ACC Football 2012 Previews & Predictions: Week 12

DeAndre Hopkins and the Clemson Offense Are Hoping to Avoid a Letdown Versus NC State for the Second Straight Year

For this weekend to be deemed a success, the ACC must simply hope that its favorites pull out victories against in-conference underdogs, while two five-win squads tack on victories out-of-conference to get to bowl eligibility. Unfortunately, even the easiest request has become a tall order in the ACC, a league still mired in extreme parity, parading as mediocrity to outside spectators (or at least that’s my story). Let’s just hope for the best…

Game of the Week

NC State Wolfpack (6-4) (3-3) at Clemson Tigers (9-1) (6-1): Last year, I called this matchup a trap game, but for some reason felt that Clemson’s defense — facing a one-dimensional offense — would be the difference-maker. This time around, the game feels eerily similar. Underachieving Wolfpack squad versus a 9-1 Clemson team that hasn’t been tested in months, and thus, has plenty of room to grow on the defensive side of the ball. But for State, there just isn’t the same sense of urgency as last year — with the team clinching bowl eligibility last week, their backs are not pressed against the wall, nor are they all that inspired to play for their lame-duck coach, Tom O’Brien. I’m convinced this year’s Clemson team is better than the 2011 model, and because it’s a home game, it’s hard not to go with the talented Tigers and their potent offensive attack. Prediction: Clemson 41, NC State 30

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

North Carolina Tar Heels (6-4) (3-3) at Virginia Cavaliers (4-6) (2-4): The South’s Oldest Rivalry is always a fun — if underrated — game and this year’s edition should be no different as both teams are surrounded by more questions than answers. Carolina’s offense showed it’s capable of putting up points in bunches when it rang up 50 last week. But its defense revealed itself as a porous, overrated group still struggling to get a handle on Larry Fedora’s 4-2-5 scheme while giving up 68 points. On offense, the Hoos are no world-beaters, but there’s hope the group has finally hit its stride, with the running game seemingly back on track and Michael Rocco firmly taking the reigns of the passing attack once more. Expect tonight’s matchup to be sloppy and mistake-ridden, with Carolina killing off UVa’s dreams of bowl eligibility by a slim margin. Prediction: UNC 27, Virginia 21

Florida State Seminoles (9-1) (6-1) at Maryland Terrapins (4-6) (2-4): Had this game been played earlier in the season, perhaps there was a possibility for an upset. But given the Terps’ quarterback situation, and virtual inability to run the ball either, it’s hard to given them much hope at all against FSU. The ‘Noles are sure to understand Maryland QB Shawn Petty‘s limitations and inexperience, and will bring consistent pressure in order to force mistakes. Knowing how well their blitzes worked against Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas last Thursday, one can certainly assume the Florida State front line should have a field day against a much greener passer in Petty. Prediction: Florida State 45, Maryland 10

Virginia Tech Hokies (4-6) (2-4) at Boston College Eagles (2-8) (1-5): With an outside shot to win the Coastal division, Virginia Tech’s well aware of what’s at stake for the next two weekends. They played tough against Florida State last Thursday, and while they did come up short, it may have built some momentum — especially for the defense — to finish up the year on a high note. The key, as always, will be Logan Thomas, however. The junior has thrown two interceptions in each of his past three games (all losses), and must work to diminish these mistakes if the Hokies have any chance of winning. BC’s defense may not be all that vaunted, but then again, neither was Clemson’s, and Thomas was victimized by that group. If he can simplify the game though, and take only take calculated risks down field, Virginia Tech stands a pretty good chance here. Prediction: Virginia Tech 24, Boston College 14

USF Bulls (3-6) at Miami Hurricanes (5-5) (4-3): The ‘Canes were stunned by their last-minute 41-40 defeat last weekend, but there’s no time to lick their wounds. Even in an out-of-conference matchup, Miami must get right back to executing on offense while minimizing defensive lapses. Lucky for them, neither should be much of an issue when they face the Bulls. USF is allowing nearly 28 points per game against FBS competition — even more prior to last week’s 13-6 win over UConn. There’s also the issue of South Florida’s offense; not all that competent to begin with (just 25 points per game) and now operating under the leadership of backup quarterback Matt Floyd. Miami should take advantage of Floyd’s inexperience and apply consistent pressure. On offense, the best bet is to follow the same formula as always: just run the ball well behind either Mike James, Duke Johnson or both. Prediction: Miami 31, USF 13

Duke Blue Devils (6-4) (3-3) at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (5-5) (4-3): In the driver’s seat once again, Duke has a golden opportunity to assert themselves as the class of the Coastal division this Saturday. And yet, they’re largely expected to fail, on account of a suspect defense and an offense that has repeatedly fallen short against stiffer competition. But are the Yellow Jackets a tough test? It’s debatable, based on their mixed bag of results this year, and their own tissue-paper defense. Their saving grace, however, may be Vad Lee — the newly-installed dual-threat and offensive spark plug of late. His involvement in the offense this year seems directly related to Tech victories this year, so expect him to take a good portion of the snaps in this must-win contest. Prediction: Georgia Tech 45, Duke 38

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (5-5) (3-5) at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-0): The last thing any struggling offense needs is a visit to South Bend, so excuse the Deacs if they’re not thrilled about this weekend’s matchup. Wake has topped 20 points in a game just once since September, and on the season, they’re only averaging 20.1 per game. The key for quarterback Tanner Price will be quick drops, and hopefully finding options in the flat. Over the second half of the season starting back Josh Harris has increased his involvement in the passing game, and will likely continue to do so if they hope to have a chance. Still, count on the Irish to bring the heat against a banged-up Wake line, and continue to force turnovers. Prediction: Notre Dame 26, Wake Forest 10

Syracuse Orange (5-5) at Missouri Tigers (5-5): With both teams coming off big wins last weekend, it’s hard to pick with momentum, but SU certainly had the more impressive victory of the two (45-26 over no. 9 Louisville, versus 51-48 over Tennessee). For Syracuse, it’ll be the same story as always — protect the ball and minimize careless errors. While they managed zero turnovers for the third time in four games last Saturday (all wins), there were still plenty of mind-boggling penalties to go around. Missouri likely knows this, and you can bet there will be plenty of jawing at the line of scrimmage. If the Tigers can get James Franklin to run the ball with any sort of effectiveness, the Orange will also find themselves in a bit of trouble. Expect a hard-fought contest, but one that ultimately goes to Mizzou, in a typical SU letdown game. Prediction: Missouri 33, Syracuse 30

Last Week: 4-4; 2012 Season: 68-30

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