ACC Football 2013 Previews & Predictions: Week 3

Vad Lee Leads Georgia Tech to Durham to Face Coastal Rival Duke

QB Vad Lee Leads Georgia Tech to Durham to Face Coastal Division Rival Duke This Saturday

Another week, another big ACC win this season. Might as well continue riding the wave of good vibes and hope the conference’s top teams continue winning — Clemson is ranked third in the country at this point, you know. Just like normal, we’re running down the list of every ACC (plus Louisville) game and predicting outcomes that will almost undoubtedly be wrong. Have some picks of your own? Predict away in the comments!

Game of the Week

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-0) (0-0) at Duke Blue Devils (2-0) (0-0): Georgia Tech looked phenomenal in game one, while Duke’s getting used to life without starting quarterback Anthony Boone. The Blue Devils’ defense has shown improvement through two games, but it’s unlikely they’ll be able to put a stop to Tech’s revitalized offensive attack. Vad Lee was incredibly efficient to start the year and with a more versatile attack (still centered on the triple-option, of course), Tech is looking to top 2012′s 7-7 finish. This one will be close for as long as Duke backup Brandon Connette keeps it that way, but eventually, he’s going to be forced into a mistake by the Wreck defense. Once he does, it’s all over from there. Prediction: Georgia Tech 38, Duke 26

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

Louisville Cardinals (2-0) at Kentucky Wildcats (1-1): Louisville’s started the year on a tear, and that’s not about to change against the cross-state Wildcats. Kentucky’s played pretty solid pass defense against its two opponents thus far (just 147 yards allowed per game), but then again, neither had much of a passing game to speak of either. Despite Mark Stoops’s specialty with the secondary, his UK team just isn’t up to snuff at this point, leaving plenty of opportunities for Teddy Bridgewater to continue padding his impressive numbers. Kentucky should be able to put up some points, but for the Cards, this will be treated like a track meet if necessary. They have no intentions of losing this contest with so much on the line. Prediction: Louisville 41, Kentucky 23

Virginia Tech Hokies (1-1) (0-0) at East Carolina Pirates (2-0): What would normally be an easy non-conference matchup turns into a pretty harrowing contest for Virginia Tech this Saturday against East Carolina. Not only is the game on the road, but ECU is extremely proficient at the main thing Tech isn’t: scoring points, with an average of 41.5 in two contests so far. With offensive production mostly out of the question, that’ll leave it up to the Hokies defense to try and create scoring opportunities similar to what they did against Western Carolina last week. The Pirates also have their own penchant for forcing turnovers (four this year), and if Tech falls behind early, it could spell doom for them. It’ll be close, but count on Frank Beamer’s defense to find a way at the end. Prediction: Virginia Tech 30, ECU 27

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2012 ACC Football Season Recap: Florida State Seminoles

If 2012 Proved Anything, It's That Florida State is Officially "Back" As an Elite Football Program

If 2012 Proved Anything, It’s That Florida State is Officially “Back” As an Elite Football Program

Team: Florida State Seminoles

W-L: 12-2 (7-1)

Postseason: 31-10 Discover Orange Bowl win over Northern Illinois

Top Offensive Performer: EJ Manuel, QB

Top Defensive Performer: Bjoern Werner, DE

Florida State had a checklist prior to this season. The ‘Noles were determined to win 10 games (check, and then some), the ACC Championship Game (check) and the Orange Bowl (check). So why do most accounts of this season seem to view it as a bit of a failure? It might just be a product of Jimbo Fisher succeeding in bringing FSU back to prominence.

Expectations were high for Florida State’s defense, but it was the offense that really needed to deliver if the Seminoles hoped to climb all the way back to the top. With some help of a manageable schedule (just one opponent ended the year ranked), they’d do just that, to the tune of 39.3 points per game (10th in the FBS). FSU outscored their opponents by an average of over 24 points per game, and managed to rank top-40 in both passing and rushing yards per game. For stretches during the season, it seemed as if the offense — led by senior passer EJ Manuel — was absolutely unstoppable, scoring more than 40 points seven different times. In prior years, what alluded. Manuel was consistency, but that was not the case in 2012. His completions, accuracy, yards, touchdowns and passer rating all went up in comparison to last year, as he showed a newfound poise and leadership whether in the pocket or on the run. Despite his own proficiency running the football (he amassed 310 yards and four scores this year), he was still largely helped by efficient play from his running backs. The Seminoles’ 40 rushing touchdowns ranked ninth in the country, made even more impressive by the distribution of the seven scorers, respectively. Devonta Freeman, James Wilder and Lonnie Pryor each scored eight or more times,  while Manuel, leading rusher Chris Thompson and Debrale Smiley each had between three and five. The constant change kept defenses off-balance and provided Manuel with the balanced attack he needed to run this group at optimum efficiency.

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ACC Championship Game Preview & Prediction: Florida State vs. Georgia Tech

EJ Manuel and Florida State Are Looking For Their First ACC Title Since 2005

The final ACC contest of the season pits Atlantic Division champion Florida State (10-2) (7-1) against Coastal Division champ Georgia Tech (6-6) (5-3). While FSU has sat atop the conference standings virtually all season, it’s been a long road back from the bottom for the Yellow Jackets, who arrive in Charlotte due to Miami and North Carolina‘s respective postseason ineligibility. These two teams have not faced each other since 2009, a 49-44 barnburner won by Tech. But trust that there’s no love lost here, and both are anxious to earn a trip to the Orange Bowl.

Offense

Florida State possesses more offensive weapons than any ACC team not named Clemson, and yet, their production has been sporadic all season. Yes, they put up 41.3 points per game, but keep in mind that number’s padded by two games against FCS opponents, too. Quarterback EJ Manuel also may have fallen off from his Heisman form earlier in the season, however, when he’s given the reigns to really run this offense (not always the case), he usually impresses. In a season full of positive growth and noted accuracy, last week’s four-turnover debacle must be quickly pushed out of his mind if FSU hopes to leave this game as ACC champs. The best way to beat Georgia Tech is putting them behind early, and with Manuel’s arm, the ‘Noles are more than capable of doing so.

On the Tech side, it’s all about involving the passing game. The biggest criticism with Paul Johnson’s offense has been predictability. Every defense knows they’re going to run the triple-option, so the game-plan hones in on it, and dismisses the pass. Neither Tevin Washington or Vad Lee have the best arms, either, which means they’ll have to pick their spots and throw when the defense gets too comfortable defending the run. As I’ve maintained before, efficiency when throwing the ball — even if it’s just 10-12 times per game — is what makes the triple-option most effective. The Wreck’s struggled with that concept all year, unfortunately, which doesn’t bode well for them here. Advantage: Florida State

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