Things to watch in the Atlantic Coast Conference in Week 12:
GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 12 Syracuse vs. No. 3 Notre Dame. Coach Dino Babers’ Orange (8-2, 5-2, No. 12 CFP) have been the surprise story of the season in the ACC, making a case for a New Year’s Six bowl berth after being picked in the preseason to finish last in the Atlantic Division. With QB Eric Dungey leading the league’s second-highest-scoring offense (44.4 ppg), Syracuse will head to Yankee Stadium trying to knock the Fighting Irish (10-0) out of College Football Playoff position.
Pittsburgh’s rushing offense vs. Wake Forest’s run defense. The Panthers (6-4, 5-1) are riding their ground game to the brink of an ACC Championship Game berth, averaging nearly 257 yards rushing to rank second in the league behind Georgia Tech’s trademark triple option. A win will send Pitt to Charlotte for the title game . The Demon Deacons (5-5, 2-4) and their rejuvenated defense held North Carolina State to 47 yards rushing in a 27-23 upset of the 22nd-ranked Wolfpack.
Some ACC schools keep coming up with big plays. Clemson leads the nation with 18 plays from scrimmage that have gone for at least 50 yards, while Pittsburgh is tied for third with 14 of them — including Qadree Ollison’s 97-yard touchdown run last week against Virginia Tech. Duke has 11 of those 50-yarders, including a 68-yard run for QB Daniel Jones and a 52-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Chris Taylor in last week’s win over North Carolina.
Virginia will need an upset of Georgia Tech — and some help — to remain in contention in the Coastal Division. The Cavaliers (7-3, 4-2) are 6½-point underdogs in Atlanta against a Yellow Jackets team that has found its stride. The key, as it is in every Georgia Tech game, comes down to stopping the run. Coach Paul Johnson’s team leads the FBS with an average of 362.4 yards rushing while Virginia has the league’s fourth-best run defense, allowing 136 yards per game.
N.C. State receiver Kelvin Harmon is coming off a record-tying performance and has a chance to break that mark at Louisville this week. Harmon’s 15 catches against Wake Forest matched the school’s single-game record and is the most of any power-conference player this season. The Cardinals’ defense ranks last in the ACC in yards per pass attempt (8.3 ypa) and the big question mark is how they’ll play now that coach Bobby Petrino has been fired.