2009 ACC Fearless Picks - Week 5
North Carolina LB Quan Sturdivant
North Carolina LB Quan Sturdivant
Posted Oct 1, 2009

Previews and Predictions for the Week 5 ACC Games.

2009 ACC Fearless Predictions

Week 5 ... Oct. 3 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 | Week 3 | Week 4

- Week 5, Part 2 (FSU at BC, NC State at Wake Forest, and More)

Game of the Week  

Oklahoma (2-1) at Miami (2-1), 8:00 EST, Saturday, October 3, ABC

Why to watch: Vinny Testaverde is looking to make a national statement, but Jamelle Holieway and the Oklahoma wishbone have been unstoppable so far and … what? It's not 1986? This didn't quite have the makings of the special mid-1980s showdown, but it had the potential to be one of the signature games of the season before Miami got its clock cleaned by Virginia Tech in an ugly 31-7 loss. Even with the setback, this has the makings of a big year for the resurgent Hurricanes with excellent athleticism on both sides of the ball and a terrific leader in QB Jacory Harris to build around. A win over Oklahoma would still be big, really big, and it would show that the Canes really can hang with anyone in America. It would also show they can adjust and bounce back through adversity.

Oklahoma has battled back through the Sam Bradford injury to obliterate Idaho State and Tulsa by a combined score of 109-0. While that might not seem like that big a deal, the OU defense has allowed two long BYU drives and that's been it for the first three games. The Sooners have been in a holding pattern waiting to see if Bradford will play again this year, or even this week, but they have to try to go on one way or another and come up with an impressive win to get back into the national title chase. And yes, they're still in the national title chase. If they can win this week, and look good doing it, and run the table with wins over Texas, at Kansas, at Nebraska, at Texas Tech, against Oklahoma State, and in the Big 12 title game, yes, they'll almost certainly be in Pasadena unless there are two unbeaten BCS league teams.

Why Oklahoma might win: If you liked what the Virginia Tech defensive front did to the Miami offensive line, you'll love what Oklahoma's front four is about to do. The Cane offensive line got obliterated by the Hokies as Jason Worilds and friends hammered Harris all game long allowing just 59 rushing yards. When Harris got time in the first two games, he ripped apart Florida State and Georgia Tech. When he was under duress against the Hokies, he completed 9-of-25 passes for 150 yards with an interception. Oklahoma's defensive line is better than Virginia Tech's, much better, leading the nation in tackles for loss and cranking out 12 sacks in just three games. The Sooners also lead the nation in run defense giving up just 41 yards per game.
Why Miami might win: Of course it's not this easy, but Miami beat Florida State, Florida State annihilated BYU, and BYU beat Oklahoma. Yeah, sure, the Sooners have been national-title-good over the last two games, but that was against Idaho State and Tulsa. In those two games there were four turnovers, and the offense still has to answer for the pathetic performance against BYU, even without Bradford. BYU was able to throw for 329 yards and two scores even though Max Hall was sacked four times and the OU defense was dominant for long stretches. Miami isn't going to be able to put up a huge number on the Sooners, but the defense should come up with at least two takeaways, more likely three, and Harris has to have a short memory. There will be times when the OU D tees off on Harris, and there will be several ugly three-and-out drives that fizzle from the get-go, but if he can be patient and get the ball out of his hands in a hurry, something he wasn't able to do in the rain of Blacksburg last week, the Cane offense will move. He's a good enough decision maker to keep the Sooner linebackers on their heels with a short to midrange passing game.
Who to watch: Even if Bradford is ready to go, there's a chance that OU will still stick with Landry Jones under center and ease the Heisman winner back into the fold. Assume Bradford is out and the game is on the arm and the mustache of Jones, who overcame a rough thrown-to-the-wolves performance against BYU to hit Idaho State for three touchdown passes and toss six against Tulsa. He'll make rookie mistakes, he threw three interceptions in the last two weeks, and he'll have to prove he can handle himself against the speed of the Miami defense, but he has the running game to fall back on and the two games of target practice to be ready for a game like this. For Miami, the offense gets back a huge piece of the puzzle with the return of Aldarius Johnson, the star receiver who caught three passes for 48 yards against Florida State before missing time with a groin injury. He practiced this week, and according to head coach Randy Shannon, looked great. Harris needs all the weapons he can get, and Johnson is a difference maker.
What will happen: Since losing to USC in the 2005 Orange Bowl, Oklahoma has gone 16-13 in games played outside of the state of Oklahoma, and 29-0 around home. Last week was an aberration. At home, in a game like this, the Cane defense will be flying around all over the place making life tough for Jones, there will be at least three key takeaways, and Harris will go back to being Harris again for just enough scoring drives to get by. It's not going to be a smooth win for the Canes, but it'll be a good one.
CFN Prediction: Miami 20 … Oklahoma 16 ... Line: Oklahoma -7.5
Must See Rating: (Kourtney & Khloe Take Miami 5 … The Jay Leno Show 1) … 5
-Free Expert Football Predictions

Virginia Tech (3-1) at Duke (2-2),12:00 EST, Saturday, October 3

Why to watch: Virginia Tech is back, as if it ever left. The Hokies let the nation know that the road to an ACC championship still goes through Blacksburg, handing Miami its first loss of the year, 31-7. After three emotional games in the month of September, Frank Beamer's objective will be to keep his kids playing at a high as they head to Durham as a heavy favorite. Duke held serve, as expected, last weekend, thumping North Carolina Central, 49-14, but will need to pull an upset or two to have any hope for a postseason invitation. Ever since losing to Richmond in the opener, the Blue Devils have been playing catch up with a schedule that's about to become a lot thornier than it was in September.
Why Virginia Tech might win: Duke's problems stopping the run have been exacerbated by a leg injury to DT Vince Oghobaase, the team's best defensive player. The Hokies will capitalize with a ground game that's No. 16 nationally and just got done zipping through the Hurricanes. QB Tyrod Taylor is always dangerous outside the tackles and Ryan Williams is making a strong case for Freshman All-American honors. He's rushed for 492 yards and eight scores behind a line that's been much better at run blocking. Tech has gone 12 consecutive quarters without allowing a touchdown pass, neutralizing the Devils best offensive weapon, QB Thaddeus Lewis.
Why Duke might win: The Blue Devils house a talented rookie running back of their own, true freshman Desmond Scott, who debuted last week with 100 yards and a score on 16 carries. Duke will need him to chip away at a Hokie run defense that was an issue in the first three weeks of the season. If Scott can play beyond his years, it'll open things up for Lewis, who's surrounded by a quartet of young and gifted wide receivers, like Donovan Varner and Johnny Williams. The Devils are capable of catching the Hokies exhaling after such a grueling month.
Who to watch: CB Stephan Virgil returned from a knee injury last week gave an immediate boost to the Virginia Tech secondary. Not your typical, who only blankets receivers, he'll also step up to support the run and make stops behind the line of scrimmage. A unique defensive back, he'll make throwing on the Hokies much tougher for Lewis and his supporting cast.
What will happen: It shouldn't shock anyone if Virginia Tech comes out of the tunnel a little groggy and takes 15 or 20 minutes to get cranking. The drop-off in intensity form last week will be tangible. Still, there's way too much of a talent gap for the threat of an upset to persist after halftime. The Hokies will control the clock with the running game, amassing more than 200 yards, including Williams' fourth straight over the century mark.
CFN Prediction: Virginia Tech 34 … Duke 13 ... Line: Virginia Tech -17
Must See Rating: (Kourtney & Khloe Take Miami 5 … The Jay Leno Show 1) … 2

Virginia (0-3) at North Carolina (3-1),12:00 EST, ESPN Gameplan, Saturday, October 3

Why to watch: After being taken down a peg by Georgia Tech in Atlanta, North Carolina needs to regroup in a hurry if it plans to stay competitive in the ultra-deep ACC Coastal. It was a humbling afternoon for the Tar Heels, which took 48 minutes just to score a point on the Yellow Jackets. This is still a relatively young and impressionable team that can be prone to momentum swings in either direction. Virginia got a week off to figure out if this season is salvageable or not. The Cavaliers spent September going toe-to-toe with Maryland to see which is the more apathetic ACC program. If there are shavings of hope, the team is coming off its best game of the year, and Al Groh has a track record of piloting in-season rebounds.
Why Virginia might win: Yeah, they blew a 34-17 lead in Hattiesburg, but the Cavaliers showed some signs of life two weeks ago. Jameel Sewell had one of the best games of his career, throwing for 312 yards and two scores, and the young receivers are beginning to grow up. True freshman Tim Smith, for instance, has caught a touchdown pass in each of the last two games. If there's carry-over from the Southern Miss game, Virginia might not need much to outscore a Carolina offense that was hideous in its two games with teams from major conferences.
Why North Carolina might win: The Tar Heel defense continues to do most of the heavy lifting in Chapel Hill. An aggressive, quick, and deep unit, it's giving up just 250 yards and 14 points a game. The Virginia offensive line will have a particularly hard time containing a nasty front seven that features linemen Marvin Austin, Aleric Mullins, and Robert Quinn, and linebackers Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter. Before the outburst at Southern Miss, the Cavaliers were really struggling to extend drives and get in the end zone.
Who to watch: The lack of a running game at Carolina is beginning to make head coach Butch Davis irate. The Heels are now 87th in the country after producing just 17 yards in the loss to Georgia Tech. If there's any hope of springing Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston, it could be this Saturday. Virginia has had considerable problems stopping the run, giving up more than 200 yards on the ground in back-to-back games with TCU and Southern Miss.
What will happen: Be very careful, Carolina. Coming off the bye, Groh has a knack for surprising teams that might be dwelling on last week. The Heels will get down early before getting a big play from the defense that stems the tide and helps avoid a damaging upset. They won't need the offense to carry them this week, but that luxury will be fleeting.
CFN Prediction: North Carolina 24 … Virginia 16 ... Line: North Carolina -13.5
Must See Rating: (Kourtney & Khloe Take Miami 5 … The Jay Leno Show 1) … 2

Clemson (2-2) at Maryland (1-3),12:00 EST, ESPNU, Saturday, October 3

Why to watch: There's a fork in the road, Clemson. Which path do you plan to take? Inconsistent throughout the first month, the Tigers are sitting at .500 after a second loss by less than a touchdown in last three games. They carried a lead into the fourth quarter on TCU, but fell behind and couldn't execute on offense down the stretch. Since there's no favorite in the ACC Atlantic, it's still too early to bail on Dabo Swinney's team. It's official. The folks in Washington have declared Maryland a disaster area. Regressing at an alarming rate, the Terps fell to 1-3 with a 34-13 home loss to Rutgers. The wheels seemingly off, Ralph Friedgen and coach-in-waiting James Franklin are trying to keep this program cohesive before the situation worsens.
Why Clemson might win: A trip to College Park should be like a working vacation for the Tiger offense, which has had considerable problems converting on the other side of midfield. The Terps haven't held anyone, including James Madison or Middle Tennessee State, under 32 points this fall. Figure on a confidence boost for struggling redshirt freshman QB Kyle Parker, who'll continue to seek out support from RB C.J. Spiller and WR Jacoby Ford. The Maryland offensive line has been a swinging gate that ends Ricky Sapp and Da'Quan Bowers will zip through as if it was a turnstile.
Why Maryland might win: Can the beleaguered Terp D rise up and add to Clemson's headaches on offense? Doubtful. The school's best chance for an upset will be to try and rev up an offense that does have potential. When given time, QB Chris Turner has a decent arm and a budding star in sophomore WR Torrey Smith. Plus, Da'Rel Scott is an All-ACC running back, who can churn out 100 yards with enough touches. Seven sacks over the last two games is an indication that the Maryland defense might be able to pressure Parker into rookie mistakes.
Who to watch: It's never a good situation when the backup quarterback begins making headlines. Clemson's Willy Korn, one of the gems of the 2007 recruiting class and Parker's backup, had to fend off rumors that he'll be transferring at the end of the season. He's had to sit and stew as the offense has sputtered, patiently waiting for his opportunity. Don't be shocked if both get on the field Saturday, especially if Parker has trouble getting started.
What will happen: Perfect timing. Clemson desperately needs this type of a game, a road trip to Maryland to face a team that's circling the drain. The Tigers will treat it as an opportunity to work out some of the offensive wrinkles and give Spiller a shot at Player of the Week honors. The defense and special teams will chip in as well, creating turnovers and short-field chances, respectively.
CFN Prediction: Clemson 35 … Maryland 16 ... Line: Clemson -13.5
Must See Rating: (Kourtney & Khloe Take Miami 5 … The Jay Leno Show 1) … 2

- Week 5, Part 2 (FSU at BC, NC State at Wake Forest, and More)