Thursday, September 5, 2013
What to watch in the ACC: Week 2
By David M. Hale
One week after Clemson and UNC took center stage with big nonconference games, Virginia and Miami step to the plate. Here's what to keep an eye on in Week 2 of ACC action.
1. A rivalry renewed: Once one of the most high-profile rivalries in the country, Florida and Miami have faced off just once in the past nine years -- a 26-3 Gators win in 2008. But the sparks fly again this week, and the matchup figures to live up to its rich history. Florida enters ranked No. 12 in the country, the latest SEC foe to provide a significant hurdle for the upstart ACC. Miami enters with its highest hopes in years, and a win over its in-state rival would solidify the notion that the Hurricanes are finally ready for the national spotlight again.
2. A big test for Virginia's defense: The Hoos sure looked impressive in their first game under coordinator Jon Tenuta last week, with Anthony Harris & Co. turning in a virtuoso performance in a come-from-behind win over BYU. Their reward? That'd be Oregon's high-flying offensive attack that managed to reel off 71 plays in less than 20 minutes of possession time in its opener.
3. David Watford put to the test: The bottom line for the first-year starter is that Virginia got the win, but it certainly wasn't a pretty offensive performance against BYU in Week 1. Watford was just 18-of-32 passing for 114 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His Total QBR ranked 107th nationally, and Virginia had eight three-and-outs. Fifteen of its 17 drives lasted six plays or fewer -- a major problem when trying to keep Oregon's up-tempo juggernaut off the field.
4. Syracuse vs. the Big Ten: For the second straight week, the Orange will take on a Big Ten foe, but after falling to Penn State 23-17 in Week 1, life won't get any easier this time around with a trip to No. 19 Northwestern. The defense looked solid against the Nittany Lions, but QB Drew Allen must improve on a performance that included 16-of-37 for 189 yards passing and two interceptions.
5. A rebound for Logan Thomas: Of the 121 Football Bowl Subdivision quarterbacks who qualified last week, none had a lower Total QBR than Thomas' 1.9. It was a dismal performance -- 5-of-26 for 59 yards and an INT -- and underscored numerous problems on Virginia Tech's offense. The receivers let Thomas down again and again, and the line didn't exactly provide smooth sailing. An overwhelmed Thomas shouldering the burden for the entire offense was the Hokies' downfall last season, and the situation doesn't appear to have changed much. On the upside, Western Carolina should feel like a weekend at the beach compared to Alabama's defense in Week 1.
Quarterback Logan Thomas started the season just 5-of-26 for 59 yards in Virginia Tech's loss to Alabama.
6. NC State's quarterback rotation:Brandon Mitchell's surgery to repair a broken foot appears to have been a success, but now there's the small matter of getting through the next four to six weeks without him. Dave Doeren says Pete Thomas will get the start this week but he wants to "explore his options." That's not exactly a vote of confidence, particularly when it might mean seeing some receivers and tailbacks getting a look at QB.
7. Tajh Boyd burnishes his Heisman candidacy: After the first week of games, the Clemson quarterback appears to be the Heisman front-runner, and he'll get a chance to add to his gaudy numbers against Football Championship Subdivision foe South Carolina State on Saturday. But offensive coordinator Chad Morris actually criticized his QB a bit, saying he'd like to see a faster offensive tempo.
8. Identifying a contender: Wake Forest and Boston College are both coming off down seasons in 2012, both struggled early against FCS foes in Week 1 and both eventually managed to win with relative ease. So what did we learn? Probably not much, but both teams will get a chance to prove they belong when they face off against one another Friday night in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
9. North Carolina's run defense: It wasn't Jadeveon Clowney who proved to be the Tar Heels' nightmare in a 27-10 opening-week loss. It was their own defense, which coughed up 228 rushing yards to the Gamecocks, including a whopping 9.6 yards per carry to sophomore Mike Davis.
10. More offense for Maryland, Duke: Both teams offered question marks entering the season. Duke was retooling its offensive pieces, while Maryland was happy to simply have a few more of its offensive stars -- namely quarterback C.J. Brown -- back at work. Both turned in dominant performances in their openers, both topping 40 points and 480 yards of offense. The Terps get newly minted FBS Independent Old Dominion this week, and Duke faces off against Memphis (9-39 over the past four seasons), meaning more fireworks are likely in store.