ACC Coming Attractions: Top-10 showdown, Coastal decluttering and more
The ACC’s slate is very strong this week, and that means a few more coming attractions.
It starts with Pittsburgh hosting Virginia Tech, a top-10 primetime matchup, some Coastal Division un-cluttering and Clemson having to prove itself with a new quarterback against a very good team. There’s no telling what will happen this week. There’s one game on the docket that’s not so watchable, and probably needs an Alfred Hitchcock-style warning in its trailer that you shouldn’t watch it if you value your eyesight.
Virginia Tech can’t stop turning it over and committing offensive penalties, except for a week and a half ago at North Carolina — hence, the Hokie victory. Pitt’s offense, once explosive with tailback James Conner, has now become pedestrian and the Panthers have lost three straight as a result (Virginia Tech has lost two of its last four). Pitt doesn’t turn it over as much, but just can’t finish drives, reaching the red zone six times in its last two games combined, including a season-low two trips against Akron, and scoring a touchdown just three times. Can either team stop self-sabotaging long enough to win this game?
Get your popcorn: Bridge on the River Kwai. Because both offenses have found themselves building a metaphorical bridge to the end zone, only to blow it up in the end because it was ultimately just something that helped their enemies. (Spoiler alert.)
There’s plenty of side drama swirling around No. 2 Florida State this week, but that’s been par for the course for the Seminoles in the last year or so since allegations first broke against quarterback Jameis Winston. He’s played on, and played quite well, through it all. There’s no reason to expect that won’t continue. But FSU isn’t the juggernaut it was a year ago, and this will be by far the most significant test the Seminoles and their inconsistent (and injury-plagued) defense has faced.
Of course, No. 6 Notre Dame showed its mortality for the first time last week in a possible look-ahead game where it narrowly escaped North Carolina in a shootout, 50-43. Either way, this matchup promises to be fun and feature plenty of fireworks.
Get your popcorn: The Matrix. Because of the fight scene between Neo and Agent Smith. There should be nothing necessary to add here.
Clemson sure looks a lot how you’d expect the second-best team in the ACC to look — talented, explosive, dominant defensively and dynamic on offense. Except now that quarterback Deshaun Watson is out, the original starter (senior Cole Stoudt) is back, and the offense looked much more pedestrian with him at the controls. Now, the Tigers head into Chestnut Hills to face a Boston College team that people still don’t respect, even after the Eagles knocked off a then-top 10 USC team at home (probably because of BC’s losses to Pitt and Colorado State, but whatever).
Boston College and Steve Addazio put on a clinic last weekend in Raleigh, though, and if Clemson’s not careful, they’ll be headed right into a trap feeling good about themselves in a 23-17 win over a good Louisville team last weekend.
Get your popcorn: Return of the Jedi, of course. Because Clemson should heed the advice of Admiral Ackbar.
Virginia leads the Coastal at this point with 2-0 record in league play, and the Cavaliers are this year’s surprise team. Duke was last year’s surprise team, winning the Coastal out of nowhere to some after being picked to finish close to last. Virginia was picked to finish dead last this year and was the only Coastal team that didn’t get a first-place vote.
The reason so many teams got first-place votes is not because the media members who voted don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s because now that Virginia Tech has released its strangehold on the division, there’s absolutely no telling what’s going to happen. The only certainty is chaos. But can Virginia rise above the noise, like Duke did last year? And can Duke get back into this year’s mix after their big win at Georgia Tech last week?
Get your popcorn: Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Two women have an affair with a man — the man, in this case, is symbolized by being on top of the Coastal Division — and fight for his affection. Ultimately, his unstable wife ruins everything and that unstable wife is of course, the powers of the Coastal Division that drag everyone down to its level.
Georgia Tech’s Justin Thomas and North Carolina’s Marquise Williams are two of eight quarterbacks in the country to lead their respective teams in both passing and rushing. Williams is coming off of one of the best performances in his career in a close loss at Notre Dame (over 300 yards passing and over 100 yards rushing), and Thomas is coming off of being benched in the second half in Georgia Tech’s first loss to Duke (due to both ineffectiveness and a gimpy ankle). If there was ever a team for either quarterback and their teams to get right, though, it would be against each other’s defenses: Georgia Tech is 109th nationally in yards per play surrendered (6.3) and UNC is 105th (6.2).
Get your popcorn: Speed. Because if North Carolina doesn’t go at least 50 mph on offense, it will explode. And given the state of both teams’ defenses, there will be plenty of explosions in this game.
Louisville’s offense can’t move the ball? Louisville is coming off a tough loss to Clemson? Well, Cardinals, you’re in luck! NC State’s defense, which has allowed 135 points in the last four weeks, is coming to town! And with quarterback Will Gardner giving the team a second-half spark at Clemson and potential first-round draft pick wide receiver DeVante Parker probably returning to the field this week, it looks like Louisville is going to get right this weekend. NC State, still without an ACC win, would love to get its groove back. Instead, the Wolfpack will probably watch the movie that best fits this game and eat a pint of ice cream.
Get your popcorn: How Stella Got Her Groove Back, of course. Parker playing the role of Taye Diggs’ character in this scenario, presumably.
When Syracuse travels to Winston-Salem to face Wake Forest on Saturday, but no one watches it live except the two fan bases and others being forced to a la A Clockwork Orange as some sort of punishment, did it really happen? Supposedly, yes, it did, and it will. Syracuse’s offense can’t score in the red zone. Wake Forest’s offense can’t progress forward down the field, much less score or even reach said red zone. Syracuse’s defense is OK (not that it matters). Wake’s is excellent, and will be facing a freshmen quarterback (or two) in just their second collegiate game. Maybe a 4-2 final?
Get your popcorn: Dr. Zhivago. It’s long, miserable and feels about a half-hour longer than it actually will be (it’s 203 minutes, but feels like an easy 240 or more). The game might last 180 minutes of real time or more, but it will feel like more. Oh, so much more. And it will be time you can’t get back. And like Dr. Zhivago, aficionados will insist there’s beauty in it. To each their own, I suppose.