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Clemson visits NC State in top ACC game of Week 4

It's only Week 4, yet there are two important ACC matchups this weekend.

The Coastal Division race appears to be a four-team affair -- Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina and Virginia Tech -- and Georgia Tech welcomes in UNC for an important division showdown. After playing UNC, Georgia Tech's next two games are against Virginia Tech and Miami, so Saturday's game is the start of a season-defining stretch for the Yellow Jackets.

The biggest league game is Thursday night's nationally televised affair between Clemson and North Carolina State. Clemson is in the top four of both major polls, and the Tigers have ample firepower with quarterback/Heisman contender Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Will the Tigers live up to their ranking?

Here's a look at all the games involving ACC teams this week:

10. Savannah State at Miami, Saturday, 7 p.m. ET

Rating: 0 stars

The skinny: Savannah State has played three FBS teams in its history -- and been outscored 205-3 in those games, including a 66-3 loss to Troy this season. Savannah State also allowed 77 points to Georgia Southern the previous week. Why was this game even scheduled? Look for Miami QB Stephen Morris and TB Duke Johnson to put up big numbers in the first half, then sit out the second half.

9. VMI at Virginia, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET

Rating: 0 stars

The skinny: This is another dog. VMI hasn't won more than six games in a season since 1977, and the Keydets have won as many as six games just four times since then. VMI has played four FBS foes in the past three seasons and lost by a combined 154-30. The Cavs' rushing attack has been bad; it can get well in this contest.

8. Bethune-Cookman at Florida State, Saturday, 6 p.m. ET

Rating: 0 stars

The skinny: Another ACC team playing a FCS foe. At least Bethune-Cookman is a good FCS program and is coming off a rout of FIU. Bethune coach Brian Jenkins said this will be a "heavyweight fight." Really? Frankly, it should be like Mike Tyson vs. the overweight ex-jock at your gym. FSU QB Jameis Winston has thrown five incompletions in two games. FSU has three sacks in two games, but only one has come from the front seven.

7. Wake Forest at Army, Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network

Rating: 1 star

The skinny: Wake has rushed for 259 yards total in three games; Army is averaging 314.0 rushing yards through three games. Obviously, Wake has to get its rushing attack cranked up. Underrated Wake WR Michael Campanaro had 16 receptions in a loss to Louisiana-Monroe last week and should run wild against Army's secondary.

6. Tulane at Syracuse, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, ACC syndication

Rating: 2 stars

The skinny: Syracuse has changed quarterbacks, and sophomore Terrel Hunt makes his first start Saturday. Hunt is a dual threat and will be throwing against a secondary that is playing well: Tulane is tied for second in the nation with seven interceptions, and the Green Wave leads the nation with 24 pass breakups. Tulane senior WR Ryan Grant (6-1, 191), who already has 24 receptions and three TDs, appears to be a likely third-day NFL Draft pick. He will test a Syracuse secondary that has struggled. Syracuse senior DT Jay Bromley (6-4, 285) should have a big day against a questionable Tulane offensive line.

5. Pittsburgh at Duke, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, ACC syndication

Rating: 2 stars

The skinny: These teams are in the bottom half of the ACC, but even teams in the bottom half can go to a bowl, so this is important in that regard. Pitt has received big contributions from two freshmen: RB James Conner and WR Tyler Boyd. Boyd and senior WR Devin Street pose a test for Duke senior CB Ross Cockrell, one of the best at his position in the league. Pitt senior DT Aaron Donald (6-0, 285) already has three sacks and five tackles for loss, and his battles with Duke Gs Laken Tomlinson (6-3, 320) and Dave Harding (6-4, 285) should be good.

4. Marshall at Virginia Tech, Saturday, noon ET, ESPNU

Rating: 2 stars

The skinny: If Marshall is to pull the upset, it needs a huge game from junior QB Rakeem Cato. But Virginia Tech's strength is its secondary, which shut down a prolific East Carolina passing attack last week. The Hokies are tied for second nationally with seven picks. Marshall junior WR Tommy Shuler (5-7, 190) is the guy Virginia Tech has to keep under control. Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas is completing just 47 percent of his passes.

3. Maryland vs. West Virginia (in Baltimore), Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ESPNU

Rating: 3 stars

The skinny: West Virginia has struggled offensively; the same can't be said for Maryland, one of three teams nationally with three games of 500 total yards this season (California and Oregon are the others). The Terrapins have big-play potential in senior QB C.J. Brown (6-3, 210) and sophomore WR Stefon Diggs (6-0, 195). Maryland has lost its top two cornerbacks -- can WVU redshirt freshman QB Ford Childress (6-5, 234) take advantage? Touted WVU senior TB Charles Sims (6-0, 213), a transfer from Houston, leads the team in rushing but hasn't really made any "splash" plays. West Virginia has won seven in a row in this series.

2. North Carolina at Georgia Tech, Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN

Rating: 3.5 stars

The skinny: This is an important Coastal Division matchup. Tech won 68-50 last season in the highest-scoring game in league history. Tech senior CBs Jemea Thomas and Louis Young need to play well. The same goes for UNC DE Kareem Martin and DT Tim Jackson. UNC OT James Hurst vs. Georgia Tech DE Jeremiah Attaochu should be one of the best individual matchups of the weekend. Attaochu was the ACC's leading returning sacker from last season with 10, but he has zero this season after moving to end from outside linebacker.

1. Clemson at NC State, Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Rating: 4 stars

The skinny: A lot of intrigue for this one. Atlantic Division favorite Clemson always seems to lose at least once to someone it has no business losing to, and division rival NC State shocked an unbeaten Florida State team in Raleigh last season. And the last time the Tigers played in Raleigh, they were ranked seventh but lost by 23. NC State's secondary is a huge concern; senior CB Dontae Johnson (6-2, 195) is solid, but there are questions everywhere else. Can Johnson and his mates keep Clemson WR Sammy Watkins from taking over? NC State QB Pete Thomas has a big arm, and though coach Dave Doeren would prefer to run the ball, he should unleash Thomas because Clemson's secondary can be exploited. NC State OT Rob Crisp is one of the best linemen in the ACC; Clemson DEs Vic Beasley and Corey Crawford are good pass rushers.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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