ACC preview: in need of a boost

ACC preview: in need of a boost
September 4, 2014, 8:00 am
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(Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports)

Schedule:

Pittsburgh at Boston College, Fri. 7:00 pm
South Carolina State at No. 23 Clemson, Sat. 12:30 pm
Richmond at Virginia, Sat. 3:30 pm
Georgia Tech at Tulane, Sat. 4:00 pm
Old Dominion at NC State, Sat. 6:00 pm
Gardner-Webb at Wake Forest, Sat. 6:30 pm
Murray State at No. 25 Louisville, Sat. 7:00 pm
Florida A&M at Miami, Sat. 7:00 pm
Duke at Troy, Sat. 7:00 pm
The Citadel at No. 1 Florida State, 7:30 pm on CSN
San Diego State at No. 21 North Carolina, 8:00 pm
Virginia Tech at No. 8 Ohio State, 8:00 pm

This week’s headlines:

Redemption?

No power conference looked worse opening weekend than the ACC. This week offers a chance for a rebound. It would be hard to screw up this week’s slate given how lousy the matchups are.

Not only are there six games against FCS teams, but weak FBS programs such as Tulane, Old Dominion, Troy and San Diego State get thrown into the mix. Taking the one conference matchup between Pitt and BC off the board, the ACC should go at least 10-1. Anything less would be further embarassment for a conference that had its fill last weekend.

Added strength

Two of the conference’s newest teams provided some of the few bright spots last week with blowout wins.

Pitt trounced Delaware 62-0. Yes, they should have beaten them that soundly, but given how much the other schools struggled against weak competition, the league should hang its hat on the Panthers’ opening performance. Plus, when you hold an opponent to 57 total yards, that's impressive no matter what division they belong to.

Louisville also made their triumphant debut into the conference, throttling Miami 31-13 on Monday night. After a weekend of truly awful games, it was nice for the conference to take the spotlight on Monday to showcase their newest team.

[RELATED: Virginia linebacker earns ACC honors]

Game of the week: Virginia Tech at. No. 8 Ohio State, 8:00 pm

One month ago, this looked like an obvious blowout. With Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller out for the season, however, Virginia Tech has a legitimate shot of pulling off the upset.

The box score for Ohio State's opener against Navy says that redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for another 50 yards. The line score says the Buckeyes doubled up Navy 34-17.  On paper, it looks like business as usual for Ohio State, but the Buckeyes struggled against the Midshipmen.

Not only did Ohio State give up 370 rushing yards, but they struggled to find any consistency on offense. The Buckeyes failed to score a touchdown until early in the third quarter and actually trailed at halftime 7-6. This was a three-point game until midway through the fourth.

Defensive coordinator Bud Foster has got to be drooling as he watches the tape of this one. Ohio State’s offensive line continues to struggle and the Hokies are going to be able to get to Barrett early and often.

Like the Hokies, however, the Buckeyes also boast a top defense. The real question for this game isn’t which defense will play better, but which offense will do just enough to get the win?

The current perception of the ACC is that it is Flordia State at the top and nobody else worth talking about. A win over the Buckeyes in Columbus would go a long way towards fixing the image of the conference.

Player to watch: Pitt RB James Conner, So

Conner rushed for 153 yards on just 14 carries against Delaware last week, averaging almost 11 yards per attempt. He was not brought down behind the line of scrimmage once and also found the end zone four times.

Granted, Delaware is not the stoutest defense Pitt will face this season, but neither is Boston College. The Panthers are considered a dark horse to win the Coastal this season. If they are able to do so, Conner will be a major reason why.

The Eagles are a slight step above the Blue Hens of Delaware. If Conner can put together another strong performance, it may be time to start paying attention to Pitt.

Upset alert: Richmond at Virginia, Sat. 3:30 pm

Head coach Mike London has declared that there is no quarterback controversy at Virginia...but both Greyson Lambert and Matt Johns will play and he will not name a starter until prior to the game on Saturday. Hmm, that sounds an awful lot like a quarterback controversy to me.

Obviously, London is taking advantage of the fact that his team is playing Richmond this week. Chances are, if they were playing a tough FBS team, he would have named a starter. For a team that went 2-10 last season, however, he may not want to take too much for granted especially against a team as motivated to beat the Cavs as Richmond.

The Spiders are led by two UVa transfer quarterbacks. Michael Strauss and Michael Rocco can certainly relate to what Lambert and Johns are going through and will come into this game wanting to show up their former team.

For a coach in such desperate need of a win, London may want to focus a little less on experimenting with his offense and a little more on just beating Richmond.

Duke at Troy, Sat. 7:00 pm

This is a defining moment for Duke. That may sound ridiculous, but this is exactly the type of game the old Duke would have lost.

Troy went to Durham last season and lost by seven to a team that would go on to win 10 games. This year the Blue Devils head to Alabama to visit the Trojans. If the Blue Devils hope to get back to 10 wins, this is a must-win game. If last season was an anomaly, however, Duke could easily be heading home with its first loss of the season.

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