It’s Week Nine in the ACC and we are heading head-first into conference games over the next month. Most teams are through their bye week, and now we have plenty of head-to-head action across the ACC over the final five weeks of the season. Before we get into our staff picks for the weekend, let’s take a look at the standings.
Justin: 57-13 (.814)
Joey: 56-14 (.800)
Mike: 55-15 (.786)
Grant*: 47-14 (.770)
Jeff*: 42-13 (.763)
Let’s get to our Week Nine picks…HERE. WE. GO.
Thursday, October 25th
Georgia Tech (3-4, 2-3 ACC) at Virginia Tech (4-2, 3-0 ACC) (-3), 12:20 PM ET on ACC Network
Grant: Playing against Paul Johnson’s “spread option” offense is no fun for anyone, but it seems like Justin Fuente has had even more trouble than most. The Hokies have gone 0-2 against Georgia Tech in Fuente’s tenure, making them the only team in the Coastal Division that Fuente has yet to beat. While Georgia Tech is no pushover, this is certainly not their best squad ever. Expect a close game, but the Hokies will get it done at home.
Joey: These are both flawed, somewhat inconsistent teams, which makes projecting this game borderline impossible. Virginia Tech’s defense has been as spotty as any Bud Foster unit has been, primarily driven by youth — which means they haven’t spent a lot of time against Georgia Tech’s offense in recent years. However, whether that’s an issue is to be seen, given Georgia Tech’s issues in executing on offense (especially in the passing game). On the other side, Virginia Tech’s Ryan Willis has been a serious mixed bag since stepping in for Josh Jackson — the best way I know to illustrate is that he led his team on a 15-play, 98-yard game-winning drive last week….that was only necessary because his team had dug themselves a hole against North Carolina, of all teams. He faces a Georgia Tech defense that has been a mixed bag of its own.
Jeff: This game is tough to call. Which team does each put on the field? The Hokies can’t give up 500+ yards again because that means Johnson’s offense won’t give Virginia Tech many possessions. But the Yellow Jackets can’t turn the ball over. That’s killed them in every game. I’ll wimp out and go with the home team Hokies to win.
Justin: The Hokies have lost two straight to Georgia Tech, both as a ranked opponent. That won’t be an issue this time as neither team is sniffing a spot in the polls right now. Paul Johnson has a history of performing poorly in non-Saturday games so I think Justin Fuente will won his 50th career game at home.
Mike: I have no idea what Virginia Tech team will show up here, but the same can certainly be said about Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets have been up and down all year, and their running game should pose Virginia Tech’s young defense some problems. With that being said, Virginia Tech is at home on a Thursday, and that should be enough to get the job done in a shootout.
Friday, October 26th
Miami (5-2, 2-1 ACC) (-2.5) at Boston College (5-2, 2-1 ACC), 7 PM ET on ESPN
Grant: After a promising start to the year, Boston College has stumbled a bit in recent weeks. The Eagles are still 2-1 in ACC play, but they just haven’t looked like the same team we saw in the first three games. AJ Dillon is not 100%, which is a huge concern. Combine that with the fact that Miami is coming off of an embarrassing loss which they will certainly be looking to move on from. Miami wins.
Joey: Miami’s quarterback situation coming into the year wasn’t great, quickly became bad, and somehow has only gotten worse. They’ll go back to Malik Rosier in a game where, despite each team’s strong rushing attack, the winner will likely be decided by quarterback play. Both defenses should be able to relatively contain the other’s rushing game, meaning someone’s going to have to make throws to win the game. I’m giving the edge to Boston College, being a weeknight home game. Boston College gets AJ Dillon back here, but again, this will come down to the arm of Anthony Brown. Brown has been great at taking care of the ball this year, with the exception of a 4-interception road game at Purdue about a month ago. I trust Boston College to win the turnover battle here, and win this game outright. Either way, this is a low-scoring game — play the UNDER 49.5.
Justin: Miami leads the all-time series 24-5 but they don’t appear to have a QB and this is a very game BC club. A.J. Dillon will return this week which bodes well for their chances of pulling a minor upset. I’m taking the Eagles in a close one.
Mike: No idea what is going to happen here with Malik Rosier and Miami, but I feel like they will make one more play than Boston College. I’ll regret this later I’m sure…
Saturday, October 27th
#2 Clemson (7-0, 4-0 ACC) at Florida State (4-3, 2-3 ACC), 12 PM ET on ABC
Grant: A lot of doubts had come up about the Clemson Tigers in lately. They were not dominating teams that they should be dominating. Were they regressing? Well the Tigers put that to rest last week in their beatdown of a top-20 NC State team. Clemson is still good, and FSU is running into them at the wrong time. Tigers win.
Joey: Florida State has talent, and has been playing better later! Their defense is actually pretty good! They’re playing at home! Clemson almost lost this year — TWICE!
Jeff: If Clemson plays like they did last week, they will be in the final 2. Keeping that intensity level will be tough. They won’t do it this week. But they’ll still have enough to win this game against an improving Florida State squad.
Justin: This marks just the second time in the last eight meetings that both teams aren’t ranked. Clemson is on auto-pilot right now and while this is traditionally an interesting game and pseudo-rivalry, I don’t see much of a challenge coming from FSU right now. Tigers win.
Mike: Ahem, Clemson minus anything.
Wake Forest (3-4, 0-3 ACC) at Louisville (2-5, 0-4 ACC) (-3), 12 PM ET on ACC Network Extra
Grant: I generally don’t like to sit here and rail on teams, but to put it nicely, Louisville is really bad. They have virtually no defense, and while the offense has picked it up a bit, they are still below average. How Louisville is favored in this game is beyond me. Wake Forest has really been a decent team this year, and it was surprising to see them look as flat as they did at times against Florida State. I expect the Deacs to bounce back and win this one fairly easily.
Joey: I know, this game probably isn’t all that interesting to you, but hear me out: all you have to do is reverse the win-loss records, and this would be a battle of undefeated teams in ACC play!
Jeff: Some teams are losing close games but playing well in the process. These two aren’t in that category. They’re losing and looking bad doing it. I’ll go with the fighting Petrinos at home…because they’re at home.
Justin: I know Wake hasn’t been impressing lately and their defense resembles hot garbage juice, however Louisville seems to have collectively checked out. I’m going to keep picking Wake to win against my better judgments. Demon Deacons, close and ugly.
Mike: Don’t watch this game…don’t do this to yourself. With that disclaimer now in the books, I like Wake Forest here. Louisville is *probably* more talented, but they have quit on Bobby Petrino. Wake is still playing hard for Clawson, so I think they’ll find a way on the road.
North Carolina (1-5, 1-3 ACC) at Virginia (5-2, 3-1 ACC) (-9), 12:20 PM ET on ACC Network Extra
Grant: I guess I have to say it now: UVA is for real. I’ve been trying to avoid it each and every week, but they give me no choice. A team that knocks off the favorite in the Coastal and then goes on the road to beat a very good Blue Devis squad cannot be ignored. The Cavaliers are not messing around, and the Tar Heels invent new ways to lose every week. UVA wins.
Joey: Virginia beat Duke last week to pull within a half-game of the lead in the ACC Coastal, and is starting to get some national attention as a team that could legitimately play in Charlotte for the ACC Championship game. UNC, meanwhile, is 1-5 on the year, but has been playing better lately. Aside from a blowout loss on a Thursday night at Miami where they put on a clinic in “How Not to Take Care of the Ball”, the Tar Heels could easily have won against Virginia Tech and Syracuse to go with their win over Pittsburgh. (They’re 3-1 ATS in those games as well, with the lone loss being that 37-point loss in south Florida.) The ‘Hoos continue to play solid, reliable football, and I think they’ll win here, but I don’t know if they’ll be able to pull away in this one and cover.
Jeff: Think about this for a second…UNC is two plays from being 3-1 in the ACC and having these two teams play for the outright lead in the Coastal Division(assuming BC beats Miami). Unlike Wake and Louisville, UNC has had victory in their grasp two weeks in a row and let it go. UVA is on a roll, but can they keep it going, or is it time for a let down? This will be a competitive game. Coin flip tells me…UVA in a squeaker.
Justin: The Tar Heels have nearly pulled off upsets in back-to-back games, but fallen short at the very end. Virginia keeps rolling and while I think they’re due for a hiccup, I don’t think it comes here. Wahoos win.
Mike: Virginia wins here but I like North Carolina to cover on the road. I how no real rationale for this but that’s what I’m rolling with at this point.
Duke (5-2, 1-2 ACC) (-2.5) at Pittsburgh (3-4, 2-1 ACC) (-9), 3:30 PM ET on ACC Network Extra
Grant: A lot of people say that playing at Heinz Field seems to be some sort of trap. Maybe it’s not Heinz Field, but rather the Panthers themselves. Pittsburgh’s upset win over Clemson a couple of years ago has been well documented, and that was on the road. Two weeks ago, Pitt went into South Bend and gave the Fighting Irish…well, a heck of a fight (see what I did there?) All that to say, the Panthers should not be taken lightly. However, Duke is desperate for a win, and Daniel Jones is due to have a big game. Blue Devils win.
Joey: We discussed this on the Week 9 preview on the Basketball Conference podcast, but one thing that sticks out to me here: public consensus would be that Duke is better than Pittsburgh, but…are they? With Duke’s injuries on defense, are they really better on that side than Pitt? Is Daniel Jones really that much better than Kenny Pickett at this point? Is the Duke running game really any better than Pittsburgh’s? I think there’s something to be said about those questions, and it shows in Duke being favored by less than the “home-field advantage allowance” of 3 points. Still, Duke has found ways to win games this year and finds themselves at 5-2, while Pittsburgh finds themselves at 3-4 with a pair of wins I’d probably consider “lucky”. Plus, S&P+ has Duke as nearly an 8-point favorite — that’s too big of a difference from the line for me to ignore.
Jeff: For some reason I’m going all in with Pitt in this game.
Justin: Neither of these teams can be fully trusted at this point. Duke is heading into disappointment territory even though I still maintain this is the most talent David Cutcliffe has had. Pitt wins in an empty stadium.
Mike: Like Jeff, I’m also all-in with Pittsburgh…don’t ask me why. Duke is fraudulent, and Pitt is awful. That’s how I feel about it, give me Pitt at home…I GUESS.
#22 NC State (5-1, 2-1 ACC) (-2.5) at Syracuse (5-2, 2-2 ACC), 7 PM ET on ESPN2
Grant: The Wolfpack really seemed poised to give Clemson a really competitive game last weekend. Instead, they went down 14-0 early and never even put up a fight. As disappointing as that was, NC State still has a good team. The challenge now will be to continue to play hard despite the fact that the Atlantic Division title is probably out of reach. The Wolfpack still have a lot to play for, though, and they will start with a win against Syracuse.
Joey: The Wolfpack suffered a pretty deflating loss last week at the hands of Clemson and it’s hard to say how well they’ll bounce back. At the same time, Syracuse needed a comeback, overtime effort to claim a victory over 1-5 UNC. The Orange seem to be fading lately, as we’ve gotten used to them doing later in the season under Dino Babers. This feels like we’re underrating NC State and overrating Syracuse. NC State wins and covers.
Jeff: HUGE game in the dome at night. Can the Wolfpack rebound after a huge let down? Can Syracuse take that next step in the Babers’ era? I think so. Upset pick of the week, the Orange win at home in the dome.
Justin: Well, now what do we make of State? I have no idea as we couldn’t get much of a read off a shellacking by Clemson. I think they’re tougher than that showing, but Syracuse remains a weird place to play. Orange pull their yearly upset of a ranked team.
Mike: I don’t care that the game is in the Carrier Dome like Vegas does. I got NC State winning this game outright by 7-10 points. I just don’t trust Syracuse’s ability to defend NC State’s passing attack.