ACC Football 2012 Previews & Predictions: Week 10

Can Miami Run By Virginia Tech Tonight, Or Will the Hokies Shut Down the ‘Canes Offense?

The main goal for the ACC this weekend? Establish some order in the Coastal division. Three teams are still vying for the division crown — which would normally be fine and exciting — but all are seriously flawed teams, and just setting themselves up for an inevitable drubbing in the conference championship game at the hands of Florida State. You want to know how a conference earns respect? By not sending a 6-6 team to its conference title game. I’m all about giving the ACC credit where credit is due, but the best way to combat outside criticisms — especially legitimate ones — is to win games on the field and have a respectable number of “elite” teams. Right now, both of those concepts remain a work in progress.

Game of the Week

Virginia Tech Hokies (4-4) (2-2) at Miami Hurricanes (4-4) (3-2): The winner of this game gets a big leg up in the Coastal division, especially the Hokies, who would own the head-to-head tiebreaker against the other two teams in the race. But even with a division lead, both of these teams are still incredibly difficult to figure out. At times, Miami’s offense appears to be full of weapons and capable of scoring on anyone. But then at other moments, and especially against higher quality competition, the ‘Canes look utterly outgunned and toothless. Tech, on the other hand has its own issues stemming from an under-performing and passive defense, as well as a one-man show of an offense. Inevitably, it may turn into a similar game to last year’s, with one quarterback making a play at the end, while the other simply couldn’t. So is that Logan Thomas or Stephen Morris? With Miami’s inability to generate pressure, I’ll go with Thomas. Prediction: Virginia Tech 33, Miami 28

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

Syracuse Orange (4-4) at Cincinnati Bearcats (5-2): On a two-game winning streak, Syracuse has gotten it done with a sound running game and zero turnovers. But Cincinnati, losers of two straight, have suddenly found themselves playing from behind and making mistakes (five turnovers over the last two games). Ideally, both trends would just continue, however, it’s unlikely at best. Against USF last week, the Orange once again showed their biggest defensive weakness: stopping both a mobile quarterback and an elite halfback. Now they’ll be tasked with doing so again against Cincy’s Munchie Legaux and George Winn. If the matchup devolves into a shootout, SU’s offense has a chance to guide them to a win, but if we end up in a low-scoring affair, I’m not sure the Orange can hold on long enough for the win. Prediction: Syracuse 34, Cincinnati 32

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-5) (2-3) at Maryland Terrapins (4-4) (2-2): Maryland’s virtually out of options at the quarterback spot (thanks, AMQBHG), so freshman linebacker Shawn Petty will get the start on Saturday. So to be honest, anything even resembling a competitive, competent offense will be a win for the Terps. And yet, I’m not so sure they should be counted out of this one. Since Al Groh’s firing, Tech has improved only minimally on defense and the offense is falling apart. The Yellow Jackets have their own quarterback controversy and I have a feeling that it’ll eventually be won by Vad Lee. In the meantime though, the awkward platoon setup only stands to hurt them. Not enough to lose this one. But hurt them, nonetheless. Prediction: Georgia Tech 26, Maryland 16

Virginia Cavaliers (2-6) (0-4) at NC State Wolfpack (5-3) (2-2): Virginia’s had a week off to fix its various issues with the running game and in the secondary, while NC State is still smarting from their crushing late loss to North Carolina. And yet, I feel the Wolfpack will have no problem defeating the Cavaliers and continuing Mike London’s nightmare season. Despite the loss last week, State QB Mike Glennon still threw for over 400 yards and five touchdowns, and it would’ve been more if not for his receivers’ inability to hold onto the ball. Against UVa’s shaky secondary, expect fireworks and a game well decided by halftime. Prediction: NC State 48, Virginia 20

Pittsburgh Panthers (4-4) at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-0): The Fighting Irish are true National Championship contenders, which likely doesn’t bode well for Pitt’s chances right off the bat. As a team they’ve struggled to consistently generate the run, while relying too heavily on Tino Sunseri‘s hot-and-cold passing. And they’ve found less production against defenses that couldn’t hold a candle to this one. Notre Dame’s SEC-esque defense is based solely on speed and an extra level of aggression at every position, obviously led by Heisman candidate Manti Te’o and perfectly executed by his 10 cohorts, too. I’d love to be able to consider an upset here, but ND is rolling right now. Prediction: Notre Dame 34, Pitt 17

Boston College Eagles (2-6) (1-4) at Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-4) (2-4): The most puzzling thing about this season for Wake Forest is how Tanner Price isn’t really much worse than he was last year — It’s really just the summation of a slowed-down play-calling strategy, offensive line injuries and going up against aggressive pass-rushes. And yet, he appears to have taken several large steps back from the player that threw 20 TDs last year. If the Deacs hope to win this game against BC, they’ll need to stay aggressive on offense and make Chase Rettig beat them with his arm. Now, don’t get me wrong, he certainly can. But without a run game, a one-dimensional BC gameplan lets Wake finally get some pressure on a passer, and it’s likely that’ll spark the close win. Prediction: Wake Forest 21, Boston College 17

Clemson Tigers (7-1) (4-1) at Duke Blue Devils (6-3) (3-2): Trust me. Duke will lose this game by some sort of emphatically terrible margin (think somewhere near what FSU did to them last week). There’s just no way the Blue Devils come out of this one with a win. Now, maybe I’m being too flippant about Duke’s chances, but let me explain. Clemson’s offense puts up 41 points per game and possesses four of the best offensive weapons in the conference. Blue Devils’ QB Sean Renfree will line up under center, but he is still banged up from last weekend. Duke’s secondary has also been burned by bigger, quicker receivers before — in fact they were embarrassed by players similar to Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins in each of their three losses up until this point. I’m happy to celebrate the program turnaround down in Durham, but there’s still a very big gap between the talent levels there and what they have to work with down at Clemson. Prediction: Clemson 52, Duke 20

Last Week: 5-2; 2012 Season: 60-23

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