As you well know, this weekend marks the final University of Miami football game played in the rickety old Orange Bowl Stadium. A significant volume of college football history has played out for the last seven decades on that field and while college football fans and pundits aplenty will be bathed in Orange Bowl nostalgia this week, none of that obscures the fact that it's been a joke of a structure for the last 20-odd years. The city of Miami should be grateful that the Hurricanes stayed as long as they did in that blighted hellhole. Sentimental about that place, I am not.
WAKE FOREST (6-3) at CLEMSON (7-2)
Saturday, 11/10/07, 12pm ET - Memorial Stadium, Clemson, SC
Series Record: Clemson leads 55-16-1; the Tigers won last year's meeting 27-17
Stat Watch: 152.2...Clemson QB Cullen Harper's pass efficiency rating, 1st in the ACC
Brief Overview: I'm sure I'm not the only one waiting for the other shoe to drop on Clemson's season, and if it is going to happen, this Saturday's matchup with a revenge-minded Wake Forest club is likely the time. One of the two regular season blemishes on the Deacons' incredible season last year was their tussle with the Tigers, a game in which Wake led 17-3 going into the 4th quarter before everything fell apart. Clemson is rolling again now with Cullen Harper and James Davis, with CJ Spiller playing less of a part on offense but making his presence known on kickoff returns (as in his 84-yd KO return for a TD last week against Duke). The Tigers' two hiccups this season came against the powerfully stout defenses of the Techs. Wake's defense is pretty good, but probably not good enough to put the clamps down on Harper and Co.
Prediction: Wake desperately needs to get over the sting of last week's heartbreaker in Charlottesville, but the Tigers are the wrong team to start their recovery. Clemson 33, Wake Forest 21
N.C. STATE (4-5) at NORTH CAROLINA (3-6)
Saturday, 11/10/07, 12pm ET - Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, NC
Series Record: North Carolina leads 55-27-5; the Tar Heels won last year's meeting 23-9
Stat Watch: 11 & 12...UNC and NC State's respective ACC ranking in turnover margin
Brief Overview: October 13, 2007 may go down as one of the more important Saturdays in recent Wolfpack history. Whatever Tom O'Brien and his staff did with that bye weekend has worked wonders on this team, as they now ride a three game winning streak, which includes handing Virginia it's only ACC loss thus far and knocking off Miami in the rustbucket. To go from 1-5 to being thisclose to bowl eligibility is one of the better in-season turnarounds in recent ACC history. But let's not neglect Carolina, almost certainly the best six-loss team in the nation, but getting better nearly every week. And they're doing it with a ton of freshmen and sophomores. The Tar Heels could start a little miracle run of their own to a bowl with a win against State and two more victories after that.
Prediction: Always stick with the hot hand until it burns you. N.C. State 23, North Carolina 20
GEORGIA TECH (5-4) at DUKE (1-8)
Saturday, 11/10/07, 1pm ET - Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, NC
Series Record: Georgia Tech leads 43-30-1; the Yellow Jackets won last year's meeting 49-21 Stat Watch: 124...consecutive extra points made by Tech kicker Travis Bell
Brief Overview: An intriguing matchup only when you consider that these progams feature the two coaches most in danger of losing their jobs at season's end. I'm not saying either Ted Roof or Chan Gailey are sure to be canned next month, but they're the two on the thinnest ice of all ACC head coaches. The Jackets are clearly the biggest disappointment in the conference thus far, and you got the sense from watching them get drilled by the Hokies last week that they realize that too. Duke appears to be simply out of gas after a promising first month. Mercifully, this clash of the doldrums will not be televised.
Prediction: Pure talent wins out. Georgia Tech 27, Duke 20
FLORIDA STATE (6-3) at VIRGINIA TECH (7-2)
Saturday, 11/10/07, 3:30pm ET - Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA
Series Record: Florida State leads 21-10-1; the Seminoles won the last meeting 27-22, in the 2005 ACC Championship Game
Stat Watch: 15-0...Bobby Bowden's record against Virginia Tech (12-0 at FSU, 3-0 at West Virginia)
Brief Overview: How Florida State's rebuilt and improving offensive line handles the Hokies' brutal front seven is where this game begins and ends. You can count on either the Sean Glennon or Tyrod Taylor led Virginia Tech offense to score a little against FSU's defense...but not too much. What can't be counted on yet is whether Drew Weatherford will have enough time to pick apart the Hokie secondary much as he did against Boston College, who sports a better defensive backfield. Much has been said about the Seminoles' impressive winning streak against Virginia Tech, but it's a 12-game streak spread over 32 years. Just half of the current Hokie roster was present two years ago for their ACC Championship Game loss to FSU. You can't quite say that the Noles are in Tech's heads....yet.
Prediction: I just can't see the Seminoles pulling off two road upsets in a row, just as I can't picture the Hokies dropping two straight at Lane. Virginia Tech 20, Florida State 16
VIRGINIA (8-2) at MIAMI (5-4)
Saturday, 11/10/07, 7:15pm ET - Orange Bowl, Miami, FL
Series Record: Miami leads 3-1; the Cavaliers won last year's meeting 17-7
Stat Watch: 5...games Virginia has won by two or fewer points this season, an NCAA 1-A record
Brief Overview: If the Cavaliers can make it through the buzzsaw they're about to face and come away with a victory, I don't see how anyone can doubt them the rest of the way. Sure, Miami is a shell of what they were in their glory days, but the ramped up emotion and electricity in the Orange Bowl on Saturday night is going to be outright psychological warfare on the Hoos. A slew of Hurricane royalty will be in attendance and a rare, pumped up (read: drunk) sellout crowd will provide the 2007 Canes with a decided intangible advantage. I don't think the Cavaliers close-to-the-vest, play-for-the-last-possession formula's going to work this time out. They need to get the crowd out of the game as quickly as possible and build up a big enough lead by the fourth quarter so that the inevitable Miami comeback will be too little, too late.
Prediction: This one just screams for a classic Orange Bowl finish, with the last-second mojo finally going against the Cavaliers. Miami 20, Virginia 19
BOSTON COLLEGE (8-1) at MARYLAND (4-5)
Saturday, 11/10/07, 8pm ET - Byrd Stadium, College Park, MD
Series Record: Boston College leads 3-1; the Eagles won last year's meeting 38-16
Stat Watch: 101 & 107...Maryland's national ranking in passing offense & Boston College's national ranking in pass defense
Brief Overview: The reeling Terps may just be the tonic to soothe the Eagle's grief at the death of their national title hopes. Maryland is riding a three-game skid in which their offense has stagnated, their rushing attack in particular. That's bad news in College Park since the nation's best rush defense is none other than the Eagles. BC's all-or-nothing pass defense (18 interceptions but coughing up 273 yards per game) provides the Fridge's crew with a glimmer of hope, however faint. After two straight subpar outings (statistically), Matt Ryan needs to get back on track for the Eagles' stretch run. A third rough game by Matty Ice would likely be a death knell to BC's ACC title hopes with Clemson and Miami on tap in the final two weeks.
Prediction: Maryland simply matches up horribly with the Eagles. The Terp tailspin continues. Boston College 31, Maryland 14