ACC Previews: Duke controls Coastal; warm-ups before SEC showdowns
Last year, a 3-1 Duke team that was on the upswing but still had plenty of doubters went to Winston-Salem and beat a Wake Forest team that it hadn’t beaten in its last 12 tries.
In hindsight, many of Duke’s current players say that win jumpstarted the program and helped bring it to this point -- two wins away from winning the ACC Coastal Division.
It wasn’t an easy win. Duke lost its starting quarterback in Winston-Salem last year, and backup Anthony Boone (this year’s starter) came in to finish the game, but the Blue Devils got it done, pulling out a close game, something the program had done so rarely to that point.
Now, Duke is the nation's 25th-ranked team (8-2, 4-2 ACC) and its players believe.
Wake Forest (4-6, 2-5) under Jim Grobe has always been a tough out, and with a week off to reassess the offense without star receiver Michael Campanaro, the Demon Deacons are going to be a formidable opponent for Duke this week. The former upstart ACC Champs (2006) would love nothing more than to play spoiler to their in-state rival.
But Duke is rolling right now. Its defense is as good as it has ever been under head coach David Cutcliffe and the offense is clicking with the two-quarterback rotation of Boone and Brandon Connette. Wake Forest’s defense is still pretty good, but it likely won’t matter in the end. This will probably be a closer game than many think, though, because it usually is.
When: Noon (Saturday)Where: BB&T Field
Prediction: Duke, 31-23
When: 12:30 p.m. (Saturday)Where: Carrier Dome
Breakdown: This is an odd game for plenty of reasons. For one, it’s two former Big East teams matching up for the first time as cross-division rivals in their first year in the ACC. But it’s hard to know how good either team is. Pitt has been all over the place, beating Notre Dame one week and losing to UNC the next. Syracuse has beaten middling-to-bad ACC teams and lost -- convincingly -- to good ones. Pitt has owned this series as of late, so that seems as logical a reason as any to pick the Panthers.
Prediction: Pittsburgh, 27-23
When: Noon (Saturday)Where: Sun Life Stadium
Breakdown: Virginia did have a bye week to reassess things, and the Cavaliers have had success against even good Miami teams in the past. But Virginia is a special kind of awful this year, and though Miami might be reeling, the Hurricanes are too good not to be able to win this game. One would think, anyway.
Prediction: Miami, 41-23
When: 3:30 p.m. (Saturday)Where: Doak Campbell Stadium
Breakdown: Idaho is one of the worst teams in all of FBS this year. There’s just no getting around it. But this is FSU’s “bye week,” so to speak, before facing Florida next weekend. It’s something that the ACC powers facing in-state SEC rivals on the final week of the season are all doing this year to try to be as rested and as possible at the end of a long season. Who knows if it will work, but it’s a good idea in theory.
Prediction: Florida State, 77-0
When: Noon (Saturday)Where: Memorial Stadium
Breakdown: Like Florida State, this is Clemson’s semi-bye week game before facing South Carolina next week. And after seeing Tajh Boyd get banged up at the end of last week’s game, it’s probably an even better idea to keep the star quarterback in the game for as little time as possible.
Prediction: Clemson, 62-10
When: 3:30 p.m. (Saturday)Where: Byrd Stadium
Breakdown: Hard to know how good either of these teams really are, as neither have been all that consistent. Maryland has to be feeling great about itself after knocking off Virginia Tech on the road last week, though, and Boston College hasn’t played well on the road all year. BC’s Andre Williams is the leading rusher in the nation, but Maryland’s defense is good enough to at least contain the damage.
Prediction: Maryland, 27-17
When: 12:30 p.m. (Saturday)Where: Carter-Finley Stadium
Breakdown: ECU is going for a legitimate claim at the North Carolina state championship if it can add N.C. State to its win over UNC earlier this season. The Pirates are an explosive team offensively, and their defense isn’t half bad either. N.C. State is a team that lacks confidence right now, but it could always get up and find a way to compete against an in-state team. Ultimately, though, they probably won’t have enough.
Prediction: East Carolina, 38-21
When: Noon (Saturday)Where: Kenan Stadium
Breakdown: This might be a transitioning-to-FBS Old Dominion team, but don’t underestimate the Monarchs -- they can throw it all over the place with quarterback Taylor Heinicke. UNC’s pass defense has shown vulnerability at times, and it will need to be playing its best for the Tar Heels to ensure bowl eligibility this week.
Prediction: North Carolina, 58-27
When: 1:30 p.m. (Saturday)Where: Bobby Dodd Stadium
Breakdown: Like Florida State and Clemson, Georgia Tech is getting its warm-up game before its SEC in-state rivalry game next week. Nothing to see here, folks.
Prediction: Georgia Tech, 63-13
Week 12: 3-3 (3-3 ACC)Overall: 71-23 (32-15 ACC)