This is a big weekend for the ACC. Obviously, the games this weekend
will decide who plays for the ACC Championship on December 6. However,
there are also some important out-of-conference games that can get the ACC some
respect if they are victorious.
Georgia Tech (8-3) vs. Georgia (9-2)
Why Georgia Tech might win: The Yellow Jackets are coming off their
finest performance of the year offensively, tallying over 500 total yards, of
which 472 yards were on the ground against the Hurricanes. The Georgia Bulldogs
are by far the most talented team the Yellow Jackets will have faced all year.
Georgia Tech is led by RB Johnathan Dwyer who is averaging a gaudy 7.0 ypc for
the year. Dwyer did leave the Miami game early after getting dinged up, but
expect him to suit up against the rival Georgia Bulldogs. The onus on the
defensive side is squarely resting on the shoulders of their front four. Georgia
Tech ranks 14th in sacks and 9th in tackles for loss, and to give their
secondary a chance they will have to be a disruptive force the entire game.
Georgia ranks 19th nationally in sacks allowed, so Yellow Jacket ends Derrick
Morgan and Michael Johnson will have to be sharp.
Why Georgia might win: The Bulldogs have won seven in a row against rival
Georgia Tech. Normally, preparation time for the Yellow Jackets option attack is
an issue for teams facing them with a week to prepare, but having not played
since November 15th, the Bulldogs should be well schooled on their assignments
defensively. The Bulldogs would be wise to watch Virginia Tech’s defensive
game-plan against Georgia Tech where they shut-down Dwyer completely. Yellow
Jacket QB, Josh Nesbitt, is still nursing multiple injuries. The more times the
Bulldogs make him keep it and deliver punishment the better off they will be.
The biggest mismatch in this game is the Georgia Tech secondary versus Matthew
Stafford and the Bulldog receivers. Prior to this game, the highest ranked
passing offense the Yellow Jackets have faced is Clemson at 53rd. Georgia’s pass
offense ranks 19th and averages 268 ypg. Wide receivers A.J. Green and Mohamed
Mossaquoi will have big games despite the Yellow Jackets’ national pass defense
rank of 21 (product of playing in the ACC). RB Knowshon Moreno (1244 yard, 15
tds, 5.9 ypc) is still a beast, and will be used to soften up the defense for
the play-action deep balls to Green and Mossaquoi.
Georgia 35, Georgia Tech 14
Miami (7-4) vs. North Carolina State (5-6)
Why Miami might win: The Hurricanes have won the only two games they’ve
played in Raleigh. Will this young Hurricane team bounce back from the national
paddling they took from Georgia Tech? Hopes of winning the Coastal division have
been dashed and the only thing left to play for is bowl jockeying. The Canes
need production out of their quarterback this week, no matter if Robert Marve or
Jacory Harris is at the helm. N.C. State is playing well, and Harris and Marve
will have to make plays in the passing game to complement running back Graig
Cooper. The offense needs a playmaker at quarterback and at this point Harris is
probably the better option. Harris’s passer rating is 131.7 compared to Marve’s
104.0 rating. Defensively, the Canes will need to slow down and get QB Russell
Wilson out of rhythm. The best possibility for that is bringing pressure. The
Canes’ secondary is ok, but with only three passes intercepted all year they
will be susceptible against a mobile play-making QB (Wilson).
Why North Carolina State might win: It’s safe to say the Wolfpack is
playing its best football of the year and is a confident bunch. With a win over
Miami, they will be bowl eligible and salvage the season that appeared to be
lost. Coach Tom O’Brien simply knows how to coach and the players have bought in
and are laying the foundation this year. The defense has allowed an average of
11.3 ppg since linebacker Nate Irving returned (three games ago), and despite
Miami’s scoring average (27.9 ppg) this is not a high-powered unit. Personally,
Russell Wilson has locked up first team All-ACC despite being only a r-freshman.
The Wolfpack ranks 3rd in the ACC in turnover margin at +8, while Miami is at
-6. With the way the Pack is playing, if they win the turnover margin expect the
Pack to win the game.
North Carolina State 24, Miami 17
Vanderbilt (6-5) vs. Wake Forest (6-5)
Why Vanderbilt might win: The Commodores have already locked up a bowl
bid, but are looking to gain a little confidence heading into December. The
offense has been one of the worst in all of D1 football, averaging 262 ypg,
ranking them 117th nationally. The Commodores prefer to move the ball on the
ground, averaging 140 ypg, good for 67th in the nation. Regardless of the fact
that the Wake Forest defense ranks 26th against the run, that is still the way
to attack them. The Demon Deacons defense thrives off creating turnovers and
ranks 16th in passes intercepted with 15 on the year. The Commodores’ top
running back is Jared Hawkins, who has totaled 581 yards and four touchdowns on
the year. The next two leading rushers are both quarterbacks, Chris Nickson
(462yds) and Mackenzie Adams (148yds). Despite playing in the SEC and facing
some high powered passing attacks, the Commodores rank 16th in pass defense. The
Deacons have no run game so Vandy should be able to keep them in check
Why Wake Forest might win: Wake is limping to the finish line, literally.
Their offensive line is banged up, missing multiple starters and moving others
out of position. The run game has been non-existent all year and currently ranks
104th in the nation, averaging 107 ypg. Wake has lost their past two games to
N.C. State and Boston College, and both games were close only because of the
play of their defense. Any offensive output they can generate is due to QB Riley
Skinner and WR D.J. Boldin. This combination has hooked up 69 times for 703
yards, but only 3 touchdowns. The Deacs’ defense will once again have to help
out with scoring or field position, but even last week when the defense scored
two touchdowns it wasn’t enough to overcome Boston College. In a classic, low
scoring battle, kicker Sam Swank may be able to help this team win a game in his
final home appearance after missing numerous games in the middle of the season.
Wake Forest 13, Vanderbilt 10
South Carolina (7-4) vs. Clemson (6-5)
Why South Carolina might win: South Carolina travels to Clemson this
weekend. The Gamecocks have had an extra week to prepare for Clemson, having not
played since getting throttled by Florida 56-6 November 15th. Expect the ole’
ball coach to have a few offensive wrinkles up his sleeve. Despite Steve
Spurrier’s tutelage, the Gamecock offense ranks 90th in total offense. QB Chris
Smelley leads the charge, completing 58.5% of his passes for 1531 yards, with 11
touchdowns and 11 interceptions. As you would expect, South Carolina is a
pass-oriented offense averaging 238 ypg compared to only 98.9 ypg on the ground.
The Clemson Tigers rank 5th in pass defense only allowing 163 ypg against, but
that has to be taken with a grain of salt because they play in the ACC which is
short on passing offense. The Clemson pass rush took a major hit last week with
the injury to DE Ricky Sapp. With Sapp, the Tigers ranked 102nd in sacks
nationally. Without him, expect even less production. The Gamecocks rank 2nd
nationally in pass defense and have a very aggressive front seven that may cause
problems for Clemson’s offensive line.
Why Clemson might win: Clemson has won nine out of the past eleven games
against South Carolina. Clemson needs to win this weekend to become bowl
eligible. The Clemson defense has played well in their last two games, allowing
seven points to Duke and three points to Virginia. For the year, the Tigers rank
80th in turnover margin, but in the last two weeks they are +5. South Carolina
ranks 90th in turnover margin, so the team that wins that facet of the game may
be the victor. As always, the Tigers need to get RB C.J. Spiller the ball as
much as possible either running, receiving or returning. Last week he added a
passing touchdown to his repertoire. QB Cullen Harper may not have lived up to
the preseason hype, but he has a chance to take a little of the sting out from
this year with a good game and a win against their rival.
South Carolina 27, Clemson 20
North Carolina (7-4) vs. Duke (4-7)
Why North Carolina might win: Since 1990 the Tar Heels are 17-1 against
Duke, winning the last nine games at Wallace Wade Stadium. QB T.J. Yates will
have another week to knock off the rust and to get back the timing he had
earlier in the year with his receivers. Chalk last week up to a classic letdown
type game. The Heels had been given control of their destiny and then went out
and lost a heart-breaker to Maryland. They came out flat against an N.C. State
team that was/is peaking. With Duke ranking 12th in the ACC in run defense,
expect the Tar Heels to come out running with Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston.
Another reason to lean on the run game would be the fact they rank 12th in the
ACC in time of possession. The longer you keep the ball out of Duke QB Thaddeus
Lewis’s (appears ready to play) hands, the better off they will be. The Duke
offense with Lewis at the helm will go back to a pass-oriented offense and
should not be able to muster much yardage on the ground against UNC. The Tar
Heel secondary needs to quickly lick the wounds Russell Wilson inflicted last
week after throwing for 279 yards and two touchdowns.
Why Duke might win: Duke has gotten so close to knocking off the Tar
Heels the last three years, losing by three, one and six points. The Blue Devils
are trying to snap a four game losing skid, after playing the last one and a
half games without QB Lewis. With Lewis at QB, the Blue Devils can get their top
offensive player, WR Eron Riley, involved. Riley ranks 5th in the ACC in
receiving yards per game and is second to only Hakeem Nicks in touchdown
receptions, with seven. The Blue Devils are more than capable of stealing this
win if UNC were to lay another egg like last week. The Blue Devil front seven
should stand up strong against the UNC ground game, putting the game in T.J.
Yates’ hands. After completing 10-of-22 for 116 yards and a pick against N.C.
State, it’s not out of question that Yates is not fully recovered and in game
North Carolina 23, Duke 21
Maryland (7-4) vs. Boston College (8-3)
Why Maryland might win: A game that everyone expects the Terrapins to
lose is exactly the type of game the Terrapins seem to win. On the year, the
Terps are 4-0 against ranked opponents, the most wins against ranked opponents
in the nation. This game sets up well for the Terps in that they will face
r-freshman QB Dominique Davis, who will be making his first start of his career
in the most important game for B.C. This game will lie squarely in the laps of
the Maryland run defense, which is giving up 147 ypg good for 11th in the ACC.
The Eagles are averaging 172 yards on the ground in their last four games, and
you better believe they will rely on that this Saturday with Davis at QB.
Maryland won’t stand a chance if they can’t bottle up RB Montel Harris. Last
season, Turner threw for a career-high 337 yards and three touchdowns without
getting picked off in Maryland’s 42-35 upset of then-No. 8 Boston College.
Provided Turner has time, he and Derrius Hayward-Bey can make plays down the
Why Boston College might win: Everything is on the line this weekend for
Boston College. Win and you get another shot at the ACC Championship. Lose and
Florida State will represent the Atlantic Division. A stout defense and an
offense that has been grinding it out with the run gives Coach Jagz confidence
that QB Dominique Davis can manage the game and be victorious. The Eagles have
scored on defense or special teams in six straight games, and are ranked fifth
in the nation in total defense, allowing 269.6 yards per contest. The Eagles
rush defense ranks 7th nationally, allowing only 95.8 ypg. On top of that they
rank 1st in the nation with 23 passes intercepted, mostly due to teams’
inabilities to run on them with any consistency. The Terps will have to bring
their A-game on offense. On the flip side, Boston College has to establish the
run to alleviate the pressure on Davis that will only mount as each quarter
passes with the Terps in striking distance.
Boston College 28, Maryland 17
Florida (10-1) vs. Florida State (8-3)
Why Florida might win: The Florida Gators have won four straight in this
series, including last year’s 45-12 whipping. This game is huge for the Gators
if they want to remain in the hunt for the BCS Championship Game. The Gator
offense is hands down the best unit FSU will have faced all season. In fact, the
Seminoles probably aren’t prepared to face such a high-powered unit after facing
the listless offenses of the ACC. Florida ranks 3rd nationally in scoring,
averaging 46.4 ppg behind QB Tim Tebow, RB/WR Percy Harvin and RB Chris Rainey.
Harvin and Rainey both average over 7 ypc, and have both rushed for over 500
total yards on the year. At anytime in the game, Rainey and Harvin can take it
the distance. They are that explosive. Both have touchdown runs of over 75
yards. Tim Tebow leads the team in carries, with 47 more attempts than Rainey,
but averages only 3.5 ypc. The offense, coupled with a nationally leading
turnover margin of +18, gives you a 10-1 record. Do not overlook the Florida
defense, which also ranks 3rd in scoring, allowing only 12 ppg, and ranks 9th
overall in total defense. The FSU offensive line will have their hands full with
the Gators’ front seven, and will pressure FSU QB Ponder into mistakes.
Why Florida State might win: While the Seminoles have lost four in a row
to the Gators, the past two games at Doak Campbell Stadium have been decided by
a single touchdown in both games. The Gators have played only three road games
all year, and none of which came against a team as talented as Florida State.
The Seminoles are coming off their best performance of the year, beating
Maryland 37-3. The defense caused four turnovers and scored a touchdown. They
will need a repeat performance to have a chance against the Florida Gators.
Going into the Florida game last year, FSU’s defense was ranked 37th nationally,
and they have improved dramatically this season and are ranked 7th nationally.
While Florida has been good at protecting the ball all year, in the game they
lost to Ole Miss, they coughed it up three times. QB Christian Ponder will look
to build off his 19-for-24 for 143 yards and a touchdown performance against
Maryland. Ponder also added 81 yards on the ground and a 1 yard touchdown run
last week. FSU will look to establish the run because it’s not likely Ponder can
win this one passing. Florida will be missing two defensive linemen due to
injuries. Defensive lineman Matt Patchan is out and starting tackle Lawrence
Marsh is questionable. Both are dealing with knee injuries.
Florida 30, Florida State 17