Welcome to part two of this week’s previews and predictions! Here’s part one if you missed it.
Pittsburgh Panthers (1-1) (0-1) at Duke Blue Devils (2-1) (0-1): Duke’s loss to Georgia Tech last week certainly changed their outlook a bit for this year, especially with Brandon Connette playing quarterback for the foreseeable future. This will be an odd look for a David Cutcliffe-coached team now: relying on the defense to win them games and give the offense a chance. Pittsburgh has similar issues on offense, as questions still linger about Tom Savage‘s abilities. But the defense should be able to outdo Duke’s own improved group in a slugfest. Aaron Donald is just too tough to stop and should be able to generate a ton of pressure on Connette and force him into some ill-advised throws or unnecessary contact. Prediction: Pitt 30, Duke 21
Tulane Green Wave (2-1) at Syracuse Orange (1-2) (0-0): The Orange have a whole new starting quarterback in Terrel Hunt, and with that, a whole new hope for this season — or so it seems. If the redshirt sophomore can keep up his strong play from last week, SU’s looking at a whole new offensive attack that appears to run with a quickened pace and increased fluidity. The key for Syracuse will be to score early and to keep the heat on Tulane’s defense. Wear them down and force Green Wave QB Nick Montana to try and do too much. SU’s defense has shown a solid ability to rush the passer and force turnovers, and should be able to show that off here. Prediction: Syracuse 38, Tulane 20
West Virginia Mountaineers (2-1) at Maryland Terrapins (3-0) (0-0): Maryland hung with the ‘Neers last season, and that was a much better WVU team than this one (and a much worse Terps team too). The Terrapins have come out the gates on fire in 2013, piling up points and yardage behind C.J. Brown and Stefon Diggs. West Virginia, on the other hand, is running a stalled out offense that can’t complete drives, while leaning heavily on the defense. This will be a closer game, and will likely be decided by who wins the turnover battle. Maryland lost a big piece of that puzzle when CB Dexter McDougle went down for the year last week, but if the secondary continues to play smart and Brown doesn’t force passes, the Terps should take it. Prediction: Maryland 30, WVU 24
VMI Keydets (1-2) at Virginia Cavaliers (1-1) (0-0): VMI is not a very good FCS team and they spell their name with “key,” which bugs me and likely bugs you too. Virginia should have no problem at all dispatching of them, but that doesn’t mean there’s no reason to watch here. UVa is a couple weeks away from a very rough stretch of schedule that extends through the end of the season, and they still have kinks to work out. The running game works, but they can’t be one-dimensional. The passing game, on the other hand, is under-performing relative to their talent. Is David Watford the answer, or are they going to have to go in another direction? His performance (and subsequently, Greyson Lambert‘s performance in garbage time) this weekend could tell us a lot about where this squad is headed. Prediction: UVa 45, VMI 7
Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (3-0) at Florida State Seminoles (2-0) (0-0): This is a very good Bethune-Cookman team, but they’re not good enough to beat the ‘Noles this week or any other week. Florida State has started off this season in rare form on offense, but the defense has really yet to be tested or tried in any significant capacity. They won’t be tested here either, but expect D-coordinator Jeremy Pruitt to have the group try out some new things just the same. To this point, they’ve struggled to really get any pressure on the quarterback, so some new blitz looks could help breath some life into the stagnant pass-rush. Since the game’s in the bag, it’s an easy place to experiment, right? Prediction: Florida State 49, Bethune-Cookman 7
Savannah State Tigers (1-2) at Miami Hurricanes (2-0) (0-0): Miami’s had some time to rest up from that ugly Florida game a couple weeks ago, and should make short work of Savannah State. While all the fuss about the ‘Canes has concerned the offense, we really haven’t seen it play to the level most expected this year, scoring just 21 and 34 points respectively in the team’s two games. The defense has really led the charge, sacking the quarterback and forcing turnovers, which sets them up for some very good things once conference play starts. Like the notes on the Seminoles above, expect Miami to try out some new things, though in this case on offense, to figure out how to put up more points. The defense has proven itself — especially in the win against the Gators — but they shouldn’t just rest on their resume either. Prediction: Miami 52, Savannah State 0
Last Week: 9-0; Season: 31-3