ACC Previews & Predictions (Week 11)

A Win Thursday Would Aid Virginia Tech in Their Quest for an ACC Title

The postseason picture could start to sort out a whole bunch after this weekend. As we mentioned in our tiebreakers article, several ACC teams have a shot to clinch, solidify or enhance their chances to play for the league title, starting with Clemson. One win away from wrapping up the Atlantic Division, they just need to get by Wake Forest Saturday. Virginia Tech can clinch the Coastal by winning out — a process that starts Thursday night against Georgia Tech. Virginia and Miami are also in the mix for the Coastal crown, though it’ll take a few more cards to fall just right (especially for the ‘Canes).

*Game of the Week*

Virginia Tech Hokies (8-1) (4-1) at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (7-2) (4-2): Based on the previous game’s results, these two teams would appear to be headed in opposite directions. Georgia Tech demolished previously-unbeaten Clemson, and the Hokies struggled to put away Duke. So which anomaly do we stand by? While the offense didn’t impress against the Blue Devils, the Hokies did show up on D again, maintaining their top-10 national ranking in that department. As for Georgia Tech, Clemson had struggled to stop the run prior to the ‘Wreck optioning them to death. Given how much better VPI is at stopping the run than Clemson, and the one-dimensional nature of the Yellow Jackets’ offense, this pick’s more cut-and-dry than originally thought. Prediction: Virginia Tech 23, Georgia Tech 14

The Rest of the Slate (in order of start time):

USF Bulls (4-4) at Syracuse Orange (5-4): Two squads in a freefall, and only one can stop their season from careening out of control Friday night. Last time the Orange played on Friday night, it scored a pretty impressive win versus West Virginia. That’s ancient history now, though. In USF, the Orange face a formidable defense and a quarterback that can beat them both in the air and on the ground. It’s a must-win for both teams, but if Syracuse can put pressure on B.J. Daniels like they did to Geno Smith and maybe force a few turnovers, I see them clinching bowl eligibility (please don’t prove me wrong!). Prediction: Syracuse 23, USF 20

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (5-4) (4-2) at Clemson Tigers (8-1) (5-1): Wake Forest understands what’s at stake here. After three straight lackluster efforts (one win and two losses), the Demon Deacons will try to salvage a season that at one point was filled with promise. Clemson, as mentioned above, would love to wrap up the Atlantic Division this week, so the goal of most seasons: beating South Carolina. Given Wake’s suspect passing defense, and Tajh Boyd‘s considerable skills in that category, expect the Tigers offense to have a great bounce-back performance. Prediction: Clemson 38, Wake Forest 21

Pittsburgh Panthers (4-5) at Louisville Cardinals (5-4): Pitt’s final three games are no picnic — not the news any team looking to clinch a bowl berth wants to hear. And Louisville isn’t looking to make things any easier. After a rough 2-4 start, the Cardinals are now in second place in the Big East and riding a three-game winning streak on the strength of solid defensive and special teams play. The big question will be whether the Louisville D can put pressure on Pitt QB Tino Sunseri early. If they succeed, they’ll make short work of the Panthers’ limited passing attack, and with sparse options in the running game, Pitt could be in trouble. Prediction: Louisville 27, Pittsburgh 21

North Carolina State Wolfpack (5-4) (2-3) at Boston College Eagles (2-7) (1-5): Was last week’s shutout over UNC a sign of things to come for the Wolfpack, or should we expect results closer to the previous week, when they were crushed by Florida State? I’d trend toward the middle — with the team more relying on QB Mike Glennon to out duel the opposing offense than leaning on the defense to hold down the fort. Lucky for them this week, they’ve got BC, who doesn’t score all that many points (18.4 points per game — 113th in the country). Prediction: NC State 28, Boston College 17

Duke Blue Devils (3-6) (1-4) at Virginia Cavaliers (6-3) (3-2): One disappointing loss to NC State aside, Virginia has continued to impress week-in and week-out. Given that the Blue Devils rarely impress, this shouldn’t be too tough of a test for Virginia. Like in-state rivals Virginia Tech, UVa controls its own fate in the race for the Coastal Division — win out, and they’re in the title game. It would be a magical ride for them, but it all starts with getting it done against an inferior opponent this weekend. While they’ve faltered in this situation before, I believe they’ve learned from it and the defense, specifically, will be in rare form. Prediction: Virginia 26, Duke 14

Miami (FL) Hurricanes (5-4) (3-3) at Florida State Seminoles (6-3) (4-2): When Miami first joined the ACC, this was supposed to be the matchup that decided ACC titles and national championships. And though neither has really come to fruition, the intensity of this year’s end-of-season races, along with the usual bad blood in this rivalry does crank things up a bit. Facing their first quality opponent in over a month, can FSU respond with a dominant defensive performance? Can Miami display consistency in league play and notch another impressive win to pair with their drubbing of Georgia Tech a few weeks back? I know we’ve said this before, but the ‘Noles have been revitalized, and thus, will be victorious. It won’t be easy, though. Prediction: Florida St. 41, Miami 35

Maryland Terrapins (2-7) at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-3): Notre Dame continues their open auditions for the ACC by taking on sacrificial lamb, Maryland. The Terps, once respectable, even in the face of mediocrity, have been a laughing stock for about a month now. The Irish, on the other hand, have taken an 0-2 start and turned it into a slightly compelling/entertaining campaign. While not worldbeaters by any stretch of the imagination, ND’s junior receiver Michael Floyd could probably defeat Maryland on his own, and will attempt to do so Saturday (half-joking). In all seriousness though, I’d be shocked if the Terrapins managed to stop Notre Dame’s balanced, efficient attack. Prediction: Notre Dame 45, Maryland 20

Last Week’s Record: 5-2; 2011 Record: 17-9

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