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ACC Rooting Guide: Week Five

The ACC schedule marches on this week with a few important conference games.

Central Michigan v Miami Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Miami will rest and enjoy their bye week while most of the conference continues their schedules. A few marquee conference games at 3:30 on Saturday are undoubtedly where the eyes of the conference, and the Hurricanes, will be on this weekend.

Friday, September 27th

Duke Blue Devils (2-1, 0-0 ACC) @ Virginia Tech Hokies (2-1, 0-1 ACC), 7:00 P.M. Eastern, ESPN

NCAA Football: Duke at Middle Tennessee
Duke’s young receiving corps is improving week after week this season.
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Duke will head to Blacksburg, Virginia for a key conference matchup on Friday. The Blue Devils will face their second true test of the season after easy wins against North Carolina A&T and Middle Tennessee in their last two games. The Blue Devils may be Virginia’s most legitimate challenger for the Coastal Division crown, and a win over VT would go a long way towards proving that.

Meanwhile, Virginia Tech is hoping to find a way to stop the bad momentum that has seemingly surrounded the program for the past year and a half. The Hokies took a week one road loss to Boston College that looks worse and worse week after week, and followed that up with uninspiring performances against Old Dominion and Furman. All of this has left many surrounding the program wondering whether Justin Fuente is truly the best man for the job as the Hokies try to return to the success they had under Frank Beamer.

Who you should root for comes down to personal preference in this game. Both of these teams are in the Coastal Division and it’s too early to tell if one of them is a contender, both are, or neither are.

Saturday, September 28th

Holy Cross Crusaders (1-2, 0-0 Patriot League) @ Syracuse Orange (2-2, 0-1 ACC), 12:00 P.M. Eastern, ACC Network

Syracuse came into the season with high hopes for a return to past glory. However, three disappointing performances in a row have left the team from Upstate New York hoping to navigate a route to bowl eligibility. The Orange’s defense has taken a huge step back this season, and after allowing 33 points to Western Michigan last week there is little hope that they have figured it out. They’ll hope to take a step forward against an easy opponent this week before getting into the meat of their conference schedule over the coming weeks.

Root for Syracuse in this game. The last thing the ACC needs right now is a member-school being upset by an FCS opponent.

Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens (3-1, 1-0 Colonial) @ Pittsburgh Panthers (2-2, 0-1 ACC), 12:30 P.M. Eastern, ACC Network Extra

Pittsburgh left a lot of questions after the first two weeks of the season, but the two weeks since have gone a long way towards making people believe in the Panthers ability to compete for the ACC Coastal Division. Two weeks ago Pitt nearly knocked off Penn State in Happy Valley, and then last week they got another chance at an upset and took advantage, running their own version of the Philly special to knock off UCF. The Panthers now have one final tune-up game before beginning the rest of the conference slate, as Pat Narduzzi hopes to bring his team back to Charlotte for the second year in a row.

Root for Pitt in this game. Once again, the ACC can not afford an upset at the hands of an FCS opponent as things stand right now.

No.1 Clemson Tigers (4-0, 2-0 ACC) @ North Carolina Tar Heels 2-2 (1-0 ACC), 3:30 P.M. Eastern, ABC

NCAA Football: Charlotte at Clemson
Trevor Lawrence has concerned some with a rough start to the season in 2019.
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson is undoubtedly, far and away the best team in the ACC. It truly isn’t close and none of the games on the rest of their schedule should be competitive. That being said, questions have been raised about the team through the first few weeks of the season, most notably regarding star quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence has had turnover issues through the first four games of the season, throwing five interceptions so far this year after throwing just four all of last season. Lawrence and the Tigers’ offense will need to clean that up over the next few weeks to prepare for where everyone expects them to be at the end of the season, the College Football Playoff.

For North Carolina, things started out so promising, but the last few weeks have been a downhill tumble. A road loss to a talented Wake Forest team, out of conference, was understandable, but a home loss to Appalachian State last week left many wondering if the first two weeks of the season were all but a mirage. They’ll have to improve a lot, quickly, before their toughest game of the season this week.

Root for Clemson in this game. Miami needs UNC to take in-conference losses because the ‘Canes lost to them earlier in the season.

No.18 Virginia Cavaliers (4-0, 2-0 ACC) @ No.10 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (2-1), 3:30 P.M. Eastern, NBC

NCAA Football: Old Dominion at Virginia
Joe Reed has emerged as a playmaker for the UVA offense.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia has handled business this season. The Cavaliers look determined to finally take a December trip to Charlotte to play for an ACC Championship. This week UVA will look to prove that if they make it to the Queen City, it won’t be just to participate. The Cavaliers will take on a talented, smart, experienced Notre Dame team that took Georgia down to the wire on the road last weekend. This game against UND could prove to the nation that Bronco Mendenhall’s plan to make UVA a consistent ACC contender has reached its’ final phase.

Notre Dame will need to refocus after suffering a let down against Georgia last weekend. Virginia is a talented team, and if the Irish get down early it won’t be easy to come back against Virginia’s defense. UND should have the talent advantage and the home-field advantage to win, but UVA will come prepared for what is quite possibly the program’s biggest game in recent memory.

Root for Virginia in this game. A win for the Cavaliers would benefit Miami greatly if the ‘Canes can pull off a victory on October 11th.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-2, 0-1 ACC) @ Temple Owls (2-1, 0-0 AAC), 3:30 P.M. Eastern, CBS Sports Network

Georgia Tech might be one of the worst Power Five teams in the country, and this week they’ll hope to erase the memory of an embarrassing home loss to The Citadel the last time the Yellow Jackets took the field. Temple will hope to take down GT and earn their second win over a Power Five opponent on the season. Georgia Tech is still trying to find a quarterback, and a road game against an excited crowd in Philadelphia won’t be an easy place to deal with inexperience.

Root for Georgia Tech in this game. If they can pull of an upset against an AAC team it would help the Yellow Jackets recover some respect in the eyes of the national media.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-0, 0-0 ACC) @ Boston College Eagles (3-1, 1-0 ACC), 3:30 P.M. Eastern, ACC Network

Wake Forest has been the ACC’s most surprising team in 2019. The Demon Deacons have a talented young quarterback in Jamie Newman and are quite possibly the conference’s second best team. Additionally, their schedule sets up nicely, and if they can get past a tough trip to Chestnut Hill this week they could roll into a matchup with Clemson at 9-0 later on this season.

Boston College had a great start to the year, earning a conference win in week one, and an easy win over an FCS opponent in week two. The season went off the rails after that though with a blowout loss, at home, to Kansas. Last week, the Eagles recovered with a two touchdown victory over Rutgers on the road, but the early season momentum seems to already be gone for BC.

Root for whichever team you prefer in this game. Wake Forest is a talented squad, and if they win it would at least help the ACC add another nationally respected team.

N.C. State Wolfpack (3-1, 0-0 ACC) @ Florida State Seminoles (2-2, 1-1 ACC), 7:30 P.M. Eastern, ACC Network

NCAA Football: Louisville at Florida State
Cam Akers has been a standout for FSU so far this season.
Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

N.C. State has had an up and down season through the first four weeks of 2019. The Wolfpack started out well, with two blowout wins in the first two weeks of the season. However, the last two weeks have been a struggle as NCSU suffered a blowout loss to West Virginia and then barely scraped by Ball State at home. Matt McKay and company will hope to get a statement win on the road at FSU this week.

Florida State had a nightmarish start to the season before settling things down and competing with Virginia two weeks ago. The ‘Noles used that strong performance to beat Louisville last week and get some positive-energy into a program that has been surrounded by negativity for the last year. This week FSU has the chance to get their second ACC win in a row and show that they are taking steps towards truly competing in the conference again. However, it remains to be seen whether or not starting quarterback James Blackman will be able to play against NCSU this weekend, or whether he’ll have to be replaced by Wisconsin transfer Alex Hornibrook.

Root for FSU in this game. NCSU is not on Miami’s schedule, so FSU being a stronger opponent would help the Hurricanes later in the year.

A few marquee matchups for conference teams could have a huge impact on the ACC this week as the conference schedule gets underway in earnest.