ACC Game Day: Rivalry Week, final thoughts
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Good morning, ACC fans! The final week of the regular season is here, and today we find out who's going to Tampa and who's not, along with who will get the bragging rights until next year. Here are a few quick thoughts on the games this week before I head from Providence to Chestnut Hill:
MARYLAND at BOSTON COLLEGE: Not a rivalry game, but it will determine the Atlantic Division winner. If Steve Logan keeps the game plan simple for backup quarterback Dominique Davis, and the Eagles run the ball and play the same outstanding defense they have all season, BC will go to Tampa. Jeff Jagodzinski should also get ACC Coach of the Year consideration if the Eagles pull this off with their backup quarterback. Word out of College Park, Md., is that the Terps' top playmaker, receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, is injured and didn't practice earlier this week. Maryland ended its story last week, though, with its loss to Florida State.
SOUTH CAROLINA at CLEMSON: The two things on the line in Death Valley today are Dabo Swinney's job and bowl eligibility. They go hand in hand. The more time that passes, the more legitimate Swinney's chance appears to be. He has definitely changed the attitude there, and he has won games. That has happened in large part because the offensive line has finally come together. In all three of his wins, the Tigers have used the same starting combination. Not a coincidence.
VIRGINIA at VIRGINIA TECH: This really is anyone's game. Neither team has been convincing this season, and both have had serious problems on offense. Virginia linebacker Clint Sintim has impressed everyone who has seen him play this season, and leads a strong unit that will come after the Hokies aggressively. It doesn't matter who plays at quarterback for Virginia Tech, although it would have been nice for Sean Glennon to have gotten the starting nod on senior day. Regardless, they're too one-dimensional and any team that can stop the Hokies' running game can win. Plus, the fact the Cavaliers are playing for a bowl game means more than home-field advantage, but Frank Beamer & Co. are playing for the Coastal Division title.
GEORGIA TECH at GEORGIA: I might be the only one who picked the Yellow Jackets to win this one, and it can go either way. I'm just not convinced about Georgia's defense. Anyone who watched the Miami game saw how much discipline is required to stop the triple option and I don't think the Bulldogs have that. Quarterback Josh Nesbitt is healthy and they'll get some big plays today. I think Paul Johnson gets it done in Athens by a slim margin.
FLORIDA at FLORIDA STATE: The Gators just have too much speed and too many playmakers for the Seminoles to match. Expect it to be close early on and then for Florida to break away. That's how it's going to have to be if FSU wants a chance. They can't afford to fall behind early like almost everyone has against the Gators. The one thing Bobby Bowden has said all week is that he does NOT want to get into a shootout with these guys. This will be another very good test of Christian Ponder's progress. If Florida takes away the running game, he'll have to have a good day passing.
UNC at DUKE: The better David Cutcliffe makes this program, the more interesting this rivalry will become, and I think you'll see the first signs of that this weekend. Despite their losing record, the Blue Devils aren't a given, and that's due in large part to the progress they've made on defense. Plus, quarterback Thaddeus Lewis is expected to return and he's got a new look -- he cut the locks. UNC, on the other hand, lost its leading tackler and has had trouble at quarterback. The Tar Heels' season took a different direction since their loss at Maryland.
MIAMI at NC STATE: The fact that Randy Shannon is switching starters on defense so late in the year doesn't bode well. At this point, it is what it is, and the Canes are going to struggle to stop this surging Wolfpack team. NC State is playing for bowl eligibility and can get it now that everyone is healthy and players on both sides of the ball are playing to their capabilities.
VANDERBILT at WAKE FOREST: This is the last chance for the Demon Deacons to state their case to the bowl selection committees, and they're playing a mirror image of themselves. Both teams are very dependent upon their defenses, and odds are they'll need a defensive touchdown or two to win it. Wake has played its best at home this season.