Overview: The Atlantic Coast Conference started to redeem itself from a slow start in non-league competition when Duke upset Northwestern two weeks ago and Miami whipped Texas A&M last week. The ACC can make more of a statement this weekend when it plays four nonconference games against BCS-conference teams. This week's schedule includes three ACC-Big East showdowns: North Carolina State-Louisville, Maryland-Rutgers and Virginia-Pittsburgh. The ACC also will test itself against the Southeastern Conference when Florida State meets Alabama in Jacksonville, Fla. In the biggest conference game of the week, Georgia Tech will try to end its two-game losing streak against undefeated Clemson.
Best matchup: Clemson QB Cullen Harper vs. Georgia Tech pass rush. Harper has exceeded all expectations as a first-year starter by throwing 12 touchdown passes without an interception, but he hasn't faced the kind of pressure he might see this week. Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta's blitz packages have helped the Yellow Jackets rank eighth in the nation in sacks. Georgia Tech's defense needs a big performance after allowing a total of 52 points during a two-game losing streak. Will Harper pay the price for the Yellow Jackets' anger?
The pressure is on: Florida State QB Drew Weatherford. Florida State offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher ripped the offense's poor performance in a 16-6 victory over Colorado two weeks ago. The Seminoles had an extra week to prepare for the Alabama game, which may have given backup QB Xavier Lee another chance to prove himself to the new offensive coaching staff. If Florida State's offense continues to struggle Saturday, don't be surprised if Lee gets a chance to play.
Who's hot: Boston College QB Matt Ryan has thrown for 791 yards in his past two games. … Duke WR Eron Riley had six catches for 235 yards and four touchdowns in a 46-43 loss to Navy last week. … Duke QB Thaddeus Lewis has thrown for 674 yards and seven touchdowns with only one interception in his past two games. … Florida State K Gary Cismesia has gone 6-for-6 on field-goal attempts this season. … Georgia Tech K Taylor Bell has gone 10 of 11 on field goals this year and hasn't missed an attempt since the season opener. Bell went 3-for-3 and made a 51-yarder Saturday in a 28-23 loss to Virginia. Bell also has made 115 consecutive extra-point attempts. … Georgia Tech P Durant Brooks is averaging 46 yards per attempt to help the Yellow Jackets lead the nation in net punting average. … Maryland LB Erin Henderson has recorded at least nine tackles in each of his four games this year. … North Carolina LB Durell Mapp has averaged 13.7 tackles per game over the last three weeks. … North Carolina DE Hilee Taylor has four sacks in his past two games. Taylor also has forced a fumble in three consecutive games. … Virginia DE Chris Long has recorded at least one sack in each of the Cavaliers' first four games and ranks second in the nation in that category. … Virginia RB Cedric Peerman has rushed for at least 137 yards in each of his past three games and now leads the ACC in rushing.
Who's not: Duke K Joe Surgan is 1-for-4 on field-goal attempts and has missed two extra points this season. Duke held an open tryout for kickers Monday. … Georgia Tech QB Taylor Bennett has completed 50.4 percent of his attempts and has thrown only one touchdown pass. … Georgia Tech TB Tashard Choice has gained just 50 yards on 20 carries the past two weeks while struggling with a hamstring injury. … Maryland QB Jordan Steffy has thrown three interceptions and only one touchdown pass during the Terps' two-game losing streak. He hasn't thrown for more than 180 yards in a game this season. … North Carolina QB T.J. Yates went 11 of 27 for 85 yards with four interceptions and no touchdown passes last week in a 37-10 loss to USF. … North Carolina State QB Harrison Beck has thrown seven interceptions with only two touchdown passes this season. He has six interceptions and no touchdown passes since taking over the starting job.
Keep your eye on: Clemson RB James Davis grew up in Atlanta and will try to have a happy homecoming this week. Davis had just one carry in a 10-9 loss at Georgia Tech two years ago as he recovered from a fractured wrist, but he rushed for 216 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-7 home victory over the Yellow Jackets last season. … Florida State LB Toddrick Verdell will probably make his first career start Saturday because LB Geno Hayes was demoted to second string after getting arrested and charged with three misdemeanors last week. … Virginia Tech G Brandon Holland will start Saturday in place of Sergio Render, who must sit out the first quarter of the North Carolina game for disciplinary reasons.
Numbers game: Florida State ranks 118th in the nation and Georgia Tech ranks 119th in third-down conversion percentage. Florida State has converted just 22.7 percent of its third-down situations, while Georgia Tech has a conversion rate of 20.8 percent. The only team with a lower third-down conversion percentage is Florida International, the owner of the nation's longest losing streak at 16 games.
Freshmen to watch: Georgia Tech TB Jonathan Dwyer had 15 carries for 75 yards and a touchdown in a 28-23 loss to Virginia last week after a hamstring injury limited Choice to five carries. Dwyer should get at least that many carries Saturday if the injury continues to bother Choice. … North Carolina RB Ryan Houston ran 11 times for 43 yards and scored his first touchdown last week in a 37-10 loss to USF. Houston and redshirt freshman Johnny White are getting the bulk of the carries for the Tar Heels.
Injury update: Boston College TB Jeff Smith might make his season debut Saturday after missing the Eagles' first four games with a concussion. DE Nick Larkin should miss two more weeks as he recovers from arthroscopic knee surgery. … Florida State DTs Andre Fluellen (elbow) and Budd Thacker (toe) remain questionable for the Alabama game. Fluellen sat out the Colorado game two weeks ago with partially torn ligaments in his elbow. FSU TE Charlie Graham has an injured hamstring but still expects to play. … Georgia Tech's Choice is considered questionable for the Clemson game with a hamstring injury, though Choice told The Atlanta Journal Constitution he's "going to be 100 percent" by Saturday. Georgia Tech FS Djay Jones (shoulder) and LB Shane Bowen (arm) also are questionable for Clemson. … North Carolina State DT DeMario Pressley is scheduled to return to the starting lineup Saturday after missing two games with a knee injury. North Carolina State's Beck is expected to play Saturday despite hurting his right knee last week. … Virginia OT Eugene Monroe is questionable for the Pitt game with a knee injury. ... Virginia Tech TE Chris Drager is out for the season with an injured right knee. Virginia Tech DE Jason Worilds is questionable for this week with a high right ankle sprain.
They said it: "I told them there are things in life worse than this that we're going to have to deal with. This is part of what you go through and learn. We've got to look at what we did wrong, analyze it, and see if we can get it better for the next game. We've got some kids that are still learning, and hopefully we'll be better for this experience."
— Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen on helping his team respond to a 31-24 overtime loss to Wake Forest. Maryland led 24-3 and had third-and-goal at Wake's 3 late in the third quarter
"I thought that my calling was to go back there (to Alabama). But it wasn't meant to be. And of course now, as I look back, it's a good thing I didn't go there. That's Bear Bryant. Nobody will ever top him up there. That's his. This is mine."
— Florida State coach Bobby Bowden to the Orlando Sentinel. Bowden interviewed for the Alabama job in 1986 before the Tide hired Bill Curry.
"Obviously when you are 1-3, you've got some things you have to do a lot better. We'll continue to do it. We are a third of the way through the year. We've got two-thirds left to go; there is no telling, maybe the light will turn on and we'll win the rest of our games." — North Carolina State coach Tom O'Brien
"0-2, that doesn't worry me because last year we played a team that was 6-2 in the ACC championship and they won it, Wake Forest. A couple of years ago, a 5-3 team, Florida State, they won the conference. So we just need to do what Georgia Tech has to do to win football games inside the conference." — Georgia Tech DT Darryl Richard to The Atlanta Journal Constitution about the Yellow Jackets' 0-2 start in league play
"For the number of years that I've been doing what I do, he has earned my respect. He's extremely organized in the way he puts together a game plan. He's always on the cutting edge of what he wants to do on the defensive side of the ball, and works very hard at what he does. He is a genius." — Clemson offensive coordinator Rob Spence to TigerIllustrated.com about Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta
Etc.: Boston College's entrance into the ACC has made an impact beyond football. Applications to Boston College from students in the other six states in the ACC (Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia) have soared 30 percent since the Eagles switched to the ACC two years ago, The Boston Globe reported this week. … Boston College is seeking its first 5-0 start since 1954. The Eagles played their home games at Fenway Park that season. The 12th-ranked Eagles have their highest ranking since 1993. … Alphonso Smith's 100-yard interception return against Maryland last week represented his second touchdown off an interception of the year and Wake Forest's fifth non-offensive touchdown of the season. … Virginia has won its first three ACC games for the first time since 1998. The Cavaliers went on to finish 9-3 overall and 6-2 in the conference that season.