Friday, October 26, 2007

Week 9 Preview, Part II: Top That

There are four conference games on tap this Saturday, and we will be so fortunate if any of them come close to last night's drama in Blacksburg...

NORTH CAROLINA (2-5) at WAKE FOREST (5-2)
Saturday, 10/27/07, 12pm ET - BB&T Field, Winston-Salem, NC
Series Record:
North Carolina leads 67-33-2; Wake Forest won last year's meeting 24-17
Stat Watch: 20-5...Jim Grobe's record against North Carolina-based schools
Brief Overview: For a team that almost always plays right to the level of their competition, Wake's destruction of Navy in Annapolis last week may be the signal of the Deacons shifting gears into a true conference and (gulp) national heavyweight. Wake's balance on offense last week (216 passing yards, 193 rushing yards) along with no turnovers is a healthy and impressive outcome, particularly against a team as well-coached as Paul Johnson's Midshipmen. As for the Tar Heels, their record may not show it, but Butch Davis' crew is starting to hit a groove (see: Miami and South Carolina), and they're coming off a much-needed bye week of rest and preparation for the Demon Deacons.
Prediction: All that stufff I said about Wake shifting gears? Fugheddaboutit...they'll revert back to their tried-and-true ways of playing neck and neck with their opponent. And as usual since last season, they'll get the W. Wake Forest 31, North Carolina 27

CLEMSON (5-2) at MARYLAND (4-3)
Saturday, 10/27/07, 3:30pm ET - Byrd Stadium, College Park, MD
Series Record:
Clemson leads 29-24-2; Maryland won last year's meeting 13-12
Stat Watch: 32-10...Ralph Friedgen's record in Byrd Stadium
Brief Overview: At the conclusion of this matchup, one team's season will have reached it's breaking point, while the other can continue with it's delusions of grandeur vis-a-vis Boston College and the Atlantic Division. The Terps have now let two games get away from them in the last minute (Wake and UVA), and there's a fine line between recovery and relapse after going through two traumatic defeats such as those. Meanwhile, the Tigers dropped a healthy ten touchdowns on Central Michigan last week, a game in which Cullen Harper was just about statistically perfect (20 of 22, 273yds, 5 TDs, 1 INT....meaning he only had one actual "incomplete" pass). The Tiger rushing attack steamrolled the Chippewas for 341 yards, and their leading rusher was neither James Davis nor CJ Spiller. And we've seen this all before. Clemson fans may get tired of hearing it, but Tommy Bowden's teams do this all the time.....they do everything right one week, then do everything wrong the next.
Prediction: In this nutty season, Clemson has still been admirably consistent from years' past. That means they'll either clobber the Turtles or lose in inexplicable fashion...and I'm going with the latter. Maryland 21, Clemson 13

VIRGINIA (7-1) at N.C. STATE (2-5)
Saturday, 10/27/07, 4:30pm ET - Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, NC
Series Record:
N.C. State leads 31-20; Virginia won last year's meeting 14-7
Stat Watch:
-17...N.C. State's turnover margin this season, dead last in 1-A
Brief Overview: It's tough to find any conceivable way for the Pack to pull this one off...they're a noxious mix of unlucky (injuries out the wazoo) and self-destructive (see Stat Watch above), while the Cavaliers have been machine-like in numerous tense, down-to-the-wire meatgrinders this year. State's Daniel Evans is coming off perhaps his best game as a QB in last week's win at East Carolina, while Jameel Sewell was superb in leading the Cavs on a bruising 90-yard drive to beat Maryland late in the 4th-quarter last week. The Hoo defense has kicked things up in the last few games, led by the soon-to-be-sickeningly-wealthy-in-his-own-right Chris Long at DE.
Prediction: There's no reason to think this will be anything other than a typical Virginia 2007 barnburner. They're on the road, facing a team desperate for some momentum....but the Cavs' charmed life continues for another week. Virginia 26, N.C. State 20

DUKE (1-6) at FLORIDA STATE (4-3)
Saturday, 10/27/07, 8pm ET - Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL
Series Record:
Florida State leads 15-0; the Seminoles won last year's meeting 51-24
Stat Watch: 52-17...average score in the 15 meetings between the two schools
Brief Overview: Ala' Clemson-Maryland, this matchup is likely a breaking point game for both schools. The Seminoles are coming off two straight defeats, capped by a ridiculous loss to Miami in which the Hurricanes - led by Kirby Freeman at QB - marched 83 yards in a minute late in the 4th quarter to win. The FSU defense has been positively atrocious in the 4th quarter as of late - turning comfortable shutout wins over Colorado and Alabama into late nailbiters, and then blowing the Wake Forest and Miami games. Florida State fans should fear for their emotional and mental health if Duke is within 10 with less than 5 minutes to go on Saturday. As for those Devils, all those near-upsets in the last month with nary a win to show for it have started to take their toll. Their 43-14 loss to Virginia Tech on Oct. 13 was the epitome of mentally mailing it in. Still, QB Thaddeus Lewis is just the kind of player that gives the Nole defense fits, and - wow - he may be the best QB on the field Saturday, with Drew Weatherford back under center for FSU.
Prediction: Weatherford is as vanilla they come at QB, but at the very least he isn't the turnover machine that Xavier Lee morphed into. And it's turnovers - lots of them - that the Blue Devils need to pull off the stunner. Won't happen, but the Noles will look very pedestrian in the win. Florida State 30, Duke 13

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