What to watch for this week in the Atlantic Coast Conference

The Atlantic Division race remains the same.  Florida State still has the inside track to the division championship with Clemson keeping up both in the standings and in the polls.  Miami’s 30-12 home win over Virginia Tech last week moved them a top a wild and crazy Coastal Division where four teams remain in contention for the division crown.  In a conference that has been defined by parity for the good part of a decade, fans of teams in the ACC have come to expect the unexpected and know that there are no such things as surprises (see Virginia’s 33-6 win in Raleigh just last week.)  Here’s three story lines I’ll be keeping track of inside the ACC this week, starting with tonight’s Thursday night match-up between Florida State and Virginia Tech.

 

1)   Upset alert in Lane Stadium?

Florida State only has to win their two remaining ACC games to guarantee them a spot in the ACC Championship game at the end of the season.  Both games are on the road but the Seminoles should be expected to take care of Maryland in Byrd Stadium now that the Terrapins are down to a fifth string converted scout team linebacker playing quarterback, making tonight’s match-up against Virginia Tech their biggest potential stumbling block standing between them and Charlotte.

Virginia Tech’s 4-5 record certainly is underwhelming but the Hokies are in the middle of a seven game home winning streak dating back to last season.  Combine that with the fact that Virginia Tech is 11-3 all-time in Thursday night games held in Lane Stadium with projected forecasts calling for temperatures in the low 30’s with gusting winds and the conditions for tonight’s game could make tonight a tricky outing for the favored Seminoles against a Virginia Tech team still looking for a signature win on the season.

 

2)   Can BC end the Irish’s dream season?

BC certainly will be an overwhelming underdog when they host Notre Dame Saturday night in Alumni Stadium, but Notre Dame has made a habit this year of making things interesting when playing inferior competition.  Just last week the Irish had to rally from a two touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter to beat a now 4-5 Pittsburgh team in triple overtime in South Bend.

Boston College has struggled defensively this year giving up an average of 31 points-per-game but Notre Dame is known for their devastating defense more so than their explosive offense.  Notre Dame redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson has struggled at times, and the BC defense will need to be opportunistic in forcing turnovers.  With the Golden Eagles playing in front of their home crowd and with this being a rivalry game, I wouldn’t be surprised if this game gets added to the list of close games on the Irish schedule.

 

3)   Clemson’s offensive output in the first half

Quarterback Tajh Boyd and the Clemson offense seem to be breaking school records on a weekly basis.  They may very well have gone on to smash every Clemson offensive record in the book last week against Duke had they wanted to when the offense accumulated 487 yards and 42 points all in the first half.  The Tigers scored 35 points against Wake Forest in the first half the week before and have now totaled a combined 1,252 and 98 points in their last two outings.

Maryland’s defense has been one of the stingiest in the conference, ranking second in the conference only behind Florida State.  The loss of linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield, the Terps leading tackler, to a season ending ACL tear last week won’t make things easier for a Maryland team already decimated with injury.  Regardless, this might be the best defense Clemson’s offense has faced since Florida State who the Tigers still managed to put up 37 points against back in September.

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