Athlon previews the Week 7 action in the ACC.
With only four games on the Week 7 slate, it's a relatively quiet Saturday of action in the ACC. Florida State looks to bounce back after last week's disappointing loss to NC State, as struggling Boston College visits Tallahassee. The North Carolina-Miami is the ACC's best matchup for Week 7 and should be an entertaining offensive affair with both teams averaging over 30 points a game.
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ACC's Top Storylines for Week 7
Can Florida State get back on track?
Last week’s loss against NC State was a crushing defeat for Florida State. Any shot the Seminoles had of competing for a national title is over, and the team must refocus its goals on winning the ACC Championship and finishing in the top five of the BCS at the end of the year. Florida State simply has too much talent to be losing on the road to NC State, but this team still has a lot to play for, starting with this week’s game against Boston College. The Seminoles need some help to win the ACC Atlantic title, but they should be 8-1 heading into a Thursday night matchup against Virginia Tech on Nov. 8. Florida State shouldn’t have to sweat much to beat the Eagles on Saturday, especially after Boston College lost 34-31 to Army last week. In last season’s matchup in Chestnut Hill, the Seminoles crushed the Eagles 38-7. Even if Florida State gets off to a slow start because of last week’s disappointment, this team should pull away for an easy victory in the second half.
Bowl elimination game between Maryland and Virginia?
Even though there’s a lot of football to be played in the second half of the year, Saturday’s game between Maryland and Virginia will be crucial to both team’s bowl hopes. Thanks to a 19-14 win over Wake Forest last week, the Terrapins have already surpassed 2011’s win total and have a manageable upcoming stretch of games. Although the offense has struggled, the defense ranks seventh nationally in yards allowed. Virginia desperately needs to get into the win column, as it has lost four consecutive games and is still searching for its first win in ACC play this season. After this week’s game against the Terrapins, the Cavaliers take on Wake Forest and NC State, so a win on Saturday would help build momentum for a must-win stretch of games. Quarterback play and turnovers will be crucial to the outcome of this contest. Both teams rank at the bottom of the NCAA in turnover margin, while Maryland ranks 117th nationally in offensive yards per game. Virginia tried to jumpstart its offense by inserting Alabama transfer Phillip Sims into the lineup at quarterback and he finished with 268 yards on 21 completions against Duke. While the Cavaliers have been able to throw the ball this year, the rushing attack and offensive line still need work. This isn't a back against the wall game for either team, but it's a crucial one, especially at the midpoint of the 2012 season.
Miami or North Carolina: Which defense can make key stops?
If you like offense, then Saturday’s Miami-North Carolina matchup should be the game of the week in the ACC. The Tar Heels are averaging 44 points per contest, while the Hurricanes have averaged 42.3 points per game in ACC play this season. Both quarterbacks have been stellar at times this season, as North Carolina’s Bryn Renner is completing 62.7 percent of his throws, while Miami’s Stephen Morris leads all ACC quarterbacks with 1,836 yards this year. Not only will the Hurricanes have their hands full trying to slow down Renner, they will need to find an a way to stop running back Giovani Bernard. Miami is allowing 250.7 rushing yards per game and Bernard gashed Virginia Tech for 262 yards last Saturday. With two potent offenses likely to control the tempo of the game, timely stops will be crucial on Saturday afternoon. Miami isn’t generating much pressure on opposing quarterbacks but has forced 12 turnovers. The Tar Heels have allowed at least 28 points in games against BCS conference foes, with matchups against Elon, East Carolina and Idaho slightly skewing their overall numbers. Expect plenty of points between these two teams – Vegas has the over/under set at 68 – but it’s up to the defenses to get a timely stop or turnover to decide the outcome.
Can Duke get bowl eligible?
With six weeks in the books, it’s fair to say Duke's David Cutcliffe is the early leader in the clubhouse for ACC Coach of the Year. The Blue Devils haven’t knocked off a top-25 team but have wins over Virginia and Wake Forest and need just one more victory to get bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. Despite an elbow injury to quarterback Sean Renfree last week, Duke didn’t miss a beat on offense. Backup Anthony Boone completed 18 of 31 passes for 212 yards and four scores and will likely see time this week, even if Renfree returns to the lineup. Although the rushing attack hasn’t been prolific, the Blue Devils have shown signs of life on the ground, while the defense ranks 50th nationally in yards allowed. Duke has never won in Blacksburg and has been outscored 162-37 in its last five road matchups against Virginia Tech. While the odds are against them, the Blue Devils are an improved team and will catch the Hokies at a good time, especially after losses in three out of their last four games.
What’s Wrong at Virginia Tech?
With a 3-3 start and losses in three out of their last four games, the Hokies are one of the nation’s biggest disappointments in the first half of the season. Both sides of the ball share blame, but a defense that returned eight starters and ranked second in the conference in points allowed last season is struggling. Virginia Tech ranks 64th nationally in total defense and is allowing nearly 200 rushing yards per game (196.7). Quarterback Logan Thomas threw for 354 yards in last week’s loss to North Carolina, but as thrown seven interceptions and isn’t getting much help from the rushing attack. With problems on both sides of the ball, there’s no guarantee this is a fix that can happen during the 2012 season. However, there’s still plenty of time to right the ship, but the Hokies’ schedule isn’t easy, as Duke and Florida State visit Blacksburg, while they hit the road for games against Clemson and Miami. Before the season, it would have been almost unthinkable to consider Saturday’s game against Duke a must-win for Virginia Tech. However, if this team wants to claim the ACC Coastal title once again, the Hokies need to beat the Blue Devils and build some momentum for the final five games of the season.
The last games of the Frank Spaziani era at Boston College?
Coming into 2012, Boston College coach Frank Spaziani probably needed to get to a bowl game to save his job. The Eagles still have a chance to play their way into the postseason but a 1-4 start and a difficult upcoming schedule make six wins nearly impossible. The biggest setback to this team was the 34-31 loss to Army last week. Although the Black Knights are a difficult team to prepare for, that’s a game Boston College could not afford to lose if it wants to reach a bowl. Spaziani’s overall record is just 21-23 and will be evaluated by new athletic director Brad Bates at the end of the year. Although he started out with back-to-back bowl games in his first two years, Spaziani’s team is trending in the wrong direction and is just 5-12 in its last 17 games.
Week 7 ACC Predictions
|Week 7 ACC Games||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|Duke at Virginia Tech||VT 21-14||VT 31-28||VT 31-24||VT 27-17|
|UNC at Miami||Miami 35-31||UNC 30-28||UNC 38-34||Miami 37-33|
|Maryland at Virginia||Maryland 14-10||Virginia 24-23||Virginia 24-20||Maryland 17-13|
|Boston College at Florida State||FSU 41-14||FSU 38-14||FSU 41-10||FSU 38-13|
by Steven Lassan
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