2009 ACC Fearless Predictions - Week 2
Clemson's Kyle Parker & Ga Tech's Josh Nesbitt
Clemson's Kyle Parker & Ga Tech's Josh Nesbitt
Posted Sep 9, 2009

NFL, schmeNFL. The tone for the ACC season will be set in a key, and extremely interesting battle as Kyle Parker and Clemson take on Josh Nesbitt and Georgia Tech. Check out the Previews and Predictions for the Week 2 ACC Games.

2009 ACC Fearless Predictions

Week 2 ... Sept. 13 Games

- Boston College | Clemson | Florida State | Maryland | NC State | Wake Forest

- Duke | Georgia Tech | Miami | North Carolina | Virginia | Virginia Tech

ACC Fearless Predictions
- Week 1

- Week 2, Part 2 (TCU at Virginia, and More)

Game of the Week

Clemson (1-0) at Georgia Tech (1-0), 7:30 EST, ESPN, Thursday, September 10

Why to watch: For the second time in just three days, the ACC will host a pivotal primetime match up between Atlantic and Coastal Division contenders. On Monday night, the participants were Miami and Florida State. On Thursday evening, Clemson and Georgia Tech will take center stage. The Tigers, determined to prove that last year's strong finish under Dabo Swinney was no fluke, opened with a comfortable 37-14 win over Middle Tennessee State. Ditto the Yellow Jackets, which jumped on Jacksonville State early and coasted to a 37-17 victory. While it's way too early to be talking conference elimination games, this is the type of showdown that will begin to shape the muddled ACC pecking order.
Why Clemson might win: In the always critical battles in the trenches, the Tigers have to like their chances this week. On offense, they bring back all five starters, led by All-ACC G Thomas Austin, compared to a Georgia Tech defensive line that's still working in three new regulars. The result? Lots of running room for backs C.J. Spiller and Jamie Harper, who both delivered big plays in the opener. The situation is similar when the Jackets have the ball. Their concerns on the offensive line are going to be magnified by a Tiger front that's loaded with speed and size, like ends Da'Quan Bowers and Ricky Sapp, and tackle Jarvis Jenkins.
Why Georgia Tech might win: Defending the triple-option is a unique challenge. Preparing for it on a short week makes that challenge infinitely tougher. The Yellow Jackets have a multitude of exciting runners, ranging from QB Josh Nesbitt to Heisman contender Jonathan Dwyer. Oh, and just to make the Tigers' task a little taller, A-back Roddy Jones, the long ball hitter of the bunch, is making his debut after sitting out the opener with an injury. For Clemson starting QB Kyle Parker, this is going to be a scary indoctrination into the ACC. Not only will Bobby Dodd be buzzing for a key night game, but Tech has a fantastic secondary, led by CB Jerrard Tennant and ball-hawking rover Morgan Burnett.
Who to watch: Realizing that one big play can change the tenor of this type of game, Georgia Tech better be prepared to make plays on special teams. In Spiller and Jacoby Ford, Clemson boasts two of the fastest and most exciting return men in the country. Both had special teams touchdowns of at least 60 yards last weekend, which means squib kicks and angled punts will be all the rage this week.
What will happen: While this game won't be as riveting as Monday's in Tallahassee, it still has the ingredients to be pretty darn entertaining. Neither team will pull away in a nip-and-tuck game that remains a jump ball until the final minutes. The short week, the rookie opposing quarterback, and the home cooking will swing the edge in the Jackets' favor. They'll apply constant heat to Parker and pick off two of his passes, the last one to end a comeback bid.
CFN Prediction: Georgia Tech 27 ... Clemson 21 ... Line: Georgia Tech -5
Must See Rating: (Curb Your Enthusiasm Season Premiere 5 … The Fresh Beat Band 1) … 3.5
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North Carolina (1-0) at Connecticut (1-0),12:00 EST, ESPNU, Saturday, September 12

Why to watch: North Carolina and Connecticut meet for a second straight year, both looking to gain a head of steam long before conference play begins. Unlike last season's opener, when the Tar Heels nearly gagged against McNeese State, they made quick work of The Citadel on Saturday, coasting to a 40-6 rout after a slow start. With a challenging three-week sprint ahead of it, Carolina needs to hit its stride on offense, beginning with this week's trip to Hartford. The Huskies return home after withstanding a valiant effort from Ohio on the road. Perennially overlooked in the Big East hierarchy, an upset of the nation's 19th-ranked team would serve national notice that another program needs to be added to the list of BCS bowl contenders.
Why North Carolina might win: To beat the athletic Tar Heel defense, you've got to have some semblance of a passing attack. Connecticut just isn't there yet. New starter Zach Frazer was miserable in his debut, going 11-of-24 for 127 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions. The Huskies boast a terrific running tandem of Jordan Todman and Andre Dixon, but its space will be limited if Carolina can press linebackers Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter closer to the line of scrimmage. Plus, the line, headed by Marvin Austin, Robert Quinn, and Cam Thomas, is liable to maul an average Connecticut front wall.
Why Connecticut might win: Hey, it's a no-name group, but the Husky defense has a habit of doing more with less, year after year. North Carolina has issues of its own on offense, namely an average line, a green set of receivers, and the inconsistency of QB T.J. Yates, who'll be introduced to DE Lindsey Witten and an athletic trio of linebackers. Save for a 23-point outburst in the second quarter, the Heels looked like the same team that's had problems converting in the red zone and on third downs. Moving the chains won't get any easier against the disciplined, sure-tackling Connecticut D.
Who to watch: Saturday's game-within-the-game pits Carolina RB Shaun Draughn, the team's best offensive weapon, against an underrated set of Connecticut linebackers. Scott Lutrus, Greg Lloyd, and Lawrence Wilson do an excellent job of stringing out plays and defending the run. If they force Yates into third-and-long situations, the Tar Heel offense is in serious trouble.
What will happen: Much like a year ago, defense and special teams will dictate the outcome of this game. Advantage Carolina. It won't be easy—or pretty—but the Heels will escape Connecticut with a hard-fought victory, winning the turnover battle and getting 75 tough yards and a score from Draughn. Until the Huskies can get their passing game right, they'll struggle to beat the nation's quality teams.
CFN Prediction: North Carolina 27 ... Connecticut 16 ... Line: North Carolina -5
Must See Rating: (Curb Your Enthusiasm Season Premiere 5 … The Fresh Beat Band 1) … 3
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Stanford (1-0) at Wake Forest (0-1),12:00 EST, Saturday, September 12

Why to watch: Stanford and Wake Forest meet for the first time in history in a match up that's going to unveil plenty about both schools. The Cardinal, fresh off its 39-13 rout of Washington State, is clearly trending upward under Jim Harbaugh, but is it ready to win a tough road game clear across the country? Pull it off, and the program will take a giant step closer to its first bowl appearance in eight years. While a win in Winston-Salem would be a luxury for Stanford, it's an absolute necessity for Wake Forest, which dropped its opener—at home—to Baylor, 24-21. With games still left against Clemson, Miami, Georgia Tech, and Florida State, the Deacons would dig themselves a deep hole in their quest for a fourth consecutive bowl game.
Why Stanford might win: In the opener, Wake Forest looked every bit like a team trying to adjust to the loss of some of last year's key parts. The offense was lost, turning the ball over four times, and the defense allowed a few too many big plays, all of which makes this road trip a little less daunting for the Cardinal. If the Deacons continue to have problems with the offensive line, Stanford will capitalize with the pass rush ability of ends Erik Lorig and Tom Keiser, and the blitzing of linebackers Clinton Snyder and Chike Amajoyi. The last thing the rebuilt Wake D needs to see is 230-pound hammer Toby Gerhart, who rushed for 121 yards and two scores in Pullman.
Why Wake Forest might win: Is it asking too much for redshirt freshman Andrew Luck to win a second straight road game, especially in a tougher environment than the Palouse? The Deacons actually did a decent job defending Robert Griffin and Baylor on Saturday, limiting them to just 24 points. The Cardinal doesn't house a player with Griffin's explosiveness, which will allow Wake to dedicate more resources, like linebackers Matt Woodlief and Jonathan Jones, to corralling Gerhart. Stanford is a feast or famine defense that remains vulnerable to the big play and lapses in coverage.
Who to watch: Lacking in offensive pop for years, Stanford may finally have a game-changer that commands the respect of opposing defenses. Sophomore WR Chris Owusu exploded in the most extensive action of his career, catching three passes for 86 yards and touchdown to go along with an 85-yard kickoff return for a score. His match up with CB Brandon Ghee, a future pro, bears watching throughout the afternoon.
What will happen: Hey, it's never easy for a young program to travel across the country and knock off a well-prepared opponent. Harbaugh's kids, though, are capable of doing it. As long as Luck doesn't make unforced errors, Stanford will wear down Wake with Gerhart, a unique and tireless workhorse. The Cardinal D will bend at times, but it'll also rattle QB Riley Skinner, who has a shortage of playmakers to provide support. For Stanford, this has the potential to be the kind of breakthrough victory that has a lasting effect throughout 2009.
CFN Prediction: Stanford 27 ... Wake Forest 21 ... Line: Wake Forest -2.5
Must See Rating: (Curb Your Enthusiasm Season Premiere 5 … The Fresh Beat Band 1) … 3
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Duke (0-1) at Army (1-0),12:00 EST, CBS College Sports Network, Saturday, September 12

Why to watch: So much for Duke gradually turning the corner and taking a step closer to the postseason. The Blue Devils opened with a half-hearted home loss to Richmond, which doesn't bode well for a program that can't afford to drop its few winnable games. David Cutcliffe better fix his team's problems fast, or else progress might be delayed for yet another year. On the opposite spectrum is Army, which knocked off Eastern Michigan, snapping a 12-game losing streak on opening days. It also marked the dawn of a new era on the Hudson, with Rich Ellerson making his debut as the coach and Trent Steelman becoming the first freshman in academy history to start an opener at quarterback.
Why Duke might win: Amid all the concerns in Durham, the passing game isn't one of them. Veteran QB Thaddeus Lewis was one of the few bright spots in Week 1, throwing for 350 yards and two scores without a turnover. Austin Kelly and Johnny Williams lead a young and athletic set of receivers that'll give fits to an average Black Knight secondary.
Why Army might win: How will the Blue Devils hold up against an offense that's determined to run the ball right at it and fresh off a 300-yard effort? Army will show Duke different looks on the ground, mixing in a wave of different runners, like Kingsley Ehie, Patrick Mealy, Jameson Carter, and CeDarius Williams. This offense has a knack for wearing defenses down, especially early in the year. If the Devils don't correct their egregious special teams problems, the hole they'll dig will again be neck-deep.
Who to watch: DE Josh McNary and DT Victor Ugenyi are two of the Black Knights most likely to flourish in a double-eagle flex defense predicated on speed and disruption. In the opener with Eastern Michigan, the pair combined for 14 tackles and five sacks, flushing Andy Schmitt from the pocket regularly. A sub par Duke offensive line will have problems keeping these guys out of Lewis' face.
What will happen: Regardless of the opponent, don't underestimate the value of an early win for Army. This is suddenly a more confident team, looking to get to 2-0 for the first time since 1996. In a close, low-scoring affair, the Black Knights will play keep-away on offense, while confusing the Duke attack with multiple looks and an attacking, ball-hawking style. Turnovers and time of possession will be the difference in a toss-up game. .
CFN Prediction: Army 24 ... Duke 19 ... Line: Army -2
Must See Rating: (Curb Your Enthusiasm Season Premiere 5 … The Fresh Beat Band 1) … 3.5
- Free Expert Football Predictions 

Marshall (1-0) at Virginia Tech (0-1), 1:30 EST, ESPN360, Saturday, September 12

Why to watch: It's official. Virginia Tech is not a legitimate contender in the national title chase. Now, the Hokies can go about the business of defending its back-to-back ACC championships. Tech battled hard in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff before giving way to Alabama in a 34-24 loss that was a little more one-sided than the score indicated. A visit from Marshall is its only opportunity to tinker with the feeble offense before Nebraska and Miami travel to Blacksburg to close out the month. The Herd notched its first win of the season, but it wasn't without some sweaty palms. The special teams unit needed to recover an onside kick in the final minutes to preserve a 31-28 victory over Southern Illinois. Head coach Mark Snyder is living dangerously and needs to put out a good product this weekend.
Why Marshall might win: Hey, if the Hokies continue to sputter on offense, anything is possible. Sure, it was the Alabama D, but 155 total yards and 11 first downs is inexcusable. The offensive line was a no-show and it remains to be seen whether QB Tyrod Taylor is truly a dual-threat. The Herd will look to keep Tech reeling with a veteran defense that'll get pressure from DE Albert McClellan and run support from LB Mario Harvey. Good news comes in the reinstatements of RB Darius Marshall and CB DeQuan Bembry, two of the program's best players.
Why Virginia Tech might win: The Hokies did a poor job of tackling Saturday night. Don't, however, expect it to be a trend. Tech has a solid defense that'll play with a chip on its shoulder this weekend. There's no one on the Marshall roster, who can contain pass rushers Jason Worilds and Nekos Brown, one of the fastest bookends in America. They'll force Brian Anderson into errant throws that Stephan Virgil and Kam Chancellor can turn into good field position for the offense.
Who to watch: Where would the Hokie offense have been in the opener without the play of RB Ryan Williams? The redshirt freshman, who dazzled throughout the offseason, figures to pick up more of the slack in the running game after bolting for 71 yards and two scores on 13 carries. He's a downhill runner, with just enough wiggle to make defenders miss in space.
What will happen: Taylor will make more plays, the defense will wreak havoc, and the special teams will energize the crowd at least once. In other words, Virginia Tech will again be Virginia Tech now that its not facing a top 5 opponent from the SEC. The Hokies will put Atlanta behind it in a hurry, dominating a Marshall squad that can't match its overall team speed and depth.
CFN Prediction: Virginia Tech 38 ... Marshall 10 ... Line: Virginia Tech -20
Must See Rating: (Curb Your Enthusiasm Season Premiere 5 … The Fresh Beat Band 1) … 2
- Free Expert Football Predictions 

- Week 2, Part 2 (TCU at Virginia, and More)