As the second week of ACC Football is set to kick off this Saturday, there are three games everyone should take note as the conference looks to regain some respect nationally.
On the watch list first is the North Carolina State Wolfpack traveling to face the pesky Connecticut Huskies at noon. This is not only a must win game, but it is one that needs to be a statement win for the talented Wolfpack. Head Coach Tom O’Brien is cautious about his crew in this game and knows senior QB Mike Glennon will face a tough Huskies defense.
“They (UConn) have only given up 50-some yards and shut out a team and didn’t allow them to cross the 50-yard line on defense,” O’Brien added at his weekly press-conference. “(UConn Head Coach) Paul Pasqualoni has been a defensive guy for a long time, and coordinated in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins before he came back. I’ve known Paul from his days at Syracuse (University) when I was at Boston College. Don Brown is the (defensive) coordinator there (UConn). Their defense is very well coached, and they do not make a mistake.”
State will have to play on an extremely high level to avoid a disappointing second loss. The Wolfpack has the talent to control the game, though, and needs to do so early and quickly.
The second game of note features the Miami Hurricanes traveling to face the No. 21 Kansas State Wildcats at noon as well. Manhattan, Kansas, is simply one of the toughest and most underrated home environments in all of college football and the faithful will be ready for the visitors from the ACC.
Miami will gain a slight advantage that the game is at noon, so that this crowd does not get a chance to really get going. But the Hurricanes simply have to find out how not to give up anything like the 537 total yards they did against the Boston College Eagles last week.
“Clearly this week against Kansas State we have an Herculean challenge,” Miami Head Coach Al Golden said. “This is an excellent football team, tough environment and well coached team that was the least penalized team in the Big-12.”
Miami freshman RB Duke Johnson and the committee of talented backs will need to control the clock and keep the explosive offense of Kansas State off the field.
This is a tough task for the young Hurricanes, but one the once proud program and the ACC needs to pull the upset on Saturday.
The third big game of the week has the Duke Blue Devils traveling cross country to take on the Stanford Cardinal at 10:30 pm EST. The Cardinal come in at No. 25 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll this week and will be a huge battle for the Blue Devils.
Duke is coming off an impressive, 46-26, home win against the Florida International Panthers in the opener. The Blue Devils put up 30 points in the second quarter and were led by fifth-year senior QB Sean Renfree who was 21-30 for 290 yards, 2 scores and 1 INT.
“Having played Stanford a year ago, they understand the challenge of this game and how good a football team Stanford has,” Duke Head Coach David Cutcliffe said. “Stanford is as physical a team on both sides of the ball, and in the kicking game, as we will play. They cause you a lot of problems; tremendous size in both offensive and defensive fronts. The big tight ends, you saw them last year. They have a physical presence about them.”
Stanford pounded Duke in Durham, North Carolina, 44-14, in 2011. The Blue Devils have not beaten a ranked team since 1971. That team was… Stanford. The ACC would love nothing more to pull this upset from one of the bottom teams in the conference.
Overall, it would be unprecedented for the ACC to pull off all three of these wins Saturday. But the conference needs at least a pair of wins and an excellent showing in all three to improve their stock price in the market of college football.
M. Shannon Smallwood has over 10 years experience in sports broadcasting, journalism and college athletics and currently covers ACC Football for Rant Sports.
Follow him @woodysmalls