ACC Weekend Football Preview: Week 8

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Miami (3-3) vs. Duke (3-2)

Why Miami might win: The Miami Hurricanes hold the edge in the all-time
series with a 4-1 advantage. The Hurricane defense will have their hands full
with Duke QB Thaddeus Lewis, but if Miami is to win this game the defense will
lead the way. Their defense allows 279 yards per game, which is good for 20th
nationally. More importantly, the Miami pass defense allows 184 yards per game
and is ranked 37th nationally. The Duke passing attack has sputtered the past
two weeks when they have faced better defenses (Virginia & Georgia Tech).
Thaddeus Lewis, coincidentally, has put up bad statistics his last two contests,
completing 55% of his passes for an average of 128 yards per game, with two
touchdowns and three interceptions. Head Coach Randy Shannon has come out this
week in support of QB Robert Marve despite his struggles. Shannon is looking for
Marve to manage the game rather than forcing plays which are leading to
turnovers. On the year, Marve is completing 54% of his passes with eight
interceptions. RB Graig Cooper will get some much needed help in the backfield
this weekend with the return of RB Javarris James. The addition of James will
allow Cooper to stay fresh for the 4th quarter.

Why Duke might win: Duke is coming off a bye week to mend their players’
aches and to allow the coaches to add a few wrinkles to their game plan. Duke
has a legitimate shot at home to knock off the Hurricanes. DT Vince Oghobasse,
teamed with LB’s Vincent Rey and Mike Tauiliili, will be relied upon to stop
Graig Cooper and the Hurricanes’ rushing attack. If they can stymie them on
1st and 2nd downs, the Blue Devils can throw the kitchen sink at Robert Marve on
3rd down. Marve’s confidence is low; if they can turn him over early the Blue
Devils will have enhanced their chances to win. Duke has been very good on 3rd
downs offensively and defensively, converting 43% of their 3rd downs on offense
and only allowing their opponents to convert 29% of their 3rd downs. That can be
the difference in winning a close game or not. The Duke offense goes as QB
Thaddeus Lewis goes, if he continues to put up pedestrian numbers they will
struggle to put up points as they do not run the ball well averaging, 118 a game
which ranks 96th nationally.

Duke 20, Miami 15

Heavy Hors d’oeuvres

Georgia Tech (5-1) vs. Clemson (3-3)

Why Georgia Tech might win: Georgia Tech resumes play after a week where
they struggled to beat Gardner Webb 10-7 with their 3rd string quarterback.
Georgia Tech has won three out of the last four games against Clemson. Clemson
has only beaten one D1-A team this season, NC State at home. The Yellow Jackets
will have the services of quarterbacks Josh Nesbitt and Jaybo Shaw this week, so
their offense should be back on track. The return of Nesbitt should help RB
Jonathan Dwyer’s production (95 ypg). The clear mismatch in this game is the
Clemson offensive line against the Georgia Tech defensive line. The Yellow
Jackets defensive line leads the nation in tackles for loss with 29; they will
have a field day with that young Clemson offensive line. Not a great week for QB
Willy Korn to be making his first start. Add in the challenges the Clemson staff
is going to have with maintaining their players’ focus with the departure of
Tommy Bowden and offensive coordinator Rob Spence just this past Monday.

Why Clemson might win: New Head Coach Dabo Swinney has his hands full
this weekend, but luckily he will start his tenure at home in Death Valley. QB
Willy Korn will make his first start this season, replacing the ineffective
Cullen Harper. Korn probably cannot bring much more than what Harper was
bringing in the passing game because of the offensive line, but he does have
much better mobility. Korn will be able to make plays with his legs when the
protection breaks down. The Clemson defense will have to create turnovers to
give their offense a short field for scoring opportunities. Nesbitt had been
having problems with ball security before he went out due to injury, so there
will be plays to be made by this Clemson defense. Offensively, Clemson will have
to hit big plays because that offensive line will struggle to sustain long
drives against the Georgia Tech defense.

Georgia Tech 24, Clemson 20

North Carolina (5-1) vs. Virginia (3-3)

Why North Carolina might win: North Carolina has been on the road twice
this year and pulled out victories at Rutgers and at Miami. Performance-wise,
they have been very consistent from game to game and they have yet to have a
stinker type game. This will be the first game they play without do-everything
Brandon Tate. The Tar Heels have HUGE shoes to fill with the production they
will lose on offense and special teams. A positive for UNC is they are becoming
more balanced on offense, getting good production from RB Shaun Draughn who is
averaging 100 yards per game the past two games. QB Cameron Sexton has been
steady, protecting the football. UNC currently leads the nation in turnover
margin at +11; they are putting pressure on teams through all three phases of
the game. The offense doesn’t have to be perfect, because the defense or
special teams can pick them up and vice versa. The game will boil down to can
UNC stop UVA RB Cedric Peerman and force QB Marc Verica to throw the ball on
obvious passing downs. Verica has seven interceptions in four games, but he has
been better recently when the Cavaliers have been able to run the ball and use

Why Virginia might win: Almost everything points to a Virginia win this
weekend. UNC has not won a game there since 1981, a losing streak of 13 games in
a row. The Tar Heels are coming off two emotionally charged games, the last
against Notre Dame, and are primed for a let down. Virginia has put together a
pair of impressive performances and wins against Maryland and ECU, neither of
which were close. The Tar Heels have lost Brandon Tate for the year, a key cog
to their success up to this point. UVA has had back to back games where they
have rushed for over 200 yards, making QB Marc Verica’s life very easy. The
1-2 punch of running backs Cedric Peerman and Mikel Simpson finally have hit
their stride recently and not a moment too late. On the other side of the ball,
the UVA defense has shutdown their opponents’ run game the last two contests,
holding Maryland to 79 yards and ECU to 89 yards. Turning both teams one
dimensional has allowed LB Clint Sintim and friends the ability to pin their
ears back and bring some pressure. UVA ranks 11th nationally with 18 sacks, and
are lead by Sintim who has seven sacks on the year to go along with 7.5 tackles
for loss.

Virginia 27, North Carolina 24

Main Course

Wake Forest (4-1) vs. Maryland (4-2)

Why Wake Forest might win: Wake Forest is coming off a good, but not
great, win against Clemson. In the Deacons two ACC games this season they are
averaging only 12 points per game. Luckily for them, they are not facing a
strong defensive unit this weekend; the Terps are especially bad against the
pass, which ranks 95th nationally allowing 249 yards per game. Wake Forest is
still searching for a running game that may not ever appear; they average 99 ypg
which is good for 110th nationally. This really comes into play when you are
trying to milk the clock and control the game in the 2nd half. On the positive
side, the Demon Deacons’ defense has been stellar in their games against Florida
State and Clemson. The Deacons really rely on turnovers and always seem to come
out on top in that statistic; they are currently +7 on the year while Maryland
is -1. This could be a huge factor in the outcome of this game. In Wake Forest’s
lone loss this season they were -4 in that department against Navy.

Why Maryland might win: Will the real Maryland football team please stand
up? It’s hard to gauge which team will show up this weekend, but I suspect it
will be a very motivated group after getting hammered 31-0 by Virginia. The
Terrapins are coming off a bye week and have a steak of four consecutive wins
against ranked opponents. The big question for the Terps will be can they get RB
Da’Rel Scott, the ACC’s leading rusher, back on track? The last two games he
has carried the ball 34 times for 75 yards (ouch!); that is 2.2 yards per carry.
Head Coach Ralph Friedgen does not want QB Chris Turner tossing the ball against
this ball-hawking defense more than he has to. It’s up to the Terps’ offensive
line to win the battle in the trenches. Defensively, the Terps have film on some
of the gadgetry Wake Forest employed last week against Clemson, so there should
be no surprises in that aspect. The Demon Deacons rank dead last in the ACC in
red zone offense, and the fact kicker Sam Swank was listed as questionable and
might miss the game will not help that statistic this weekend.

Maryland 17, Wake Forest 16

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