It's not often that you can call an FSU-Miami weekend "calm", but with only one other conference matchup this Saturday (Virginia-Maryland), this will be the last weekend of the year that we'll see this many bye-weeks and patsy non-conference games. Starting next Thursday, it's all intra-conference bloodsport until the final weekend of the season.
This will have to be an abbreviated edition of my weekly preview due to stupid work priorities. Off we go...
CENTRAL MICHIGAN (4-3) at CLEMSON (4-2), 12pm ET
The Chippewas are not quite the pushover the Tigers thought they'd be when they scheduled this meeting for homecoming. Central Michigan looks to be the class of the MAC so far, while the Tigers are coming off a bye week, having had two full weeks now to digest their consecutive ugly losses to the Techs. The good news for Tommy Bowden and Co. is that the Chippewas' rush defense is kinda lame, and should allow James Davis and CJ Spiller to return from the deserted island they've been stranded on the last few weeks. Clemson 41, Central Michigan 24
ARMY (3-4) at GEORGIA TECH (4-3), 12pm
The Most Crushingly Disappointing Team of The Year continues their midseason redemption tour, this time by lining up against our nation's finest. Tashard Choice should have a bountiful day on the ground against the flimsy Cadet rush defense, while Jon Tenuta's troops will get their best chance all year at a shutout - the Black Knights rank 115th nationally in total offense. Georgia Tech 30, Army 6
WAKE FOREST (4-2) at NAVY (4-2), 1pm ET
For me, this will be the most purely enjoyable game to watch this whole weekend - two supreme head coaches butting heads in what should be an offensive showcase. Even better, both coaches have had ample time to prepare for each other (10 days for Paul Johnson, 9 days for Jim Grobe). I truly hope the Demon Deacon defense stifles the Navy QB, because I really don't want to type his alphabet-soup of a name in my weekend recap. Wake Forest 35, Navy 31
MIAMI (4-3) at FLORIDA STATE (4-2), 3:30pm ET
Two rivals with a much heftier hikes back to the top than expected face off in Tallahassee. As messed up as FSU is on the offensive side of the ball, the Canes' situation is even worse. Plus, the crumbled mess formerly known as the Miami defense is coming off back-to-back gashings by North Carolina and Georgia Tech. A trip to the unfriendly environs of Doak Campbell is not what the Hurricanes need as medicine for their ills. Florida State 19, Miami 13
N.C. STATE (1-5) at EAST CAROLINA (4-3), 4:30pm ET
How in the world were the Pirates able to swing home games with the Tar Heels and Wolfpack in the same year? Nice coup by the athletic department in Greenville, especially when they're going to go 2-0 in those meetings. Things are just really bad in Raleigh and it can't all be blamed on Chuck Amato. The State brass knew what personnel was in place when they hired the polar opposite of The Chest in Tom O'Brien, so the disaster that is 2007 should not be all that shocking in hindsight. I think O'Brien will eventually get it done in Raleigh, but if State and their fans thought it would be a relatively quick fix, they made the wrong hire. More pain is in store for the Pack. East Carolina 26, N.C. State 16
VIRGINIA (6-1) at MARYLAND (4-2), 8pm ET
Statement game to the extreme. Not much of anyone in the national media horde believes in the Hoos just yet, while the Terps are virtually invisible to the folks at ESPN, SI, CBS, etc. The loser here will tumble into a media black hole, likely never to be heard from again, while we'll hear and read feature after feature on the spunkiness of Vanderbilt, the kookiness of Coach O at Ole Miss, and the stoic approach of Sly Croom in Starkville (and that concludes my little jab-fest this week at the media and blogosphere on the overall ACC/SEC coverage disparity). The winner here makes a major move in the ACC race (especially if it's the kids in Charlottesville), and will have to be ranked in the next poll. The Terps appear to have the upper hand here...home game, coming off a bye week, and apparently having found a quality QB for the first time since Scott McBrien departed four long years ago. Maryland 28, Virginia 22