ACC Weekend Football Preview: Week 10

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The ACC race is still up for grabs in both divisions, with only two teams
checking in with more than two conference losses. This weekend’s games will help
shake some things out in each division. The Miami-UVA game in Charlottesville is
very important in the Coastal Division race.

Clemson (3-4) vs. Boston College (5-2)

Why Clemson might win: Clemson got a much needed bye week after losing
three consecutive games as well as making changes to their coaching staff. The
good news, the Tigers will have QB Cullen Harper under center and RB C.J.
Spiller back from a hamstring pull. The bad news, offensive guard Barry
Humphries is out for the year after tearing his ACL in practice last week. If
this patch-work offensive line can give QB Cullen Harper time, WR’s Aaron
Kelly and Jacoby Ford should be able to exploit BC’s secondary much like
Hakeem Nicks did last week (8 receptions, 139 yds, 3 tds). That is a HUGE
“if” with that unit. James Davis and C.J. Spiller should have the
speed to test the outside of this Boston College front seven from time to time.
Clemson must improve on their 3rd down conversion rate offensively to have
any chance. The Tigers rank last in the ACC at 27.4%. The Clemson defense has
been good, but to help their offense they will need to give them a few drives
with a short field. BC’s Chris Cane (12 interceptions) will provide them with
opportunities to do so. The Tigers need to win the turnover battle, especially
being on the road. The Tigers’ -7 turnover margin (last in the ACC) helps
explain how they are losing close games.

Why Boston College might win: The last time Boston College lost to
Clemson was 1958 (0-5-1). The Eagles have beaten the Tigers the past three
meetings by a total of seven points. While QB Chris Crane currently leads the
ACC in total offense, it is his penchant for turning the ball over that they
really need to work on. The coaches could help Crane by running more, but they
seem infatuated with the pass. The past three games the Eagles are averaging 42
passing attempts a game, putting a ton of pressure on Crane. The Eagles may
struggle to put up points against Clemson’s defense, which is allowing only
16.1 ppg. The Boston College rush defense is a stout group, allowing only 109
ypg, good for 3rd in the ACC. The Tigers have rushed for a total of 72 yards
their past two ACC games, advantage Eagles. The key will be the Boston College
pass rush against that porous Tiger offensive line. Every other team has been
able to pressure Harper into throwing early and keeping their passing offense
out of rhythm.

Clemson 20, Boston College 16

Duke (4-3) vs. Wake Forest (4-3)

Why Duke might win: The Blue Devils, left for the dead after losing to
Georgia Tech and Miami, went on the road and beat Vanderbilt. Duke will need a
few more wins to become bowl eligible, and this week’s opponent is ripe for
the picking. With minimal production out of their ground game, the Blue Devils’
offensive production sits squarely on QB Thaddeus Lewis’ shoulders. Lewis was
not spectacular versus Vanderbilt, but completed 21-36 passes for 222 yards and
a touchdown. That was a big improvement from the prior three games and the key
to their victory. Duke leads the league in turnover margin per game at +1.29,
and in Wake Forest’s three losses this year they are a -3 in turnovers. Duke’s
defense will be facing a Demon Deacon offense that has no identity at the moment
and even less confidence. The Deacs are averaging 8.5 points per game in ACC
play. This game may very well come down to a field goal, and depending on Wake
kicker Sam Swank, the Blue Devils might have the edge in the kicking department.

Why Wake Forest might win: This will be the first game in which both
programs have had a winning record since 1971. Wake Forest has won their past
five ACC home games. Which Wake Forest offense will we see? The pass-oriented
one where they attempted on average 35 passes a game in their first six? Or the
offense that went down to Miami and attempted only eight passes while churning
out 3.8 ypc on 52 attempts? No clue, but they need to give QB Riley Skinner more
opportunities to create some plays on offense than last week. Skinner leads the
ACC in passing yards per game with 192. Wake did get RB Josh Adams going last
week (21 carries, 111 yards) but it wasn’t nearly enough. The Blue Devils rush
defense ranks 11th in the ACC allowing 148 ypg, so I imagine they will soften
them up with the run first. Wake Forest, defensively, will be able to slow down
the one-dimensional Blue Devils’ offense, and unlike Vanderbilt last week,
create more plays on offense while protecting the football.

Wake Forest 23, Duke 12

Miami (5-3) vs. Virginia (5-3)

Why Miami might win: The Hurricanes are riding into Charlottesville on a
three game winning streak with revenge on their mind. The Canes have lost the
last two games versus Virginia and were shredded last year, losing the final
game at the famed Orange Bowl 48-0. It will take more than the revenge factor to
knock off this red-hot Cavalier team. Offensively, the Hurricanes are not a
strong unit, yet they are averaging 32 ppg in ACC play. One factor in Miami’s
favor is their red zone efficiency, which rates #1 in the ACC at 93%. Their
quarterback play has been spotty from week to week, with Robert Marve getting
most of the snaps and Jacory Harris coming in as a change of pace QB more apt to
run if the situation calls for it. These two quarterbacks look to get the ball
into their playmakers’ hands, RB Graig Cooper and WR Travis Benjamin. Both have
touchdowns scores of over 50 yards this year. To win on the road, Miami will
have to win the special teams phase of the game. Kicker Matt Bosher has been
nearly perfect on the year converting on 12 of 13 attempts with two beyond 50
yards. True freshman Travis Benjamin currently ranks second in the ACC in punt
return yardage at 12.3 yards, while UVA punter Jimmy Howell only ranks 7th at
38.2 ypp.

Why Virginia might win: The Virginia Cavaliers sit in first place of the
Coastal division. Let me repeat, the Virginia Cavaliers sit in first place of
the Coastal division. Quite simply, the formula has been a heavy dose of running
back Cedric Peerman. He has been a one man show during this four game winning
streak. Cedric is averaging 25.5 touches a game for an average of 141.75 yards
and six total touchdowns. You stop him and there is a real good chance you have
stopped their offense (see UNC game). It is no coincidence Peerman’s play has
opened up the passing game and allowed QB Marc Verica to complete 72% of his
passes the past four games. The offense is clicking. The same can be said for
the defense too. The UVA defense has allowed only 8.5 ppg in their last four
home games. ACC leading sack-master Clint Sintim and his mates will apply
pressure to the two turnover prone freshmen quarterbacks throughout the game,
creating short fields for their offense. UVA leads the league in sacks with 23
on the year.

Virginia 30, Miami 20

Florida State (6-1) vs. Georgia Tech (6-2)

Why Florida State might win: Head Coach Bobby Bowden looks to build on
his 12-0 record against the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta this weekend. The
Seminoles have peeled off four straight wins since a cluster of players returned
from various suspensions. FSU boasts the league’s top scoring offense at 36.3
ppg. QB Christian Ponder has been below average against D-1A competition, but
will most likely be needed this weekend to pull out the win. Both FSU running
backs are listed as questionable this week after getting banged up against
Virginia Tech. Without Smith at running back, FSU may struggle on the ground
against the Yellow Jackets’ rush defense (104 ypg, 2nd best in ACC). FSU’s
biggest advantage will be their wide receivers against the Georgia Tech
secondary. Georgia Tech cornerback Jahi Word-Daniels is listed as questionable
and was sorely missed last week against Virginia. Greg Carr, Preston Parker and
Taiwan Easterling will give this young secondary fits. The ACC’s best rush
defense will get tested this weekend against Georgia Tech. The Seminoles
athletic and fast defense needs to play assignment football and not over pursue,
leaving cut back lanes for Jonathan Dwyer and Josh Nesbitt.

Why Georgia Tech might win: Coming off a disappointing loss last week and
their Coastal division aspirations on the line, Georgia Tech is in a must-win
game. The match-ups appear to be in their favor in some crucial areas of the
game. Derrick Morgan, Michael Johnson, Vance Walker and Daryl Richards must all
be salivating at the thought of facing this Florida State offensive line. For
the year Georgia Tech ranks 2nd in the nation with 8.8 tackles for loss per game
and 23rd in the nation with 2.63 sacks per game. If FSU cannot establish the
run, Ponder will be running for his life and their WR advantage over GT’s
corners will not matter when he has no time to throw. When Ponder does pass, he
will be throwing it against a secondary that has 14 picks on the year, good for
third nationally. On the flip side, the offense will be banging on a small
defensive line all game. Can FSU withstand the pounding in the 4th quarter and
get stops? Georgia Tech must protect the football. In their two losses this year
they have turned the ball over six times. They aren’t good enough offensively
to overcome turnovers at this point.

Georgia Tech 24, Florida State 23

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