If there has been a surprise in this wacky season we call college football, it would be the play of Wake Forest to date. As we head toward the back end of the schedule, the Demon Deacons find themselves in a great position to claim one of the two spots for the conference championship game in December. If you had them in your preseason poll to be in the title contest, then maybe you know something the rest of us have yet to figure out. With that said, let’s take a look at the rest of the ACC.
Wake (6-0) is one of only 10 teams that are still without a loss as we enter the middle of October. It is the second time in program history and the first time since 1944 that they find themselves in this position. One reason for their success at the moment could be the ability to turn you over on offense. As they head into a non-conference matchup with Army on Saturday, Wake leads the league and is sixth in the country in turnover margin with 14 in six games played. They are also #1 in punt return yards averaging almost 14 yards a return. They are also #1 in field goals made a perfect 12-for-12, and in kick returns for TD with one for 99 yards. All told, the kick return game averages 26 yards a return on kickoffs. Special teams have become a big weapon for Wake Forest. With their win last week, Wake is the first bowl-eligible team in the conference.
Virginia (5-2, 3-2) boasted the second-ranked passing offense in the nation with 405.9 yards a game. Quarterback Brennan Armstrong is the reason why. For the second straight week, Armstrong has been named Quarterback of the Week in the league. He leads the nation in passing yards with 2.824, is second in passing yards per game at 403.4, and second in total offense per game at 414.6. The Cavaliers have scored 30 or more points in six of their seven games so far. This week, they face a Georgia Tech team (3-3, 2-2) that will be looking to win for the first time on the road in this series since 2013. Each of the last three meetings between the two has been decided by less than a touchdown.
North Carolina State’s (5-1, 2-0) defense has been up to the challenge so far this year as they head to Miami (2-4, 0-2) to face a struggling Hurricanes team. They do so with a defensive unit that has held three teams to seven points or less. The latest victim was Boston College (4-2, 0-2) who could only muster a first-half touchdown on their way to a 33-7 defeat. State leads the league in total defense allowing only 295 yards a game and they are second in scoring defense with 14 points per game. They have the best rush defense in the conference at 93 yards a game, and second-best pass defense efficiency at 109.2. Meanwhile, on offense, WR Emeka Emezie became the Wolfpack’s all-time leader in receptions with 203, which ranks him 22nd in ACC history.
North Carolina (4-3, 3-3) which has this weekend off, received a big day from a couple of their offensive stars. Quarterback Sam Howell threw for two scores and ran for two more in the Tar Heels win over Miami last Saturday. Through the air, Howell was 17-26 for 154 yards. On the ground, he ran the ball 17 times for 98 yards. His second-half rushing touchdowns were from 30 and 11 yards. Wide receiver Josh Downs caught 11 balls for 96 yards and one score. The score was the eighth straight game dating back to last year’s Orange Bowl in which he had at least one touchdown catch. He also extended his streak of catching eight or more balls to seven games, matching the mark set by Davante Adams when he was at Fresno State in 2013. Downs is fourth in the country in receptions per game (8.6), and fourth in receiving touchdowns with eight.
Pittsburgh (5-1, 2-0) also has the weekend off which may be bad news for their signal-caller Kenny Pickett. Last week he threw two more TD passes in their win over Virginia Tech on the road. He has now thrown 21 touchdown passes in six games. It’s the most in a year since Nathan Peterman tossed 27 over 13 games. Pickett has thrown multiple touchdown passes in every game this season for the Panthers. For his career, Pickett has 9,918 yards worth of passing yards which puts him eighth in ACC history. He is trying to become just the seventh player to have 10,00+ or more yards passing.
That’s all for this week. We will be back next week with more from the ACC.
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