ACC Football Preview with Stuart Barefoot

Courtesy of Stuart Barefoot, UNCG-grad, local sports fan and long-time follower of Atlantic Coast Conference football….

Editor’s Note: As this article is being written Miami and Pittsburgh are underway and Miami leads 14-7. This game will otherwise not be included in this week’s preview….Final:Miami 41, Pittsburge 31….

It’s getting closer to bowl time and teams like UNC, Pittsburgh, and Maryland are trying to secure bowl eligibility while Duke is shockingly vying for a spot in the ACC Championship game against Florida State, who has their eyes on a BCS Title game. It’s certain to be a dramatic final weekend of regular season play, and this week’s preview has more details.

#24 Duke (9-2. 5-2 ACC) vs. North Carolina (6-5, 4-3 ACC)
It will be the 100th meeting between the two programs and it ought to be a dandy. Both Duke and Carolina have surprised more than a few people lately. Duke, who was a pre season pick to finish in last place in the coastal division, is in the midst of an unlikely run to the ACC Championship Game. On the other hand, the Heels have salvaged what started out as a disastrous 2013 season. UNC scored an unthinkable 80 points against Old Dominion last week for their sixth win of the season. Even more promising is how often freshmen and sophomores scored. Freshman T.J Logan scored four times, classmate Khris Francis also scored once and sophomores Quinshad Davis, T.J Thorpe, and Kendrick Singleton all crossed the goal line as well. Yes, the Marquise Williams era in Chapel Hill is off to a fine start.

Duke beat Wake Forest 28-21 and secured at least a share of the division title. While beating the Demon Deacons by just one touchdown isn’t as good as the Blue Devils are capable of, proving they could play from behind (they trailed 14-0) might provide a spark of confidence. With the majority of their key players, including their dynamic quarterback duo, set to return in 2014, it would be unfair to call 2013 some sort of a fluke. What’s really important about this game, aside from the immediate impact of division titles, bowl eligibility, and trips to championship games, is the opportunity for the Duke-Carolina rivalry to have meaning away from Basketball. Here is Duke, perennial losers, have a chance to win 10 games for the first time in school history and a chance for a conference title and standing in their way is their hated rival, the surging North Carolina Tar Heels, who would love nothing more than chance to ruin Duke’s dream season. This is going to be incredible.

Prediction: Duke- 30 UNC-27 in OT

#2 Florida State (11-0, 8-0 ACC) vs. Florida (4-7, 3-5 SEC)
FSU also put up 80 points last week against Idaho and will look to end their regular season undefeated against the struggling Florida Gators. After losing 26-20 to Georgia Southern last week, Florida extended their losing streak to six games, and the nation’s best offense and second ranked team probably isn’t the cure for their problems.

The Seminoles need a win this week and in the ACC title game to secure their spot in the BCS Title game. And if the off field allegations are a distraction for Jameis Winston, then it would be interesting to se how he plays when he’s focused. As for Florida, who isn’t bowl eligible, and will finish with their first losing record since 1979, can do damage control by unseating the record setting Florida State, who has scored 40 or more points in all games so far.

Prediction: FSU-42 Florida 20

Maryland (6-5, 2-5 ACC) vs. N.C State (3-8, 0-7 ACC)
The Wolf Pack will try to avoid laying down a goose egg in ACC play against a Maryland team who needs a win to be bowl eligible. From a 37-0 win over West Virginia to losing 63-0 to Florida State, Maryland’s season has been all over the place. Against N.C State, they will be without receivers, Deon Long and Steffon Diggs among a few other players who are injured. State will try to snap their seven game losing streak, which was extended after losing 42-28 to ECU last week.

Prediction: Maryland-34 N.C State- 21

Wake Forest (4-7, 2-6 ACC) vs. Vanderbilt (7-4, 4-4 SEC)
The Demon Deacons have lost their last four and go to Nashville to play Vanderbilt. Who is the winner of three straight. Big wins for the Commodores include a 31-27 upset over then 15th-ranked Georgia, a 34 -17 win over Florida and a 22-6 win over Kentucky in which they did not allow a touchdown.

The Demon Deacons were poised for bowl eligibility at one point, but nothing has gone right over the last month and the Deacs are winless since they beat Maryland on October 19th. These teams are headed in opposite directions and Vanderbilt is on the right side of the scale

Prediction: Vanderbilt-34 Wake Forest 27

#6 Clemson (10-1, 6-1 ACC) vs. #10 South Carolina (9-2, 6-2 SEC)
Not to be forgotten are in state rivals Clemson and South Carolina. Plenty of folks are talking about Alabama-Auburn, or Michigan-Ohio State, but this game is every bit as heated and provides almost as much talent. A quick historical perspective here, the teams have played 111 times, with the Gamecocks winning the last four and it’s the first time these two have been ranked in the Top-10 at the same time.

Clemson’s national title hopes were thrashed along with any Heisman chances Tajh Boyd had when they were throttled 51-14 by Florida State. However, the Tigers have won their four games since and have scored 50 or more in three of those four.

The Gamecocks would probably be a Top-5 team if not for getting upset 23-12 to Tennessee. Since then, South Carolina has won their last four, including upsetting then fifth-ranked Missouri 24-21 in over time. Given that Clemson struggled mightily against the last Top-10 team they played, and the fact that they won’t be in death Valley gives the Gamecocks an ever so slight edge.

Predication: South Carolina-38 Clemson-34

Other Games That are Scheduled to Happen
Georgia Tech will also step out of conference play to take on Georgia, who was once a Top5 team but is no longer ranked. Following suit for the in-state rival games is Virginia and Virginia Tech while Boston College will travel to Syracuse…

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