Athlon previews the Week 13 action in the ACC.
With Florida State and Georgia Tech set to meet in the ACC Championship next Saturday, Week 13 is all about bowl positioning and getting a few marquee non-conference wins. Florida State, Clemson, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech take on SEC opponents, which is a chance for the ACC to get some much-needed national respect. Duke-Miami, Boston College-NC State, Virginia-Virginia Tech and Maryland-North Carolina are the final conference games for 2012.
Other Week 13 Previews and Predictions
ACC's Top Storylines for Week 13
Will Florida Stateâs offense struggle to move the ball against Florida?
The Seminolesâ 21-7 win over Florida last season wasnât exactly an offensive clinic for either team. Florida State managed only 95 yards, while the Gators posted 184 in a loss. With both defenses ranked in the top five nationally in yards allowed, donât be surprised if this seasonâs matchup is another low scoring game. However, if thereâs one offense thatâs capable of producing big plays, it has to be Florida State. The Seminoles have scored at least 40 points in two out of their last three games and rank 14th nationally in total offense. Although the schedule hasnât been as challenging as playing in the SEC, Florida State has the better quarterback and playmakers on the outside. Donât expect the Seminoles to match their average yards per game (493.6) but they should be able to generate enough offense to win.
Can Duke get its first ACC win over Miami?
The Blue Devils and Hurricanes have met only nine times and most of the matchups have been a one-sided affair. Dukeâs only win in this series came in 1976, but the Blue Devils have yet to beat Miami as a member of the ACC. With NCAA sanctions looming from the Nevin Shapiro scandal, the Hurricanes self-imposed a bowl ban earlier this week. If last year was any evidence, motivation is a concern for Miami. After announcing the bowl ban in 2011, the Hurricanes lost 24-17 to Boston College in their next game. Duke has been trending in the wrong direction over the last few weeks, winning just one game out of its last four matchups. The Blue Devilsâ rush defense is a huge concern, especially against Miami freshman running back Duke Johnson. Duke is already locked into a bowl game but with wins over the Hurricanes and in the postseason, the Blue Devils will have a chance to match the programâs eight-win mark from 1994.
Can Georgia Techâs offense keep it going?
Since a 41-17 loss to BYU, the Yellow Jackets are averaging 47.7 points a game and are riding a three-game winning streak. The late-season surge propelled Georgia Tech into a spot in the ACC Championship against Florida State. However, thereâs a little business to take care of first. The Yellow Jackets take on rival Georgia this week and hope to reverse the recent trend in this series. Georgia Tech has lost 10 out of its last 11 games to Bulldogs and was defeated by 14 points last year. Georgiaâs defense already had some practice for the Yellow Jacketsâ option attack, as it played Georgia Southern last week. These two teams have been involved in a few shootouts in recent years, including a 45-42 matchup in 2008. Although Georgiaâs defense had a chance to tune its gameplan last week, the Yellow Jackets should be able to keep this one much closer than some may expect.
Clemsonâs offensive line vs. South Carolinaâs defensive line
Thereâs a lot on the line when Clemson and South Carolina meet this Saturday. With a win, the Tigers would finish 11-1 and have a realistic shot at an at-large BCS bid. Clemson has lost its last three games against the Gamecocks, with each of those matchups decided by at least 17 points. For the Tigers to snap the three-game losing streak, protecting quarterback Tajh Boyd is the No. 1 priority. The junior has been on fire the last four weeks, recording 18 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Clemson has done a good job when it comes to pass protection this year, allowing just 1.8 sacks per game. However, South Carolinaâs defensive line registered five sacks in last seasonâs matchup and sophomore end Jadeveon Clowney is only getting better with more snaps. If Boyd has time to throw, he should have opportunities to make plays against the Gamecocksâ secondary. The juniorâs increased mobility in 2012 should make a difference with the pass rush but this will be his toughest test since taking on Virginia Tech in mid-October.
Tom OâBrienâs Future?
Even though NC State coach Tom OâBrien is 23-14 in his last three seasons, there is plenty of discontent from the fanbase about the direction of the program. The Wolfpack were a trendy preseason pick to surprise in the ACC Atlantic but a loss to Boston College on Saturday would drop them to a 6-6 overall mark. Although there are plenty of grumblings about OâBrien, NC State is on the verge of making its third consecutive bowl appearance. Needless to say, Saturdayâs game against Boston College is a big one for OâBrien. Get to 7-5 and a victory in the bowl means the veteran coach should probably return for 2013. However, a 6-6 finish could force NC State to consider a change.
Bowl Eligibility for Wake Forest
With Miami and North Carolina ineligible for the postseason, the ACC is going to struggle to fill out its bowl allotment. The situation could get even worse if Wake Forest fails to knock off Vanderbilt this Saturday. The Demon Deacons are a double-digit underdog to the Commodores, a team they lost 41-7 to last season. Vanderbilt is coming off a 41-18 victory over in-state rival Tennessee, so thereâs the slight possibility of a letdown. However, for Wake Forest to get its sixth victory, it must generate something on offense. Injuries on the offensive line have taken a toll in pass protection and have prevented the rushing attack from finding many open lanes. Receiver Michael Campanaro was held in check in last weekâs loss to Notre Dame, but he will need a big performance for the Demon Deacons to get to 6-6.
Maryland or North Carolinaâ¦all about building momentum for 2013?
All things considered, Maryland and North Carolina canât be disappointed after the final whistle in Saturdayâs game. Sure, the Terrapins had bowl aspirations after a 4-2 start but injuries wrecked havoc on their offense, especially at the quarterback position. For the Tar Heels, a postseason ban had to be a concern for Larry Fedora when it came to the motivation of his team. However, North Carolina had a solid season in Fedoraâs debut year and is on the cusp of its second season of eight wins over the last three years. This series has been dominated by Maryland recently, as the Terrapins have won five out of the last six meetings. Although Maryland ranks second in the ACC in total defense, it will be hard to slow down North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard and quarterback Bryn Renner. And this could be the final game for Bernard in Chapel Hill, as he is projected to be one of the first running backs off the board in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Will Virginia Tech get bowl eligible or will Virginia play spoiler?
In addition to Wake Forest, thereâs a lot of interest in the ACC and from its bowl partners on what happens in Blacksburg this Saturday. Surprisingly, the Hokies are 5-6 and still need one victory to get bowl eligible. Virginia Tech avoided a bad loss to Boston College last week, but the road to six wins doesnât get easier this Saturday. The Hokies have won the last eight in this series and Virginia would like nothing more than to snap that streak, as well as end Virginia Techâs quest to get bowl eligible. For the Cavaliers to pull off their first win in Blacksburg since 1998, they need to find a spark on offense once again. After scoring 33 points against NC State and 41 in a win over Miami, Virginiaâs offense went dark against North Carolina (13 points). For the Hokies, itâs all about getting quarterback Logan Thomas on track. If the junior has around 275-300 yards of total offense, that should be good enough for Virginia Tech to get win No. 6.
Week 13 ACC Predictions
|Week 13 ACC Games||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|Virginia at Virginia Tech||Va. Tech 24-10||Va. Tech 34-20||Va. Tech 30-20||Va. Tech 24-20|
|Georgia Tech at Georgia||Georgia 35-17||Georgia 30-17||Georgia 34-24||Georgia 34-23|
|Miami at Duke||Miami 31-24||Miami 41-30||Miami 38-34||Miami 38-20|
|Boston College at NC State||NC State 24-13||NC State 34-20||NC State 38-13||NC State 34-13|
|Maryland at North Carolina||UNC 28-17||UNC 42-14||UNC 38-17||UNC 31-10|
|Vanderbilt at Wake Forest||Vanderbilt 31-21||Vanderbilt 34-13||Vanderbilt 31-17||Vanderbilt 30-20|
|Florida at Florida State||FSU 28-10||FSU 24-20||FSU 24-17||FSU 27-17|
|South Carolina at Clemson||Clemson 35-21||Clemson 27-20||Clemson 30-27||Clemson 30-20|
by Steven Lassan
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