This is Part Two of this week’s Previews & Predictions feature. Also check out Part One.
Miami Hurricanes (2-1) (1-0)) at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-1) (0-1): Beyond the emergence of freshman Duke Johnson, the Hurricanes’ season has gone poorly to this point, despite their two wins. And Saturday’s contest with Georgia Tech may make things worse. Through three games, the ‘Canes have allowed 617 yards on the ground (an average of over 205 per game). Conversely, the Yellow Jackets have averaged 374 rushing yards per game, in three contests of their own. Given the versatility of their weapons, Tech has a real fundamental advantage against Miami, and will exploit it continuously throughout the game. Prediction: Georgia Tech 45, Miami 24
East Carolina Pirates (2-1) at North Carolina Tar Heels (1-2) (0-1): ECU comes in as a much-improved team on defense, though their offense (a trademark in 2011) appears to be struggling to find a rhythm. And UNC can likely say the same. After their strong start to the year, the Heels have dropped a big game to Wake Forest, and fell way behind Louisville last weekend, before coming back to make it a close contest. Yes, star back Giovani Bernard is out, but that can’t be an excuse for Larry Fedora and QB Bryn Renner. Renner has targets on the field — something the ball carrier doesn’t much change. Prediction: UNC 40, ECU 26
Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs (0-3) at Pittsburgh Panthers (1-2): Has Pitt gotten their groove back? Surprisingly taking on an impact role as a leader, beleagured QB Tino Sunseri had a breakout game last week in the Panthers upset over Virginia Tech. What’s more, not only did veteran back Ray Graham finally seem like his old self, but it also paved the way for freshman Rushel Shell to explode onto the scene. They sure looked like the Pitt team we thought we’d be watching in the preseason. But was it an anomaly, or are they now finally figuring out Paul Chryst’s schemes? This game could at least give us some indication about which Panthers squad we’ll see for the rest of 2012. Prediction: Pitt 42, Gardner-Webb 15
Memphis Tigers (0-3) at Duke Blue Devils (2-1) (0-0): Memphis may be the worst team in the FBS, which is why they’re a perfect fit for the Big East (HEY-O!). But in all seriousness, after allowing nearly 34 points per game in three contests versus Sun Belt and FCS competition, their chances to defeat Duke aren’t looking great. Stanford implosion aside, this Duke team has shown a higher-than-average ability to put up points, while guiding their attack mostly through the air. The Tigers, coincidentally, allow nearly 250 passing yards per game. This is an ugly matchup. Prediction: Duke 45, Memphis 21
The Citadel Bulldogs (3-0) at NC State Wolfpack (2-1) (0-0): The Citadel is ranked at the FCS level, and has run through opponents by over 20 points per game. So far in 2012, NC State has struggled to score 21 points per game, and their playmakers — most notably Mike Glennon — have been complete no-shows. While the Pack are on a two-game winning streak, neither W has been all that impressive, and the Citadel appears hungry. They’ll get a scare put into them, but ultimately, the State defense takes over when they’re needed most. Prediction: NC State 27, The Citadel 21
Syracuse Orange (1-2) at Minnesota Golden Gopher (3-0): Syracuse will play its third game against BCS-conference competition this year, yet has not played a league game. The aggressive scheduling — mostly unavoidable — may serve them well for the rest of the year, starting with a Golden Gophers team whose resume doesn’t hold up to other undefeated squads. Without starting QB MarQueis Gray, Minnesota must find a way to execute, despite losing its top passer and second-leading rusher. The Syracuse defense may celebrate the blow to the run game (words cannot describe how terrible the SU rushing D really is), but pocket-passing sub Max Shortell has shown he can make key throws in past action. If they can contain the big play, and then let the Orange offense do its thing, ‘Cuse should be alright. Prediction: Syracuse 38, Minnesota 32
Last Week: 9-2; 2012 Season: 27-9