- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Andrea and Heather each went 7-2 last week, so AA retains her one-game lead in the standings with a 78-21 overall record. We disagree on a few games this week.
Now on to the picks!
Miami (8-3, 4-3) at Pitt (6-5, 3-4), 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC. #MIAvsPITT. The Canes need a victory for their first nine-win season since 2009 and to keep their slim Coastal Division hopes alive. But they are banged up in the secondary and continue to have problems stopping the run. That could end up being what cures the ailing Pitt offense, which did just enough to beat Syracuse last week and clinch bowl eligibility. Aaron Donald plays his final game at home, too, and will help the Panthers stuff the Miami run, which has been mostly ineffective since losing Duke Johnson for the season.
Andrea Adelson picks: Pitt 24, Miami 21
Heather Dinich picks: Pitt 24, Miami 21
No. 2 Florida State (11-0) at Florida (4-7), noon ET, ESPN. #FSUvsUF. The only question heading into this game is how badly the Seminoles are going to beat the sliding Gators, who lost to FCS Georgia Southern a week ago. Injuries have taken a toll at Florida at just about every position on the field, including quarterback, where Tyler Murphy remains questionable. It seems a near certainty that Florida State will set a record with 40-plus points scored for the 12th consecutive game.
AA picks: Florida State 40, Florida 10
HD picks: Florida State 52, Florida 3
No. 24 Duke (9-2, 5-2) at North Carolina (6-5, 4-3), noon ET, ESPN2. #DUKEvsUNC. This is one of the toughest games to call on the weekend. Duke has proven itself to be worthy of a Coastal Division championship with seven straight wins -- including victories over Miami and Virginia Tech. North Carolina is surging, too, with five straight wins to clinch bowl eligibility.
AA picks: Duke 31, North Carolina 28: This game is going to come down to the fourth quarter, where the Duke defense has been stellar, allowing 34 total points all season. The Duke D will be the difference, getting the Blue Devils to the ACC championship game.
HD picks: North Carolina 28, Duke 24: Duke has been a fourth-quarter team, but a slow start this Saturday will be the difference. The Tar Heels, energized by their winning streak, Senior Day and what will be the final home game for standout tight end Eric Ebron, will jump out to an early lead and be too much for another heroic comeback by the Blue Devils. Marquise Williams will have the edge at quarterback, Ebron will close his career in Chapel Hill with a bang and the Coastal Division title will fall into the hands of Virginia Tech.
Wake Forest (4-7, 2-6) at Vanderbilt (7-4, 4-4), 12:21 p.m. ET, GamePlan. #WAKEvsVANDY. The Deacs have lost four games in a row and will not be going to a bowl game for the fourth time in five seasons. Wake Forest's defense has played well enough to win in a majority of its games this year, but the offense has not been able to get out of its own way. Vanderbilt has a clear edge in this game at just about every position and should not have any problems getting the win.
AA picks: Vanderbilt 35, Wake Forest 17
HD picks: Vanderbilt 28, Wake Forest 17
Maryland (6-5, 2-5) at NC State (3-8, 0-7), 12:30 p.m. ET, GamePlan. #MDvsNCST. AA picked NC State on a flyer last week to beat East Carolina, then watched the Wolfpack confirm their status as one of the worst teams in the ACC. We have no doubt NC State is going to be supremely motivated to avoid a winless season in ACC play, on Senior Day no less. But the Wolfpack have been unable to overcome their major issues at quarterback, while Maryland is much more stable with C.J. Brown under center.
AA picks: Maryland 31, NC State 20
HD picks: Maryland 28, NC State 21
Georgia (7-4, 5-3 SEC) at Georgia Tech (7-4, 5-3), 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC. #UGAvsGT. The Bulldogs have dealt with injury issues all season, and now they have to go up against Georgia Tech without starting quarterback Aaron Murray, who is out for the season with a torn ACL.
AA picks: Georgia 35, Georgia Tech 31: But it might not be as dire as it seems. Backup quarterback Hutson Mason helped the Georgia offense gain 309 yards on 37 plays in a lopsided win over Kentucky last week after Murray's injury. Mason had two scores himself. Todd Gurley also is in the backfield, which is huge for Mason and the entire offense. Georgia Tech is much better than Kentucky, but the Jackets have only beaten one team with seven or more victories this season (Duke, back in September).
HD picks: Georgia Tech 31, Georgia 28: Yes, Georgia has Gurley, but it doesn’t have its quarterback. Mason, who has 82 career passing attempts, is the next man up, and he’ll be facing a Georgia Tech defense that has made significant strides under Ted Roof and is led by Jeremiah Attaochu, whose 27 career sacks are the third-most by any active FBS player. The Jackets’ answer to Gurley will be Robert Godhigh, who leads all FBS running backs with 13 yards per play. Paul Johnson is 1-5 all-time against Georgia, including one loss as coach at Georgia Southern. With Murray out, this is the game in which Johnson starts to improve that record.
Boston College (7-4, 4-3) at Syracuse (5-6, 3-4), 3:30 p.m. ET, GamePlan. #BCvsCUSE. The teams revive their Big East rivalry as ACC teams in the same division. Syracuse needs a victory to become the 11th bowl-eligible team in the ACC, but faces a formidable task of trying to slow down Andre Williams, the top rusher in the nation with 2,073 yards. What makes the Eagles' running game so effective is their ability to wear down teams in the fourth quarter. Williams also has broken more tackles than any back from an automatic-qualifying conference, despite typically facing a loaded box. Expect more of the same this week.
AA picks: Boston College 28, Syracuse 21
HD picks: Boston College 27, Syracuse 21
Virginia Tech (7-4, 4-3) at Virginia (2-9, 0-7), 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU. #VTvsUVA. The Hokies had a bye week, after their tough loss to Maryland, to prepare for their in-state rivals. They need a victory in this game and a Duke loss to keep ACC Coastal Division hopes alive. Virginia, meanwhile, needs a victory to avoid its worst season since 1982, when the Cavaliers finished 2-9 under first-year coach George Welsh. Virginia Tech has won nine in a row in the series and has the clear edge on defense.
AA picks: Virginia Tech 30, Virginia 7
HD picks: Virginia Tech 28, Virginia 24
No. 6 Clemson (10-1, 7-1) at No. 10 South Carolina (9-2, 6-2 SEC), 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2. #CLEMvsSC. Tajh Boyd and his teammates do not need anybody to tell them what is on the line. They need a victory, and they need it badly. South Carolina has looked beatable for most of the season, but Connor Shaw is one of the guttiest quarterbacks in America and a healthy Mike Davis is one of the toughest runners the Tigers will face this season.
AA picks: South Carolina 30, Clemson 28: I give the edge to Jadeveon Clowney and his linemates against the Clemson offensive line, and they will be the difference in the game.
HD picks: Clemson 31, South Carolina 28. For the first time in four games, Clemson will not lose the turnover battle. (South Carolina overall has won in that key statistic 9-3 in the past four meetings.) For the first time in three games, Boyd will have the upper hand – and the pass protection he needs to do it (he’s been sacked 14 times for minus-15 yards). The one thing that won’t change too much is that Clemson will continue to struggle to run the ball against the Gamecocks. But Boyd will stay on his feet long enough to sustain drives and snap a four-game losing streak in the series.