crawford suited up with the starters while Johnson dressed with the reserves. While this was done for show and Johnson is still expected to start this weekend, coach Golden’s patience is clearly running thin.

Miami will need a strong performance from Johnson against a tough Georgia Tech team in desperate need of a divisional win. Which Johnson will show up: the one who rushed for 186 yards against Florida Atlantic or the one who turned the ball over twice near the goal line against USF?

Upset alert: No. 3 Clemson @ Syracuse, Sat. 3:30 p.m.

Syracuse might not be a great football team, they might not even be a good football team by the team the season is over, but for the last two seasons they have pulled off massive upsets at the Carrier Dome. If they are going to do it again, Saturday will be their chance.

Clemson is one of the best teams in the nation and is likely the ACC’s best hope for a national title this season. They are by far the better team and should have no problem against the Orange, but the same was true of Louisville in 2012.

The no. 9 ranked Louisville Cardinals, led by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, traveled to face a 4-4 Syracuse last year and were handed what turned out to be their only loss of the season. The year before that it was no. 15 ranked West Virginia who fell victim to the Orange. Now Syracuse hopes this Saturday will be Clemson’s turn.

This will be Syracuse’s first ever conference game as a member of the ACC. Clemson is facing an unknown opponent who has been completely revived by the play of quarterback Terrel Hunt. This one may look like a mismatch, but Syracuse has shown it is capable of beating top teams in the Carrier Dome.

On CSN: Ball State @ Virginia, Sat. 12:00 p.m.

Virginia comes into this game with a lot of questions on offense after putting up only 3 points last week against Pitt. UVA ranks 112th in total offense. They will look to get things back on track against Ball State.

Don’t be fooled though, the Cardinals are no pushovers. Ball State is 4-1 on the season and has the 10th ranked passing offense in the nation.

UVA quarterback David Watford has six interceptions on the season. He will have to take much better care of the ball against a  Ball State team capable of spreading the ball around and driving the field.

NC State @ Wake Forest, Sat. 3:30 p.m.

Wake Forest has struggled so far this season, but will look to defend their home turf Saturday against visiting NC State.

Both teams are looking for their first ACC win to keep pace with Clemson and Florida State, but both are having issues moving the ball. NC State quarterback Pete Thomas has only one passing touchdown on the season and five interceptions. Wake Forest meanwhile ranks 114th in total offense and is coming off a decisive 56-7 loss against Clemson.

Both teams will look to rebound this Saturday. Catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet.