Teams banking on transfer quarterbacks have gotten mixed results, is South Carolina an ACC spoiler again, what to make of Miami and more. Each week in this space we’ll take a look around the Atlantic Coast Conference and examine the most important happenings.
TRANSFER TRIUMPHS AND TROUBLES: Three ACC teams staked their seasons on quarterbacks who transferred into the program.
For North Carolina State and Virginia — with Ryan Finley and Kurt Benkert taking snaps, respectively — it’s gone about as good as could have been hoped for or expected.
The Wolfpack and Cavaliers are a combined 9-2 and 4-0 in ACC play with Finley and Benkert among the league’s leaders in several passing categories. Finley, who first made his name at Boise State, has been arguably the best quarterback in the ACC so far. He’s completed 71 percent of his passes for 1,770 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Benkert, who never really got a chance at East Carolina, hasn’t been as flawless, but his arm has carried Virginia to a 4-1 record after winning two games last season.
Benkert has completed 64 percent of his passes for 1,431 yards with 13 touchdowns and three interceptions.
Interestingly, the highest profile transfer among ACC quarterbacks is faring the worst. Pittsburgh’s Max Browne was once the top rated QB recruit in the nation, but couldn’t beat out Sam Darnold for the starting job at USC.
So the graduate transfer is at Pitt, where the Panthers are just 2-4 and 0-2 in the ACC, putting them in a race with Florida State for the conference’s most disappointing team. Browne himself hasn’t been terrible. He’s completed 71 percent of his passes, but for less than 1,000 yards through six games, and he has just five touchdown passes.
Browne was also injured in Saturday’s loss to Syracuse and will miss at least a few weeks. That forced Pitt to burn the redshirt of freshman Kenny Pickett. Needless to say, that’s not how the Panthers had hoped Browne’s arrival would pan out.
PALMETTO PROBLEMS: It’s been a magical season for Finely and N.C. State so far, with one exception, the puzzling season-opening loss to South Carolina. In that game, the Wolfpack came out on top in almost every statistical category but the final score.
If fans in the Research Triangle area getting a sense of deja vu it’s because so far this season is playing out a lot like North Carolina in 2015. The Tar Heels won 11 regular season games in a row that year, but lost to a mediocre South Carolina team in the season opener. Both games against the Gamecocks were played in Charlotte.
UNC climbed as high as No. 8 in the polls, but faced a mountain of a climb to get serious College Football Playoff consideration after that loss.
This year’s Wolfpack has already beaten Florida State and Louisville, but the South Carolina loss may wind up limiting State’s postseason options.
WITHOUT WALTON: Undefeated Miami is still very much in the mix for a special season after squeaking by rival Florida State on Saturday, but the Hurricanes took a huge blow with the loss of star running back Mark Walton.
Walton’s ankle injury will keep him out for the season, and now Miami will rely heavily on sophomore Travis Homer, who could be ready for a breakout.
Despite playing behind Walton, Homer had three touchdown runs in four games and is averaging 8.5 yards per carry. He’s also been solid as a receiver. Losing Walton hurts, but it’s quite possible Miami can weather this particular storm.
Shane Mettlen is a veteran journalist who lives in Virginia and also writes for The ACC Sports Journal. Follow him on Twitter @ShaneMettlen