|ESPN.com: NCF Nation||[Print without images]|
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
It's going to be a fun week in the ACC, but I'm not sure it can top last week in terms of suspense. All four of the games last Saturday were decided in the final 1:46 of play, including two overtime games. I'm heading to Blacksburg for the Thursday night showdown, so let's start with that one:
Maryland (6-2, 3-1 ACC) at Virginia Tech (5-3, 2-2)
Why is this a bigger game for the Hokies, you ask? Because if Virginia Tech loses, that's three conference losses, and then not only would there be no more margin for error left on the schedule, but the Hokies would also then become dependent upon both Georgia Tech AND North Carolina losing. Maryland, on the other hand, still has some wiggle room. The Terps are the only team left with one conference loss, and have a few different paths to Tampa remaining, the clearest being to win out. The key to Maryland's season will be Nov. 22 against FSU.
Georgia Tech (7-2, 4-2) at North Carolina (6-2, 2-2)
Huge. That's the only way to describe this game. It will go a long way in giving one team the edge over the other in the Coastal Division race. Both teams need to win this game, but that's just the first step. Both teams also need Virginia and Virginia Tech to eventually lose. The Yellow Jackets were hurt by the loss of offensive tackle Andrew Gardner and will need David Brown back in the lineup. The Tar Heels are getting the job done on defense, and have picked up a few tips from watching Florida State's mistakes against the triple option last week. Considering that UNC has held its past three opponents to under 100 yards rushing, the Tar Heels should be confident heading into this game.
Clemson (4-4, 2-3) at Florida State (6-2, 3-2)
Both of these teams need to win all of their remaining ACC games in order to stay in the race. FSU is also still playing for bowl eligibility. Bowden will turn 79 on Saturday, and he is 3-1 on his birthday, with the lone loss coming in 2003 to his son, Tommy. Well, we all know that won't happen this year, as it's the first time in a decade Bowden won't face his son in this matchup. Florida State is trying to regroup after its heartbreaking, last-minute loss at Georgia Tech. The matchup to watch in this game is FSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher against Clemson defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, two veterans who have coached against each other before at other schools.
Virginia (5-4, 3-2) at Wake Forest (5-3, 3-2)
Even with Virginia's recent success, this game will feature two of the nation's statistically worst offenses. The Cavs are 112th in the nation in scoring offense and 107th in the nation in rushing offense. Wake Forest is 101st in the nation in scoring offense and 103rd in rushing offense. And yet Virginia's Marc Verica and Wake's Riley Skinner have been two of the league's better quarterbacks. Wake Forest will stick with its game plan and try and force the Cavs into costly mistakes, while Virginia will continue to depend on the poise of Verica and the versatility of Cedric Peerman. We'll see how Peerman recovers from the first costly fumble of his career.
NC State (2-6, 0-4) at Duke (4-4, 1-3)
This is an interesting game because NC State is a better team than its record indicates, and Duke is no longer the given win for anyone in the league. Instead, the Blue Devils are two wins shy of a bowl appearance. Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson's accomplishments have been overshadowed because of his team's losing record, but there's probably not a defensive coordinator in the league who isn't wary of his ability. He certainly got the attention of Duke safety Adrian Aye-Darko, who has three interceptions this season. It's NC State's problems on defense, though, that could be the difference in the game.
Notre Dame (5-3) at Boston College (5-3, 2-3)
This should be another down-to-the-wire game, something Notre Dame has gotten used to this season, considering it's thriller at North Carolina and more recent four-overtime loss to Pitt. Both teams are 5-3 and have something to prove after losses. Boston College is 12th nationally in pass efficiency defense and will face the No. 18 pass offense led by quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who has improved this season. The Eagles have won the past five games in the series and six of the last seven. The Eagles have compensated for their struggles on offense with three nonoffensive touchdowns in the past three games.