Overview: Clemson and Boston College will be seeking to make their first ACC Championship Game appearance when they square off Saturday for the Atlantic Division title. Virginia Tech plays host to Miami in a tune-up for its matchup with Virginia next week that will determine the Coastal Division winner. The Florida State-Maryland and North Carolina State-Wake Forest games should go a long way toward determining the ACC's second-tier bowl pairings.
Best matchup: Notre Dame offense vs. Duke defense. Not really. We just wanted to make sure you were paying attention. The actual best matchup: Clemson TBs James Davis and C.J. Spiller vs. Boston College run defense. Clemson QB Cullen Harper has enjoyed such an outstanding season that the Tigers' offense isn't one-dimensional anymore, but the Tigers still benefit a great deal from the "Thunder and Lightning" duo in the backfield. Davis appears headed toward a second consecutive 1,000-yard season, while Spiller has averaged 6.5 yards per carry in his past four games. Davis and Spiller could have a tougher time than usual Saturday against a Boston College defense that ranks second in the nation against the run. The Eagles have allowed just 65.7 rushing yards per game and 2.3 yards per carry.
The pressure is on: Maryland and Florida State. The loser of this game could have a tough time earning a bowl bid. FSU has six wins already, but the Seminoles close the season at Florida and could miss the postseason with a 6-6 record if the ACC has more bowl-eligible teams than bowl partners. Maryland (5-5) still needs one more win to become bowl-eligible and closes the season at North Carolina State.
Who's hot: Clemson's Harper has completed 77 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns and one interception during the Tigers' four-game winning streak. Clemson WR Aaron Kelly has eight touchdown catches in his past five games. And Clemson's Spiller has returned a kickoff for a touchdown in back-to-back games. … Georgia Tech DE Darrell Robertson has 6.5 tackles for loss and three sacks in his past three games. … Maryland LB Erin Henderson has recorded at least 11 tackles in each of his past eight games. … North Carolina DE Hilee Taylor has five sacks in his past five games. … North Carolina State TB Jamelle Eugene rushed for 159 yards and three touchdowns Saturday in a 31-27 victory over North Carolina. Eugene has rushed for at least 100 yards in three of his past five games. … North Carolina State DE Willie Young has five sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss in his past five games.
Who's not: Boston College QB Matt Ryan has thrown seven interceptions in his past three games, though he also has seven touchdown passes during that stretch. … Miami QBs Kyle Wright and Kirby Freeman have combined to throw 10 completions and six interceptions over the past two weeks. … North Carolina QB T.J. Yates has thrown two interceptions in each of his past four games.
Keep your eye on: It will be interesting to see if Duke gets any advantage this week from having offensive coordinator Pete Vaas on its staff. Vaas was Notre Dame's quarterbacks coach for the first two years of Charlie Weis' tenure. And the North Carolina State-Wake Forest game could come down to how well the Wolfpack avoid mistakes. NC State is ranked 117th in the nation in turnover margin. Wake Forest's defense has scored five touchdowns on interception returns and two more on fumble returns.
Numbers game: Maryland's Henderson leads the nation with 12.4 tackles per game. … Five ACC schools are ranked among the top 25 teams in scoring defense: No. 3 Virginia Tech, No. 13 Virginia, No. 14 Georgia Tech, No. 15 Clemson, No. 24 Florida State and No. 25 Boston College. Clemson (No. 16) is the only ACC school ranked among the top 41 teams in scoring offense. … Duke WR Eron Riley has averaged 21 yards per catch in his career, which ranks second among all ACC receivers in history with at least 70 catches. Former Virginia star Herman Moore owns the conference record with an average of 22 yards per catch. …. Virginia Tech WR Eddie Royal is 43 yards away from becoming the ACC's leading career punt returner. The current record is held by former Maryland returner Steve Suter.
Freshmen to watch: Maryland RB Da'Rel Scott showed off his breathtaking speed Saturday when the redshirt freshman turned a screen pass into a 57-yard touchdown in a 42-35 victory over Boston College. … Four of North Carolina's six top tacklers in a 31-27 loss to North Carolina State last week were freshmen. True freshman LB Quan Sturdivant ranked second on the team with 11 tackles. True freshman CB Charles Brown delivered 10 tackles and scored on a 92-yard interception return. Redshirt freshman FS Deunta Williams had six tackles. Redshirt freshman CB Kendric Burney collected six tackles and scored on a 76-yard interception return.
Injury update: Boston College LBs JoLonn Dunbar and Tyronne Pruitt are questionable for the Clemson game with ankle injuries. … Florida State OT Daron Rose is expected to return to action this week after missing the Virginia Tech game with a sprained knee. FSU TB Antone Smith expects to play Saturday despite hurting his shoulder against Virginia Tech last week. Backup TB Jamaal Edwards also is dealing with a shoulder injury. Seminoles QB Drew Weatherford expects to play Saturday after sustaining a concussion last week. And FSU LB Toddrick Verdell is out for the season with a broken foot. … Maryland WR Danny Oquendo is out for the season with a knee injury. … North Carolina State TB Andre Brown is questionable for the Wake Forest game. Brown has been sidelined since fracturing his foot Oct. 6 against Florida State. … Virginia Tech LB Vince Hall will play Saturday after missing four games with a fractured wrist. Hokies TE Sam Wheeler is out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
They said it:
"Half those guys in Miami uniforms shouldn't be there. They physically don't cut it. A lot of those guys were wasted scholarships. That was Miami's fault in recruiting. You can't take a guy who doesn't know how to play football and ask him to do things that are expected out of University of Miami players."
- Five-star OT prospect Matt Patchan to CaneSport.com after making an official visit to Miami last weekend and watching the Hurricanes' 48-0 loss to Virginia. Patchan's father, also named Matt Patchan, was a starting offensive tackle on Miami's 1987 national championship team
"I don't worry about it because I know what these guys will do. You can beat this football team down, can get on them hard. These football players have been through a lot harder things by the way we're grooming them to be. People say something bad about them. Keep moving on. You can't worry about what people say. Everyone's entitled to their opinion. I don't get mad at anybody, don't even read newspapers. I tell players people will say things about you, but if you believe it, you become it."
- Miami coach Randy Shannon to CaneSport.com responding to Patchan's comments
"We know what's at stake. This is a one-shot deal. You don't know if this will come around the next time. You've got to play the best game you've ever played."
- Clemson's Spiller to TigerIllustrated.com about Saturday's showdown with Boston College for the Atlantic Division title
"Just knowing all the great players who have come through there and the legacy – you can feel it when you're there. You can feel it when you walk around the field, and you've got to respect them. But you don't want to respect them too much and be reserved and laid back and let them get off on you."
-- Maryland S Christian Varner to TerrapinTimes.com about the experience of playing at Florida State's Doak Campbell Stadium
"It feels real good getting this win for the fans, Coach (Frank) Beamer, everybody, just to get over that hump. That's all we've heard all week and we're tired of it. Never again will this be talked about. That's the only thing they talk about in the ACC: We can't beat Florida State. So we had to let them know where we're at."
- Virginia Tech CB Brandon Flowers to The Roanoke (Va.) Times after the Hokies ended a 12-game losing streak to Florida State by beating the Seminoles 40-21 last week
Bowl Implications: North Carolina State, Maryland and Miami are 5-5 and need one more win to become bowl-eligible. Wake Forest, Florida State and Georgia Tech are 6-4. The glut of five- and six-win teams in the conference could create a logjam of contenders for the ACC's second-tier bowl invitations. The only ACC teams that can start planning for bowls are Virginia (9-2), Clemson (8-2), Boston College (8-2) and Virginia Tech (8-2).
Etc.: Florida State fourth-string QB D'Vontrey Richardson has been working out at tailback this week as an insurance policy. … Florida State LB Marcus Ball and backup QB Xavier Lee are returning from suspensions this week. … North Carolina is seeking its first win outside the state of North Carolina in five years when it faces Georgia Tech this week. The Tar Heels' last victory outside their home state came when they knocked off Arizona State 38-35 on Oct. 5, 2002. … Miami's 48-0 loss to Virginia marked the first time in 127 games that the Hurricanes had been shut out. … Florida State coach Bobby Bowden is one win away from his 300th career victory with the Seminoles.