Maryland (2-9) at NC State (6-5) Nov. 26, 12:30, ACC Network
Here's The Deal … Has NC State suddenly turned the corner, or did it catch a clearly unmotivated Clemson team at an absolutely perfect time in the schedule? The Wolfpack obliterated the Tigers, the Atlantic Division champ and co-favorite to wear the ACC crown, a week ago in a game that wasn't even competitive after halftime. The improbable 37-13 victory dramatically boosted the bowl prospects for the program, which still needs one more victory to qualify. Although State has six wins, only one of the two against FCS teams counts toward bowl-eligibility.
Maryland's nightmare is almost over. Losers of seven straight games, the Terrapins are on the verge of their second 2-10 campaign in the last three years. In between, the school went 9-4 for deposed head coach Ralph Friedgen, causing some rumblings around College Park that the Fridge should not have been ousted in the first place. Successor Randy Edsall gets one more look at his players before starting a very long offseason.
Why Maryland Might Win: If the Terrapins are going to cap 2011 with a victory, it'll have to be the C.J. Brown Show in Raleigh on Saturday afternoon. Yeah, he'll get help on the ground from seasoned RB Davin Meggett, but the sophomore quarterback has sparkplug tendencies that this program desperately needs. While he's still learning the ropes as a passer, he possesses the vision and quickness outside of the pocket to frustrate defenses with his feet. Despite splitting time before Danny O'Brien was injured, he's rushed for more than 100 yards on three separate occasions, including a week ago against Wake Forest.
Why NC State Might Win: The Wolfpack offense has been up-and-down all year. This week, it'll be up. The Maryland D is a complete mess, suffering from too many injuries and too much youth in the lineup. The Pack will look to capitalize with the passing of Mike Glennon, and the running of Tony Creecy and James Washington.
Not to be forgotten, the NC State defense has played exceptionally well over the past month, holding four of its last five opponents to no more than 14 points. It consistently creates turnovers and sacks, employing the likes of DT J.R. Sweezy, linebackers Audie Cole and Terrell Manning and CB David Amerson to disrupt the flow of the other team's gameplan.
What To Watch Out For: Amerson has blossomed into one of the ACC's biggest individual surprises of the fall. The second-year cornerback out of Greensboro has been a revelation for Tom O'Brien's team, picking off 11 passes to tie a league record set by North Carolina's Dre Bly in 1996. He'll force Brown to completely avoid his side of the field, flashing the instincts of a fifth-year all-star, and the ball skills of a top wide receiver. Best of all for Wolfpack fans, Amerson has yet to even reach the halfway point of a career that's just beginning to take off.
What Will Happen: Although NC State has hardly been consistent this season, it's difficult to imagine this team bowing to Maryland when a bowl berth hangs in the balance. The Terps have neither the manpower nor the motivation to deliver a road upset at this stage of a fading campaign. The Wolfpack will have few problems containing a one-dimensional offense, while continuing to support its offense with takeaways and tackles in the backfield. Glennon will finish the regular season on a high note, zipping a couple of touchdown passes to help the Pack pull away for good after halftime.
CFN Prediction: NC State 31 … Maryland 13
CFN's Take: NC State vs. Maryland
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