ACC Weekend Football Preview: Week 9

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Duke (3-3) vs. Vanderbilt (5-2)

Why Duke might win: Duke makes their first trip to Nashville since 2001.
The Blue Devils have completely lost the momentum they had built up in their
first four games, which is mostly attributable to the offense’s struggles. The
offense has been bad of late. In particular, QB Thaddeus Lewis is in a funk.
Over the last three games Thaddeus is completing 51% of his passes, averaging
only 129 yards per game with four touchdowns and three interceptions. It is
important for Thaddeus to get WR Eron Riley involved early and often. Riley is
easily their best offensive play-maker, but in this recent three game stretch he
is not getting involved with only 10 total receptions. Good news for the Duke
defense, Vanderbilt is ranked 118th in total offense. The Commodores’
passing offense averages 96 yards per game, good for 116th in the nation. Right
below the Commodores are notable passing powers of Army, Navy and Air Force. The
potential is there for the Blue Devils’ defense to keep this one close and allow
the offense to steal it late.

Why Vanderbilt might win: It is Homecoming for the Vanderbilt Commodores,
who welcome the arrival of the Duke Blue Devils. Vanderbilt currently has a six
game winning streak over the Blue Devils. Head Coach Bobby Johnson, unhappy with
his offense, made a switch at quarterback, inserting Mackenzi Adams as the
starter last week versus Georgia. The results were not great, as Vandy totaled
just 245 yards and 14 points. Mackenzi completed 50% of his passes for 131 yards
with two passing touchdowns and two interceptions. The Commodores, like Duke,
are riding a two game losing skid coming into this weekend, and are still
looking to become bowl eligible for the first time since 1982. The Vanderbilt
defense will easily be the strongest single unit for either team. The Vandy
defense ranks 45th in total defense and held the Georgia Bulldogs to 24 pts in
Athens. Turnovers could be the deciding factor this weekend with both Duke and
Vanderbilt at +7 on the year.

Vanderbilt 23, Duke 17


North Carolina State (2-5) vs. Maryland (5-2)

Why North Carolina State might win: The NC State Wolfpack travels to
College Park to take on the Maryland Terrapins this weekend. The Wolfpack have
been playing better on offense recently with the healthy return of quarterback
Russell Wilson. More importantly, the last two weeks the Wolfpack have not
turned the ball over, losing to Florida State and Boston College by an average
of only eight points. Back to Wilson, for a r-Fr he has played very well, and
for the year is completing 55.7% of his passes with six touchdowns and only one
interception. In recent weeks Wilson has teamed up with speedy WR Owen Spencer
for touchdown passes of 61 and 67 yards. On the year Spencer is averaging 20.3
ypc. Maryland’s pass defense ranks 91st in the nation and will be without
Kevin Barnes, their best cover corner, so big plays will be available in the
passing game. State will need to get some help from their defensive unit on the
road if they expect to pull out the win. The State defense is giving up an
average of 30.6 ppg and over 420 yards per game. Unfortunately, LB Nate Irving
will not suit up this week; he is easily their best defensive player.

Why Maryland might win: The Terrapins are at home this week for
homecoming where they are 4-0 this year and have won their past five. The
Wolfpack on the other hand are 1-10 in their last 11 away conference games. The
Maryland offense proved last week that they can also toss the pigskin around the
field, tallying 330 passing yards against a good Wake Forest defense. In QB
Chris Turner’s last three starts at home he is completing 71.6% of his passes
for 230 ypg average, with five touchdowns and two interceptions. State’s pass
defense currently ranks 105th nationally, allowing 259 ypg. The Terps will have
offensive success against the Wolfpack this weekend, but how will their defense
perform? The Terp defense shut out Wake Forest, which had not been shut out by
any team since 1998 (123 games). It is probably a bigger indicator that Wake’s
offense is struggling with no running game. The Terps need to focus on keeping
RB’s Andre Brown and Jamelle Eugene from breaking loose, both had success
against a strong FSU rush defense last Thursday. If they make State one
dimensional, the Terps could roll.

Maryland 35, NC State 20


Heavy Hors d’oeuvres


Boston College (5-1) vs. North Carolina (5-2)

Why Boston College might win: The Boston College Eagles, statistically
speaking, have a top-rated defense. The Eagles rank 4th in total defense, 11th
in scoring defense, 26th in rush defense and surprisingly 5th in pass defense.
Some of that is due to the lack of offensive prowess from their competition, but
a lot of that is due to a team that is strong against the run. BC has eliminated
the inside run game altogether with mammoth defensive tackles Ron Brace and B.J.
Raji. It would be interesting to see how they would fare against a good passing
team, but luckily for them they won’t face any in the ACC. It would be wise
for BC to use the running game more on the road to limit the number of times QB
Chris Crane drops back, as he is prone to turning the ball over. BC has two good
freshmen running backs in Montel Smith and Josh Haden that run hard and have
been protecting the football while moving the chains.

Why North Carolina might win: The Tar Heels truly are in desperation mode
in regards to winning the Coastal division. They cannot afford to drop another
game all year and have the luxury of getting Georgia Tech at home if VT were to
slip up a few more games. North Carolina’s defense ranks number one with 14
passes intercepted while Boston College and Chris Crane rank 88th with nine
passes that have been intercepted. Undaunted, BC continues to allow him to chuck
the ball all over the field, which might very well play right into UNC’s hands
this weekend. The defense/special teams will probably need to get a score to
help their offense pull this one out, but that is not out of the question with
this Tar Heel squad. Offensively, it appeared late in the UVA game the staff had
lost confidence in QB Cameron Sexton, but this week more than any they will need
him to help exploit BC’s pass defense. Wide receivers Hakeem Nicks, ACC leader
in receiving yards per game, and Brooks Foster will need to consistently make
plays down the field.

North Carolina 23, Boston College 20


Wake Forest (4-2) vs. Miami (4-3)

Why Wake Forest might win: The Wake Forest Demon Deacon defense finally
had a clunker of a game last week against Maryland. The defense had been holding
down the fort while the Wake offense worked out their kinks. Unfortunately, they
are six games in and the Deacons’ offensive line play and their rushing attack
probably will not improve much. The Deacs still boast the top passing offense in
the ACC at 217.7 ypg and will continue to rely on QB Riley Skinner and WR DJ
Boldin (ACC leader in receptions per game) to make enough plays to keep drives
alive. Defensively, the Deacons face two young, turnover prone quarterbacks in
Robert Marve and Jacory Harris. For the year, the two have combined to throw 12
interceptions. Wake Forest will have to win the turnover battle once again. For
the year they are +9 and they are facing a young Miami squad that is -4 on the
year.

Why Miami might win: The Hurricanes have caught the Demon Deacons at a
perfect time, the Deacons are banged up and struggling on offense. Center Trey
Bailey is out for the year, starting cornerback Brandon Ghee, safety Kevin
Patterson and tight end Ben Wooster are highly questionable for this weekend. On
top of that, kicker Sam Swank still appears likely to miss the game with a leg
injury. The Hurricanes, on the other hand, got a break-out performance from QB
Jacory Harris last week against Duke. Jacory threw for four touchdowns and ran
for another score and got the majority of the snaps over Marve. It’s expected
they will continue to share snaps for the short-term. The Miami defense is not a
star-studded group, and they are allowing 24.3 ppg which ranks 11th in the ACC,
but this week they get a one dimensional offense that is missing two starters.

Miami 25, Wake Forest 20


Main Course


UVA (4-3) vs. Georgia Tech (6-1)

Why Virginia might win: The Virginia Cavaliers travel to Atlanta riding a
three game winning streak. The turn-around has been surprising, yet all three
games were played at home. RB Cedric Peerman has been the offensive catalyst the
past three weeks, averaging 109 ypg and scoring a total of five touchdowns. That
productivity allowed QB Marc Verica to relax and get comfortable in the passing
game. Verica completed 71% of his passes during this current three game winning
streak for an average of 220 yards per game. This consistent production in the
running and passing game will get it done more times than not in the ACC. The
Georgia Tech secondary will be without starting CB Jahi Word-Daniels this
weekend. The challenge this week for UVA’s defense is stuffing the Georgia
Tech option attack. UVA currently ranks 70th nationally against the run,
allowing 146 yards per game, which will surely go up after this weekend. The
reigning ACC defensive lineman of the week, Jon Copper, and fellow linebackers
Antonio Appelby and Clint Sintim will have to be disruptive throughout the game
to pull off another upset.

Why Georgia Tech might win: The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets have been as
equally hot recently, peeling off four straight victories. The Yellow Jackets
are averaging 29 points per game and only surrendering seven points per game at
home this season. On the flip side, UVA has been outscored in their two road
games 76-13. Last week, QB Josh Nesbitt returned after missing their past three
games. By now everyone knows all about the Georgia Tech rushing attack and RB
Jonathan Dwyer, the ACC’s leading rusher. The player you might not know is
sophomore WR Demaryius Thomas who is second in the ACC with 69.2 receiving yards
per game. Demaryius is their big play threat through the air when teams continue
to creep defenders up to the line of scrimmage leaving him one-on-one. At 6’3,
230-lbs, he often wins the battle for the ball over smaller defenders. The
Georgia Tech defense leads the nation in tackles-for-loss with and eye popping
nine per game and is ranked 15th in sacks averaging 2.86 per game. Needless to
say, UVA QB Marc Verica will get tested to see how far he has progressed this
season.

Georgia Tech 28, UVA 10

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