Weak slate of games this weekend, as most teams are facing off with some overmatched FCS foes. Still, a couple of in-conference games should move the needle for most ACC fans as we start to wind down on non-conference play. 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
Clemson Tigers (2-0) (0-0) at NC State Wolfpack (2-0) (0-0): These teams have arrived here in two very different ways (Clemson: dominant; NC State: slightly less so), but because this one’s in Raleigh, all cards appear to be on the table. Can Tajh Boyd avoid a repeat performance of his last trip down to State back in 2011 (zero TDs and two INTs)? Can Wolfpack QB Pete Thomas finally meet his potential and put aside his early season struggles? There’s plenty of upset talk floating around this week, but I just don’t see it (of course, I said that in 2011, too). Boyd and the Tigers’ offense are as good as they’ve ever been, while the State secondary was chewed up by Richmond two weeks ago. Clemson should continue to roll. Prediction: Clemson 42, NC State 24
The Rest of the Slate (in order of start time):
North Carolina Tar Heels (1-1) (0-0) at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-0) (0-0): Through two games, we have no idea who the Heels really are. They looked dreadful against South Carolina (fair enough) to start the season, but then the offense took awhile to pick up versus Middle Tennessee State as well. The offensive line has struggled to keep the pressure off QB Bryn Renner, but even more notably, they can’t seem to move the pile to open up the running game. Carolina’s only gaining around 116 yards per game on the ground — something that could hurt them all season. If Georgia Tech can gain an early lead, the triple-option should be able to seal the deal from there. The key, as you’d expect, will be Jackets’ QB Vad Lee and his ability to continue passing the ball effectively in order to set up that strong running game. Prediction: Georgia Tech 36, UNC 31
Marshall Thundering Herd (2-1) at Virginia Tech Hokies (2-1) (0-0): We’ve been saying it for awhile now, but it bears repeating: this is the best Tech defense in quite some time, and maybe ever. Their ability to force turnovers and get after the quarterback make them absolutely lethal — especially for a team with an undersized offensive line and/or no ability to run the ball. Marshall’s line may seem a bit undersized, but their offense is still prolific by any standards. QB Rakeem Cato can absolutely kill a defense if given time to throw, and if the passing game stalls, there’s still the two-headed rushing attack of Steward Butler and Essray Taliaferro to deal with. Tech should win this one, but it won’t be easy. If they fall behind early, it could be a very long afternoon for the Hokies. Prediction: Virginia Tech 26, Marshall 23
Florida International Panthers (0-3) at Louisville Cardinals (3-0): Hey FIU, remember that time you thought firing Mario Cristobal was a good idea? That was fun. The Panthers have become a joke of a program, with this year being absolute rock bottom, it seems. Considering the damage Louisville’s wrought on some of their previous, better opponents, this will not be a fun game for Florida International. Expect Teddy Bridgewater to go right back to his video game ways, spreading the under-manned FIU secondary thin from the opening whistle. By the second half, the running game should take over, giving the team some needed time to establish it as a core part of this offense. Prediction: Louisville 51, FIU 3
Wake Forest Demon Deacons (1-2) (0-1) at Army Black Knights (1-2): Army hasn’t looked half-bad this season (and by that, I mean they’re still not going to be better than 4-8), while Wake Forest has gone from marginal to worse over the course of the first three contests. The Deacons’ rushing defense has been chewed up all season (nearly 170 yards on the ground allowed per game), which does not bode well for them against a Black Knights team that averages over 300 rushing yards per game. They’ll be forced to load up the box on Army, but at the same time, there’s very little (if any) fear of the pass. Army will keep it close with Wake for a couple quarters at least, but I think Tanner Price is starting to figure out how to carry this team on his back. He’ll need to do so if they hope to be competitive in any of their remaining contests, to be honest. Prediction: Wake Forest 24, Army 21
Part 2 is up! Click away!