2009 ACC Fearless Picks - Week 7

Posted Oct 15, 2009

Previews and Predictions for the Week 7 ACC Games.

2009 ACC Fearless Predictions

Week 7 ... Oct. 17 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 | Week 6 

Game of the Week  

Virginia Tech (5-1) at Georgia Tech (5-1),6:00 EST, ESPN2, Saturday, October 17

Why to watch: Virginia Tech travels to Georgia Tech in a high-profile battle between two of the league's three ranked members. In the biggest ACC game left in the regular season, the winner gets a head of steam in the quest to win the conference and the BCS bowl bid that comes with it. The fourth-ranked Hokies have even loftier pursuits, hoping to spruce up that one-loss resume in the hopes of competing for a national championship. Since losing the opener to Alabama, they've reeled off five wins in-a-row, capped by last weekend's 48-14 blowout of Boston College. The Yellow Jackets have done an impressive job of rebounding as well, bouncing back from their lone loss to Miami with three straight wins. Last Saturday's 49-44 thriller in Tallahassee is the type of game that could be a launching point for the second half of the season.
Why Virginia Tech might win: Since getting manhandled in the opener in Atlanta, the Hokie offense has gelled nicely around the running of Ryan Williams and the efficient passing of Tyrod Taylor. The junior has managed his position extremely well, throwing eight touchdown passes and just a single pick. The pair presents a problem for a Georgia Tech defense that just got ransacked by Christian Ponder and Florida State, and now stands 82nd nationally in total D. Virginia Tech, on the other hand, has yielded just 14 points a game over the last month, playing especially stout near the end zone.
Why Georgia Tech might win: If there's been a tiny crack in the Virginia Tech defense, it's been the run D, which got exploited in the early going by Alabama, Marshall, and Nebraska. The Yellow Jackets, humming again on the ground, have just the kind of attack to rekindle bad September memories for the Hokies. QB Josh Nesbitt has been playing as well as he ever has, which has helped open up running lanes for B-back Jonathan Dwyer. Tech has racked up 91 points in wins over Mississippi State and Florida State, showing the total package that head coach Paul Johnson envisions for his triple-option. If the Hokies don't step up in pass protection, DE Derrick Morgan will flush Taylor from the pocket all night.
Who to watch: Stopping the Georgia Tech ground game is all about discipline, fundamentals, and keeping assignments. Virginia Tech has the type of defenders that should do well against this type of system. S Kam Chancellor and linebackers Barquell Rivers, Jake Johnson, and Cody Grimm have played a lot of football in Blacksburg and remember allowing 278 yards in this game a year ago. The key will be for Johnson and Rivers, the inside guys, to fill the lanes and limit the number of missed tackles.
What will happen: With so much at stake and so little separating the Techs, the potential is there for a classic on Saturday night. The Hokies and Yellow Jackets will slug it out for 60 minutes, trading blows on offense. When a stop is needed, however, the Georgia Tech defense will fail to come through. While maligned at times as a passer, Taylor just knows how to win games. He'll lead Virginia Tech on the game-winning drive, finding WR Jarrett Boykin for the deciding score.
CFN Prediction: Virginia Tech 34 … Georgia Tech 30 ... Line: Virginia Tech -3
Must See Rating: (Bored To Death 5 … My Monkey Baby 1) … 4.5
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Wake Forest (4-2) at Clemson (2-3),12:00 EST, ESPN Gameplan, Saturday, October 17

Why to watch: Now that the Atlantic Division is a total jump ball, every game going forward between its six members is going to be critical. Not only is Wake Forest in the hunt, but it's ahead of the pack, winning back-to-back games over NC State and Maryland. The Demon Deacons have been flipping the script from recent years, winning with offense until the defense finds its sea legs. Clemson comes out of its bye week staring at the proverbial fork in the road. Losers of two straight to TCU and Maryland, another loss could destroy any postseason hopes, especially with trips to Miami and South Carolina still left on the schedule. First-year head coach Dabo Swinney is being forced to address adversity very early in his tenure.
Why Wake Forest might win: It may not be what most people expect from the Deacons, but the offense has been uncharacteristically potent. QB Riley Skinner, in particular, has been on a tear over the last five games, throwing 13 touchdown passes. He's passed for at least 360 yards in each of the last two wins, while tossing seven touchdown passes. Marshall Williams, Chris Givens, and Devon Brown are helping form one of the most dynamic receiving corps in the history of the program. If Wake keeps humming, it'll be tough for the inept Clemson offense to keep pace.
Why Clemson might win: Sure, Wake Forest has been piling up the yards, but NC State and Maryland are not Clemson. For all of their problems, the Tigers have been fine on defense, yielding just 288 yards and 17 points a game. They'll bring pressure up front with ends Da'Quan Bowers and Ricky Sapp, providing support for corners Chris Chancellor and Crezdon Butler, and the country's No. 8 pass defense. The Deacons could be an ideal opponent for QB Kyle Parker and speedy skill position players C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford. They're No. 90 nationally versus the pass, giving up 13 touchdown passes this season.
Who to watch: If the Clemson offense is going to start making progress, it needs another wide receiver to complement Ford, who'll have his hands full with Wake Forest CB Brandon Ghee. No one has come close to stepping up in the first five games, which has contributed to Parker's problems behind center. Marquan Jones and Xavier Dye were supposed to take some heat off Ford, but they've combined for just 10 catches and a touchdown.
What will happen: Facing a top-flight defense for the first time all season, Wake Forest is about to be taken down a notch in Death Valley. Clemson will prevent Skinner from taking control of the game, keeping his receivers from making big plays. The Tigers will have unusual success through the air, while getting a shot in the arm from the special teams play of Spiller, Ford, and PK Richard Jackson.
CFN Prediction: Clemson 26 … Wake Forest 23 ... Line: Clemson -6
Must See Rating: (Bored To Death 5 … My Monkey Baby 1) … 2.5
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NC State (3-3) at Boston College (4-2),3:30 EST, ESPN Gameplan, Saturday, October 17

Why to watch: Coming off one-sided losses, both NC State and Boston College are hoping to reverse their fortunes now before a nasty trend develops. Tom O'Brien, who used to call Chestnut Hill home, has a lot more to worry about than Frank Spaziani, his former defensive coordinator with the Eagles. The Pack has actually dropped its last two, including a humbling 49-28 loss at the hands of Duke. Since getting beyond the cushy portion of the schedule, NC State has been exposed, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Even after getting roughed up by Virginia Tech, 48-14, in Blacksburg, Boston College has exceeded forecast in a year that very little was expected. Although the Eagles clearly don't have the look of an ACC champ, taking another step closer to bowl eligibility would be an accomplishment in Spaziani's debut season.
Why NC State might win: The Wolfpack has been very good against the run and very weak against the pass, a combination that could work against this week's opponent. Boston College prefers to keep it on the ground with Montel Harris and buffer the nation's 105th-ranked passing game from having to do too much. State is No. 4 nationally versus the run, getting support on the first line of defense from DT Alan-Michael Cash and DE Willie Young, and on the second line from linebackers Ray Michel and Audi Cole. It also has a significant edge at quarterback, with Russell Wilson playing much better than David Shinskie.
Why Boston College might win: Shinskie may not be Wilson, but you might not know it on Saturday. The NC State secondary is in disrepair, getting shredded for 10 touchdown passes over the last three games. None of the different combinations tried by O'Brien has worked. It could be a big day for Colin Larmond and Rich Gunnell, who have emerged as the Eagles' top two pass-catching threats. Boston College has yet to lose at home, beating Wake Forest and Florida State the last two times it hosted.
Who to watch: When one door shuts, another one typically opens. That's been the case for Boston College at linebacker. While there was no way to replace Mark Herzlich, his absence has made room for true freshman Luke Kuechly to blossom into a star a year or two before the expected timeline. Improving every weekend, he has a team-high 55 tackles, five of which were behind the line.
What will happen: While Shinskie won't obliterate the NC State defense the way Thaddeus Lewis did last Saturday, he will play well enough to keep Boston College perfect in Massachusetts. After a few connections downfield, the Pack will be forced to lay off the line, creating some running room for Harris and some much-needed balance on offense.
CFN Prediction: Boston College 24 … NC State 20 ... Line: Boston College -3
Must See Rating: (Bored To Death 5 … My Monkey Baby 1) … 2
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Virginia (2-3) at Maryland (2-4),4:00 EST, Saturday, ESPNU, October 17

Why to watch: What might appear to be a meaningless ACC game on the surface could actually go a long way to determining whether the league fulfills all of its bowl obligations in December. Both Virginia and Maryland are on the razor's edge of postseason eligibility, with the loser likely on the outside looking in. The Cavaliers have awoken from a September slumber to win consecutive games over North Carolina and Indiana by a combined score of 63-10. Is this the case of a young team growing up or a temporary flash of brilliance? More clues are sure to emerge in College Park. The Terrapins had their big win over Clemson two weeks, but quickly reverted back to old form in last weekend's 42-32 loss to Wake Forest. If there's any life left in the program, you'll know on Saturday because it's quickly running out of time.
Why Virginia might win: The catalyst for the Cavalier resurgence has been the defense, which has been air-tight against the pass and stingy in the red zone. Maryland will want to get the ball in the hands of WR Torrey Smith, its best playmaker, but that won't happen against CB Ras-I Dowling and a secondary that's playing exceptionally well. The Virginia offense came to life last week as well, as RB Mikell Simpson ran for four touchdowns and QB Jameel Sewell efficiently spread the ball around to eight different receivers.
Why Maryland might win: Pressure, pressure, pressure. Even without injured LB Demetrius Hartsfield, the Terps plan to attack a Virginia offensive line that's 117th nationally in sacks allowed. LB Adrian Moten is expected back, joining fellow LB Alex Wujciak in the pursuit of backfield stops. The Cavs have been erratic all year on offense, ranking 96th nationally, so last week's outburst might have more to say about the Indiana D than anything else. Maryland, on the other hand, has hung up 30 points in three of the last five games behind Smith, WR Adrian Cannon, and the passing of veteran Chris Turner.
Who to watch: It's no coincidence that Virginia perked up right around the time that Vic Hall became healthy. The versatile, athletic former cornerback and quarterback is now making plays as a wide receiver. In last week's rout, he had six catches for 85 yards and a touchdown, providing some explosiveness and flash to an otherwise methodical Cavalier offense.
What will happen: When two of the league's most unpredictable programs hook up, anything is possible. Virginia is simply playing better and is more confident these days. Things are coming together on defense, and the offense has finally mined playmakers in Simpson and Hall. The Cavs will remain hot at the expense of a Maryland team that's banged up and quickly running low on motivation.
CFN Prediction: Virginia 28 … Maryland 20 ... Line: Virginia -4
Must See Rating: (Bored To Death 5 … My Monkey Baby 1) … 1.5
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Miami (4-1) at UCF (3-2),7:30 EST, Saturday, October 17

Why to watch: How often will Randy Shannon show his ‘Canes the tape of South Florida's upset of Florida State three weeks ago? Miami faces a similar quandary this weekend as the ‘Noles did, playing an in-state opponent looking to use it as a vehicle for local bragging rights and national exposure. The Hurricanes are on the brink of the top 10, and can ill-afford to lose focus at this stage of the season. Bright House Networks Stadium will be packed and energized with Miami visiting Orlando. After nearly pulling off the unexpected in this game last season, UCF could get a much-needed boost in all areas of the program by actually following through and delivering an upset. The Knights have been up-and-down this fall, needing a rally to beat Memphis two weeks ago.
Why Miami might win: The speed and talent of the Hurricane defense is going to overwhelm a UCF offense that's one-dimensional and highly inconsistent. The Knights rank 100th nationally playing a schedule that includes games with Samford, Buffalo, and Memphis. The ‘Canes will feast on a leaky offensive line, flooding it with an active front seven that features talented linemen Allen Bailey, Joe Joseph, and Marcus Robinson, and linebackers Sean Spence and Colin McCarthy. With little to worry about from QB Brett Hodges and an average set of receivers, Miami can concentrate on stuffing RB Brynn Harvey.
Why UCF might win: No, it's not Miami, but the Knight defense also has speed and has played rather well all year. It leads Conference USA against the rush and has gotten a consistent push from ends Bruce Miller and Jarvis Geathers, and LB Lawrence Young. As well as ‘Cane QB Jacory Harris has played this year, he's also thrown seven picks, and the running game has had a habit of disappearing. A lathered-up Bright House Networks crowd can be a daunting venue. Just ask Texas, which almost fell in Orlando two years ago.
Who to watch: Without a lot of national attention, sophomore Brandon Harris is on his way to becoming the next big thing in a Miami cornerback. A tremendous all-around athlete and instinctive defender, he's off to a fantastic start, leading the nation with 11 passes defended. Whether it's Rocky Ross or Kamar Aiken, he has the skill set to completely neutralize the other team's best receiver.
What will happen: Whatever electricity is in the air at kickoff will not last very long. Miami will make sure of that. Although UCF can be feisty in Orlando, it just doesn't have the necessary weapons on offense to flirt with the upset past halftime. The Hurricanes will hit Hodges repeatedly, turning loose balls into short fields for Harris & Co. Once Miami jumps out to a double-digit lead, the Knights' hopes of emulating South Florida will be over.
CFN Prediction: Miami 34 … UCF 16 ... Line: Miami -15
Must See Rating: (Bored To Death 5 … My Monkey Baby 1) … 2
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