ACC Preview

As I sat in Groves Stadium watching Gaines Adams return a botched field goal 66-yards for a game-altering touchdown against Wake Forest, it occurred to me that we often underestimate the flukiness of college football.

For the first three quarters Wake Forest had thoroughly out-played and out-coached Clemson. However, one lucky bounce of the ball changed how the game was played and propelled Clemson to victory.

Notre Dame fans, particularly yours truly, tend to analyze each play and possession and derive from them conclusions regarding the long-term direction or state of the program. I was reminded last Saturday that these grand conclusions cannot be logically reached from a game being played primarily by teenagers. Often a single game can be largely impacted by momentum, emotion and the quirky bounces of an oblong ball. Certainly long-term trends and records can assist us in analyzing the quality of a team's talent or coaching. However, we should not forget that the outcome of a single game is often determined by a collection of random factors. And those are my deep thoughts for the day. On to this week's games.

(22) Virginia Tech at Boston College – Thursday 7:30 PM ET

Tonight's game in Chestnut Hill will match two teams looking to rebound from difficult conference defeats and desperately needing a victory to stay alive in their respective divisions. Boston College lost in heartbreaking fashion at NC State three weeks ago and a week later Virginia Tech was soundly defeated at home by Georgia Tech. Both teams are coming off a bye week to help them prepare for what should a competitive and physical battle.

Statistically these two teams appear to be close match. Boston College has slightly out gained the Hokies on offense but Virginia Tech is averaging roughly 6 points more per game. Virginia Tech's Sean Glennon and BC's Matt Ryan have compiled almost identical stats as quarterbacks this season. In the end, this game should be decided by turnovers and special teams plays. Although the BC enjoys the home field advantage, I anticipate these factors will favor the Hokies and predict a close Virginia Tech victory.

Start booking your flights to Boise Super Fans.

My Prediction: Virginia Tech: 24 Boston College: 20

Temple at (12) Clemson – Thursday 7:30 PM ET

Clemson essentially gets a bye week after last Saturday's scare against Wake Forest. For most of that game, the Tigers did not impress me much. They played tentatively on defense and quarterback Will Proctor ended several drives with critical mistakes. However, once the momentum swung their way, the Tigers displayed the speed and athleticism which make them a challenging opponent for anyone.

Temple is clearly a terrible team so this game does not warrant further discussion. Clemson will be able to score when and how they please.

My Prediction: Clemson: 42 Temple: 7

Wake Forest at NC State – Saturday 12:00 PM ET

For three quarters last Saturday, Wake Forest played as inspired a football game as you could ask from a team. With a huge upset win in their grasp, the Deacons made a few critical errors which resulted in a heart breaking defeat to Clemson. The critical question this week is if Jim Grobe and his coaching staff can get the players to recover mentally and emotionally for a challenging game at NC State. Conversely, NC State is riding high after two consecutive wins against ranked opponents. Quarterback Daniel Evans is the savior, having directed two comebacks victories and postponing discussion over Chuck Amato's job security. NC State boasts far more athleticism than Wake and is looking to revenge last year's defeat at Groves Stadium.

Clearly the rational pick in this game is NC State. However, when dealing with the Wolfpack, going against reason has worked for me in the past. Additionally, Jim Grobe is a far better coach than Chuck Amato and that is not going to change this week. So I am picking Wake Forest to surprise NC State yet again.

My Prediction: Wake Forest: 20 NC State: 17

South Florida at North Carolina – Saturday 12:00 PM ET

North Carolina will look to continue the ACC's meager out-of-conference performance this year by losing to South Florida at home. This is a difficult game to predict. While both teams lost close home games against Rutgers, the key variable is how much effort the Tar Heel players will give when they are clearly playing out the string for a lame duck head coach.

While this could be completely off base, I am predicting that the Carolina players will sense the chance for a rare victory and come out with some intensity. The result will be a low-scoring and very ugly win for the Tar Heels.

My Prediction: North Carolina: 17 South Florida: 13

Florida State at Duke – Saturday 1:00 PM ET

Florida State has faced a great deal of abuse from the national media since their loss to NC State last Thursday. Notre Dame fans can attest to how enjoyable it is to hear from the media that your program is dead, and this recent discussion cannot sit well with Seminole players or fans. While such talk is richly deserved, I fully expect the Seminoles to unleash their frustrations on the hapless Blue Devils.

Duke proved last Saturday that while most teams could have beaten an emotionally-drained Alabama team, Duke is just not capable of even mediocre play at this point. Florida State wins going away here.

My Prediction: Florida St: 35 Duke: 3

Maryland at Virginia – Saturday 3:30 PM ET

My tour of ACC venues takes me to Charlottesville this Saturday to witness a game between two bad football teams. This game could be called the Pink Slip Bowl II, following last week's inaugural affair between Miami and UNC in which both teams fans were hoping to lose.

It is difficult to say which coach has the hotter seat as of now, Al Groh or Ralph Friedgen. Both coaches excited fans and boosters with some impressive victories and strong recruiting classes early in their respective tenures. However, these two programs now lie dead in the water and it appears only a matter of time before each school begins their search for a new savior.

I will make two predictions here: 1) General ambivalence over football will save both coaches their jobs this season; and 2) Virginia gets an ugly home win against a Maryland team still down after their failed upset attempt at Georgia Tech.

My Prediction: Virginia: 20 Maryland: 10

Florida International at Miami – Saturday 7:00 PM ET

The Butch Davis and Greg Schiano talk has already started in Coral Gables. I certainly do miss caring more about potential future coaches than the outcomes of games my team is currently playing. And it could not happen to a nicer group of fans.

Miami tried their best to lose to UNC but eventually succumbed to the Tar Heel's awfulness. My guess is that this one won't even be close as Hurricane fans watch hoping in vain that Miami finally secures the loss that will signal the end to the Larry Coker era.

My Prediction: Miami: 28 Florida Int'l: 10

Last Week: 5-0 Season: 25-4 Top Stories