Duke hosts Miami in ACC Coastal showdown
A look at five things to watch as the Atlantic Coast Conference enters Week 11 of the season:
GAME OF THE WEEK: Miami at Duke. The Coastal Division picture could get much clearer this week after this unexpectedly significant matchup of teams with two ACC losses. The Blue Devils — the preseason pick to finish last in the division — have instead kept themselves in the race with a five-game winning streak, their longest since 1994. After winning their first seven, the Hurricanes have lost some ground with an untimely two-game losing streak. Despite those stumbles — and the loss of key RB Duke Johnson to a season-ending injury — Duke coach David Cutcliffe says he “can’t find a physical weakness” in Al Golden’s team.
BEST MATCHUP: North Carolina’s offense vs. Pittsburgh’s defense. The Panthers have quietly played better on D during the past two months. Since allowing Duke to roll up 532 total yards, Pitt’s opponents are averaging 341.5 yards. They’ll get a test from a North Carolina offense that, under new starting QB Marquise Williams, rolled up 415 yards and 45 points in routing Virginia. North Carolina coach Larry Fedora says of the Panthers: “They’re not making mistakes.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Syracuse has to get its ground game going to have any chance to upset second-ranked Florida State. The only team to hang within two touchdowns of the Seminoles or score more than 17 points against them — Boston College — got 149 yards rushing from RB Andre Williams while becoming the only team to gain 200 yards on the ground against them. The Orange rank second in the ACC in rushing (202.7 ypg) and have reached the 200-yard mark in five of seven games.
LONG SHOT: Virginia Tech has lost two straight games when it has been favored, so maybe 15-point underdog Maryland can keep things interesting at Lane Stadium. Turnovers will be critical for the injury-depleted Terrapins because the Hokies turned it over a total eight times in losses to Duke and Boston College. Maryland has forced five takeaways in its last two games but has lost three straight, all by double figures. Coach Randy Edsall says “if we don’t turn the ball over, we give ourselves a lot more opportunity.”
IMPACT PLAYER: BC’s Williams leads the FBS with an average of 163 yards rushing, and is coming off a school-record 295-yard performance at New Mexico State. He’ll try to get going against a North Carolina State run defense that, for all of the winless-in-the-ACC Wolfpack’s problems, has been rather stout. Only two teams — Louisiana Tech and Syracuse — have had 100-yard rushers against N.C. State.
Compiled by AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary in Raleigh, N.C.