Athlon previews the Week 12 action in the ACC.
With the season winding down, the Week 12 slate in the ACC could bring some much-needed clarity to the conference title game. If Florida State beats Maryland, the Seminoles would clinch the Atlantic Division title. The Coastal Division is still murky, but Duke and Miami would appear to have the inside track. However, Georgia Tech's late-season surge has it in the mix, while there's still uncertainty on whether or not the Hurricanes will be able to play in any postseason game this year.
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Can Virginia keep the momentum going?
The Oct. 27 bye week seems to have rejuvenated Virginia. The offense scored 74 points in its last two games, which is easily the best two-game stretch in 2012. Quarterback Michael Rocco sparked the passing attack last week, throwing for 300 yards and four scores against Miami. The rushing attack has four touchdowns over the last two weeks, which is nearly as many as the team had through the first eight games (6). While the late-season surge has moved Virginia closer to a winning record, it still needs two wins to get bowl eligible. Thursday night’s matchup with North Carolina is the 117th meeting between these two schools and there’s a lot on the line for both teams. The Cavaliers need a win to stay alive for a bowl game, while the Tar Heels can still win the Coastal Division – even though they are ineligible for the postseason. After allowing 40 points to Miami last week, Virginia’s defense will be under fire once again, especially as it tries to stop North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard. If the Cavaliers knock off the Tar Heels, it would setup a showdown with rival Virginia Tech, with the loser staying home for the postseason.
Duke or Georgia Tech: Which defense will make enough plays to win?
With two weeks remaining, it’s anyone’s guess which team will come out on top in the Coastal Division. Duke controls its destiny in the division but needs to beat Georgia Tech this Saturday and Miami next week to play for the ACC Championship. While getting to 6-4 and their first bowl game since 1994 is a great accomplishment for coach David Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils, this team has lost three out of its last four games and has been outscored 104-27 in its last two matchups. Duke’s defense struggled to contain the playmakers Florida State and Clemson had on offense, but Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech is a different type of problem for co-coordinators Jim Knowles and Jim Collins. The Yellow Jackets average 324.4 yards per game on the ground and have scored at least 30 points in four out of their last five games. Georgia Tech’s offense has also found a spark from backup quarterback Vad Lee, who has four rushing scores over the last two contests. Duke has not defeated the Yellow Jackets since 2003. However, the last two matchups have been decided by 10 points or less, including a 38-31 shootout in Durham last year. There’s no question the Blue Devils should be able to score on Georgia Tech’s defense. However, considering the success the Yellow Jackets have had against Duke’s defense the last few years, the defense needs to step up if the Blue Devils want to earn their seventh win and remain in the driver’s seat for the Coastal Division title.
Does NC State’s defense have an answer for Clemson’s offense?
Even though Florida State is expected to handle Maryland and clinch the ACC Atlantic crown on Saturday, there’s still plenty for Clemson to play for against NC State. If the Tigers win their last two games, they should have a good shot at claiming an at-large spot in one of the BCS bowls. Clemson’s offense has been on fire this season, scoring at least 37 points in every ACC game. Quarterback Tajh Boyd ranks second nationally in passing efficiency and has thrown 13 touchdowns over the last three games. With Boyd and receivers Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins hitting on all cylinders, it’s a tough assignment for NC State’s secondary to slow down Clemson’s passing offense. The Wolfpack rank 95th nationally in pass defense but have allowed just 13 passing touchdowns this year. It may seem like a tired cliché but stopping the Tigers’ offense starts in the trenches. NC State is averaging three sacks a game and has to disrupt Boyd’s timing if it wants to have a shot at the upset. The Wolfpack have been a difficult team to figure out this year. With a win over Florida State and a loss to Virginia, Tom O’Brien’s club has been hard to figure out. Can the Wolfpack make it two in a row over Clemson? It’s unlikely, but you just never know what will happen in the ACC.
Will Virginia Tech snap its three-game losing streak?
Even though the Hokies still have a chance to finish 6-6 and make a bowl game, there’s no question this is one of the most disappointing teams in the nation. Virginia Tech was picked by many to finish in the top 15 and was a heavy favorite to win the Coastal. Instead of setting up a rematch against Florida State or Clemson in the ACC Championship, the Hokies need wins over Boston College and Virginia just to get 6-6. Virginia Tech enters Saturday’s contest with a three-game losing streak but has won the last four matchups against the Eagles. While the Hokies have something to play for, Boston College is just trying to salvage any bit of good news from a 2-8 start this year. Even though the Eagles won their last ACC game at home, it’s hard to see Virginia Tech losing in Chestnut Hill. Quarterback Logan Thomas will be a handful for a Boston College defense allowing 228.4 rushing yards per game, while the Hokies’ shouldn’t have much trouble slowing down an Eagles’ offense that is very one-dimensional.
Who will claim bragging rights in South Florida?
Miami steps out of conference for the final time this season, as it hosts USF on Saturday. These two teams have met four times, with the Hurricanes holding a 3-1 edge in the series. There’s been no shortage of intrigue over the last two matchups, especially with both games decided by three points. The Bulls have been one of the Big East’s top disappointments and lost quarterback B.J. Daniels for the season in their last game against Connecticut. Although Miami is still fighting to get bowl eligible and lost last week at Virginia, it still has a chance to play for the ACC title. With Daniels sidelined, redshirt freshman Matt Floyd or junior Bobby Eveld will get the start for USF. However, the bigger concern for the Bulls could be trying to stop a Miami offense that has scored 70 points in its last two games. The Hurricanes are also struggling on defense, but with a USF offense that’s breaking in a new quarterback and lacks a breakaway threat at running back, Miami shouldn’t allow 30 points this week. Even though the Bulls are shorthanded, don't expect Skip Holtz's team to go quietly on Saturday afternoon. While both teams need a victory, there are two underlying storylines to this matchup - bragging rights in South Florida and as usual, the battle for recruits within the state.
Does Maryland have any shot to beat Florida State?
Anything can happen each Saturday during the college football season, but let’s be realistic: Barring a complete collapse by the Seminoles, the Terrapins aren’t going to beat Florida State. With a matchup against in-state rival Florida next week, there’s a chance the Seminoles could be caught peeking ahead. However, Maryland would need a lot of breaks to go its way, which includes finding an offense after scoring just 23 points the last two weeks. Shawn Petty has stepped into a difficult situation at quarterback, so it’s hard to fault the true freshman for the struggles on offense. And his job could be even more difficult on Saturday, especially if receiver Stefon Diggs and running back Wes Brown are out due to injuries once again. If the Terrapins want to keep this one close, the defense will need its best effort of the season. Maryland ranks 16th nationally in total defense and is allowing 24 points a game. If the defense can force a few turnovers and keep the offense within striking range, there’s a chance for the Terrapins to hang around. However, with the firepower on Florida State’s sideline, Maryland will need the perfect effort to score a huge upset.
Wake Forest’s offense vs. Notre Dame’s defense
With two games remaining, Wake Forest still needs one victory to get bowl eligible. Unfortunately for the Demon Deacons, there’s very little room to breathe on the schedule, as they play at Notre Dame this week and take on Vanderbilt on Nov. 24. The Demon Deacons lost 24-17 to the Fighting Irish last year, so this team should have some confidence going into Saturday’s game in South Bend. However, if Wake Forest wants to have any shot at an upset, it has to find a way to spark the offense. The Demon Deacons rank 106th nationally in scoring and 111th in total offense per game, which also ranks near the bottom of the ACC in both categories. Notre Dame has one of college football’s best defenses, and Wake Forest’s patchwork offensive line will be tested by a talented Irish’ front seven. If the Demon Deacons can protect quarterback Tanner Price, he should have some opportunities to connect with go-to receiver Michael Campanaro. Although the passing game needs to click, the rushing attack is important, especially since Wake Forest needs to find a way to slow down the Notre Dame pass rush and keep the defense off balance.
Week 12 ACC Predictions
|Week 12 ACC Games||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|UNC at Virginia||UNC 32-24||UNC 35-21||UNC 34-30||UNC 37-34|
|Florida State at Maryland||FSU 49-7||FSU 45-10||FSU 38-7||FSU 41-0|
|Virginia Tech at Boston College||Va. Tech 21-14||Va. Tech 38-21||Va. Tech 31-13||Va. Tech 23-13|
|USF at Miami||Miami 35-10||Miami 34-24||Miami 30-20||Miami 27-14|
|Duke at Georgia Tech||Ga. Tech 35-31||Ga. Tech 34-28||GT 45-34||GT 44-30|
|NC State at Clemson||Clemson 31-21||Clemson 41-28||Clemson 38-24||Clemson 37-21|
|Wake Forest at Notre Dame||Notre Dame 28-10||Notre Dame 24-10||Notre Dame 34-10||Notre Dame 24-6|
by Steven Lassan
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