This is Part Two of this week’s Previews & Predictions feature. Also check out Part One.
Furman Paladins (0-2) at Clemson Tigers (2-0): Clemson should be happy that their pass defense is improved, because the Paladins know how to throw the ball. Last year, a mild scare against fellow FCS school, Wofford, seemed to wake the Tigers up a bit. This season, they’ve got to use it as a tune-up for a presumed College Gameday matchup with Florida State a week later. Along with fitting Sammy Watkins back into the gameplan on Saturday, Clemson will likely be handing plenty of carries to Andre Ellington as well. One big concern they won’t get to work on, unfortunately, is run defense, since it’s likely Furman is throwing the ball for most of the game. Prediction: Clemson 63, Furman 18
Boston College Eagles (1-1) (0-1) at Northwestern Wildcats (2-0): Even if the Wildcats’ win over Syracuse a couple weeks back was luck, it’s hard to discount their effort in a win against a tough Vanderbilt team many thought was on a steep upswing. Boston College gets some help from NU’s less-than-stellar pass defense, which could surrender another huge day to Chase Rettig. The key for the Eagles will be running the ball effectively, however. SU was unable to do so, and it was their undoing against the Wildcats. Prediction: Northwestern 35, Boston College 27
North Carolina Tar Heels (1-1) (0-1) at Louisville Cardinals (2-0):UNC quarterback Bryn Renner took a beating versus Wake Forest last week, so it’ll be interesting to see how he’s spared the same fate against an aggressive Louisville blitz. One obvious solution is running the ball more, though that depends entirely on Giovani Bernard‘s availability. If they can remain balanced on offense, and actually play some semblance of pass defense, the Heels could score an upset. Prediction: Louisville 30, UNC 26
Stony Brook Seawolves (2-0) at Syracuse Orange (0-2): Syracuse is battle-tested and hungry after two weeks of football, so FCS squad Stony Brook would be a great respite from a brutal schedule. Except that the Seawolves own one of the country’s most lethal rushing attacks, and the Orange’s biggest Achilles heel is a strong run game. Now, they’re an FCS team, so let’s not get overly worried. Ryan Nassib should still continue to put up the big numbers we’ve seen from him through two games. But don’t be surprised to see the SU defense take a series or two to decipher the Stony Brook attack before settling in. Prediction: Syracuse 49, Stony Brook 20
South Alabama Jaguars (1-1) at NC State Wolfpack (1-1): Facing the Sun Belt’s Jaguars is just as good as facing as FCS team for NC State, a team that’s struggling to find an identity or any consistency on offense. This squad was supposed to put up points in bunches, yet has only managed 32 over two games. Much of that — unsurprisingly — has been due to consistent pressure on QB Mike Glennon and so-so running game. The Wolfpack should be able to solve one or both of those issues this week against the Jaguars. If they don’t, they should still be able to pull out a win here, though the remainder of the schedule will once again look very murky. Prediction: NC State 36, S. Alabama 10
N.C. Central Eagles (1-1) at Duke Blue Devils (1-1): Something was off about Duke when they were demolished by Stanford last weekend — and no, we’re not setting up a joke. Regardless of opponent, they’d appeared rejuvenated to open the season, so it was strange to see such an uninspired bunch on the field in Palo Alto. Without the time zone change or major conference pressures in this one, though, the Blue Devils once again have an opportunity to right the ship. Given the overly conservative play-calling against the Cardinal, this would be a good time to see just what the Sean Renfree/Conner Vernon ocmbo are capable of. They’ve only got nine games left with their program cornerstones. May as well make the most of them. Prediction: Duke 48, NC Central 20
Last Week: 10-3; 2012 Season: 18-7