2017 ACC Football: Three impact Coastal Division games in week 6

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 30: Aaron Crawford
ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 30: Aaron Crawford /

Which ACC Coastal Division games are the biggest of the weekend?

Going into last week there were 24 undefeated teams in college football. This week, due to four matchups between said teams as well as some others losing, that number is down to 17.

None of those teams play each other this week so the number might remain unchanged, but I highly doubt it in this high stakes game we call college football.

Outside of those unbeaten squads this week does feature two ranked matchups.

The first is a Thursday night ACC showdown between Louisville and NC State. Both teams only have one loss but only one of them still controls their own destiny in the ACC, and it is the Cardinals.

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If NC State wants to continue their surprise season, they will need to find a way to slow down the big game capability of the reigning Heisman winner, Lamar Jackson.

With the game in Raleigh that is always possible.

The other matchup is in the Big 12 and is home to College Gameday this week. Undefeated and No. 8 ranked TCU welcomes in No. 23 ranked West Virginia. TCU has one of the better defenses and will look to shut down West Virginia much like they did with Oklahoma State.

Outside of that, there are ten ranked teams playing on the road this weekend verse unranked conference opponents. They should all be favored, but anything can happen.

So with all the national stuff taken care of, let’s dive into the three impact games in the ACC Coastal, starting with the only interdivisional game this weekend.

Duke at Virginia (Saturday, October 7th @ 12:20 pm)

Virginia has had Duke’s number the past two seasons. Two years ago it was a high scoring affair in Charlottesville. Last season it was a two-score blowout in Durham that was the only conference win for the Cavaliers.

Can Virginia make it three straight against the Blue Devils or will Duke right the ship against the surprising Cavaliers?

Things going for the Blue Devils: Duke’s run defense. The Blue Devil’s run defense ranks sixth nationally against the run allowing a measly 80 rushing yards a game. Additionally, it ranks tenth nationally allowing 2.7 yards per attempt.

Last week they held Mark Walton to 51 total yards. This week they face a Virginia team that’s 101st in rushing offense, though they do have seven touchdowns on the ground.

Things going for the Cavaliers: Duke’s pass defense. Duke is allowing an average of 264 yards passing in their past three games. They allowed 211 total passing yards in their first two games combined. Duke is selling out to stop the run and are vulnerable through the air.

Baylor and North Carolina almost took advantage of it, while Miami did. Virginia’s quarterback Kurt Benkert ranks third in the ACC in touchdowns, fourth in completion percentage, and fifth in total yards.

In his past two games, he has complete 71 percent of his passes for 728 yards and six touchdowns as the Cavaliers have outscored their two FBS opponents 80-41.

As mentioned in the power rankings, this will be Duke’s first true road game. The only other time Duke left Durham was to go to Chapel Hill, which is 11 miles away. How the Blue Devils respond not only to that but also their first loss will go a long way for their season.

Meanwhile, Virginia is looking for their third straight win in the series and is playing much better than they did a year ago. However, they have not beaten a power five squad this season while Duke is 3-1 in such games.

If Duke can’t contain Benkert, this could be a second straight loss for the Blue Devils.

Miami at Florida State (Saturday, October 7th @ 3:30 pm)

This game was supposed to be played back on September 16th, but had to be postponed due to the effects of Hurricane Irma.

Florida State has won the past seven games in this rivalry, can Miami finally end the streak?

Things going for the Hurricanes: Malik Rosier. Miami’s offense begins with Mark Walton and the back will be needed to keep the Florida State defense honest. However, if Miami is going to win this game they will need another big performance from their quarterback.

Rosier is coming off a 270 yard game against Duke. The Blue Devils sold out to stop the run and Rosier made them pay averaging 10.4 yards per attempt. Florida State is allowing 7.2 yards per attempt.

DURHAM, NC – SEPTEMBER 29: Malik Rosier
DURHAM, NC – SEPTEMBER 29: Malik Rosier /

Things going against the Hurricanes: James Blackmon possibly figuring it out. Blackmon for all intents and purposes is still a freshman and is definitely not as poised as Jameis Winston or even DeAndre Francois was in their freshman seasons.

However, he looked better against Wake. Not great or even particularly good, but better. He led the offense on four plays of 40 plus yards that all ended in points. One of those was a game-winning throw with eight seconds left on the clock.

He has been sacked nine times in two starts and has fumbled the ball three times.

Miami probably wishes they were facing Blackmon in his first game as opposed to his third. Nonetheless, the Miami defense has done a good job this season and Blackmon has already seen a lot of defenders in his face this season.

Miami has the talent to pull off the upset, I know that’s a weird thing to say considering the records. The last time the Hurricanes won in this series was 2009 and the game was in Tallahassee.

FSU has been written off before and it is still probably premature to do that just yet this season as well.

Pittsburgh at Syracuse (Saturday, October 7th @ 12:30 pm)

Looking at these two teams records, they almost look identical. Both teams are 2-3 on the season and 0-1 in conference play. Both teams have lost to a Power Five squad on the road and both have wins against an FCS school as well as a lesser FBS program.

Which team can do what needs to be done and get their first conference win of the season?

Things going for the Panthers: Max Browne’s breakout. Browne had a breakout game against the Owls with 412 passing yards and four touchdowns. He has regained the starter mantle after losing it for the second time in his career.

If he wishes to maintain it, he will have to move the ball just as well against a Syracuse team that allows 225.6 passing yards per game, though one that is allowing an average of just 187 yards to Power five schools this year.

Things going against the Panthers: A Power five road game. Against Power Five opponents Pitt has been outscored 127-52. Those teams have out-gained Pitt 1,472-968.

Two of those games were on the road, where the Panthers are 0-2 this season.

Additionally, Pitt has allowed 1,317 yards through the air this season, which is the 18th worst mark in the nation. They just happen to be playing a Syracuse team ranks 11th nationally in passing yards and houses the nation’s second-leading receiver in yards.

Have the Panthers figured it out? That’s a great question.

This week will help answer that somewhat. If Browne looks like he did in his other three games, then Ben Dinucci might be the starter again next week.

If Browne truly has found his rhythm though, Pitt could be looking at not only a second consecutive win but their first conference win as well.

One to keep an eye on: Notre Dame at North Carolina (Saturday, October 7th @ 3:30 pm)

The last time Notre Dame came to Chapel Hill was in 2008. The Tar Heels won that game 29-24, though it was later vacated from the history books.

Can UNC repeat history, albeit with a non-vacated win this time?

The biggest question here is can UNC’s defense which ranks 113th nationally against the run stop a Notre Dame team that ranks seventh nationally in rushing yards per game?

With the Irish’s top quarterback, and second leading rusher, ailing, it is possible, though maybe not probable with the way the offense has been flopping lately.

The only other game this week is Virginia Tech at Boston College. The Hokies are coming off a reality check home loss to Clemson. The Eagles are probably in for a beat down against the nation’s third best receiver and the ACC’s fourth best passer.

So with Georgia Tech on a bye this week, that does it for ACC Coastal teams. So sit back and relax and enjoy the football season.