While at first glance there doesn't appear to be a lot of sex-appeal to these matchups, five of these games are intra-conference meetings....so the impact in the league standings will invariably be huge. Sure, while in the previous five weeks we've had hot, sizzling matchups like Oklahoma-Miami, LSU-Virginia Tech, Nebraska-Wake Forest, Miami-Texas A&M, Florida State-Alabama and Maryland-Rutgers, it turns out that those were superficial flings. The real, deep, and meaningful games this season can be found in such glossed-over matchups like Georgia Tech-Maryland and Miami-North Carolina. At first glance, they're OK - but when you get to know them, you really start to love them...
And I'll just stop right there - got a little too carried away with the metaphor. Sorry for any discomfort you may have experienced. But the point is valid...all of those huge out-of-conference matchups mean very little right now. Virginia Tech's demolition at LSU won't keep them out of the Orange Bowl. But losing to Clemson tomorrow probably will. Just as FSU - despite all the giddiness and excitement after Xavier Lee torched Alabama - still sits in the same boat in the ACC standings as they did one month ago: 0-1. Beating NC State tomorrow is far more important as a step toward the ACC Championship Game and all the good things beyond that.
Anyway, here's how things should pan out this weekend...
MIAMI at NORTH CAROLINA
Saturday 10/6/07, 12pm - Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, NC
Series Record: tied 5-5; the Hurricanes won last year's meeting 27-7
Stat Watch: 81.6%...Cane QB Kyle Wright's completion percentage over the last two games
Quick Overview: The ACC Subplot Game of the Week (previous editions: BC vs. NC State, FSU vs. Alabama) is this matchup in Chapel Hill, when former Miami skipper Butch Davis and his Tar Heels face off against his protege Randy Shannon and the Hurricanes. Kyle Wright has been on fire the last two weeks (as evidenced by the stat above), and he's not just dinking and dunking it either: he's averaging 12.6 yards per completion. The Miami ground game has started to take off in the last two weeks as well. Meanwhile, Carolina is in a dangerous spot...they dropped two winnable games in weeks 2 and 3 and then came out flatter than a Huddle House pancake in weeks 4 and 5. Another loss here and Butch Davis is going to have a very hard time getting his team to believe they can win another game, and that includes Duke.
Prediction: All of those interesting subplots get thrown out the window at kickoff. Miami's defense is just too much for the staggering UNC attack. Miami 24, North Carolina 10
GEORGIA TECH at MARYLAND
Saturday 10/6/07, 12pm - Byrd Stadium, College Park, MD
Series Record: Georgia Tech leads 13-5; the Yellow Jackets won last year's meeting 27-23
Stat Watch: 0...the number of times the Terps have started 0-2 in the ACC under the Fridge
Quick Overview: Both clubs are coming off upsets of Top 15 foes, as the Terps won at Rutgers and Tech defeated Clemson in last weekend's wackiness. The Terps had the more impressive victory, coming back from a second half deficit to beat the Scarlet Knights, while amassing 200+ yards both in the air and on the ground. The Yellow Jackets' win over Clemson was a tad flukier, what with the Tigers missing four makeable field goals, having a punt blocked, and fumbling a kickoff deep in their own territory. Nonetheless, Jon Tenuta's defense stifled Clemson's rushing duo of Davis and Spiller and turned Cullen Harper into Will Proctor. Right now, it's unclear whether Jordan Steffy (concussion) or backup Chris Turner will start at QB for Maryland, and that's actually a plus for them....both QBs are capable (Turner led the comeback against Rutgers) and the Tech defense will have to prepare for both. QBs aside, the Terrapins' rushing attack of Keon Lattimore and Lance Ball vs. the Georgia Tech front seven is the big matchup of the game.
Prediction: It's at Maryland, the Jackets are shakier on offense (Taylor Bennett has shown us why he never beat out Reggie Ball), and the Terps' rebound after the Wake disaster displayed the impressive mettle of their ballclub. Maryland 23, Georgia Tech 17
BOWLING GREEN at BOSTON COLLEGE
Saturday 10/6/07, 12pm - Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, MA
Series Record: first meeting
Stat Watch: 15...BC's current home winning streak, third-best in the country
Quick Overview: After sleepwalking to wins over Army and UMass, the Eagles need to wake up against a Falcon squad that will flat-out beat them if BC takes another day off. Bowling Green's passing attack ranks 8th in the nation and they've torched two Big Ten teams (Minnesota and Michigan State) for a combined 707 yards and 4 TDs through the air. On the flipside, the Eagle pass defense is ranked last in the ACC (99th nationally) and was burned for two long TD passes against UMass last week, single-handedly keeping the Minutemen in the game. Matt Ryan and the BC offense also need a quicker start this Saturday to alleviate lingering doubts about the overall quality of this Eagle team.
Prediction: That quick start happens, and Ryan makes a strong move in the Heisman race...but the Eagle secondary continues to be a concern. Boston College 38, Bowling Green 17
WAKE FOREST at DUKE
Saturday 10/6/07, 1pm - Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, NC
Series Record: Duke leads 54-31-2; the Demon Deacons won last year's meeting 14-13
Stat Watch: 12...Duke's current home losing streak, longest in the nation
Quick Overview: Last year's 14-13 Wake win on a blocked field goal at the gun still remains one of the more mystifying games of 2006. Combine that with the impression that Duke is clearly better than last year, while Wake is not quite up to par with their 2006 squad, and this has the makings of an interesting contest. Putting aside the opening day blasting by now 5-0 UConn in the season opener, the Devils have been downright respectable this year, losing to Virginia, Miami and Navy by a combined 24 points, and defeating Northwestern on the road. Wake has been pretty damn respectable as well, losing by three to Nebraska with a backup QB, playing BC relatively close and mounting a comeback for the ages against Maryland two weeks ago. All things considered, the Demon Deacons are just better in most phases of the game, they had a bye week last Saturday to rest and recuperate, and they'll likely bring as many fans to the game as Duke, negating the Blue Devil home-field advantage - if such a thing even exists.
Prediction: Wake almost always plays to the level of their competition, and this will be no exception. Wake Forest 24, Duke 16
N.C. STATE at FLORIDA STATE
Saturday 10/6/07, 3:30pm - Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL
Series Record: Florida State leads 17-8; the Wolfpack won last year's meeting 24-20
Stat Watch: 0...the number of points surrendered by the FSU defense in the first three quarters of their wins over Colorado and Alabama
Quick Overview: The season of the subplot in the ACC continues as Seminole LB coach Chuck Amato faces his most recent former team, the Wolfpack. FSU got a lot of folks excited with their win over Alabama last Saturday, a victory sparked by the display of staggering competence at the QB position by Xavier Lee. Yes, we've seen this before (at Maryland last year, albeit in a loss), followed up by a mediocre performance against Virginia and then capped by last year's fiasco against Wake in which Lee was 5-for-13 for 61 yards, with 2 picks. So why the optimism again? Not only is new OC Jimbo Fisher exponentially better than Jeff Bowden, but he's one of the game's premier QB coaches as well. As for NC State, last year's Seminole slayer, Daniel Evans, has the QB job all to himself for this week due to Harrison Beck's shoulder injury. A little steadiness under center is probably good for the Pack, even if the performance is shaky. What has to be concerning for NC State is that they managed to score just 10 points last week against a horrid Louisville defense. As noted above in the Stat Watch, the Noles have been doing a bang-up job of keeping folks off the scoreboard lately, at least until garbage time.
Prediction: Lee will make some mistakes, but will dazzle at times as well. Now that Amato is back on the Seminole sideline, the Wolfpack's hex over FSU has ended. Florida State 34, N.C. State 10
VIRGINIA TECH at CLEMSON
Saturday 10/6/07, 6pm - Memorial Stadium, Clemson, SC
Series Record: Clemson leads 17-11-1; the Hokies won last year's meeting 24-7
Stat Watch: 33-12...the average score of the last four meetings in this series, all Hokie wins
Quick Overview: And so it begins, Clemson fans. The annual offensive meltdown resulting in an upset loss, sending the season spiralling out of control. This time, there's a new twist...the Tigers now get to solidify their reputation - or destroy it - against the squad that started their freefall last year. Could this year be different? Maybe so. The Hokies will have a tough time blowing up Clemson's season if they can't actually put points on the board...the Tech offense, although steadier under Tyrod Taylor than Sean Glennon, ranks last in the ACC (112th nationally) and has scored just seven TDs so far this season against 1-A competition. But then, maybe this year's not so different - Virginia Tech's defense is typically stout, although certainly far from invincible; and let's not forget that Tiger QB Will Proctor was never the same last year after the beatdown in Blacksburg. Cullen Harper, riding high going into the Georgia Tech game, was pummelled by the Jackets and we have no idea how he'll respond. But, then again, maybe it will be different after all...the last time the Hokies entered a Death Valley to face a team called the Tigers, it didn't go so well.
Prediction: Meh, who knows if the Tigers are a different bunch this year; we'll know that in another few weeks. The Hokie offense just isn't good enough to put them over the top, especially on the road, even if Clemson helps them out a bit with a few turnovers. Clemson 17, Virginia Tech 10
VIRGINIA at MIDDLE TENNESSEE
Saturday 10/6/07, 7pm - Floyd Stadium, Murfreesboro, TN
Series Record: first meeting
Stat Watch: 3-7...Virginia's record in their last ten non-conference road games
Quick Overview: I'm almost a believer. After the Wyoming debacle, I completely wrote the Cavaliers off. To look so terrible after having so long to prepare was just inexcusable. And it still is. But the adjustments and growth made by the Hoo staff and players over the following four weeks has been extremely impressive. UVA has gotten better every week, so much so that they've come full circle since that loss in Laramie - last week, the Cavaliers were the ones laying waste to a non-conference foe, a foe that had entered the season more highly regarded than them. That 44-14 throttling of an admittedly overrated Pittsburgh squad was a cathartic moment for the Cavaliers this season, a moment that not only got them out of that Wyoming crater, but far enough away from it to where the Hoos are getting votes in both the coaches and media polls. That said, all the work done in the last month would be nuked by dropping a stinker in Murfreesboro this Saturday. And that's highly improbable, as the Blue Raiders are flat-out terrible this year. They've lost to FAU and Western Kentucky, and they've played just two good halves of football all season (the first halves against Louisville and FIU).
Prediction: The Wahoo Express stays on track. Virginia 37, Middle Tennessee 13