ACC Weekend Football Preview: Week 13

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The ACC is a jumbled mess right now. Four teams are still in contention for
the Atlantic Division crown, while five teams still have aspirations of
representing the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship Game. However, there
are three teams that control their own destiny: Maryland, Boston College and Virginia Tech.

North Carolina State (4-6) vs. North Carolina (7-3)

Why North Carolina State might win: Head Coach Tom O’Brien has his team
playing their best football of the year down the stretch. With wins over North
Carolina and Miami, the Wolfpack will become bowl eligible, so the Pack has
plenty to play for. For the year, North Carolina State is 3-0 versus in-state
foes, with wins over East Carolina, Duke and Wake Forest. The Wolfpack is 1-0
against the Tar Heels under Coach O’Brien, winning last years game 31-27. Expect
another barn-burner this year. QB Russell Wilson has thrown for multiple
touchdowns in four consecutive games. On top of that, Wilson led his team in
rushing last week, gaining 69 yards and a touchdown. The N.C. State offense is
2nd in the ACC in red zone offense, converting 26-of-29 times for points.
Meanwhile, North Carolina’s red zone defense ranks 10th, allowing 28 scores in
31 drives. Another area of the game State can potentially exploit is ball
control. The Tar Heels rank dead last in the ACC in time of possession (27:16),
so the more State can keep their suspect defense off the field the better off
they will fare.

Why North Carolina might win: The Tar Heels have won 11 out of the last
15 games against N.C. State. North Carolina has a 5-1 home record, while State
is 1-3 on the road. The Coastal division is not completely out of reach for UNC,
but they would need quite a few things to happen to make that trip to Tampa. It
appears the starting quarterback gig is up for grabs this week, and if T.J.
Yates is healthy enough expect him to get the nod this weekend. While N.C. State
has been playing better defense of late, they are still statistically the worst
defense in the ACC in scoring, total yards, and pass defense. Wide receiver
Hakeem Nicks could have a big game against the State secondary. For the year,
the Tarheels are completing 40.1% of their third downs on offense, but this past
Saturday against Maryland they converted only 1 out of 11, which was a major
contributor to their loss. State for the year is allowing their opponents to
convert 41.9% of their third downs, worst in the ACC (again). An interesting
match-up will be UNC’s pass defense (2nd in the nation with 18
interceptions) against Russell Wilson (1 interception thrown).

North Carolina 33, N.C. State 28

Clemson (5-5) vs. Virginia (5-5)

Why Clemson might win: The Tigers are 35-8-1 all-time against Virginia
and will look to add to that total this weekend. Clemson still needs to win the
next two to become bowl eligible. Running back C.J. Spiller has been carrying
this team since he returned from injury three games ago. Spiller has run for a
total of 192 yards in three games, with a 6.1 yards per carry average and two
touchdowns. Meanwhile, he has 16 receptions for 268 yards and two touchdowns.
Spiller remains a major threat in the return game as well. QB Cullen Harper had
his best game of the season last week against Duke, completing 20-of-26 passes
for 292 yards and one touchdown. Given time, he should be able to carve up the
UVA defense much like Miami did. Wide receiver Aaron Kelly is now the ACC’s
all-time receptions leader with 217. The Clemson defense comes in playing well
and should continue that trend against the ACC’s lowest scoring offense (UVA,
17.6 ppg). If the defensive line can pressure UVA QB Marc Verica, he will turn
the ball over. For the year he has 12 interceptions and 3 fumbles. The Tiger
defense should focus on stopping RB Cedric Peerman first and foremost, because
if he gets going the Cavaliers will be tough to beat at home.

Why Virginia might win: Virginia and Clemson have not played since 2004,
when the Cavaliers won 30-10. The Cavs have had an extra week to prepare for
their final home game and send off their seniors the right way. That has not
been an easy task lately, as UVA has lost three of their last four home finales.
UVA ranks 80th nationally in turnover margin, and ball protection will be a key
to their winning this game. UVA out-gained Wake Forest, but their four turnovers
were the difference in the game. QB Marc Verica prides himself on his accuracy,
but his penchant for throwing to the other team has been a thorn in this team’s
side. As always, the offense starts with RB Cedric Peerman. As he goes, so goes
the UVA offensive production. It really is that simple. Defensively, the UVA
front four has a great opportunity against a poor offensive line to pressure
Harper (12 ints) into mistakes and to record sacks. Special teams will be
critical for UVA this weekend. First they must contain the Clemson return game
(Spiller & Jacoby Ford). UVA will need their kicker Yannick Reyering to be
productive in what could be a nail-biter till the end. Reyering has only
connected on six of eleven attempts on the year.

Clemson 21, Virginia 20

Florida State (7-3) vs. Maryland (7-3)

Why Florida State might win: The Seminoles no longer control their own
destiny in the Atlantic division, but a win here will keep them in the hunt.
Florida State has outscored Maryland by an average of 43-16 in their 16 games
played (won). The Seminole offense should get the services of wide receivers
Taiwan Easterling, Bert Reed and Corey Surrency this week, as all were suspended
due to an on-campus brawl prior to the Boston College game. The Seminoles had no
answer for B.C.’s defensive line, mainly their tackles Raji and Brace, but
Maryland’s defensive line is not as big and not as skilled. The Terps have the
9th ranked rush defense in the ACC, so the Seminoles should get their running
game back on track. QB Christian Ponder and the offensive line are not capable
of winning a game with the pass alone. Ponder has thrown 11 interceptions on the
year while completing 54% of his passes. The FSU defense still ranks as the
ACC’s best, and it will need to slow down the Terps’ run game. B.C.’s large
offensive line allowed true freshmen back Montel Harris to scamper for 121 yards
on 25 carries. Slowing the run down will allow DE Everette Brown and the front
seven to bring the heat. The Seminoles lead the ACC in sacks with 29.

Why Maryland might win: The Terrapins have won the past two games against
Florida State in College Park. This season Maryland is 6-0 at home, where their
defense is much better than on the road. A win against FSU and a B.C. loss will
wrap up the Atlantic Division Saturday night. QB Chris Turner has been good of
late with protecting the football; he has not thrown an interception in the past
four games. Turner catches a break this week with FSU free safety Darius McClure
out with an ACL (from celebrating an INT) and rover Myron Rolle potentially
being preoccupied with the Rhodes scholarship finals earlier in the day. Rolle
will be flying into College Park after the Rhodes winners are announced, which
could be as late as 6pm. The Terps’ running game got into a groove last week and
wore down the Tar Heels for a total of 195 yards. Maryland’s offensive line is
big and Florida State’s defensive line is small. They will look to exploit this
match-up by pounding both Da’Rel Scott and Davin Meggett. Maryland’s secondary
has been a primarily zone based defense. Apparently, that causes Florida State
and Ponder problems, as both Wake Forest and Boston College primarily run zone
coverages in the secondary and Ponder threw a plethora of interceptions (6) in
those games.

Maryland 23, Florida State 21

Boston College (7-3) vs. Wake Forest (6-4)

Why Boston College might win: Shockingly to some, the Eagles could end up
in the ACC Championship game again this year with two more wins. Boston College
is the ACC’s top run defense and Wake Forest has rarely run the ball
consistently this year. As a team Wake Forest averages 2.8 ypc, which will be
hard to improve on this week against this Eagles outfit. The Eagle secondary,
which is the supposed weak link, leads the nation with 21 passes intercepted.
The Wake Forest offensive line has not been strong throughout the year; expect
Wake QB Skinner to be under pressure most of the day. It appears the Eagles have
dialed back the number of passes Chris Crane attempts, throwing 22 and 26 passes
the past two weeks. The previous four games he attempted an average of 41 passes
a game. The Eagles are not beating themselves; they lead the ACC in penalty
yardage (38.1 ypg) and are 4th in turnover margin at +6 on the year.

Why Wake Forest might win: The home team in this match-up has won the
past four games. It appears kicker Sam Swank will make it back this week, which
should help out the Wake Forest red zone offense, which is currently 11th in the
ACC at 72%. This game is all on QB Riley Skinner. Skinner has been good, but not
spectacular this season. No running game has put all the pressure on him behind
a bad offensive line. Skinner ranks 3rd in the ACC in pass efficiency and has
only been picked off five times all year. Look for D.J. Boldin to have a big
game if the Deacs are going to have a chance. Boldin leads the ACC in
receptions. Defensively the Deacons task is slightly easier. The defense has to
slow down the B.C. run game and force Crane to throw more than they want him to.
The Deacons continue to be a team that relies heavily on turnovers, leading the
ACC in turnover margin at +14 on the year. Their best hope is for Crane to
return to his turnover machine form of the early season.

Boston College 28, Wake Forest 14

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