It is the battle for the top spot in the Coastal Division this weekend in Chapel Hill and it is also a match-up of two top 20 teams (No. 19 and No. 20). Tech hung on last week to knock off Florida State 31-28. The Jackets ran wild over the Seminoles in the first half, but could only manage one touchdown in the second half. Still it was enough to move to 4-2 in league play. Jonathan Dwyer picked up 145 yards on only 13 carries and had touchdown runs of 66 and 36 against FSU. Tech continues to run the ball effectively averaging 242 yards per game.
North Carolina had last week off. The last time they took the gridiron they smoked Boston College 45-24. Butch Davis has this team believing they can win. From a statistical stand point, there is nothing really impressive about the Heels. They are averaging 330 yards of offense per game and are giving up 340 yards per contest, but still they are finding ways to win. Georgia Tech is a fan of the 12 noon kickoff going 4-0 this year. That streak stops here. Prediction: UNC 28 Georgia Tech 24
N.C. State (2-6) at Duke (4-4) Kickoff 3:30 PM
David Cutlcliffe took his name out of the running for the Tennessee job this week and that has to please all fans of Blue Devils football. To say he has done a remarkable job in getting this program out of the cellar would be an understatement. Duke was a loser last week in overtime to Wake Forest 33-30 as Thaddeus Lewis threw an interception that sealed the deal. Because of the new divisional format in the league, this will be the first time these two have met since 2003. The Wolf Pack has won five in a row in Durham and the last ten games overall in the series. The last Blue Devil win over NCSU came in 1993 and that was by a 21-20 score. Tom O'Brien squad had last week off and they probably needed it. The Pack is averaging right at 292 yards of offense per game (108th) and is giving up 412 yards per game (101st). I believe Coach O'Brien will eventually get things turned around in Raleigh it just won't be this week. Prediction: Duke 31 NC State 20
Virginia (5-4) at Wake Forest (5-3) Kickoff 3:30 PM
The Cavaliers had their four-game winning streak snapped last week by Miami in overtime when "The Running Reverend" Cedric Peerman coughed the ball up on a running play. You can't blame Peerman that much because without him the Cavs wouldn't be worth talking about this season. Peerman is averaging 103 yards rushing per game in his last five contests and has scored six touchdowns in that stretch. Wake Forest finally showed some signs of offensive life by putting 33 points on the board in a winning effort over Duke last week, also in overtime. Prior to last week the Demon Deacs combined to score 22 points in the previous three games. This series has been dominated by Virginia in recent years. The Cavs have won 20 of the last 21 including three in a row over Wake. The last Wake win was in 2001 and the last time they beat the Wahoos at home was in 1983. No matter what you think of Al Groh personally this man can coach and he will get the better of Jim Grobe again this win with a ball control offense. Remember the motto kids, "run the ball and stop the run." Prediction: Virginia 28 Wake Forest 20
Notre Dame (5-3) at Boston College (5-3) Kickoff 8 PM
This is the 18th meeting between the Fighting Irish and the Golden Eagles with the the Golden Domers leading the series 9-8. BC has won the last five in the series and six of the last seven. Last time the two played in Chestnut Hill the Eagles prevailed 27-25 on a last second field goal. Charlie Weiss seems to have the Irish back on the right track. You would think he would try to do to BC what North Carolina and the Tigers did and that is get his play makers out in open space. Problem is Notre Dame does not have the same type of skilled athletes that Butch Davis and Dabo Swinney have at their disposal. No, this will be a game of two big Catholic schools banging against each other for field position. Both schools need this one to prove they are headed in the right direction. Notre Dame needs it just a little more. Prediction: Notre Dame 26 Boston College 21
Dabo Swinney picked up his first win in his head coaching career last week, and while it wasn't a thing of beauty the Tigers managed to leave Chestnut Hill, Mass. with a 27-21 come-from-behind win, and to me that is big. Going in I thought the Tigers would have to play the perfect game against Boston College for a chance to win, but they didn't. Cullen Harper was anything but spectacular, but when he had to make a play he did. C.J. Spiller got back on the football field after the hamstring injury and once again showed why he likes field turf so much and that was big. The Clemson defense held BC to just 2-17 on third down conversions and got the Eagle offense off the field at the end of the game and that was big. The Tigers found a way to win where before they had been finding ways to lose.
Bobby Bowden's coaching record is 379-121-4 while Dabo Swinney's is just 1-1. One would think that daddy Bowden has talked with son Tommy this week about the Tigers. Problem is all Tommy can talk about is how players played for him under his watch and not how they are playing under his former wide receiver coach. I think we will all agree there is a marked difference.
FSU's defense is vastly different from what the Tigers saw last week. Clemson won't be able to get their play makers out in open space against bigger, slower athletes. The Seminole D is definitely built on speed and swarming to the ball, but what they are not built for is an offense they comes right at them. This is what Clemson has done in winning the last three in a row in this series and four of the last five. Mickey Andrews is not going to let C.J. Spiller or Jacoby Ford use their speed to their advantage, but what about James Davis, Tyler Grisham and Aaron Kelly?
In additoin, Clemson's defense will prove to be much better than FSU's offense. Keep in mind the Tigers have allowed only seven touchdowns in the last five ACC games. The young linebackers are beginning to grow up and we are starting to see some hitting on the field. FSU quarterback Christian Ponder can be dangerous both running and throwing the football, but I would rather see him forced to throw it. Make FSU beat you throwing the football. The Tigers, despite the offensive line woes find a way to control the line of scrimmage, James Davis has a big day running it, and I think Cullen Harper has a much better day managing the game than he did last week. Prediction: Clemson 24 Florida State 16