The ACC has been reeling in recent weeks, with several major non-conference losses leaving multiple programs looking to clean up some flaws in their game before conference play. This week some of the most important matchups of the season take place, including a 3:30 kick off that will have a massive impact on the ACC’s Atlantic Divsion.
Friday, September 24
Wake Forest Demon Deacons (3-0, 1-0 ACC) vs Virginia Cavaliers (2-1, 0-1 ACC), 7:00 p.m., ESPN 2
Wake Forest has had a tremendous start to 2021. The Demon Deacons have scored at least 35 points in each of their games, and dominated Florida State last weekend, winning 35-14 and forcing the Seminoles to turn the ball over six times. Sam Hartman has been solid for Wake Forest so far, throwing for 691 yards over three games and turning the ball over just once so far this season.
However, Virginia will be the best team the Deacons have faced so far this season. Cavaliers quarterback Brennen Armstrong has emerged as one of the ACC’s stars this year, with 1298 yards and 11 touchdowns passing the football in just three games. UVA’s defense will look to improve this week though after they allowed 59 points on the road against North Carolina last weekend.
Wake Forest is the team to root for in this game. Miami can still win the ACC’s Coastal Division this season, and another conference loss for Virginia, one of the current favorites in the division, would be good for the Hurricanes before they take on UVA next Thursday night.
Liberty Flames (3-0) vs Syracuse Orange (2-1, 0-0 ACC), 8:00 p.m., ACC Network
Syracuse has been improved so far this season, and the Orange enter week four at 2-1 coming off a victory against Albany in which Syracuse scored 62 points. The Orange had over 600 yards of offense in that game, and they’ll hope to continue that offensive momentum into a game against Liberty, one of the best Group of Five programs in the country.
Root for Syracuse in this game. If the Orange can defeat Liberty it would be a great non-conference win for the ACC and prove just how much Syracuse has improved this season.
Saturday, September 25
Missouri Tigers (2-1, 0-1 SEC) vs Boston College Eagles (3-0, 0-0 ACC), 12:00 p.m., ESPN 2
Boston College has had an extremely promising start to their 2021 season, despite the loss of Phil Jurkovec to a hand injury that could potentially leave him out for the season. The Eagles are undefeated, and BC’s defense has allowed just 256 yards per game through their opening three games of the year. However, the offense is still adapting to life without Jurkovec, with backup Dennis Grosel passing for just 59 yards in a 28-3 win against Temple last week.
Missouri is hoping for a strong year in the SEC in 2021, but things got off to a rough start in conference play a few weeks ago when the Tigers lost their SEC-opener to Kentucky. A victory over Southeast Missouri State put Mizzou back in the win column last week, and the Tigers will look for a major non-conference win to jumpstart them as they reenter conference play next weekend.
The Eagles are the team to root for in this game. The ACC already has one major win over the SEC this year, with Pitt defeating Tennessee in week two, another win for the conference would be key in proving the ACC’s depth this season.
New Hampshire Wildcats (3-0, 2-0 Colonial) vs Pittsburgh Panthers (2-1, 0-0 ACC), 12:00 p.m., ESPN+
Pittsburgh suffered a massive letdown loss last weekend, losing to Western Michigan 44-41 just a week after defeating Tennessee on the road. Pitt’s defense gave up more than 500 yards in that game, including 357 through the air. Pat Narduzzi’s team will have to clean that up against a tough New Hampshire team that is ranked at No.21 in the FCS.
Pull for the Panthers in this game. The ACC suffering another loss to an FCS opponent this season would be disastrous for the conference after FSU lost to Jacksonville State earlier this year.
Richmond Spiders (2-1, 0-1 Colonial) vs Virginia Tech Hokies (2-1, 1-0 ACC), 12:00 p.m., ACC Network
The Hokies are, much like Pittsburgh, hoping to get back into the win column after a tough out-of-conference loss last weekend. Virginia Tech lost to West Virginia on the road after falling down 27-7 in the third quarter. The Hokies tried to fight back, scoring 14 unanswered points to make the score 27-21, but it was too little, too late to overcome the slow start on the road. However, Braxton Burmeister continues to be solid for VT, with four touchdowns against just one interception in 2021.
Root for Virginia Tech in this game, just like Pitt, a loss for the Hokies would be disastrous for the ACC.
No.9 Clemson Tigers (2-1, 1-0 ACC) vs N.C. State Wolfpack (2-1, 0-0 ACC), 3:30 p.m., ESPN
Dabo Swinney and Clemson travel to NC State in the ACC’s marquee matchup of week four. The Wolfpack believe there is an opening in the ACC’s Atlantic Division after Clemson’s offensive struggles through the first three weeks of the season. The Tigers managed to score just 14 points at home against Georgia Tech last weekend, and overall Clemson has scored just three touchdowns in two games against Power Five opponents so far this year. To make matters worse for the Tigers, NC State has been excellent on defense in 2021, with just 261 yards per game allowed through three weeks of the season.
NC State will face a tough Clemson defense that the Tigers will, and have, relied on this season to have success. Quarterback Devin Leary has been solid so far this season for NC State, going 70-104 overall with a 6-2 TD-INT ratio. Zonovan Knight has also been excellent out of the backfield for the Wolfpack, with the sophomore running for 8.5 yards per carry, he complements fellow star Ricky Person Jr, in an outstanding NC State backfield.
Root for NC State in this game, Clemson is unlikely to make the College Football Playoff this season, and a down year for the Tigers could help Miami in recruiting.
Louisville Cardinals (2-1, 0-0 ACC) vs Florida State Seminoles (0-3, 0-1 ACC), 3:30 p.m., ESPN 2
Scott Satterfield has done a wonderful job getting his team to rebound after a rough opening week loss to Ole Miss. The Cardinals have responded with two good wins, including a 42-35 last second victory against UCF last weekend. Louisville will try to lengthen their win streak this weekend against a Florida State team that has been the worst team in the conference so far this season. The Seminoles have fallen apart after a close loss to Notre Dame in the opening weekend of the season, losing to FCS opponent Jacksonville State on a disastrous final play and following that up with a six turnover road performance against Wake Forest last week.
The Cardinals are who to root for in this game. If FSU loses Saturday they could risk going winless in conference play, and even potentially be at risk for an 0-12 season.
Kansas Jayhawks (1-2, 0-1 Big 12) vs Duke Blue Devils (2-1, 0-0 ACC), 4:00 p.m., ACC Network
Kansas has been improved so far in 2021. The Jayhawks were competitive for much of their game against No.17 Coastal Carolina two weeks ago, and Kansas won their first game since 2019 in the opening week of the season. Meanwhile, Duke has been solid after a rough opening weekend loss to Charlotte, and the Blue Devils defeated Northwestern to earn a big out-of-conference win last weekend.
Root for Duke in this game, out-of-conference wins over Power Five opponents are always a positive for the ACC.
No.21 North Carolina Tar Heels (2-1, 1-1 ACC) vs Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-2, 0-1 ACC), 7:30 p.m., ACC Network
North Carolina suffered a bad loss to open their season, losing 17-10 against Virginia Tech on the road in a game that immediately put the Tar Heels on the defensive in the race for the ACC Coastal Division title. Since then Sam Howell and UNC have handled business, putting up 59 points in back-to-back games including a 300-yard passing day from Howell against conference opponent Virginia last week. Georgia Tech will hope to slow down an explosive UNC offense like they did against Clemson last week, when the Yellow Jackets gave up just 14 points and 126 yards in the air.
Georgia Tech is the team to root for in this game. Another conference loss for UNC would make the path to Charlotte extremely difficult for the Tar Heels.
ACC play begins in earnest over the next couple of weeks, with the first set of vitally important matchups set to take place this weekend.