Three highly intriguing matchups highlight the Saturday afternoon/evening slate in ACC land. Granted, we have to slog through one more turkey of a game to get there, but it's a small price to pay.
SOUTH CAROLINA STATE (2-1) at CLEMSON (2-1)
Saturday, 9/20/08, 1pm ET - Memorial Stadium, Clemson, SC
Series Record: first meeting
Storyline: It's high time for some CJ Spiller and James Davis double-duty destruction.
Brief Overview: If the so-far-less-than-dynamic duo can't get things going on Saturday, then all sorts of problems lie ahead for the Tigers. In SC State's one encounter with a 1-A opponent this season, they were blanked 17-0 at UCF and allowed 228 yards on the ground. Clunky OL or not, 300 yards plus rushing is the target the Tigers need to hit. This would be a fine time for Clemson to showcase some younger talent on defense and give the starters a breather after halftime.
Prediction: 100+ yards on the ground for both Spiller and Davis, a short and serviceable day for Cullen Harper, some big plays from backup QB Willy Korn, and a happy home crowd. Clemson 52, South Carolina State 10
MIAMI (1-1) at TEXAS A&M (1-1)
Saturday, 9/20/08, 3:30pm ET - Kyle Field, College Station, TX
Series Record: tied 1-1; the Hurricanes won last year's meeting 34-17
Storyline: Was that Hurricane defense we saw in Gainesville for real?
Brief Overview: Yes, I believe that Miami D was for real, including the inevitable collapse in the fourth quarter against the Gators - and there's no shame in that, considering the youth in Coral Gables and the ferocity of the UF attack. If the Canes really have learned from that loss as they claim they have, they should have a field day in College Station - the Aggie offense is a mess, regardless of who the QB is. A&M couldn't stop Arkansas State or New Mexico on the ground - how can they hope to contain Graig Cooper? The only way The U drops this one is if QB Robert Marve channels Kirby Freeman.
Prediction: Cooper rushes 30+ times for 180 yards, Marve is decent but unspectacular, and the Hurricane defense is stifling. Miami 21, Texas A&M 10
VIRGINIA TECH (2-1) at NORTH CAROLINA (2-0)
Saturday, 9/20/08, 3:30pm ET - Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, NC
Series Record: Virginia Tech leads 16-9-6; the Hokies won last year's meeting 17-10
Storyline: UNC, your time is now.
Brief Overview: In the biggest game in Chapel Hill since the Carolina-FSU meeting in 1997, the Tar Heels face off against the Hokies for the driver's seat in the Coastal Division. This one comes down to the coaching staffs - surprisingly or not, the Heels have a clear edge in talent. What they don't have an edge in is big-game exposure, something in which the Hokies have plenty of experience. On paper, UNC should be able to run up and down the field against the young Tech defense, but count on Bud Foster to throw some wrinkles that will confuse Carolina QB TJ Yates a time or two. It's up to Butch Davis and crew to keep their players focused and even-keeled leading up to, and throughout, the game. You can bet that Frank Beamer will have the Hokies in the right frame of mind.
Prediction: Talent wins out, but it'll be close. North Carolina 26, Virginia Tech 21
WAKE FOREST (2-0) at FLORIDA STATE (2-0)
Saturday, 9/20/08, 7pm ET - Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL
Series Record: Florida State leads 21-4-1; the Demon Deacons won last year's meeting 24-21
Storyline: For the Seminoles, redemption for the last two seasons. For the Deacons, affirmation of the last two years.
Brief Overview: In a scenario almost unimaginable three years ago, the Seminoles look to take a huge step back into the national spotlight by knocking off Wake Forest. And it will be a dogfight, a showdown between well-schooled and brilliantly led workmanlike veterans vs. a revamped mix of overflowing but young and unproven talent. The key matchups: the Seminole secondary vs. QB Riley Skinner's precision accuracy and the Demon Deacon defense vs. the wave of playmakers led by Antone Smith, Corey Surrency and the fresh-off-suspension Preston Parker. And let's not forget that FSU QBs Christian Ponder and D'Vo Richardson have been flawless in the first two appearances, albeit against lame opposition. What hasn't been flawless in the first two weeks in Tallahassee has been the kicking game - three missed field goals and two missed extra points (by backup kickers) are a major cause of concern; rumor has it that Graham Gano (last year's punter and heir apparent kicker prior to an August injury) may suit up this Saturday. Wake has no such worries in the kicking department, as Sam Swank is a cold-blooded assassin. Just ask Ole Miss.
Prediction: The ACC Game of the Year. But it boils down to this: Wake is today's ACC power, FSU is yesterday's champion...and maybe tomorrow's. Wake Forest 28, Florida State 27
And thus endeth the week 4 preview.