ACC Football 2012 Previews & Predictions: Week Eight

Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas Wants to Improve From His Performances Against Clemson Last Season

Could we finally start to see a bit of a shakeout in the ACC, with league title contenders putting some space between themselves and the conference’s various also-rans? Well, maybe. That statement also implies we know who the also-rans are (we don’t). And in terms of the Coastal division, are we even sold on the contenders? Again, there’s plenty still up in the air. Should be a fun group of games this weekend, at any rate.

Game of the Week

Virginia Tech Hokies (4-3) (2-1) at Clemson Tigers (5-1) (2-1): If the Hokies had held up their end of the bargain and just remained in the top 15 or so, there’s a chance this matchup could’ve been the site of College Gameday. We still get an interesting matchup here though, despite what it looks like on paper. Tech, while struggling to stop the rush (ranked 76th nationally in yards-per-game on the ground), has actually been much more effective against the pass (37th in FBS, yards-per-game). Their eight interceptions are also tied for second in the conference, so Tajh Boyd must deliver his passes with precision. Clemson should win, but again, don’t be surprised to see Logan Thomas put up his best game thus far while exploiting an overmatched Tigers defense, either. Prediction: Clemson 38, Virginia Tech 27

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

Connecticut Huskies (3-4) at Syracuse Orange (2-4): Another Friday night game for Syracuse, and another must-win for a school whose season is currently hanging in the balance. The big key for the Orange is simply cutting down turnovers (their margin is -10 on the season), and playing efficiently enough on offense to put up a few touchdowns. UConn has proven itself to be forgettable on offense, outside of running back Lyle McCombs, so it won’t be a high-scoring affair. But if SU quarterback Ryan Nassib can simply stay standing up against the Huskies pass rush anchored by DE Trevardo Williams, the Orange stand a good chance to advance and keep fighting for the postseason. Prediction: Syracuse 20, UConn 16

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (3-3) (1-3) at Virginia Cavaliers (2-5) (0-3): Virginia’s looked over-matched on both sides of the ball for weeks now. Wake, on the other hand, has hung tough despite a rash of injuries and suspensions over their last few games. UVA coach Mike London has said he’s sticking with Phillip Sims at quarterback on Saturday, though — a decision that actually does make sense at this point. Faced with the high likelihood his team will not make the postseason, London may as well give the reigns off to next season’s likely starter. Still, Sims needs to prove start proving himself more in the starting role. The Deacons’ lack of a pass rush should help him in that department, though maybe not enough to grab a win. Prediction: Wake Forest 24, Virginia 20

Boston College Eagles (1-5) (0-3) at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-4) (1-3): The 2012 season’s been extremely unpleasant for both of these teams, and it’s about to get even more so for the loser of this matchup. BC was obliterated by Florida State last week, but the ‘Noles do employ a more traditional attack. How will they fare against Georgia Tech’s triple-option? The odds are definitely not in their favor. Of all 124 FBS teams, Boston College ranks 120th against the rush, letting up nearly 248 yards per game. The conversation ends right there for the Eagles, as they have little hope to pull this one out. Prediction: Georgia Tech 51, Boston College 21

NC State Wolfpack (4-2) (1-1) at Maryland Terrapins (4-2) (2-0): Few thought the Woflpack and Terps would have the most control over their respective destinies in the Atlantic division halfway through the season, yet here we are. And both teams bring a ton of momentum into this meeting, too. On the strength of their defense, Maryland has won two straight league games, though the offense continues to get its bearings. For NC State, the offense has led the way, and were the heroes down their stretch in their huge upset over FSU. If State’s experienced defensive backs — very quiet to this point in the season — can force freshman passer Perry Hills to make some mistakes, the Wolfpack should come away with another big in-conference victory. Prediction: NC State 27, Maryland 17

Pittsburgh Panthers (2-4) at Buffalo Bulls (1-5): The bulls have been dismal in nearly every aspect of the game this year, scoring under 23 points per game, while allowing nearly 35. Even against MAC competition, they’ve looked lost trying to establish an identity. Though Pitt itself hasn’t won in a few weeks, they’ve also gone down swinging — meaning they’re ready for a bounce-back game versus a cupcake opponent. QB Tino Sunseri should guide the way, but the Panthers would be smart to try and reestablish the rushing game, too. Compiling just 120 yards in the past two weeks is embarrassing considering the spoils that backfield enjoys. Running game or not, they’ll win big, though. Prediction: Pitt 42, Buffalo 13

North Carolina Tar Heels (5-2) (2-1) at Duke Blue Devils (5-2) (2-1): Giovani Bernard is powering the Heels to their best season in years, and if they win this matchup, UNC should be well on their way to their first Coastal division title. If they were eligible, that is. So while it’s great for the school to show off some football muscle, it can also appear like a slew of hollow victories. Their best bet is to play spoiler, which they’ll surely embrace against rival Duke this weekend. The Blue Devils — possibly reeling after a big loss to Virginia Tech — must show they’ve grown up and can refocus immediately. While they’re one win from bowl eligibility, that sixth victory is far from guaranteed. Approaching each opponent as a one-game playoff is their best bet to avoid a tremendous letdown after a 5-1 start. Prediction: UNC 33, Duke 21

Florida State Seminoles (6-1) (3-1) at Miami Hurricanes (4-3) (3-1): The conference’s biggest rivalry gets a primetime slot this Saturday, in a matchup that may not be all that close this time around. But a lot of that depends on ‘Canes QB Stephen Morris, and whether he actually starts after an ankle injury last week. The junior’s been practicing, but there’s no official word on his status for the game. Nonetheless, FSU has game-planned for whichever quarterback option Miami goes with, and with that defensive front, it may not even matter much. Since starting 4-1, the high-powered Hurricanes offense has sputtered in its last two games, scoring just 17 points combined. The running game, a key part of the hot start, has also looked off lately, with freshman back Duke Johnson no longer running at his torrid, early pace. Fully expect a heavy Seminoles pass-rush and an aggressive offensive strategy to put this one away fairly early. Prediction: Florida St. 45, Miami 20

Last Week: 4-2; 2012 Season: 48-20

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