And off we go....
Virginia (4-5) at Florida State (4-4)
Super-Fun Stats: Virginia- Scoring Offense (18.2pts)....Scoring Defense ( 17.4pts)....Turnover Margin (+4); Florida State- Scoring Offense (28.3pts)....Scoring Defense (20.0pts)....Turnover Margin (-6)
Series Record: Florida State leads 12-2; last meeting- Virginia 26, Florida State 21 (2005)
In Summary: Unfortunately for the Seminoles, the Hoos appear to be peaking. Jameel Sewell has stepped up and taken control of the QB position, while the defense shut-out UNC two weeks ago and held NC State to just a late 4th-quarter TD last Saturday. That said, the Seminole offense is a completely different (and more fearsome) animal with Xavier Lee at QB and, despite the loss to Maryland last week, FSU appears to be reinvigorated.
The Pick: Florida State 27, Virginia 16
Maryland (6-2) at Clemson (7-2)
Super-Fun Stats: Maryland- Scoring Offense (24.1pts)....Scoring Defense (22.0pts)....Turnover Margin (-3); Clemson- Scoring Offense (38.3pts)....Scoring Defense (13.8pts)....Turnover Margin (+2)
Series Record: Clemson leads 29-23-2; last meeting- Clemson 28, Maryland 24 (2005)
In Summary: The Terps, through a bit of smoke and mirrors, have found themselves in a 1st-place tie with Boston College and Wake Forest atop the Atlantic Division, and already bowl eligible. Meanwhile, the Tigers are still reeeling from the big stinkeroo they dropped against Virginia Tech and now find themselves in a most desperate spot - fighting for their conference lives. For about a month, Clemson looked to be the odds-on favorite for the ACC crown and now find themselves 4th in their own division. They'll be pissed and Maryland will have to pay.
The Pick: Clemson 38, Maryland 17
Navy (5-3) at Duke (0-8)
Super-Fun Stats: Navy- Scoring Offense (23.5pts)....Scoring Defense (22.8pts)....Turnover Margin (+1); Duke- Scoring Offense (11.8pts)....Scoring Defense (30.8pts)....Turnover Margin (-9)
Series Record: Navy leads 18-12-5; last meeting- Navy 28, Duke 21 (2005)
In Summary: To the Devils' credit, they haven't quit on Ted Roof and have looked downright respectable in 3 of their last 4 games (close losses to Alabama and Miami, along with a breakout on offense against Vandy). Unfortunately, the Devils had to rely largely on those team's self-destruction to stay in the game, something they can't expect against a well-disciplined Midshipmen squad. Navy will call off the dogs early.
The Pick: Navy 34, Duke 10
North Carolina (1-7) at Notre Dame (7-1)
Super-Fun Stats: North Carolina- Scoring Offense (15.3pts)....Scoring Defense (32.7pts)....Turnover Margin (-14 !); Notre Dame- Scoring Offense (30.0pts)....Scoring Defense (21.6pts)....Turnover Margin (+4)
Series Record: Notre Dame leads 15-1; last meeting- Notre Dame 21, North Carolina 14 (1975)
In Summary: As bad as John Bunting is/was, it's matchups like this that helped bury him. No team in America has played as many brutal out-of-conference opponents (Utah, Louisville, Texas, Arizona State, Oklahoma to name a few) in the last few years than UNC. Coming off last week's near-upset of Wake, you'd think the Heels would have a smidgen of confidence, but that won't matter. They're going to continue to be a turnover factory and Brady Quinn and Co. will shred their defense all afternoon.
The Pick: Notre Dame 42, North Carolina 14
Boston College (7-1) at Wake Forest (7-1)
Super-Fun Stats: Boston College- Scoring Offense (27.4pts)....Scoring Defense (14.9pts)....Turnover Margin (+10); Wake Forest- Scoring Offense (23.1pts)....Scoring Defense (15.0pts)....Turnover Margin (+5)
Series Record: Boston College leads 6-5-2; last meeting- Boston College 35, Wake Forest 30 (2005)
In Summary: Call this the ACC Coach Of The Year Bowl. The two least-celebrated one-loss major conference teams in the country will square off this Saturday for the trip to the ACC title game next month. Judging by both squads' performances this season and going by the last three nailbiters in this series, I'm going to go out on a limb and predict this to be the best ACC game of the year. Just sit back and watch two small schools with decent - but certainly not great - overall talent duke it out on the big stage. Enough cannot be said about the incredible coaching jobs Tom O'Brien and Jim Grobe are turning in this year. Too bad one of 'em has to lose.
The Pick: Boston College 23, Wake Forest 20
Georgia Tech (6-2) at N.C. State (3-5)
Super-Fun Stats: Georgia Tech- Scoring Offense (26.1pts)....Scoring Defense (18.9pts)....Turnover Margin (+9); N.C. State- Scoring Offense (18.5pts)....Scoring Defense (20.9pts)....Turnover Margin (-10)
Series Record: Georgia Tech leads 16-9; last meeting- N.C. State 17, Georgia Tech 14 (2005)
In Summary: It is so tempting to pick a Wolfpack upset based on their pattern of winning games they should lose and losing every game they actually should win. But, upon closer inspection, that early-season pattern died when Maryland and Wake turned into division leaders, while FSU became a cellar dweller. Plus, the Jackets have been looking to this rematch ever since last year's mind-blowing loss to State when Calvin Johnson's game winning TD bounced off of his hands and into a Pack DB's mitts to steal the game for NCSU.
The Pick: Georgia Tech 27, N.C. State 10
Virginia Tech (6-2) at Miami (5-3)
Super-Fun Stats: Virginia Tech- Scoring Offense (28.5pts)....Scoring Defense (12.0pts)....Turnover Margin (+2); Miami- Scoring Offense (23.4pts)....Scoring Defense (14.9pts)....Turnover Margin (+5)
Series Record: Miami leads 16-7; last meeting- Miami 27, Virginia Tech 7 (2005)
In Summary: Perhaps nothing illustrates how rough a year the ACC is having than this matchup on Saturday night. What is usually a matchup of Top 10 teams late in the season is now just the 3rd best game in the league this week, with both clubs a shadow of their former selves. To the Hokies' credit, at least they enter this game ranked...barely (#23), and they come off a resounding victory over flavor-of-the-month Clemson. Miami, meanwhile, limps back into the Orange Bowl with 3 losses and there's even talk about replacing QB Kyle Wright with a kid named "Kirby". Things certainly are different in Coral Gables these days.
The Pick: Virginia Tech 17, Miami 13