IN THE CROSSHAIRS

Around the ACC: Cross picks Week Two’s action

Ken Cross

September 06, 2016 at 11:46 am.

Sep 3, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers running back James Conner (24) scores on a four yard touchdown run against defensive back Rob Rolle (4) during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 3, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers running back James Conner (24) scores on a four yard touchdown run against defensive back Rob Rolle (4) during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Looking ahead to Week Three …

Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee (Bristol, Tenn.) – Tennessee didn’t seem too involved in their 20-13 shading of Appalachian State last week.  Once Cameron Sutton fumbled a punt that set up an App touchdown for a 7-3 lead, Tennessee didn’t regain any interest until Josh Dobbs hit Josh Malone with a 67-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 13-13 in the fourth quarter.  Virginia Tech opened the Justin Fuentes era with a 36-13 win over Liberty.  Jerod Evans, Tech’s new junior college transfer quarterback, takes the center stage after passing for 221 against the Flames. The seething Vols ought to be ready to burn somebody after that poor performance.  Vols 33, Hokies 16.

Louisville @ Syracuse – Louisville’s 70-14 win over UNC Charlotte was predictable, as was the play of Lamar Jackson, who accounted for six touchdown passes and two touchdown runs.  We didn’t get the feel of the ‘Cuse at all against Colgate in a 33-7 win.  However, Eric Dungey was as strong in the passing game, completing 34 of 40 passes for 377 yards.  This may be closer because of the venue and the renewed Orange mentality under new head coach Dino Babers. Cardinals 35, Orange 24.

Virginia @ Oregon – Mark Helfrich has his second graduate transfer at quarterback in as many years in Dakota Prukop, who came out and threw for 271 yards, while Royce Freeman picked up 87 on the ground, in a 53-28 win over Cal-Davis.  The Ducks still have lethal talent and that is tough news for the Cavaliers who trek across to the country to Eugene.  The Bronco Mendenhall era got off to a tough start as Richmond beat Virginia, 37-20, and never trailed. Of note, Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta threw for 337 yards, while Gordon Collins had 13 carries for 114 yards on the ground.  By all accounts this one in Autzen could get really ugly, really fast as Mendenhall literally needs three recruiting classes to bring Virginia into contention. Ducks 51, Cavaliers 14.

Wake Forest @ Duke – The Deacons’ offense doesn’t look like it has improved much after a 7-3 win over Tulane, a bottom-feeder in the AAC. Wake only had 175 yards and John Wolford only threw for 79.  Duke is another story even though senior quarterback Thomas Sirk is out for the season.  The Blue Devils took a 49-0 lead to the locker room at half time and defeated North Carolina Central, 49-6, in one of those “write the check for coming to play games.”  Duke ran for 308 yards and broke new signal-caller Daniel Jones into action.  The Blue Devils have too many weapons to worry about Wake Forest as long as they do not turn the ball over.  Blue Devils 34, Demon Deacons 14.

UNC @ Illinois –  The Tar Heels had major problems against the run last season and Saturday was no exception as Nick Chubb ran for 222 yards on 32 carries and two scores in a 33-24 Georgia win.  Up next for the Heels is the rebuilding Illini in Lovie Smith’s first season.  The Illini piled up 287 on the ground in the win over Murray State, led by committee.  However, Clemson, Baylor and Georgia are those last three teams that racked the North Carolina defense.  Mitch Trubisky will step up and have his first big game as the Tar Heels get a road win. Tar Heels 28, Illini 20.

Penn State @ Pitt – Interesting matchup at Heinz Field between two rivals who haven’t played since 2000 – yes, unbelievably 16 years.  Pat Narduzzi’s Panthers have been talked about as an ACC Coastal sleeper in his second season with the toughness of the defense and the return of  running back James Conner.  Conner was diagnosed with cancer less than four months ago, beat the disease this summer, and ran 17 times for 53 yards in the Panthers 28-7 win over Villanova.  Penn State took a 33-13 win over Kent State.  Coach James Franklin has been worried overall about building a consistent defense that improves every week and is Big Ten worthy.  Panthers 21, Lions 17.

NC State @ ECU –  The Wolfpack broke away from the William & Mary in the second quarter behind new starting quarterback Ryan Finley and 138 yards and two touchdowns from running back Matthew Dayes.  The athleticism between ECU and William & Mary is proverbially night and day.  The Pirates also had their dance in the D-2 ranks, blasting Western Carolina, 52-7. Philip Nelson looks like a big time AAC quarterback despite the opponent on Saturday.  He threw for 28 of 32 for 398 yards in his initial game.  Pirates 41, Wolfpack 37. 

Boston College @ UMass – It may be that the Eagles actually will have more offense this year. Jon Hillman ran for 102 yards on 17 carries and against UMass, considered by many as the worst Division I team in the nation, BC could pick up a huge in-state win.  These Minutemen are picking up the checks for the beatdown, though.  Last week’s 24-7 loss at Florida was respectable, so with BC and Mississippi State at home and South Carolina, BYU and Hawaii  all on the road, possibly the Minutemen can build their collective psyches, as well as the athletic coffers. Eagles 27, Minutemen 10.

Charleston Southern @ Florida State – The Buccaneers are currently No.6 in the FCS national ranking after taking No. 1 North Dakota State to the wire in overtime last week.  Florida State’s mood would have been impeccably loathsome had the Seminoles not overcome Ole Miss in a 45-34 win Monday night.  The Rebels jetted out to a 28-6 lead early before FSU scored 33 consecutive points.  It was the coming out party that head coach Jimbo Fisher wanted for freshman Deondre Francois and as the game went on, the Seminoles whipped the Rebels dramatically on both sides of the line.  The difference between Top 5 in FBS and FBS will be apparent. Seminoles 63, Buccaneers 14.

Troy @ Clemson –  The skeptics were worried about Clemson’s defense.  Well, all involved on Saturday night had to be pleased in the Tigers’ win at Auburn even though Clemson’s Jadar Johnson had to knock down the final two passes in the end zone to stave off an upset.  Was this a night where the Clemson offense failed to get on track or a night where Auburn’s defense showed it has improved?  Auburn did have three turnovers, but had no offensive consistency or effective execution.  Troy destroyed FCS’s Austin Peay, 57-17, but with one game in and the home opener, Clemson probably can name the score. Tigers 49, Trojans 7.

Mercer @ Georgia Tech – The Yellow Jackets are trying to rebound from a 3-9 season. Dedrick Mills’ and Dedrick Mills’ 4-yard touchdown run with seven seconds left gave them a 17-14 win last week in Dublin, Ireland, over Boston College. Mercer brought back football in 2013 and it is the first Georgia Tech matchup with the Bears since 1938. Yellow Jackets 52, Mercer 10.