ACC Game of the Week
(6-1) 7:45 PM EST ESPN Saturday October
Why to Watch: In what could ultimately be a preview of the ACC championship game, Georgia Tech travels to Clemson for one of the weekend’s biggest games, and shockingly, the game of the ACC year, so far. The Yellow Jackets have won five straight since the opening night loss to Notre Dame, while the Tigers have also won five straight since their loss to Boston College. It’s that loss to the Eagles that makes this game a must win for Clemson, especially with the logjam at the top of the Atlantic Division, with its upcoming four-game stretch (Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Maryland and NC State) looking relatively tough. The Yellow Jackets’ road over the next three weeks isn’t any easier, with this week’s game against Clemson, followed by a home game against Miami and a road tilt at NC State. Although the future presents a number of difficult challenges, the focus for both teams is clearly dead on one another.
Why Georgia Tech Might Win: Most casual college fans know WR Calvin Johnson and even QB Reggie Ball, but the key to this team’s offensive production has been the emergence of RB Tashard Choice. The former Oklahoma transfer is averaging 84 yards per game on the ground, third in the conference in rushing, but much of his production has come in the last three games (331 yards) against ACC foes. With most teams concerned with Johnson’s downfield aerial acrobatics and Ball’s ability to escape the pocket, Choice is often left with a ton of space to run the football. Clemson’s defense is ranked sixth in the nation against the run, giving up under 70 yards per game, but they’ve not seen many backs of his ilk this season.
Why Clemson Might Win: The Clemson offense, led by arguably the best offensive line in the conference, is ranked fourth in the nation in rushing, averaging 251 yards per game. Although Clemson’s production on the ground is impressive, it’s their zone scheme that should present problems for Georgia Tech this week. The zone blocking scheme up front helps take away the Yellow Jackets biggest strength – it’s speed and gives Clemson a tremendous advantage against the nation’s seventh ranked run defense.
Who to Watch: Clemson CB CJ Gaddis is still learning how to play corner, but is one of the most talented players on the Clemson roster. The corner on the other side of the field, Duane Coleman, is a former RB who has transformed himself into a next-level caliber defensive back. The former offensive stars will see plenty of Johnson throughout the game, yet both have the physical tools to keep him in check. But, then again, as a true freshman Johnson torched Clemson the last time Georgia Tech visited Death Valley two years ago catching eight balls for 127 yards and three touchdowns including the thrilling game-winner.
What Will Happen: Clemson’s defense will contain and frustrate Ball, forcing him into poor decisions that’ll result in game-changing turnovers. The Tiger offense will take advantage of those turnovers and extra possessions to dominate the time of possession battle. Davis will have 100+ yards rushing and a couple of touchdowns to help propel Clemson to the nasty victory.
CFN Prediction: Clemson 27 … Georgia Tech 24 ... Line: Clemson -7.5
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Knights of Prosperity) ... 4
(2-5) 7:30 PM EST ESPN Thursday October
Why to Watch: When the lights get turned on in Charlottesville and the ESPN cameras show up at Scott Stadium, history has proven that anything can happen. Often, it’s been positive for Virginia, a team that could truly use a positive boost after losing at East Carolina in a non-conference tilt and fading in the fourth quarter in a 28-26 loss to Maryland. Unfortunately for Heels’ fans, North Carolina has suffered a similar fate, losing three in a row to Clemson, Miami and USF. The road doesn’t get any easier as this game kicks off a five-game stretch for Carolina that is the envy of athletic directors everywhere playing UVA, Wake Forest, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and NC State, while UVA’s five game home stretch isn’t a cakewalk by any means facing UNC, NC State, Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech. Suffice to say, a loss by either team could signal the start of a long rest of the season.
Why North Carolina Might Win: UVA’s defense is ranked 55th in the nation against the run, allowing 126 yards per game on the ground, and the Heels have the power running game to chip away at the Wahoo defense. With RB Barrington Edwards and Ronnie McGill sharing carries, the Heels can pound away at the Wahoo’s 3-4 defensive front to maintain control of the ball and the clock. The ability to control the ball on the ground keeps QB Cam Sexton from having to throw 25 times, something he hasn’t proven he can do well enough at this point to win games.
Why Virginia Might Win: For three quarters against Maryland, the Virginia offense did a little bit of everything, and did it all extremely well. Virginia freshman QB Jameel Sewell threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns, while running for 92 yards and a touchdown against Maryland. Add in RB Jason Snelling’s 81 yards on the ground and the Wahoo offense finished the game with a season high 424 yards of total offense. With a visit from the nation’s 100th ranked defense, UVA’s offensive production couldn’t come at a better time.
Who to Watch: When a receiver only catches three balls in a game, it’s expected that he’s a key component of the offense, but of the three balls Virginia WR Kevin Ogletree caught, two went for touchdowns against Maryland. He UVA’s leading receiver and was Sewell’s go-to guy against Maryland. North Carolina’s secondary is the best unit wearing Carolina blue and must shut down Ogletree.
What Will Happen: Sewell will show how far he’s come with another strong pass/run performance that’ll keep the ball from McGill and company. Snelling
CFN Prediction: Virginia 28 … North Carolina 16 ... Line: Virginia -6
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Knights of Prosperity) ... 2.5
(4-2) 12:00 PM EST GamePlan Saturday
Why to Watch: With five teams in the ACC Atlantic Division having only one loss, this suddenly becomes a key showdown keeping one team at the front of the pack, while the other will fall into a tie for last place. Before last week’s matchup with Wake Forest, NC State was in the Atlantic Division driver’s seat, but couldn’t hold on to the top spot losing the Demon Deacons at home 25-23. The Maryland game begins the toughest stretch of any NC State season, with four of their next five on the road, including its only home game against Georgia Tech and a road tilt at Clemson. Maryland, on the other hand, is coming off a huge comeback victory at Virginia, scoring 21 fourth quarter points to win 28-26. In stark contrast to NC State, Maryland has four of its final six games at home in College Park. Regardless of what’s ahead, a loss by either team ruins any Division championship dreams and could potentially ruin bowl hopes, as well.
Why NC State Might Win: In what was supposed to be nothing more than a shot in the arm for a sagging offense, the insertion of QB Daniel Evans has been the best thing to happen to this NC State offense since former star Philip Rivers was inserted into the starting lineup as a freshman. The sophomore threw 37 times against Wake Forest, indicating how confident offensive coordinator Marc Trestman is with his young signal caller. Facing a Maryland defense giving up 185 yards per game through the air, Evans should have a strong game, if he’s fully recovered from the concussion he received late in the Wake game.
Why Maryland Might Win: NC State’s defense is ranked 75th in the nation against the run yielding 142 yards per game, which is great news for Maryland’s two headed RB monster, Keon Lattimore and Lance Ball. The two combined for 190 yards against Virginia and have been the key for the Maryland offense this season. These two run as hard as any pair of backs in the ACC and could be a major problem for the Wolfpack defense that doesn’t always tackle well.
Who to Watch: Maryland QB Sam Hollenbach hasn’t been a shining superstar this year, but he’s not been atrocious either. The Terp signal caller, though, needs to make a big play or two to keep the Wolfpack safeties honest, instead of allowing them to pack the box to stop Lattimore and/or Ball.
What Will Happen: State plays its best when its back is against the wall, but Maryland playing at home will make key plays throughout the night. Lattimore and Ball will have success early, allowing Hollenbach the opportunity to throw deep against the Pack secondary. The senior will have his best game of the season at the perfect time.
CFN Prediction: Maryland 24 … NC State 20 ... Line: Maryland -3.5
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Knights of Prosperity)