ACC previews: Hokies-Pitt; ‘Cuse hits the road

Pittsburgh (3-1, 2-1 ACC) at No. 24 Virginia Tech (5-1, 2-0)

One might think this is a clear win for Virginia Tech. The Hokies have a much better body of work than the Panthers and are playing very well right now. The defense has been great all year, and the offense is starting to catch up.
But that has not been the series history between these two teams, especially since the turn of the century. Even as Pitt started to fade a little bit as a program and Virginia Tech was on the rise, the Panthers still won four in a row — including three from 2001-03, when both were still in the Big East, and then again in 2012 when Virginia Tech was No. 13 in the country and Pitt was unranked.
That’s certainly not predictive, but Virginia Tech is not without its flaws. If the offense regresses again, or the Pitt wide receivers (who are both outstanding) make plays over Virginia Tech’s excellent corners — which is entirely possible — this game could at least stay close throughout.
Pitt’s defense needs to be much better (or at least more consistent) than it has been, and Virginia Tech’s offense really needs to keep moving on an upward trajectory. The defense will face tougher and tougher offenses as the year goes on, and they need the offense to put up points. 
If Pitt can sneak out a win in Blacksburg, the Panthers will have put themselves in position to potentially win the Coastal Division. Right now, Virginia Tech and Miami appear to be the favorites. But there are plenty of opportunities for another team to sneak into the mix. 
Ultimately, though, Pitt might be better than it expected, but it’s not good enough to win in Blacksburg.
When: 12 noon (Saturday)
Where: Lane Stadium
Prediction: Virginia Tech, 20-13

Boston College (3-2, 1-1 ACC) at No. 3 Clemson (5-0, 3-0)

When: 3:30 p.m. (Saturday)
Where: Clemson Memorial Stadium
Breakdown: As Clemson’s detractors would say, with a potential battle of unbeatens looming next week (Florida State), this game is ripe for what some would call a “Clemsoning.”

But the Tigers are at home, and they’ve won 13 straight games by double digits over unranked opponents (only Alabama has a longer active streak, with 22 straight). BC is a year or two away, at least, from truly making a game like this close. 

Prediction: Clemson, 45-20

Syracuse (2-3, 0-1 ACC) at N.C. State (3-2, 0-2)

When: 3:30 p.m. (Saturday)
Where: Carter-Finley Stadium

Breakdown: Both teams could really use their first ACC win of the season, but especially N.C. State after dropping a disappointing one at Wake last weekend.

Syracuse’s loss to Clemson was understandable. The Wolfpack are tough to beat home, and the Orange are probably too young at important positions to win a game like this. It may be close for a while, though. 

Prediction: N.C. State, 30-21

Virginia (2-3, 0-1 ACC) at Maryland (4-1, 0-1)

When: 3:30 p.m. (Saturday)
Where: Byrd Stadium
Breakdown: Maryland is markedly better than Virginia, or so it would seem.

But this has always been a strange series (the road team has won the last four matchups), and Virginia will be desperate for a win.

It remains to be seen how well Maryland responds to its 63-0 drubbing at Florida State last week, especially if the Terrapins don’t have starting quarterback C.J. Brown (concussion).

Prediction: Maryland, 27-19

Navy (3-1) at Duke (3-2, 0-2)

When: 12:30 p.m. (Saturday)
Where: Wallace Wade Stadium

Breakdown: This will be Duke’s second time seeing the option offense this year; and even though Navy has a fantastic player in quarterback Keenan Reynolds, Duke’s playing at home and the Middies defense likely cannot slow down the Blue Devils.

I don’t like Navy in a shootout, but if Duke brings back starter Anthony Boone this week, it could make things interesting, as he gets readjusted to game speed. 

Prediction: Duke, 34-31

Georgia Tech (3-2, 2-2 ACC) at BYU (3-2)

When: 7 p.m. (Saturday)
Where: LaVell Edwards Stadium (Provo)

Breakdown: Georgia Tech had trouble with BYU last year at home. And by trouble, I mean that BYU won 41-17.

On the road, with a struggling Vad Lee against a great defense? Yeah, this is a tall order for the Yellow Jackets.

In other words, Saturday would be a fine time for Georgia Tech’s defense to step up and make some plays. The Jackets are much better than a year ago, but they haven’t forced a ton of turnovers or tallied a lot of sacks. They need to help the offense. 

Prediction: BYU, 31-17
Week 6: 4-3 (3-2 ACC)
Overall: 45-11 (10-5 ACC)