ACC preview: Hokies and UVA meet conference foes

ACC preview: Hokies and UVA meet conference foes
September 26, 2013, 10:00 am
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Virginia and Virginia Tech prepare to open ACC play


Virginia Tech @ Georgia Tech, Thurs. 7:30 p.m.
No. 15 Miami @ South Florida, Sat. 12:00 p.m.
East Carolina @ North Carolina, Sat. 12:30 p.m.
Virginia @ Pittsburgh, Sat. 12:30 p.m. on CSN
Troy @ Duke, Sat. 3:00 p.m.
No. 8 Florida State @ Boston College, Sat. 3:30 p.m.
Central Michigan @ NC State, Sat. 3:30 p.m.
Wake Forest @ No. 3 Clemson, Sat. 3:30 p.m.

Matchup of the week: Virginia Tech @ Georgia Tech, Thurs. 7:30 p.m.

The feared option offense of Georgia Tech has the Yellow Jackets firing on all cylinders to start the season. Georgia Tech is 3-0 including a come from behind win last week against North Carolina. With their win over the Tar Heels, the Yellow Jackets look to be the biggest challenger to Miami for the Coastal Division.

That is, unless Virginia Tech has anything to say about it.

On paper, Virginia Tech is right where they want to be with a 3-1 record and their only loss coming against No. 1 Alabama. Those three wins, however, have been anything but pretty. After eight straight seasons with ten or more wins, the Hokies took a giant step back last season going 7-6. They had hoped to rebound this season, but after sluggish performances against East Carolina and a triple overtime win over Marshall it looks like Virginia Tech is still a year away from returning to prominence.

The schedule makers did the Hokies no favors by giving them Georgia Tech on a short week in Atlanta. The Hokies have one of the best defenses in the nation, but with only five days to prepare for this game, Virginia Tech may not be able slow down this Georgia Tech offense.

Player to watch: Jameis Winston, QB, freshman, Florida State

Few quarterbacks have had a debut as impressive as Jameis Winston's. In his first game, he completed 25 of 27 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns. And this was a conference game…on the road. After three games he has eight touchdowns and only one interception. Somewhat surprisingly his only off game this year came against FCS Bethune-Cookman, but this week he heads on the road again for yet another conference game.

It is not hard to believe that a freshman who made his first start on national TV was not overly excited for an FCS matchup and he is poised for a big rebound against Boston College. The Eagles rank 51st in the nation in pass defense and allowed 35 points to an absolutely dreadful USC offense. Expect big numbers from Winston this weekend because he will deliver.

Upset alert: East Carolina @ North Carolina, Sat. 12:30 p.m.

North Carolina had hoped to challenge for the Coastal Division this season, but after three games they stand at a disappointing 1-2. Perhaps they were outmatched by South Carolina, but they did not look impressive against a much weaker Middle Tennessee and blew a 20-7 lead over Georgia Tech last week.

They will host a very plucky East Carolina team who gave Virginia Tech all they could handle. The Pirates are coming off of a bye week and are looking to pull off the upset in Chapel Hill.

The Tar Heels have struggled to move the ball this season and they will likely struggle again on Saturday. The Pirates have the 43rd overall ranked defense and the 10th best rush defense. North Carolina, meanwhile, ranks 104th in rushing yards. There will be no room on the ground for the Tar Heels to run.

East Carolina may be considered a lower tier program as compared to the Tar Heels, but with a struggling UNC team and an ECU team fresh off a bye, this looks like a poor matchup for the Tar Heels.

On CSN: Virginia @ Pittsburgh, Sat. 12:30 p.m. on CSN

Virginia and Pitt will meet in Pittsburgh this Saturday for the first time as ACC opponents. Pitt earned its first ACC win last week against Duke, but the Panthers have major questions on defense after giving up 55 points to the Blue Devils. UVA will look to exploit that defense with a strong rushing attack that exerted itself last week in the Cavs’ win over VMI.  Both Daniel Hamm and Kevin Parks rushed for over 130 yards last week for UVA and will look to do so again this week in ACC play.

The action kicks off on CSN at 12:30 p.m.