The focus over the past two weeks in the ACC has been the big nonconference victories Clemson and Miami scored for the league.
Both teams are off this week, but there is another nonconference showdown ACC fans should pay attention to on Saturday afternoon: Boston College at USC.
That is not a typo. Before the season started, this game did not really raise any eyebrows or bring much hope that the ACC could pull out the win. BC was a team coming off a 2-10 season; USC, despite the ugliness of 2012, had a preseason Top 25 ranking.
But much has changed at both programs just two weeks into the season.
Boston College already has matched its win total from last season and is off to a 2-0 start for the first time since 2010 -- also the last time the Eagles made a bowl game. USC, meanwhile, fell out of the rankings because of a dreadful loss to Washington State at home last week, raising more questions about Lane Kiffin's job security.
The Cougars were just a tad better than BC last season, with three wins overall. So if a losing team can waltz into The Coliseum and win, why not two losing teams?
"It's tough to go on the road and beat a top-tier team," BC coach Steve Addazio said earlier this week. "I just think that right now when I watch the tape, I'm just trying to figure out what BC can do. What we've got to do is really take care of the football. We've got to be really aggressive on defense, and we've got to get this game into the fourth quarter and just keep swinging away with them. That's what we need to do. That is all my focus is on."
The last time BC beat a power program outside the ACC was back in 2008, when the Eagles defeated Notre Dame 17-0. Of course, some could argue Notre Dame was not a power program that season, as it finished 7-6. The last time BC beat a team from one of the BCS conferences was in the 2007 Champs Sports Bowl, 24-21 over Michigan State.
In three previous meetings, BC has never beaten USC.
But the door has been opened just an inch for the ACC in the biggest nonconference matchup of a pretty bare-bones weekend that features eight total games. Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Florida State, Maryland and Pitt are facing opponents outside the power five; Syracuse plays FCS Wagner.
So far this season, the ACC is 16-5 in nonconference play. What stands out in the five losses is they all have come against teams from the power five conferences. The ACC is the only top-tier league without a loss to a program outside the power five. Compare that to 2012, when the WAC and Sun Belt won games over ACC teams.
Of the other nonconference games on the schedule, two have the potential to raise red flags -- fast-paced East Carolina (2-0) has given Virginia Tech problems in the past. ULM, an eight-win team last season, could also pose challenges for Wake Forest. In the game that has some sentimental value, Maryland coach Randy Edsall faces his old team, UConn, in the nightcap.
We all know nonconference wins are nice for national reputations, but the game that will have the most impact on the ACC is happening in Durham, N.C., as Georgia Tech travels to play Duke. Jackets quarterback Vad Lee grew up in Durham and has a good relationship with Duke coach David Cutcliffe. The game marks Lee's first game in his hometown.
"I was joking with him in practice by asking him how many tickets he needed and he said that he was at 30 and probably going to end up at around 40," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. "I can imagine that he’s excited to go back and play."
Johnson is from North Carolina, too. His record as Georgia Tech coach against teams from his home state? 15-2.