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ACC Rooting Guide: Week Five

Clemson faces one of their toughest tests of the season this weekend.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 03 Virginia at Clemson Photo by Dannie Walls/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The ACC has one of its’ most important weeks of the season ahead. A marquee matchup between Clemson and Miami headlines a group of important games, while Virginia Tech goes on the road to face a talented North Carolina team, and Florida State will try to pull off the upset against Notre Dame.

With so many important games taking place this weekend there will be plenty to watch to enjoy your Saturday afternoon.

Friday, October 9

Louisville Cardinals (1-2, 0-2 ACC) @ Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-2, 1-1 ACC), 7:00 P.M., ESPN

Louisville will go on the road to face a Georgia Tech team that is still steadily improving. This will be a serious test for a still rebuilding Yellow Jackets defense that will have to deal with the playmakers that the Cardinals have at every spot on the field. For Louisville, this game is incredibly important after two tough losses to Miami and Pitt earlier in the season.

Root for Louisville in this game. The Cardinals are a talented team and a win could set them back on a course for the ACC’s top-tier, which would certainly help Miami’s strength of schedule.

Saturday, October 10

No.19 Virginia Tech Hokies (2-0, 2-0 ACC) @ No.8 North Carolina Tar Heels (2-0, 2-0 ACC), 12:00 P.M., ABC

Syracuse v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

This is one of the best games in the country that no one is talking about this weekend. UNC struggled a little bit in their first two games of the season, pulling away late against Syracuse and winning by just four points over Boston College. Sam Howell and the rest of the Tar Heels’ offense will be looking to make a statement Saturday against a talented Virginia Tech defense.

For Virginia Tech the season has started well despite several postponements. The Hokies didn’t take the field until two weeks ago, but are 2-0 despite having over 20 players unavailable in both games they’ve played this season. It’s unclear how many will be unavailable for this game against UNC, and this game will present a totally different challenge to the first two games of the season.

It’s difficult to say who to root for in this game, both teams are ACC title contenders, and both play Miami later in the season. The most crucial part of this game will be seeing how good each team really is.

NC State Wolfpack (2-1, 2-1 ACC) @ Virginia Cavaliers (1-1, 1-1 ACC), 12:00 P.M., ACC Network

NC State head coach Dave Doeren was quite possibly on the hottest seat in the conference heading into this season, but his year has gotten off to a dream start. The Wolfpack have played well through three games, beating solid teams in Wake Forest and Pitt. Meanwhile, Virginia is still trying to replace talent they lost after last season, but the Cavaliers have to be encouraged by how they played against Clemson last weekend.

Again, it’s difficult to decide on who to root for in this game, as they are both on Miami’s schedule. NC State is probably who Miami should want to win, the Hurricanes play the Wolfpack on the road so an NC State win would help Miami’s strength of schedule more.

Duke Blue Devils (0-4, 0-4 ACC) @ Syracuse Orange (1-2, 1-2 ACC), 12:30 P.M., ESPN3

This is a matchup between two of the worst teams in the conference. Duke has gotten off to an extremely bad start, and haven’t really been competitive in any game besides a seven point loss to a Virginia Tech team missing 21 players last week. Syracuse, meanwhile, has struggled on offense for the entire season. The Orange did look improved in their last game, scoring 37 points against Georgia Tech, but the Yellow Jackets will likely end up having one of the worst defenses in the conference.

Root for Syracuse in this game. Miami doesn’t play either team, but Syracuse winning could give the ACC a chance at getting another team in a bowl game this fall.

Pittsburgh Panthers (3-1, 2-1 ACC) @ Boston College Eagles (2-1, 1-1 ACC), 4:00 P.M., ACC Network

Pitt vs Boston College is one of the more interesting matchups in the conference this weekend. The Panthers got off to a great start, moving to 3-0 before a very disappointing loss to NC State last weekend. BC has been one of the best surprises in the conference this season, but it still isn’t clear just how good the Eagles are after they were almost upset by Texas State and then lost a chance at an upset against UNC. This game will tell you a lot about both of these teams and their potential this season.

Root for Pitt in this game, Miami doesn’t play Boston College, so Pitt improving their record would help the Hurricanes’ strength of schedule.

Florida State Seminoles (1-2, 0-2 ACC) @ No.5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (2-0, 1-0 ACC), 7:30 P.M., NBC

NCAA Football: Camping World Bowl-Notre Dame vs Iowa State Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State is coming into this game off their first win of the season against Jacksonville State. The Seminoles struggled early in that game, but Jordan Travis helped settle the offense down and led FSU to a 41-24 win. He’ll get the start on the road against Notre Dame. On defense the Seminoles are still struggling, and Ian Book and the Notre Dame offense will be looking to make a statement Saturday night.

Notre Dame is off to a solid start in their first season in the ACC. The Irish played well in their opener against Duke before absolutely dominating USF a week later. Notre Dame has been off a few weeks due to a COVID-19 postponement, and they’ll have to shake off some rust in the early part of this matchup Saturday night.

Root for FSU in this game. A win for the Seminoles would help Miami in the race for a spot in the ACC Championship Game, while also making the Hurricanes’ 52-10 win over FSU look even better.

No.7 Miami Hurricanes (3-0, 2-0 ACC) @ No.1 Clemson Tigers (3-0, 2-0 ACC), 7:30 P.M., ABC

NCAA Football: ACC Championship-Clemson vs Miami
Dec 2, 2017; Charlotte, NC, USA; Miami Hurricanes running back DeeJay Dallas (13) runs for yardage chased by Clemson Tigers cornerback A.J. Terrell (8) during the third quarter of the ACC championship game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The Hurricanes enter this game at 3-0, but have lost their last two matchups against Clemson by a combined score of 96-3. Miami hopes that this game will be a lot closer, with a new look offense that has impressed through the early part of the season. On defense there are some serious questions about whether the Hurricanes will be able to contain Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne, which will have to happen for the Hurricanes to have any chance at the upset.

Clemson has been the standard in the ACC since 2015. The Tigers have talent all over the field. However, Clemson hasn’t played a close game in the conference since last year against North Carolina, and hasn’t played a ranked ACC opponent in the regular season since 2018. Miami will do everything they can to pull off the upset, and the Tigers secondary and linebackers face a tough challenge in containing Brevin Jordan, Will Mallory, Cam’Ron Harris, and D’Eriq King.

Who to root for is easy here, a win for Miami would be incredible for the program and Manny Diaz in year two.

This is one of the most interesting weekends of football in the ACC all year. And UNC vs Virginia Tech and Miami vs Clemson will have massive impacts on the rest of the conference season.