Around the ACC Week 12 Preview


#17 North Carolina (9-1, 6-0) @ Virginia Tech (5-5, 3-3)

Frank Beamer’s final home game is the big story, but Carolina’s magical season is at the forefront as well. North Carolina is rolling and is ready to claim the Coastal Division title, with the Hokies standing in the way of their goals for now. Since before the season started, Larry Fedora has held “Coastal champs and state champs” as the team’s main goals. Those are well within reach now and the way UNC’s offense is cruising, it will be a stern test for the rallying Virginia Tech defense.

After a strong outing against Georgia Tech, the Hokies are ranked 22nd nationally in total defense. Tech has struggled for years now with mobile quarterbacks however, which means Marquise Williams poses a serious problem with his 6.9 yards per carry this season. Elijah Hood also has 945 yards on the ground, which means the Hokies’ 63rd ranked run-stopping unit is in for a workout. They’ll have to meet the challenge if they want to become bowl eligible and give Frank Beamer a win in his final home game.


Georgia Tech (3-7, 1-6) @ Miami (6-4, 3-3)

Miami is now 2-1 under interim coach Larry Scott, but the Canes have a great shot to win another as the Yellow Jackets limp into town. Georgia Tech lost a nail-biter at home to the Hokies last Thursday making it the latest disappointment in a season filled with them. Bud Foster’s defense was once again schemed well to stifle the option attack, and that limited the big plays in the running game. It seems unlikely however that Miami’s run defense can muster the same kind of effort given its current national ranking of 101st.

The Canes will look to utilize Brad Kaaya’s passing ability coupled with an improving rushing attack to control the clock when they have the ball. Joseph Yearby has put together a nice season with 793 yards (5.1 YPC) and five touchdowns on the ground. In last week’s loss to North Carolina, Yearby ran for 74 yards and caught four passes for 79. Another well-balanced effort from Yearby will go a long way towards giving the Canes the upper hand against a Tech defense that is sorely missing injured tackle Adam Gotsis.


Syracuse (3-7, 1-5) @ N.C. State (6-4, 2-4)

North Carolina State has a chance to ever-so-slightly improve its bowl standing with yet another win over a poor opponent. The Wolfpack has played the 72nd toughest schedule in the nation to date, including a non-conference slate that has produced a 19-20 overall record. After Syracuse, State finishes the regular season with a clash against rival North Carolina, so this game appears to be the best chance to tack on a victory before bowl selections are made.

Syracuse has played well at times this season even giving top foes like Clemson and LSU a fight, but having success with any consistency over 60-minute increments has proved to be a profound challenge. The Orange rank 103rd in total defense, 117th in total offense, and have been forced to play a number of young quarterbacks after a slew of injuries at the position. How have they been handling the 7-game losing streak? “For me, it’s just a matter of focusing in on things that are out in front of us right now,” Scott Shafer said. “All the other things behind closed doors are just that – behind closed doors between me, my staff and anyone in the administration.” Clearly, Shafer knows his job status is up in the air, but two wins to close the season could make a compelling case to keep him.


Chattanooga (8-2) @ #14 Florida State (8-2, 6-2)

Florida State decided to take a break from the grind of conference play with the kind of game normally reserved for early September. This isn’t your typical FCS squad however as the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga come in ranked No. 10 in the country and they were No. 3 before a loss two weeks ago at Mercer. The Mocs are also Southern Conference champions, meaning they have a lot of momentum, confidence, talent, and absolutely nothing to lose in a game that can only help their playoff position.

Florida State is still a very good football team despite its two losses. They’ll have plenty of emotion on their side as they honor the program’s seniors and wear all black uniforms which gets people excited for some reason. Sean Maguire was named the starting quarterback for the remainder of the season this week after playing well for an injured Everett Golson, and leading a come-from-behind win over N.C. State after replacing an ineffective Golson. That means less scrambling around from the quarterback spot, but more efficient passing. I expect this will be a close game for the most part, with FSU pulling away late.


Wake Forest (3-7, 1-5) @ #1 Clemson (10-0, 7-0)

The only thing standing between Clemson and a perfect regular season in conference play is Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons are one of three teams with a 3-7 overall record at the bottom of the top-heavy Atlantic Division. Even though they lost the head-to-head match up with Syracuse early in the season, Wake is probably the better team as they boast the 23rd best defense in the country and have better quarterback play. After the scare put into Clemson by the Orange last week, the Tigers will be more than ready for a team they should beat comfortably.

Two of Wake’s three wins have come on the road this season, but those were against Army and Boston College. Clemson is the best team in the country and, remarkably, the defense is even better than the excellent offense. Clemson is No. 3 in pass defense so running is a slightly better option (No. 25 run defense), but Wake is one of the worst teams in the country when it comes to running the ball. They average just 111.1 yards per game, good for 120th out of 127 teams. The Tigers will likely be refocused after the scare last week and won’t allow the Demon Deacons to have much success in Death Valley.


Duke (6-4, 3-3) @ Virginia (3-7, 2-4)

Virginia is playing for pride, but given the 80 available bowl slots this year, two wins could actually put these 3-7 teams in the postseason. The ACC may not be able to fulfill all of its bowl obligations, with only eight teams currently bowl eligible for nine slots. If rival Virginia Tech loses to UNC and the Cavaliers to finish the season, it would appear a 5-7 team will go bowling. The Cavaliers have proven that they have talent that is horribly mismanaged by a coaching staff on its way out. They are more than capable of winning this game if Matt Johns can limit his mistakes and the suddenly resurgent ground game can get a foothold.

Duke is reeling and just trying to find a soft spot to land after three straight losses. Charlottesville may in fact be the perfect tonic for what ails the the Blue Devils. Duke doesn’t wow you with anything they do, but they aren’t particularly bad at anything either. They rank 34th in total defense and 43rd in total offense with a coach who gets everything he can out of his kids. They appear to be a perfectly capable above average team that has taken a step back to .500 caliber play in the last month. Quarterback Thomas Sirk should return for this contest as he’s listed as probable. That could be just enough of a boost to calm the waters in Durham.


Louisville (6-4, 5-2) @ Pittsburgh (7-3, 5-1)

I don’t have a particularly strong record of predicting such things this season, but I have a feeling this game will be quite good. Neither team has a great offense and both squads lean heavily on their defenses to keep them competitive. Louisville is 14th in total defense while Pitt ranks 25th. Louisville seems to have finally settled into a quarterback plan that has Kyle Bolin playing the majority of snaps. That leaves Reggie Bonnafon and Lamar Jackson as dangerous role players capable of providing a jolt to the Cardinal offense at any point.

Pitt has been able to be the ground-oriented, ball control kind of team Pat Narduzzi loves despite losing James Conner at the beginning of the season. Qadree Ollison (859 yards, nine touchdowns) looks like he’ll be yet another 1,000-yard back and the passing game has settled nicely around the ruthlessly efficient Nate Peterman. He’s completed 62.5% of his passes for 1,776 yards, 14 touchdowns and just four interceptions. The Panthers won’t wow your with dazzling passes, but they don’t really need to in order to be successful. If you like bruising battles with fairly low scoring, this might just be your ticket this weekend.


Boston College (3-7, 0-7) @ #4 Notre Dame (9-1) played at Fenway Park in Boston, MA.

Oh what could have been for Boston College. They still have the best defense in the country despite playing Clemson and Florida State, but that offense just can’t get anything going. Walk-on John Fadule has been a revelation at quarterback, which is in itself a revelation of sorts. Fadule has thrown for 400 yards in two games this season. That’s more than the individual totals of both Troy Flutie and Jeff Smith through seven games. The spark hasn’t been enough however, and the No. 1 total defense has been repeatedly weighed down by the fifth worst offense in the nation.

That’s really quite a testament to the Irish season thus far. They’re absolutely loaded with talent, sure, but this has been a remarkable job by Brian Kelly of preparing his players for when their time comes. He’s managed his roster with perfection and hasn’t had to change too much of what they want to do despite a new starting backfield that features a sophomore quarterback. Notre Dame needs just this game and a win against Stanford next week to put the finishing touches on a magical season and solidify its case for a College Football Playoff bid. Also, this game will be played in Fenway Park for some reason.

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