ACC Weekend Football Preview: Week 7

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Gardner Webb (2-3) vs. Georgia Tech (4-1)

Why Gardner Webb might win: Gardner Webb is a member of the Big South
conference in Division 1-AA. Gardner Webb has an advantage of playing this game
mid-year rather than the first game when the players are fired up for their
first live action regardless of the competition. It’s possible that the
Bulldogs can catch Georgia Tech looking ahead to Clemson the following week.
Gardner Webb’s offense is averaging 368 yards per game, which ranks 49th
in total offense, and they are 68th in scoring offense at 24 ppg. The Bulldogs
defense has performed much better, allowing only 278 ypg, which ranks 11th in
D1-AA. More importantly, the Bulldog defense is only allowing 45 ypg on the
ground.

Why Georgia Tech might win: The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets have been on
a roll offensively and defensively the last two games, beating Mississippi State
38-7 and Duke 27-0. There is no reason that won’t continue this weekend,
allowing QB Josh Nesbitt another game to rest his hamstring. The Yellow Jackets
have a top five nationally-ranked rushing offense that is averaging 290 ypg
coupled with a top 15 total defense that appears to be getting stronger each
game. That is a tough combination to beat. The Yellow Jackets will continue to
lean on the ACC’s top RB Jonathan Dwyer (avg 7.7 ypc) early with the hopes
they can get him some rest by halftime. QB Jaybo Shaw surprised a few folks last
week, completing 9-13 passes for 230 yards. The Blue Devils were selling out to
stop the run and Shaw came through by hurting them with the pass. Defensively,
the Georgia Tech line should dominate the game, disrupting a below-average D1-AA
offense. While DT Vance Walker and DE Michael Johnson garner much of the
attention, sophomore DE Derrick Morgan leads the team in sacks (4) and tackles
for loss (5).

Georgia Tech 40, Gardner Webb 0


Heavy Hors d’oeuvres


East Carolina (3-2) vs. Virginia (2-3)

Why East Carolina might win: East Carolina has never lost a football game
to Virginia, sporting a spiffy 2-0 record. The Pirates beat Virginia 31-21 two
years ago in Greenville, NC. East Carolina will look to snap a two game losing
streak; their early season hype is all gone. ECU had a week off to lick their
wounds and get re-focused on winning football games. In every offensive
statistic the Pirates hold the edge over the Cavaliers. QB Patrick Pinkney is
completing 68% of his passes with 6 touchdowns and three interceptions on the
year, but during their two game losing streak he is completing just 55% of his
passes and has turned the ball over four times. Head Coach Skip Holtz even
pulled Pinkney in the 3rd quarter of the Houston game in favor of back-up Rob
Kass before re-inserting him in the 4th. Good quarterback play will be critical
to win this game against an improving Virginia defense. Defensively, the Pirates
are ranked 64th in total defense, but giving up 629 total yards to the no-huddle
Houston offense definitely put a hurting on their ranking. The Pirates defense
will want to stuff the run and put the burden of winning the game on QB Marc
Verica, unlike the Terrapins did the previous week.

Why Virginia might win: The Virginia Cavaliers are coming off their best
offensive performance of the year in the win over Maryland with season highs of
points, total offense, rushing yards, first downs and time of possession. Was
that a flawless offensive performance or just a bad, unprepared Maryland
defense? We will find out if the Maryland game was an aberration, or if the Cavs
have started to click. Don’t expect QB Mark Verica to perform as well against
a better defensive unit that had an extra week to prepare for this game. The key
will be if UVA can build off the rushing success they had last week when they
ran for over 200 yards. UVA still ranks 111th nationally in rush offense, even
after last week’s performance. Wide Receiver Kevin Ogletree continues to
impress, ranking 2nd in receptions and 5th in receiving yards in the ACC. The
Cavs have played good defense the past two weeks, holding Duke to 258 total
yards and Maryland to only 13 first downs and zero points. LB Clint Sintim leads
the ACC and all linebackers nationally with five sacks. As long as the UVA
offense does not turn the ball over, their defense can hold their own against
this middle of the road ECU offense.

East Carolina 20, Virginia 19


Central Florida (2-3) vs. Miami (2-3)

Why Central Florida might win: The UCF Knights will square off with Miami
for the first time ever this weekend. Winner has bragging rights with in-state
recruits. The strength of this football team was supposed to be the defense,
which returned nine starters from last season, but so far they are giving up 28
ppg, good for 83rd nationally. Luckily for the Knights, Miami has not been very
effective offensively, ranking 106th in total offense. R-Fr. Robert Marve has
struggled against UNC and FSU the last two weeks, completing just 52% of his
passes with four interceptions. Producing turnovers will be huge for a
struggling Knights’ offense that will strain to move the ball with long drives.
Head Coach George O’Leary has been playing musical chairs with his
quarterbacks. Michael Greco started the season, but was replaced by Rob
Calabrese against UTEP, only to be replaced by Greco in the 2nd half last week
against SMU. Neither is very good and will struggle against Miami. UCF’s
leading rusher is Ronnie Weaver, with 328 yards on the year, but his 3.7 ypc is
mostly due to an ineffective passing game.

Why Miami might win: The Hurricanes will look to break a two game losing
streak against UCF. The last two weeks they have been killed by poor quarterback
play and an ineffective passing game. UCF is not on the level of UNC and FSU, so
the Hurricanes can work on QB Marve’s decision making and not feel threatened.
UCF lost their previous two road games (BC and UTEP) by a combined score of
92-20. Prior to FSU last week, the Miami rush defense had been good. Currently,
they allow 108 ypg which ranks them 29th nationally. UCF is a run-first offense,
so if Miami can take that away early, they should have a field day with whoever
is playing quarterback for UCF. Miami should win this one based on defense and
big plays alone, but for future success QB Robert Marve and the offense need to
get on-track or they will be looking at a six win season.

Miami 35, Central Florida 13


Main Course


Notre Dame (4-1) vs. North Carolina (4-1)

Why Notre Dame might win: Notre Dame leads the all-time series 16-1 and
will make their first visit to Chapel Hill since 1975. The Notre Dame passing
offense has been carrying the team to date, ranking 34th nationally at 249 ypg.
QB Jimmy Clausen has been red hot the last two games (Purdue and Stanford),
completing 65% of his passes for 622 yards with 6 touchdowns and zero
interceptions. Clausen should find some space in a UNC secondary that has not
been challenged through the air to date (Rutgers, VT, Miami and UCONN) like
they will be this weekend. Clausen has been spreading the ball around with four
different receivers totaling at least 15 receptions and six with at least one
touchdown. The Fighting Irish run game has been spotty at best, ranking 105th
nationally. The Notre Dame defense will have to limit the big play from North
Carolina’s offense. Make the Tar Heels and back-up QB Cameron Sexton
matriculate the ball down the field with stuff underneath. Put the ball in
Sexton’s (9-16, 117 yards last week) hands and don’t beat yourself (see
UCONN last week).

Why North Carolina might win: The North Carolina Tar Heels are ranked in
the top 25 for the first time since 2001. Head Coach Butch Davis has his Tar
Heels positioned nicely early this season. Can he notch his first high profile
win at North Carolina? The Tar Heel offense might have finally found an answer
at tailback with converted safety Shaun Draughn. Shaun ran for 109 yards off 19
carries and ripped off a 39 yard touchdown just last week. That would be a much
needed dimension to take the load off Cameron Sexton. Special Teams will play a
major role in this game, Brandon Tate always is a threat to return a punt or
kick-off, not to mention UNC’s penchant for blocking kicks this year. Throw in
the fact that Notre Dame’s kicker Brandon Walker is 1-8 on field goal attempts
on the year and this appears to be a huge mismatch in UNC’s favor. In Notre
Dame’s only road game of the year they got smothered by Michigan State, losing
23-7 and totaling only 16 yards rushing. There will be opportunities for this
athletic defensive front to make plays against the pass happy Irish.

North Carolina 30, Notre Dame 20

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