Florida State (3–1, 1–0 ACC) at Virginia (2–1, 0–0 ACC)
Saturday, noon ET
First-year Virginia coach Mike London wants to prepare his team for all challenges, and he might never see a wider range of competition than this two-week stretch on the schedule. The Cavaliers played an opponent last week that hasn’t had a winning season since 1981, but they will play an opponent this week that hasn’t had a losing season since 1976.
Florida State rolls into Scott Stadium for its first meeting with Virginia since 2006. The Seminoles, who shut out Wake Forest 31–0 in their ACC opener, have made huge strides on defense since getting embarrassed at Oklahoma 47–17 on Sept. 11. Florida State, which leads the nation in sacks (4.75 per game) and ranks third nationally in tackles for a loss (9.25 per game), held the Demon Deacons to 185 total yards a week after limiting Brigham Young to 191 total yards.
The Cavaliers also have been strong on defense in the early going, ranking seventh nationally in points allowed (12.3 per game). Virginia, which routed VMI 48–7 last week, will get a stiff test from a balanced Florida State offense led by quarterback Christian Ponder.
The good news for the Cavaliers is that their secondary is returning to full strength in time for conference play. All-ACC cornerback Ras-I Dowling and strong safety Rodney McLeod, who each missed the first two games of the season with leg injuries, made their season debuts against VMI. Neither player started, but both could be ready for expanded roles against the Seminoles after a week of practice.
The Cavaliers, who are just 2–13 against Florida State all time, would love to keep the game close early. Virginia has played its best football in the second half, outscoring its opponents by a combined 44-6 after halftime.
Miami (2–1, 0–0 ACC) at Clemson (2–1, 0–0 ACC)
Saturday, noon ET
The ACC opener for Miami and Clemson could turn out to be a preview of the league’s championship game. If nothing else, this matchup should offer some big-time drama. The Hurricanes and Tigers have gone to overtime in each of their last three meetings, including Clemson’s 40–37 victory last season, with the visiting team prevailing each time.
The No. 16 Hurricanes head to Death Valley fresh off a 31–3 thrashing of Pittsburgh. Quarterback Jacory Harris suffered an injury to his left shoulder in the second half of that victory, but he practiced this week and will start against the Tigers. Harris could have a new offensive lineman in front of him, with highly touted true freshman Seantrel Henderson expected to make his first career start at right tackle in place of struggling Joel Figueroa.
The Tigers, who had an open date last week after their 27–24 overtime loss at Auburn on Sept. 18, also have done some shuffling up front. Starting left guard David Smith is out this week with an ankle sprain, and he will be replaced in the starting lineup by junior Mason Cloy. The Tigers have provided strong pass protection for quarterback Kyle Parker so far — Clemson has allowed just two sacks all season — but they will be tested against a Miami defense that leads the country in tackles for a loss (11.3 per game) and ranks second nationally in sacks (4.67 per game).
The Hurricanes, who rank eighth in the nation in total defense (252.0 yards per game), will try to put the onus on Clemson’s inexperienced wide receivers to make plays. The Tigers have relied on tailbacks Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper, who are averaging more than 140 rushing yards per game between them, and tight end Dwayne Allen for the bulk of their production.
East Carolina (2–1) at North Carolina (1–2)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
North Carolina has played its first three games without six projected starters on defense, yet still has impressive statistics against the pass. This week the Tar Heels will find out just how accurate those numbers are.
In-state rival East Carolina travels to Kenan Stadium with an offense that ranks ninth nationally in scoring (42.3 points per game) and 13th in passing (299.3 yards per game). The Tar Heels, who have played all season without their entire starting secondary because of an NCAA investigation into their program, rank fourth nationally in passing yards allowed (128.0 ypg). But UNC’s opponents have been LSU, Georgia Tech and Rutgers — three teams that run better than they throw.
ECU quarterback Dominique Davis and wide receiver Dwayne Harris are more dangerous than any duo the Tar Heels have seen so far. Davis ranks sixth nationally in total offense (321.0 ypg), and Harris leads Conference USA in receptions (7.7 per game) and receiving yards (98.0 per game). Making matters worse for North Carolina, the team might be without another defensive starter. Linebacker Quan Sturdivant, UNC’s leading tackler, is questionable for the game after leaving last week’s 17–13 win at Rutgers with a hamstring injury.
On the flip side, North Carolina’s offense has to be salivating at the thought of going against ECU’s defense. The Pirates rank among the nation’s bottom seven teams in points allowed (41.7 per game), total yards allowed (480.0 ypg), passing yards allowed (303.3 ypg) and opponents’ pass efficiency (180.4). Quarterback T.J. Yates will look for wide receiver Jheranie Boyd, who had a 59-yard touchdown grab in a 31–17 win over the Pirates last season and ranks second nationally in yards per catch (28.7) in 2010.
Virginia Tech (2–2, 1–0 ACC) at NC State (4–0, 1–0 ACC)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Upstart NC State has started attracting some national attention. The team’s task now is to continue playing well enough to keep it. The No. 23 Wolfpack, ranked in The Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since the third week of the 2003 season, look to give Tom O’Brien his first 5–0 start as a head coach.
That goal won’t be easily achieved against a Virginia Tech team that has gotten on track after opening the season with losses to Boise State and James Madison. The Hokies, who recorded their first shutout since 2006 when they won at Boston College 19–0 last week, have their eyes on the ACC championship now that their national title hopes are dashed.
The question for Virginia Tech this week is who will be dashing with the ball against NC State’s defense. Starting tailback Ryan Williams, who rushed for 120 yards and scored four touchdowns in his team’s 38–10 victory over the Wolfpack last season, missed last week’s game with a hamstring injury. Williams was not full speed at practice this week, so don’t be surprised if Darren Evans and David Wilson share the load again. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who leads the ACC in pass efficiency, might not have much time to throw against an NC State defense that ranks sixth nationally in sacks (3.5 per game).
Virginia Tech has made huge progress on defense the last two weeks, allowing a total of three points and 333 yards in its last six quarters, but will get a stiff test this week from the Wolfpack’s explosive offense. Quarterback Russell Wilson passed for a career-high 368 yards in NC State’s 45–28 victory at Georgia Tech last week, and true freshman tailback Mustafa Greene has rushed for a touchdown in all four games of his young career.
At issue for NC State could be its placekicking, which was thought to be a strength entering the season. One week after missing an extra-point attempt, Josh Czajkowski missed two 31-yard field-goal tries against the Yellow Jackets. The Wolfpack need him to be sharp against Virginia Tech, which got four field goals on as many tries from Chris Hazley against Boston College.
Duke (1–3, 0–1 ACC) at Maryland (3–1, 0–0 ACC)
Saturday, 6 p.m. ET
Maryland navigated its non-conference schedule as well as its fans realistically could have hoped. With some momentum on their side, the Terrapins face an important ACC opener as they try to erase the memory of last season’s 2–10 debacle.
Duke is heading in the opposite direction, bringing a three-game losing streak on its first trip to Byrd Stadium since 2003. The Blue Devils were not even competitive in their last two contests, getting drilled by top-ranked Alabama 62–13 and then losing 35–21 to an Army team they were supposed to beat.
Duke, which knocked off Maryland 17–13 last season, has struggled all year on defense. The Blue Devils rank 118th nationally in points allowed (44.5 per game), 110th nationally in total yards allowed (466.3 per game) and 114th nationally in rushing yards allowed (229.3 per game). Throw in their No. 115 ranking in opponents’ pass efficiency, and the Terrapins have plenty of room for optimism.
The question for Maryland is which quarterback will take aim at Duke’s vulnerable defense. Junior Jamarr Robinson, who started the first three games, sat out last week’s 42–28 win over Florida International with an injured right shoulder. Redshirt freshman Danny O’Brien filled in admirably, passing for 250 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Both quarterbacks will play if Robinson is healthy, but there’s no telling how head coach Ralph Friedgen and offensive coordinator James Franklin will divide the snaps.
No matter who lines up behind center, that player will look first to wide receiver Torrey Smith in the passing game. Smith leads the ACC with five touchdown catches, and he ranks third nationally in yards per catch (23.7) after delivering scoring grabs of 60, 68 and 80 yards in the last two weeks.
Quarterback Sean Renfree and the Blue Devils counter with a star wideout of their own in Conner Vernon, who has posted three 100-yard receiving games this season. Vernon leads the ACC and ranks seventh nationally in receiving yards (112.3 per game) this season.
Georgia Tech (2–2, 1–1 ACC) at Wake Forest (2–2, 1–1 ACC)
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET
Georgia Tech and Wake Forest have more in common than some gold on their uniforms. The teams enter this game with identical records (overall and conference), great ground games, struggling passing attacks and porous defenses. All of that adds to the intrigue as the Yellow Jackets, who are 8–0 in games after a loss under Paul Johnson, make their first trip to Winston-Salem since 2005.
The major difference between the teams is that Georgia Tech has no uncertainty at quarterback. Joshua Nesbitt, a first-team All-ACC selection last season, leads the ACC in rushing touchdowns (six) and ranks third in the conference in rushing (90.5 yards per game). Nesbitt has completed just 32.6 percent of his passes this season, including a 5-of-18 showing in a 45–28 loss to NC State last week, but he orchestrates a spread-option offense that ranks fourth in the country in rushing (320.5 ypg).
The Demon Deacons have started true freshman Tanner Price at quarterback in their last two games, but that could change this week. Price left Wake Forest’s 31–0 loss at Florida State last week with a concussion and is questionable for Saturday. Sophomore Ted Stachitas, who started the first two games of the season, will play if Price is unavailable. The Demon Deacons rank 15th in the nation in rushing (238.5 ypg), but they are just 110th in passing (130.8 ypg).
The big issue for Wake Forest is finding a way to get Georgia Tech’s offense off the field. The Demon Deacons have a standout defensive end in Kyle Wilber, who is second nationally with 11 tackles for loss, but his pass-rushing ability could be negated by the Yellow Jackets’ reluctance to throw.
Georgia Tech, meanwhile, could be without its top offensive lineman. All-ACC center Sean Bedford left last week’s game in the first quarter after being kicked in the shin, and he didn’t return. Bedford is questionable for this week, as is backup center Jay Finch. If neither of those players is available, redshirt freshman Ray Beno would move into the starting lineup.
Notre Dame (1–3) at Boston College (2–1)
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Boston College coach Frank Spaziani originally said he might wait until just before kickoff against Notre Dame before revealing the identity of his starting quarterback. But he wasted no time offering the Fighting Irish one clue: It wouldn’t be Dave Shinskie.
Shinskie, who took over the starting job as a freshman last season and started BC’s first three games this season, has struggled in 2010. He made so many poor decisions in the Eagles’ 19–0 loss to Virginia Tech last week — BC’s first game with no points since 1998 — that Spaziani decided to make a change. The coach reportedly has chosen true freshman Chase Rettig, who has yet to take a snap in his college career, over sophomore Mike Marscovetra to start against the Fighting Irish.
Either way, Boston College will lean heavily on junior tailback Montel Harris against a Notre Dame defense that ranks 98th in the nation against the run (189.8 yards per game). Harris averages an ACC-best 102.0 yards per game on the ground and rushed for more yards in his first two seasons than any player in league history.
While the Eagles will depend on the run, the Fighting Irish will go to the air. Notre Dame, which has dropped three consecutive games after last week’s 37–14 loss to Stanford, is seventh nationally in passing (315.5 ypg). Combine that with Boston College’s stingy run defense, which ranks sixth in the country (71.3 ypg), and quarterback Dayne Crist likely will keep his receivers busy.
The Eagles, who have won six of the last seven meetings against the Fighting Irish, will receive a boost up front with the return of starting defensive tackle Conor O’Neal from a one-game suspension for a violation of team rules. That said, fans who love defense will want to keep their eyes glued on the linebacker position. Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o leads the nation in tackles (13.5 per game), while Boston College’s Luke Kuechly ranks fifth in that category (12.3 per game).
NC State was on its way to a special season. There was no other way to look at it. The team had a 4–0 record, a 17–0 lead over Virginia Tech at home and winnable games against Boston College and East Carolina upcoming. The Wolfpack were going to be 7–0 heading into their Thursday night showdown with Atlantic Division rival Florida State on Oct. 28.
It all sounded good in theory to many in the crowd of 58,083, the third-largest gathering in the history of Carter-Finley Stadium. But Virginia Tech ruined the dream scenario, rallying for a 41–30 victory to register the biggest comeback win in Frank Beamer’s 24 seasons as head coach of the Hokies.
“It was very impressive,” Beamer said. “I’ve had a lot of great moments, proud moments and great players. I don’t know if there is ever a time I’m any more proud of our players than tonight in this dressing room. With the way we started out, we hung in there and battled, we kept believing and never gave up.”
Virginia Tech (3–2, 2–0 ACC) had plenty of chances to quit early in this game — and early in this season. After all, this was the team that started the year 0–2 with a heartbreaking loss to Boise State and a head-scratching defeat at home to Football Championship Subdivision member James Madison. But the Hokies kept chipping away at NC State’s lead until they took the first lead of their own at 28–27 early in the fourth quarter.
NC State’s Russell Wilson and Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor each made plenty of big plays in a matchup of two of the ACC’s best quarterbacks; Wilson passed for 362 yards and three touchdowns while Taylor rushed for 121 yards and passed for three scores. But it was Wilson, the closest thing the ACC had to a Heisman Trophy contender, who made more mistakes. Cornerback Jayron Hosley intercepted three passes from Wilson, including one in the final two minutes that set up Virginia Tech’s clinching score.
“Hopefully we can learn from this and get back on track next Saturday,” NC State coach Tom O’Brien said. “We’re 4–1. We’ve got to pick up our heads. Our goal now is to play these guys again.”
For that to happen in the ACC championship game, NC State (4–1, 1–1) must do what Virginia Tech already has done: Get back on track after an extremely difficult defeat. The Hokies have no chance at the national championship — the first two weeks dashed those hopes. But they served notice to the Wolfpack — and the rest of the ACC — that they are very much alive in the race for the league title.
Florida State 34, Virginia 14
Miami 30, Clemson 21
North Carolina 42, East Carolina 17
Virginia Tech 41, N.C. State 30
Maryland 21, Duke 16
Georgia Tech 24, Wake Forest 20
Notre Dame 31, Boston College 13
Hurricanes get big win
Virginia Tech-N.C. State was a big game in terms of early positioning in the ACC standings, but Miami-Clemson was just as important. The victory for the Hurricanes (3–1, 1–0) left them and Virginia Tech as the only undefeated teams in conference play in the Coastal Division. The Tigers (2–2, 0–1), meanwhile, now have less margin for error in their upcoming Atlantic Division matchups.
Miami quarterback Jacory Harris threw four touchdown passes in the first half — three of them to wide receiver Leonard Hankerson — but the difference in the game was the Hurricanes’ defense. Miami forced Clemson, which had turned over the ball just twice in its first three games combined, into six turnovers. The Tigers couldn’t overcome those miscues despite limiting Miami to just three points and 96 total yards in the second half.
Florida State has bounced back in fine fashion from its 47–17 loss at Oklahoma on Sept. 11. The Seminoles, who extended their winning streak to three games with a convincing victory at Virginia, have been solid on both sides of the ball.
Florida State was supposed to be explosive on offense this season, but credit goes to first-year defensive coordinator Mark Stoops for how that unit has performed in the aftermath of the Oklahoma embarrassment. The Seminoles (4–1, 2–0) entered the weekend with an NCAA-best 19 sacks, and they added six more to their total while shutting down Virginia.
Florida State was especially dominant in the first half, outgaining the Cavaliers 294-42 en route to building a 27–0 lead. Virginia ended up with 304 total yards, but just 25 of those yards came on the ground.
On the flip side, Florida State has run the ball so effectively with tailbacks Jermaine Thomas, Chris Thompson and Ty Jones that quarterback Christian Ponder hasn’t had to shoulder the burden. The Seminoles churned out 256 rushing yards against Virginia, rushing for at least 200 yards in three consecutive games for the first time since 2000. That production helped them reach the 30-point plateau for the third consecutive game — something they hadn’t accomplished since 2004.
Florida State’s ability to run the ball also has helped its defense — the Seminoles have possessed the ball more than 20 minutes longer than their opponents over the last three weeks.
“The offense ate the ball and kept them off the field,” Fisher said. “The defense got some three-and-outs. They played together. That’s what we keep saying: offense, defense. Here’s what you’ve got to understand. Defense is getting three-and-outs, and offense is taking six-minute drives, which keeps an offense out of whack for the other team.”
Eagles, Deacs still struggling with QB situations
Injuries and ineffectiveness at quarterback continue to plague Boston College and Wake Forest.
The Eagles started true freshman Chase Rettig under center against Notre Dame in place of struggling sophomore Dave Shinskie, and they were down 21–0 before they knew it. Rettig went three-and-out on the first three series of his career before offering some hope with a 58-yard touchdown strike to fellow freshman Bobby Swigert late in the first quarter.
The problem is that once Rettig got going, he had to leave. He suffered a sprain to his left ankle early in the second quarter — x-rays were negative — and spent the rest of the game standing on the sideline with his foot in a protective boot. Rettig completed 5-of-10 throws for 72 yards and the touchdown before giving way to Mike Marscovetra, who was 22 of 37 for 193 yards and two interceptions the rest of the way.
“(Rettig) looked like the guy we thought he was,” BC coach Frank Spaziani said. “He did some good things and made some freshman mistakes. Once again, I know we all want to talk about who the quarterback is and what the situation is, but there were other problems that were not the quarterback.”
The Eagles (2–2, 0–1) must begin fixing those problems, one of which was blocking for tailback Montel Harris in the running game. Harris managed just 28 yards on 15 carries against the Fighting Irish, almost 75 yards below his season average entering the game. With Rettig’s status in doubt and trips to Atlantic Division rivals NC State and Florida State on tap for the next two weeks, the Eagles need to give their quarterback position all the help they can.
The same is true in Winston-Salem, where Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe has been playing musical chairs at quarterback most of the season.
True freshman starter Tanner Price missed the Georgia Tech game Saturday because of a concussion he suffered the week before against Florida State. His backup, sophomore Ted Stachitas, started against the Yellow Jackets before departing in the second quarter with a back injury. The No. 3 QB, redshirt freshman Brendan Cross, left the game and didn’t return after injuring his non-throwing shoulder on a scramble. And the fourth quarterback, former wide receiver Skylar Jones, had to gut his way through a sore foot because the team had nowhere else to turn.
“I don’t know what it’s going to take to find someone that’s durable enough to make it through a football game,” Grobe said. “We went through three of them tonight. It’s hard to go through a week giving a third of the reps to each quarterback, hoping that one of them will come through and stay healthy.”
Jones completed 9-of-20 passes for 105 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions against the Yellow Jackets, avoiding the big mistake and giving the Demon Deacons (2–3, 1–2) a chance to win. But Georgia Tech’s Joshua Nesbitt made plays that Jones didn’t, throwing a pair of touchdown passes as the Yellow Jackets outscored Wake Forest 18–3 in the fourth quarter.
Tar Heels hit stride in running game
North Carolina’s first possession against East Carolina was nothing short of bizarre. After an incomplete pass on first down and a 3-yard run on second down, the Tar Heels acted out of character. Quarterback T.J. Yates turned and handed the ball off to tailback Shaun Draughn, who ran straight up the middle. On third and 7.
Draughn gained just 2 yards, and the Tar Heels had to punt. But they had established their offensive mindset for the rest of the day, and the plan paid off in a big way. UNC rushed for 263 yards on 46 attempts against East Carolina after totaling 258 rushing yards on 95 attempts in its first three games combined.
Senior Johnny White rushed for a career-high 140 yards on 16 carries, and Draughn tallied 137 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries. It was the second time in the last 16 seasons — and the first time since 2004 — that two UNC players rushed for 100 yards in the same game. The Tar Heels were especially strong in the second half, with White rushing for 102 yards in the third quarter and Draughn rushing for 98 yards in the fourth.
“At halftime we said we were going to stick to the game plan, and our game plan was to come in here and run the ball on them a whole lot,” Yates said. “We just knew that could be a big strength for us coming into this game.”
• Atlantic Division teams had performed better than their Coastal Division counterparts through the first month of the season, but that wasn’t the case this weekend. The Coastal went 3–2 against the Atlantic in five interdivisional matchups.
• Clemson tailback Andre Ellington turned in another strong performance against Miami, rushing for 107 yards and a career-high three touchdowns on 17 carries. Ellington, who also caught three passes for 39 yards, now has 380 rushing yards this season. For the sake of comparison: C.J. Spiller, the 2009 Heisman Trophy contender whom Ellington has replaced as Clemson’s top offensive threat, had 288 rushing yards through four games last season.
• Georgia Tech overcame an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Wake Forest, its first victory since 1998 when trailing by that many points in the fourth quarter. The Yellow Jackets improved to 11-2 under Paul Johnson in games decided by five points or fewer.
• Maryland improved to 4–1 heading into its bye week, doubling its win total from last season while picking up its 200th victory at Byrd Stadium. The Terrapins have been outgained by their opponent in four of five games this season, including Saturday against Duke, but they have a sparkling record thanks in part to their plus-8 turnover margin and two punt-return touchdowns by Tony Logan.
• Miami kicker Matt Bosher saw his streak of 105 consecutive extra points, the second-longest streak in school history, end in the second quarter against Clemson. Defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins blocked Bosher’s kick after Mike James’ 18-yard touchdown catch.
• How much has North Carolina missed the players who have been held out as a result of the NCAA investigation into the program? Senior safety Da’Norris Searcy, who was cleared to play after missing three games, provided a quick answer against East Carolina. With his team trailing 14–7 in the second quarter, Searcy intercepted a pass and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown to ignite a 35–3 scoring surge for the Tar Heels. More good news for UNC: The team’s other starting safety, senior Deunta Williams, will be back this week against Clemson after completing his four-game suspension for accepting improper benefits.
• Wide receiver Kris Burd has caught a touchdown pass in each of Virginia’s first four games, becoming the first Cavalier to accomplish that feat since Heath Miller had a touchdown catch in the first five games of the 2002 season. Burd, who had four receptions for 118 yards against Florida State, became the first Virginia player with back-to-back 100-yard receiving games since Miller in 2003.
NC State looks to start 3–0 for the first time since 2002 when it hosts Cincinnati in a survival-of-the-fittest situation that marks the first meeting between the schools. Each team will play after only four days of rest, and each also will play its third game in 12 days.
The Wolfpack have an advantage in that they’re at home and don’t have to travel, but Cincinnati should be the fresher team. The Bearcats are coming off a 40–7 win over Football Championship Subdivision member Indiana State that allowed them to rest their key players in the second half. NC State, meanwhile, had to gut out a 28–21 victory in 87-degree heat at Central Florida. The Wolfpack didn’t arrive back home until 3:15 a.m. Sunday, leading to a sluggish practice Monday.
NC State coach Tom O’Brien has expressed his displeasure with the scheduling arrangement, but he has had no reason to complain about his defense so far. The Wolfpack forced five turnovers against UCF and rank second nationally in turnover margin (plus-3.0 per game).
The Bearcats still are adjusting to life without top wide receiver Vidal Hazelton, a USC transfer who was lost for the season in Week 1. Cincinnati has yielded 10 sacks this season, including eight in the opener, after allowing a total of 15 sacks in 13 games last season.
Georgia Tech (1–1, 0–0 ACC) at North Carolina (0–1, 0–0 ACC)
Saturday, noon ET
Coastal Division rivals Georgia Tech and North Carolina already have dealt with adversity in this young season, but each gets a clean slate of sorts with its conference opener.
The Yellow Jackets, who have won 10 of their last 12 meetings with the Tar Heels, are looking to bounce back from a 28–25 defeat at Kansas that bounced them from the top 25. Georgia Tech is 7–0 in games following a loss under head coach Paul Johnson, whose spread-option offense is second nationally in rushing (331.5 yards per game).
Georgia Tech has a chance to get back two starters who missed the Kansas game for health reasons. Safety Cooper Taylor, who was held out last week as a precaution after leaving the opener with a heat-related illness, was back at practice this week. So was left guard Will Jackson, who went down with a sprained knee in Week 1.
The Tar Heels had an open date last week after losing to LSU 30–24 in their opener, a game in which 13 UNC players (including seven starters on defense) were held out because of investigations into possible improper contact with sports agents and possible academic misconduct. UNC found out early in the week that one of those players, senior tailback Shaun Draughn, has been cleared to play against Georgia Tech.
Draughn enters this game No. 3 on the depth chart behind Johnny White and Anthony Elzy, but he was the starter heading into the season. His return should boost a UNC rushing attack that managed only 24 yards against LSU.
Maryland (2–0) at West Virginia (2–0)
Saturday, noon ET
The good news for Maryland’s Ralph Friedgen and West Virginia’s Bill Stewart, a pair of embattled head coaches, is that one of them is going to start the season 3–0. That’s just the kind of tonic each of them needs to soothe fan bases that have been less than pleased with recent seasons.
A win here would be an especially big step forward for the Terrapins, who haven’t been 2–0 since Friedgen’s first year on the job (2001). Maryland, coming off a 62–3 thumping of Football Championship Subdivision member Morgan State, already has equaled its win total from 2009. The No. 21 Mountaineers, meanwhile, rallied to force overtime last week at Marshall and won 24–21.
At issue this week is how effective West Virginia, which features senior tailback Noel Devine, will be with a short-handed defense. Starting linebacker Pat Lazear has missed the first two games of the season with a knee injury and is questionable to play against the Terrapins. The team’s top cover corner, senior Brandon Hogan, is out after being suspended indefinitely following a DUI charge. Hogan’s absence will put extra stress on a secondary that is getting little help from the pass rush — West Virginia has yet to record a sack this season.
The Terrapins will try to exploit those vulnerabilities with an offense that could feature two quarterbacks. Jamarr Robinson has been effective as a runner, but his poor passing has opened the door for redshirt freshman Danny O’Brien to get playing time. If O’Brien is healthy — he suffered a sprained ankle against Morgan State — he likely will get some snaps in this game.
East Carolina (2–0) at Virginia Tech (0–2)
Saturday, 1:30 p.m. ET
When Virginia Tech kicked off the season hoping to win the BCS championship game, no one imagined that at this point the team still would be hoping to win its first regular-season game. The Hokies, 0–2 for the first time since 1995 after a shocking 21–16 loss to James Madison last week, will try to regroup against East Carolina.
The task won’t be an easy one against the Pirates, who are undefeated under first-year head coach Ruffin McNeill. East Carolina features a quarterback familiar to Virginia Tech in Dominique Davis, who started for Boston College against the Hokies in the 2008 ACC championship game. Davis engineers an ECU offense averaging 50.0 points per game (seventh nationally), and he’ll take aim at a Virginia Tech defense plagued by inexperience and inconsistency.
Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster called in his players for a 6:45 a.m. meeting Monday, letting them know that he wasn’t going to tolerate missed tackles and missed assignments against the Pirates. Foster also must make at least one personnel change, with starting defensive tackle Kwamaine Battle out for the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last week.
It’s up to Virginia Tech’s offense to pick up the slack while the defense gains its footing. Tailback Ryan Williams rushed for 179 yards in the Hokies’ 16–3 win over East Carolina last season, and quarterback Tyrod Taylor is looking to feast on an ECU defense that ranks 119th nationally against the pass (355.5 yards per game).
Alabama (2–0) at Duke (1–1)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
It’s tough enough for Duke that top-ranked Alabama rolls into town with a 26-game regular-season winning streak. But then there’s this: The Crimson Tide are getting reinforcements. Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and BCS championship defensive MVP Marcell Dareus, two of Alabama’s top players, could see their first action of the season after sitting out the first two games.
Ingram is questionable to play against the Blue Devils after having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in the week leading up to Alabama’s season-opening victory over San Jose State. Dareus, meanwhile, is expected to start at defensive end after serving a two-game suspension for engaging in improper contact with an agent.
Those personnel gains make a difficult task even more difficult for Duke, which is coming off a 54–48 loss at Wake Forest last week. Led by head coach David Cutcliffe, a 1976 graduate of Alabama, the Blue Devils will try to attack the Crimson Tide with a potent passing game.
Quarterback Sean Renfree is only the third player in ACC history to pass for at least 350 yards in the first two starts of his career, and wideout Conner Vernon is second in the nation in receiving yards (155.0 per game). It’s up to Duke’s offensive line to slow down Alabama’s front seven, which was ferocious in a 24–3 victory over Penn State last week, to give Renfree a chance to make plays.
BYU (1–1) at Florida State (1–1)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Brigham Young heads to Florida State for its first game on the East Coast since 2006 — a contest featuring two proud programs that spent this week licking their wounds after lopsided losses on the road. BYU fell at Air Force 35–14 in Week 2, while Florida State was embarrassed 47–17 at Oklahoma.
Both teams are looking for improved play at quarterback to help them get back into the win column, but only one squad knows which player it’s counting on for that improvement. Florida State coach Jim Fisher will turn to senior Christian Ponder, who is coming off a rare poor performance in which he completed just 11-of-28 passes for 113 yards and two interceptions against the Sooners. Ponder has enjoyed success against the Cougars before, passing for two touchdowns and rushing for another score in FSU’s 54–28 win at BYU last season.
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall, meanwhile, has his pick of passers. The Cougars alternated series with junior Riley Nelson and freshman Jake Heaps last week, but Mendenhall said such switches would be more situational than scripted against the Seminoles.
Nelson, the better runner of the two quarterbacks, will start the game. But Heaps, the better passer, no doubt could be a threat against a Florida State defense that the Sooners shredded through the air for 394 yards and four touchdown passes last week.
Clemson (2–0) at Auburn (2–0)
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET
Big-time matchups have been a nightmare for the ACC so far this season. First, LSU beat North Carolina. Then Boise State knocked off Virginia Tech. Last week Ohio State defeated Miami, and Oklahoma throttled Florida State. Clemson is hoping to fare better at No. 16 Auburn in the first regular-season meeting between the schools since 1971.
Both teams are off to fast starts, with Auburn entering play fresh off a 17–14 win at Mississippi State and Clemson coming off a 58–21 rout of Presbyterian. Clemson should benefit from the return of two defensive starters from injury. Linebacker Brandon Maye, who is from Mobile, Ala., and grew up a huge Auburn fan, will see his first action of the season after having knee surgery. Defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins, who sat out last week as a precaution after suffering a sprained knee, also will be back.
Auburn, which has defeated Clemson 13 consecutive times dating to 1951, is hoping to get a couple of players back as well. Starting left tackle Lee Ziemba left last week’s game with an injured right knee and didn’t return, and tailback Mario Fannin departed in the fourth quarter with a left shoulder problem. Both players are expected to be able to play this week.
The key to the game could be the play of quarterbacks Kyle Parker and Cameron Newton. Parker, who became the first athlete in Division I history to throw 20 touchdown passes and hit 20 home runs in the same academic year when he hit his 20th homer at Auburn in June, has thrown four touchdown passes and one interception this season. Newton, meanwhile, has thrown five touchdown passes and one interception while averaging 120.5 yards rushing per game for Auburn’s fast-paced offense.
Wake Forest (2–0) at Stanford (2–0)
Saturday, 11:15 p.m. ET
Wake Forest will play at Stanford this week, as long as the players and coaches can stay up late enough for kickoff. The Demon Deacons will make the longest road trip in school history to play their first game in California, and they’ll do so at the latest start time ever for a Stanford home game.
The Demon Deacons won the only previous meeting between the teams, a 24–17 decision in Winston-Salem last season, and they enter this contest with plenty of momentum. Wake Forest ranks third nationally in scoring (53.5 points per game) and fourth in the country in rushing (322.0 yards per game) after a 54–48 victory over Duke last week.
Even with all of that production, the Demon Deacons will break in a new starting quarterback against Stanford. True freshman Tanner Price, who passed for 190 yards and accounted for four touchdowns last week, will take the reins from sophomore Ted Stachitas. Stachitas left the Duke game with an injury to his non-throwing hand, and his status for this week is questionable. But if he is healthy enough to play, he likely will get some snaps.
No. 19 Stanford counters with a star quarterback in Andrew Luck, who has thrown six touchdown passes and no interceptions this season. Luck will take aim at a Wake Forest secondary that likely will be without starting cornerback Josh Bush, who injured a hamstring last week.
The Cardinal, seeking their first 3–0 start since 2001, appear to have an advantage defensively against Wake Forest. After a 35–0 victory at UCLA last week, its first road shutout since 1974, Stanford ranks seventh nationally in total yards allowed (200.0 per game) and passing yards allowed (97.0 per game).