This is a pretty good week in the ACC. There are no “big” games as far as national perception like there were the previous two weeks, but in three of the five conference games, you have teams at compatible levels trying to get a leg up on one another.
Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech – This is a nice matchup for a Thursday night game. You have two of the teams fighting in that middle ground of the ACC and both have played fairly well in recent weeks. Unfortunately, both teams have had more success on the defensive side of the ball, so while it should be pretty fiercely contested, it will probably be low scoring and might even be ugly.
Both of the Techs have only two losses so far this season, one against a top five team and one loss that they’d like to have back. For the Yellow Jackets, they had their shocking spanking at the hands of the Tar Heels while the Hokies dropped a heartbreaker to NC State when they missed a last second field goal. If either team had reversed their fortunes in those latter games, they’d be one loss teams and would be ranked (well, the Hokies are ranked this week anyway, but they’d probably be in the top 15).
Like I said before, I expect that this game will be fairly close and low scoring (of course, I thought the same thing about the NC State-Miami game last week). Virginia Tech is the slightly better team though and they’ve had two weeks to prepare (three, if you include the week when they played Florida A&M). Frank Beamer is a good coach and he’ll have a good gameplan to lead his team to the win.
By the same token, Georgia Tech has had two good games in a row, holding both opponents (Maryland and Duke) to under 200 yards. Still, the Hokies are too good on both sides of the ball, with better stats than the Yellow Jackets in every major offensive and defensive category. Also, there’s always the threat of a big Beamer Ball play in the special teams. I pick the Hokies by a touchdown.
NC State at Clemson – This is the second game of the weekend between teams in the middle trying to climb their way to the top of the pack (no pun intended). Actually, I’m being a bit kind to Clemson, who’s hanging on to that middle bubble by just a few fingernails. A loss to Maryland last weekend would have cemented them into a group at or near the bottom with Wake Forest.
With a win in this game, Clemson would climb to 3-3 in the conference, and with a game against Duke still on the schedule, a near lock for a .500 record. A loss would end any chance of that.
For NC State, they are sitting at 3-2 in the conference and still have games with Georgia Tech and Florida State. A loss would most likely put them at .500 as well. A win and they are in pretty good shape.
As for who actually will win, I’m going to have to lean toward State. While they’ve had some spectacular losses in the Carolina and Miami games, they really do have a pretty good team. One silver lining from the Miami game is that their offense, Jay Davis in particular, really found itself. If he becomes a consistent threat at the quarterback position, they could be a very good team. Well, as long as TA McClendon stops fumbling.
For Clemson, they are certainly good enough to win this game and slugging out a win in that tough Maryland game probably helped their psyche. You have to think that it’s important for them to start well. If they get behind early, the doubts will probably creep in and their home crowd might get hostile.
All in all, I just don’t trust this Clemson team enough. They’ve underachieved for most of the year, and despite last week’s win, I wonder if they aren’t one or two bad breaks away from crumbling altogether. We’ll see. Like the Two Techs game, I think this one will be close, but there will probably be a few more points. I think State wins by about a touchdown, maybe in overtime.
Duke at Wake Forest – The battle for the cellar! This is sort of a yearly game, isn’t it? Duke and Wake for the bottom of the conference? The motto of the game could be “Good Seats Available!”
This year, like most recent ones, Wake is a much better team. While Duke isn’t horrible, I have a feeling that they are going to get pounded by an angry group of Demon Deacons. Wake will take out the frustrations of their 0-4 conference record on the hapless Blue Devils like Ralphie wailing on his bully tormentor in A Christmas Story. No last-minute loss this week.
Florida State at Maryland – Hmmm, a few weeks ago, I would have said that this one smells a bit like an upset. Unfortunately now, it’s hard to pick up that scent over the stench of rotting turtle. The Terrapins have imploded and if they can’t move the ball on Georgia Tech, NC State and Maryland, how are they going to score on Florida State?
At the same time, who would have thought that the Seminoles would keep Wake in the game for so long last week? I certainly didn’t see it coming. I have a feeling that it was a rough week of practice in the Tally. Look for a bit more fire in the garnet and gold bellies this week.
So, everything points toward a Seminole blowout, right? I think so, but that’s what worries me. This is exactly the kind of game that produces one of those upsets that no one saw coming, isn’t it? Well, I don’t have the guts to pick that, so I’m going with Florida State by two touchdowns and a safety.
Miami at North Carolina – When your team has one of the worst defenses in the country for the second straight season, is missing its leading tackler and gave up nearly 700 yards in its last game, maybe you shouldn’t go talking smack about your next opponent, you know the one that put up 45 last week on the #1 defense in the country. Jeez.
Just for that Tar Heel stupidity, I won’t make my usual comment about how this is actually a talented team that plays poorly and how they have the potential to beat anyone. Screw that. This team is a mess and their gonna get killed by the Hurricanes. I expect a Miami win by four or more touchdowns.