ACC Football 2012 Previews & Predictions: Week 11

Can Virginia Tech Hope to Slow Down Florida State’s Offense Tonight, or Its Defense Either, For That Matter?

Unless you’re one of the other teams still in the Coastal division race, any ACC fan should be rooting for Miami the rest of the way. And yet, as we discussed earlier on the site, the Hurricanes may very well be staying home anyway. Beyond the Coastal, however, it’s now of the utmost importance that the best teams simply keep winning. The conference has obviously taken a lot of body blows throughout this season. The last thing we need is to lose our chances at two BCS bids, and/or send a 6-6 team to the ACC Championship Game. Of course, things are never all that predictable in this league, now are they?

Game of the Week

Florida State Seminoles (8-1) (5-1) at Virginia Tech Hokies (4-5) (2-3): FSU has a huge opportunity here, not only to put themselves on the cusp of winning the Atlantic division, but also to bury the Hokies’ season. Based on how things have been going for both squads, it appears likely we’ll see a Seminoles win. Florida State has held three different FBS opponents (all in-conference) to seven points or less, while also only allowing 20 points or more twice (both wins). Unfortunately for Virginia Tech, they haven’t scored more than 17 points since mid-October and the offense has only managed about 25 points per contest in eight games against FBS competition (three wins, five losses). And then there’s that offensive line. As feared in preseason, they’ve struggled, and actually, may be getting worse as the year wears on. There’s little hope they’ll be able to hold off Bjoern Werner and Cornellius Carradine for very long, creating yet another frustrating Thursday night for Logan Thomas. Prediction: Florida State 36, Virginia Tech 20

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

Pittsburgh Panthers (4-5) at Connecticut Huskies (3-6): Both teams are playing for their postseason lives this Friday, so don’t read too much into the Huskies’ recent four-game losing streak. UConn is well aware of what’s at stake, and will be performing accordingly. What Pitt needs to do to combat this is simply bury last week’s disappointment, and finish the job this time around. Against Notre Dame, the Panthers played well above their level, but ultimately fell short. What could frighten Pitt fans about this matchup, however, is the letdown potential. Pitt is notorious for playing down to opponents, and UConn could certainly qualify. While the Husky defense has performed impressively for the most part (18.6 points per game), they’ve also only scored 16.6 per game (120th in FBS). As always, the game plan for Pittsburgh is to just run the ball effectively and make opponents commit their own mistakes. Prediction: Pitt 27, UConn 17

Louisville Cardinals (9-0) at Syracuse Orange (4-5): SU’s final Big East football game at the Carrier Dome, and it’s rife with season-altering potential. Louisville also understands the stakes, and would love to shed their “paper tiger” status in front of a national audience. In four of these team’s last five games against each other, the margin’s been eight points or less, and I’d expect no different here. Syracuse’s big issue will be to simply stop the Cardinals’ rushing attack, led by Senorise Perry and Jeremy Wright. The shaky Orange run defense will likely have their hands full with those two (1,354 combined rushing yards), but if they can get some containment, it may force some tough throws from Teddy Bridgewater. And as always, SU, themselves, must cut down on the turnovers and mental mistakes (a tougher request than you think). Prediction: Louisville 38, Syracuse 31

Miami Hurricanes (5-4) (4-2) at Virginia Cavaliers (3-6) (1-4): The ‘Canes have relied on a fairly balanced attack all season, but have been most successful when either Duke Johnson or Mike James carries the weight of the offense (but rarely both). And yet, neither has really carried the ball all that much this season (just 204 rushes between them), and that’s unlikely to change against UVa, which only allows 133.89 yards on the ground per game (34th in FBS). So can Stephen Morris be relied upon as the star of this offense? That may be the deciding factor here, and his task won’t be nearly as easy as it once was. Behind Maurice Canady, the Hoos’ secondary looked reborn last weekend. To succeed, Morris will need to recapture that magic from earlier in the season. Prediction: Miami 24, Virginia 17

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (4-5) (3-3) at North Carolina Tar Heels (6-3) (3-2): North Carolina got very lucky in this matchup, catching the Yellow Jackets after enjoying two weeks of preparation for the triple-option. Again, this matters (see: Middle Tennessee State game), and Carolina’s one of the better teams Tech comes up against this season — on both offense and defense. Georgia Tech may try to control the pace with the running game, but even if effective, it’s not the best strategy against the Heels. Bryn Renner has continued his development as a passer and can make downfield throws. Plus there’s Giovani Bernard, who is better than any passing game, since he’ll just run for 75 yards in under 10 seconds. With Vad Lee under center, the Wreck may keep it close, but UNC pulls away by the fourth. Prediction: UNC 37, Georgia Tech 23

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (5-4) (3-4) at NC State Wolfpack (5-4) (2-3): The winner of this one likely takes third place in the Atlantic division, which is actually a pretty good prize this year, as it may get you to a pretty nice bowl destination. A week ago, NC State would’ve been favored here by several touchdowns, but after last Saturday’s disastrous 33-6 loss to UVa, no one knows what to expect. Have the Wolfpack just given up on the season, or have they been over-performing on their talent up until this point? It’s hard to tell, but I still like them to win here. If they want to beat Wake, their only task is to contain Michael Campanaro, something David Amerson should be capable of handling. If not, the Tom O’Brien era may end before the season does. Prediction: NC State 31, Wake Forest 27

Maryland Terrapins (4-5) (2-3) at Clemson Tigers (8-1) (5-1): Given all of the Terps’ injuries, they have little hope in this one, which is a shame considering the ESPNU broadcast will be seen by a lot of folks and it could’ve otherwise been a great showcase for recruits. Expect Clemson to put a ton of pressure on linebacker-turned-QB Shawn Petty, forcing errors and creating a pretty short field for their dynamic offense. Starters will be pulled by halftime. Prediction: Clemson 42, Maryland 14

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9-0) at Boston College Eagles (2-7) (1-5): Know what would be the most ACC thing ever? If Notre Dame dropped this game to Boston College in primetime. But I just can’t see it happening. The Irish have taken on passing attacks much more impressive than BC’s (namely Oklahoma‘s) and reduced them to rushed throws and swing passes. And after watching Wake carve up the Eagles’ secondary last week, I’m sure ND quarterback Everett Golson would love to try his own luck at embarrassing their defenders. Worst of all, BC fans probably WANT this to be a blowout, so Frank Spaziani can be fired sooner, rather than later. And I can’t blame them. Prediction: Notre Dame 38, Boston College 13

Last Week: 4-3; 2012 Season: 64-26

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