Around the ACC

It's the 106th battle for bragging rights of the Palmetto state.

Miami (7-4) at NC State (5-6) Noon
It is hard to image, but if N.C. State beats Miami the Wolfpack become bowel eligible. Tom O'Brien's club has ripped off three straight wins over Duke, Wake and UNC. If you count the win over ECU, the Pack won all the bragging rights for the season in the Old North State.

The major reason State has been playing so well as of late is red-shirt freshman quarterback Russell Wilson. He has now gone 203 pass attempts without an interception and in his last five games has gone 96-162 for 1233 yards and 11 touchdowns. By the time his senior year rolls around everyone in the league is going to be tired of seeing this kid.

Meanwhile Miami is coming off a 41-23 loss at the hands of Georgia Tech, a game in which the Jackets rolled up 472 yards rushing and head coach Randy Shannon needs to figure out who his quarterback is going to be. The rotation of Robert Marve and Jacory Harris has not worked as well as hoped. Defensively the Canes still boast the 20th best overall defense in the country, but if the Pack can run the ball this weekend it will be a long day for the "U". Prediction: NC State 24 Miami 20

Georgia Tech (8-3) at Georgia (9-2) Noon
Much like the South Carolina-Clemson series this battle for Peach State bragging rights has been dominated by one team and that would be Georgia. The Dogs own a 59-38-5 lead in the series and have won the last seven in a row. This is the classic "we are going to run the ball, can you stop us?" kind of game. The Yellow Jackets under first year head coach Paul Johnson average almost 271 yards on the ground per contest while Georgia's defense gives up only 104.55 yards per contest.

Look for the Dawgs to do what the Tigers did against Tech and that is to put eight men up on the line and play sound, fundamental assignment defense. That means the Jackets will have to throw the ball to have success. They did it against the Tigers just enough to claim a three point win and I think they will do it enough against the Dogs as well. Prediction: Georgia Tech 24 Georgia 23

Virginia (5-6) at Virginia Tech (7-4) Noon
During the month of October it looked like the Cavaliers had turned their season around with four straight wins over Maryland, ECU, North Carolina and Georgia Tech. Heading into November Al Groh's squad sat at 5-3 and was a threat to win the ACC's Coastal division. Alas along came the winds of November in Charlottesville and the Pergola has come crashing down. Virginia has now dropped three in a row, two of those at home, and is now trying to become bowl eligible with a win in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech is playing for a berth in the ACC Championship game. All the Hokies have to do is beat their in-state rivals and a trip to Tampa is all theirs. Tech out ranks the Cavs in almost every statistical category going into this game, couple that with the fact Virginia has not won in Blacksburg since 1998 and you get where I am heading with this pick. Prediction: Virginia Tech 28 Virginia 10

Florida (10-1) at Florida State (8-3) 3:30 P.M.
This is one of four ACC versus SEC match-ups that are on tap for this weekend and this one is probably the easiest to pick. The Gators have just been rolling over opponents as of late, just ask your South Carolina buddies. Urban Meyer's squad had better not look ahead to next week's showdown with Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. The winner of that one should be one half of the BCS National Title game. The Seminoles do have a rather stout defense giving up only 18.55 points per game and 272.64 yards per contest. But this is Tim Tebow versus Christian Ponder, this is Percy Harvin versus Antone Smith, this is Free Shoes University versus the Chomp, this is old man Bobby Bowden versus the young and flashy aforementioned Meyer. The Gators are averaging 46.45 points per game while giving up only 12. That sounds about right to me. Prediction: Florida 47 FSU 12

North Carolina (7-4) at Duke (4-7) Kickoff 3:30 PM
Well it officially became basketball season last Saturday in Chapel Hill when the Tar Heel football program fell at home to their rivals from Raleigh, NC State, 41-10. That is right if you had UNC and 30 points you lost. Who saw that one coming? The good news for fans of the Chapel Hill school your team has won 17 of the last 18 meetings between these two. That is not a rivalry that is domination. The last three games in the series have been good ones. North Carolina won last years tussle in overtime 20-14. The year before that in Durham the Tar Heels prevailed by a point 45-44. The last time Duke won at home in this series was in 1988, 20 years ago, 35-29. North Carolina had only 203 yards of offense last week, Duke surrenders on average 356 yards per game. Duke is still Duke no matter how improved this team is under David Cutcliffe. Maybe next year, but not this year. Prediction: North Carolina 31 Duke 14

Vanderbilt (6-5) at Wake Forest (6-5) 7 PM
This is a series that began back in 1964 and the Commodores hold a 7-4 edge in the series thanks to winning four of the last five. Wake had their hopes of an Atlantic Division title dashed last week at home by Boston College dropping a 24-21 decision. It was the first league loss at home for the Deacs in nearly two years. The last ACC team to beat Wake at Groves Stadium you ask, that would be the Clemson Tigers thanks to Gaines Adams. Wakes biggest problem this year is that they can not run the football. Wake is averaging just 107.36 yards per game on the ground this season and that is just not Jim Grobe's type of football. Riley Skinner has had an up and down season all year long throwing for 182.5 yards per game, but he has only 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions. For the Deacons to win this game he must play well and Wake must make him the focal part of the offense. Vanderbilt is bowl eligible for the first time in forever, but is coming off a disappointing showing against a bad Tennessee team last week in Nashville dropping a 20-10 contest. Bobby Johnson needs this game to better his bowl standings and to prove to himself and his team that they can become a consistent winning team and not just reach .500 and be satisfied. Sorry Bobby you just aren't there yet. Prediction: Wake 27 Vanderbilt 17

Maryland (7-4) at Boston College (8-3) 3:30 PM
The pep talk for Boston College head man Jeff Jagodzinski is rather easy in this one, "Men, win and we go to Tampa for a chance at a conference championship and a berth in a BCS bowl game, lose and we could spend our Christmas vacation in Boise."

This will be the sixth ever meeting between the two schools in this long and storied league clash. B.C. has won three of the last four including the only game played in Chestnut Hill back in 2006. Maryland had a shot at playing in the ACC title game until they laid an egg last week at home against Florida State dropping a 37-3 game. Bet you that sent Ralph Friedgen back to his Over Eaters Anonymus Club. The Fridge who is supoosed to be an offensive genius has not come up with the proper formula this year with the Terps. His club is averaging only 20 points per game, 100th nationally, and has only the No. 81 total offense mark in the country. The big problem has been turnovers. Maryland is 96th in the country in turnover margin. Boston College has won games this year with a stout defense, fifth best in the country allowing only 269.64 yards per game, and an efficient offense managed by Chris Crane. Don't look for Maryland to run the ball on this Eagle defense which means Chris Turner will have to have a good day throwing the ball. That is not a good plan if you are a Maryland fan. Prediction: Boston College 20 Maryland 10

South Carolina (7-4) at Clemson (6-5) Noon
It's the 106th battle for bragging rights of the Palmetto state, but the Tigers are in firm control of this rivalry having won five of the last six, nine of the last 12 and also hold an overall 64-37-4 series lead.

Simply put, everything points to this being a defensive battle. The Tigers boast the nation's No. 5 passing defense (163.18 yards per game), the 13th best scoring defense (16.82 points per game) and the 15th best total defense (294.00 yards per game). The Cocks meanwhile have the countries second-best passing defense (156.73 yards per game), the 23rd best scoring defense (19.27 points per game) and the 11th best total defense (280.36 yards per game). To say that both offenses have struggled this season would be an understatement. South Carolina is only generating 98.91 yards on the ground per game, but the Tigers aren't much better getting just 114.73 yards per game via the run. Through the air things haven't been so bad. Clemson gets on average 220.64 yards per game and South Carolina averages 219.09 yards per game. The real problem has been turnovers. South Carolina is 99th in the nation in turnover margin (-.64), while the Tigers are 80th (-.36). Things have gotten better for Clemson game by game under Dabo Swinney. First it was six turnovers against Georgia Tech, then four against Boston College, then two against FSU, then none against Duke, and one last week against Virginia.

Meanwhile turnovers cost South Carolina wins against Vanderbilt, Georgia, LSU and certainly set the tone for Florida's romp. Coach Spurrier has said this week that Chris Smelley will go the distance this Saturday at quarterback. Look for Cullen Harper to do the same for the Tigers. The game could come down to the play of the quarterbacks, but more than likely it will come down to the feet of Mark Buchholz and Ryan Succop. Buchholz has been money for the Tigers all season long going 14-of-17 on field goals with only one of the misses inside 50 yards. He is also a perfect 33-of-33 on extra points. Succop has struggled at times this year going 19-of-28 on field goals, but he is a perfect 27-of-27 on extra points. Buchholz was the hero last season, so why not again this year. Prediction: Clemson 12 South Carolina 10

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