East Carolina (3-2) at Virginia (2-3) Kickoff: 12 PM
After being in the pit of despair and darkness, the Virginia program sprang to life with a 31-0 rout of the Maryland Terrapins last week. I sure didn't see it coming, but there it was for all to see. Al Groh got a great performance from sophomore quarterback Marc Verica. In only his third start Verica went 25-of-34 for 226 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for a third. The Cavaliers also displayed a running game as tailbacks Cedric Peerman and Mikell Simpson combined for 187 yards on 31 carries. Now the questions becomes can the Cavs do it again? East Carolina has had two weeks to prepare for Virginia. Skip Holtz's squad started the season with three straight wins and a top 25 ranking, but ever since a loss at NC State the Pirates have struggled. ECU QB Patrick Pinkney enters the game still struggling with an ankle injury, so they must establish a running game. Look for the Pirates struggles to continue. Prediction: Virginia 16 ECU 13
Gardner-Webb (2-3) at Georgia Tech (4-1) Kickoff: 3:30 PM
This will be the first ever meeting between these two schools and it only comes about because Army pulled out of a contract with the Yellow Jackets. Bulldogs head coach Steve Patton has to be hoping the Yellow Jackets are looking ahead to their trip to Death Valley on October 18. GW does have a threat at receiver in Dobson Collins who crossed the 1,000 yard receiving mark for his career last week. And the Bulldogs also have a defense that has allowed on average only 46 yards rushing per game. The problem is this isn't just an ordinary rushing attack they are about to face. Paul Johnson is his first season at Georgia Tech has quickly turned the Yellow Jackets into a running machine. Tech is averaging better than 290 yards per game on the ground and Jonathan Dwyer has been leading the way averaging 109.6 yards per game. There has been discussion that QB Josh Nesbitt could be back under center after missing time because of a hamstring injury. I think the coaching staff will hold him out to make sure he is 100 percent against Clemson next weekend. Freshman Jaybo Shaw did just fine last week in the 27-0 win over Duke. The Yellow Jackets showed off their defense in that win holding the Blue Devils to just 132 of offense. Georgia Tech will roll this weekend. Prediction: GT 45 Gardner Webb 6
Central Florida (2-3) at Miami (2-3) Kickoff: 3:45 PM
Randy Shannon will continue to look for answers as his young Hurricane squad tangle with the Golden Knights in the first ever meeting between the two schools. The Canes have lost back to back heart breakers at home. Last week it was a 41-39 set back at the hands of Florida State and the week before that it was North Carolina holding on for a 28-24 victory. Miami's offense is in the hands of freshman QB Robert Marve and there have been growing pains. The Hurricanes are 106th in the nation in total offense averaging only 303.80 yards per game. They tried to air it out against FSU, but Marve completed only 17-of-40 throws for just 122 yards. The running game has not help the passing game averaging only 126 yards per game and Jarvarris James will miss his fourth game in a row due to injury. That means Graig Cooper has to set up. So far he has rushed for a team high 322 yards and has scored three touchdowns. The key then for the Golden Knights would then seem to be limiting what Miami can do offensively. George O'Leary's squad snapped a three game losing skid last week with a 31-17 win over SMU and they did it with defense forcing four Mustang turnovers. Another way to limit Miami is to run the football. UCF freshman running back had a career high 123 yards and a touchdown last week. The "U" is looking for a return to their glory days. Is this the first small step? Prediction: Miami 23 UCF 10
Notre Dame (4-1) at North Carolina (4-1) Kickoff: 3:30 PM
This is easily the best match up in the league this weekend. The Tar Heels under Butch Davis continue to get better each week. Despite the loss of T.J. Yates at quarterback, UNC has found a way to win ball games. Last week it was special teams setting the tone, or maybe I should say Bruce Carter setting the tone. Carter blocked three, count them three, punts in the first half against Connecticut. That allowed the Heels to post a 17-3 lead at half and they never looked back. Wide out Hakeem Nicks leads the ACC in receiving yards and teammate Brandon Tate is third nationally in all purpose yardage. Coach Davis has turned to a converted defensive back to shoulder the load on the ground. Shaun Draughn picked up 109 yards on 19 carries and scored a touchdown last week. A consistent running attack sure would take pressure off of Cam Sexton at quarterback. Charlie Weiss brings his Fighting Irish into the contest off of a 28-21 win over Stanford. There has been nothing impressive about the four Irish victories this season, but they are winning games this year that they would have lost the last couple of years. Never under estimate what winning does for a program. Look for Notre Dame to turn to their offensive line to lead the way. I expect the Irish to try and pound the ball at North Carolina. If they can do that, then QB Jimmy Clausen should be able to use play action to free up the short passing game. I have picked against UNC most of this season. Notre Dame is 16-1 all time versus the Tar Heels. They will leave 16-2. Prediction: North Carolina 25 Notre Dame 21
Prediction rate so far this season: 10-10 (Last week 1-5). Money lost in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
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