Around the ACC

ACC Football: An up-and-coming conference or a group of overrated and soft teams. While I believe issue still remains to be decided, this should prove to be an interesting weekend in the ACC.

The best game of the week will be Miami going out of conference to play Louisville on the road. Wake Forest and North Carolina State also face challenging road tests against Connecticut and Southern Mississippi, respectively. The top conference match up this week will be Clemson traveling to Florida State in what is a very big game for both programs. The remainder of Saturday's ACC schedule is littered with mismatches and bad ACC teams getting their first win by playing even worse teams.

Maryland at (5) West Virginia – Thursday 7:30 PM ET

Predicting the outcome of Maryland at West Virginia is a little like predicting a season opener, since neither team has played a remotely competitive opponent this year. However, these two teams appear to be programs heading in opposite directions. Maryland, a BCS participant in 2001, is coming off two consecutive 5-6 seasons. West Virginia, on the other hand, has national title aspirations thanks to star sophomores Pat White (QB) and Steve Slaton (RB). While such talk might only be the result of a terribly weak schedule and a Sugar Bowl victory over a Georgia team that did not care to be there, one must admit that Rich Rodriguez has done a good job with this program.

West Virginia should not have a great deal of trouble securing a victory at home against the Terrapins. Both teams will look to run the ball extensively. Maryland will attempt to control the clock and take advantage of the near 40-lb/man advantage its offensive line holds against its WVU counterparts. For the Mountaineers, Pat White has only attempted 18 passes this season and Steve Slaton should be primed for a big game against the school he wanted to attend. Maryland should be able to keep it close in the first half, but they are not a very good team, and West Virginia will pull away in the third quarter.

My Prediction: WVU: 24 Maryland: 13

Wake Forest at Connecticut – Saturday 12:00 PM ET

After squeaking by Duke on a blocked field goal as time expired, Wake Forest must improve its play in order to secure a road victory over a competitive Connecticut squad. Wake lost its starting quarterback, Ben Mauk, to a season ending shoulder injury during its first game against Syracuse. However, freshman Riley Skinner led them to victory in that contest and has played fairly well, completing 77 percent of his passes. Running backs Micah Andrews and De'Angelo Bryant are attempting to replace the production of Chris Barclay, who rushed for 1,127 yards in 2005 on his way to an all-ACC season.
,br> Connecticut, led by sophomore QB D.J. Hernandez and freshman RB Donald Brown, was not challenged in its first game against Rhode Island. Expect the Huskies to load the box against Wake Forest and challenge Skinner to find his receivers and stretch the field. While this has the makings of a trap game for Wake, I expect them to remain focused and make enough plays to gain a hard fought road victory.

My Prediction: Wake: 17 Connecticut: 14

BYU at (23) Boston College – Saturday 12:00 PM ET

Boston College defeated trendy ACC pick Clemson 34-33 in double overtime last week. One BC writer stated that this win "generated a buzz around Chestnut Hill, the ACC and the college football community." This statement might be a bit strong, and by that I mean not factually correct. They must work to avoid a letdown against a BYU team that has struggled early but is led by 25-year-old senior John Beck. Beck has four years of experience in the spread attack and has completed 75 percent of his passes this year, with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

Boston College's quarterback is Matt Ryan, who split time with senior Quinton Porter last year. Ryan has played solidly thus far this season, and appears to be another in the long line of decent Boston College quarterbacks. L.V. Whitworth, the leading rusher in 2005, is back to lead the ground attack. With all the intriguing games being played around the country on Saturday, I doubt many people will watch another close Boston College victory. In fact, the most interesting aspect of this contest is that it might be a battle between Division 1-A's two dirtiest teams.

My Prediction: Boston College: 28 BYU: 24

Duke at (14) Virginia Tech – Saturday 12:00 PM ET Duke lost in heartbreaking fashion last week at Wake Forest, with a field goal that was essentially an extra point getting blocked at the end. Victories do not come often for this bunch and to lose one like that cannot be good for morale.

Virginia Tech trounced Duke 45-0 in Durham last year, and the score of this year's game should look similar. Duke's primary motivation will likely be staying closer to the Hokies than the North Carolina did last week. Any more words used analyzing this game are a waste of my time and yours.

My Prediction: Virginia Tech: 35 Duke: 7

Troy at Georgia Tech – Saturday 1:30 PM ET

No game in the entire nation will be played this week between two less mentally focused teams. Georgia Tech whipped itself into a frenzy going into the Notre Dame game and rebounding from that loss should prove difficult. Troy played Florida State very tough in Tallahassee last week, leading in the fourth quarter before eventually losing.

Leading the surprise Troy attack is junior quarterback Omar Haugabook, who threw for 219 yards and one touchdown against the Seminoles. However, he has thrown four interceptions already this year and should struggle against a tough Georgia Tech defense. Tech is most likely primed for an upset against a lesser opponent, but Troy will not be that team this week.

My Prediction: Georgia Tech: 28 Troy: 10

(17) Miami at (12) Louisville – Saturday 3:30 PM ET

Saturday's match up against Miami is a huge game for Louisville for a number of reasons. Louisville has never beaten the Hurricanes in its history, including a 0-4 record against "The U" at home. Miami also represents the only game on Louisville's weak schedule other than West Virginia that the Cardinals have even a chance of losing. Finally, this is a huge game for QB Brian Brohm, who has the opportunity to live up to the immense hype surrounding him by playing well against the nation's 7th ranked defense. He must do so without the services of star running back Michael Bush who is out for the season with a broken leg.

One quarterback who has not lived up to the hype is Miami junior Kyle Wright. Wright came out of California as the most highly-touted QB in the nation but has yet to show he can successfully lead an offense. Wright is not helped by the fact that his best WR, Ryan Moore, is indefinitely suspended – he must have done something truly atrocious – and that his head coach is named Larry Coker. The Miami coach is in the unenviable position of coaching against Bobby Petrino, a man who will undoubtedly throw his name into the mix if Coker is fired after this season.

This should be a highly entertaining game between two talented teams. I would have particularly enjoyed watching Louisville's offense against Miami's athletic defense. Unfortunately this game is on during the Notre Dame game, so I will have to watch the highlights of Miami's victory afterwards.

My Prediction: Miami: 24 Louisville: 17

Western Michigan at Virginia – Saturday 3:30 PM ET

Virginia represents another ACC program (see Maryland and NC State) whose fan base had convinced themselves and a few outsiders that they were on the rise to elite status. Somewhere along the way, this meteoric rise to the top stalled and now UVA is left starting aspiring male model Christian Olsen at quarterback. Olsen has not played well and was replaced by junior Kevin McCabe in last Saturday's overtime win over Wyoming. While Olsen remains number one on the depth chart, Cavalier fans are clamoring for McCabe to replace him and I would expect both quarterbacks to play on Saturday.

Western Michigan was beaten soundly by Indiana, never a good sign, but bounced back to beat Toledo 31-10. I do not expect Western Michigan to upset Virginia in Charlottesville, but I think the game will be closer than some experts predict. And even more ugly.

My Prediction: UVA: 17 Western Michigan: 10

Furman at North Carolina – Saturday 7:00 PM ET

Saturday's match up between Furman and North Carolina is only of any interest to this writer because the Tar Heels are a future Notre Dame opponent. North Carolina has struggled mightily thus far this season, losing two home games to Rutgers and Virginia Tech. They took no chances in their third home game by scheduling Furman.

Redshirt freshman Cam Sexton replaces Nebraska transfer Joe Dailey in the starting lineup. Daily started the season with four interceptions in the first two games and was replaced by Sexton in the second half of the Virginia Tech game. Despite themselves, the Tar Heels will win their first game of the 2006 season this weekend.

My Prediction: UNC: 28 Furman: 10

North Carolina State at Southern Mississippi – Saturday 7:00 PM ET

Chuck Amato appears to be heading for an ugly departure out of Raleigh. After losing at home last week against Akron, Amato demonstrated his renowned class by complaining about Akron's academic standards. A few years back Amato looked as if he had the Wolfpack on the right path, landing a few strong recruiting classes and notching a number of nice wins. The resulting excitement amongst boosters resulted in significant investments into the football program. Now that the team's momentum has stalled, the fans and boosters in Raleigh are none too happy. The Bill Cowher rumors have already begun and will reach a deafening roar by mid-season. You must understand that NC State supporters make Penn State fans look like stark realists.

The Wolfpack have had quarterback issues since Philip Rivers left for the NFL, and this year has been no different. Junior Marcus Stone has barely completed 50 percent of his pass attempts and has already thrown two interceptions. NC State has split carries between four running backs, and none appear to be the next T.A. Mclendon. While the Wolfpack still have good athleticism on both sides of the ball, I do not expect them to turn their season around in a challenging environment at Southern Miss.

My Prediction: Southern Miss: 20 NC State: 17

Clemson at (9) Florida State – Saturday 7:45 PM ET

The eighth annual "Bowden Bowl" features two teams who desperately need a victory to live up to preseason expectations. While Florida State defeated bitter rival Miami, their offense continues to struggle and they have not been in the hunt for a national title in several years. As they do each and every season, Clemson fans came into this year with high hopes. A tough overtime loss at Boston College was a difficult start, but the Tigers can regain momentum by winning in Tallahassee for the first time since 1989. One interesting sub-plot to this affair could be the bitter father/son feud that develops if Tommy Bowden employs those tricky formation and alignment shifts that his father so passionately loathes.

Florida State must find a way to establish a running attack in order to win this game. QB Drew Weatherford has been reasonably productive but the Seminoles have only 46 yards of total rushing this season. If this lack of production continues, we could see more tears from Lorenzo Booker. Clemson senior QB Will Proctor has started solidly this season, and must continue to play well if Clemson is to earn a road win.

Both teams have endured a number of injuries on the defensive side of the ball, with Florida State's defensive line being particularly decimated. I look for Clemson to take advantage of this and run the ball effectively using a stable of backs that includes highly touted freshman C.J. Spiller. Clemson's ground attack and Florida State's continued struggles under Offensive Coordinator Jeff Bowden will lead to a Tigers' upset victory.

My Prediction: Clemson: 20 Florida State: 10 Top Stories