It’s Week 4 in the ACC and we’re starting to get into the meat of the conference schedule.
Takeaways from Week 3? Clemson is legit. Very legit. Not a lot of drop-off from last year. Louisville isn’t in the same class as the Tigers and FSU. Duke and Wake Forest are both 3-0. And VT straight-up humiliated East Carolina, which made me LOL.
Here’s what to watch this week.
Buying and Selling
Buy: Wake Forest. The Deacs have looked dominant in all three games this season. Granted, they were against FCS opponent Presbyterian, Utah State and a Boston College team that turned it over four times. But you’d expect a pretender to play down to lesser competition. John Wolford has been in command of a much improved offense and the defense is solid.
Looking at the schedule, eight wins is very doable. Don’t forget, Wake beat Louisville last year and they look a lot better than NC State and Syracuse right now. Georgia Tech and Duke are winnable games, too. Dave Clawson is my way-too-early ACC coach of the year frontrunner.
Sell: Pittsburgh. I don’t know if anyone was really high on the Panthers, but that was a pretty horrible effort against Oklahoma State. That sort of loss is a morale killer, even if it was a bad matchup. Pitt’s secondary is a mess — 126th in pass efficiency defense and passing yards allowed.
*All game days are Saturday unless otherwise noted.
Virginia @ Boise State
Albertsons Stadium — Boise, ID — Friday, 8:00pm (ESPN2)
Spread: Boise State -12.0
Nothing says Friday Night Lights like a trip to Boise to play on the blue turf! That’s a tough trip for the Cavaliers to make. Cross-country, Friday night game in a really difficult place to play. Though Virginia looked like a real team when they pounded crappy UConn, I don’t like their chances against the Broncos, who are expected to win their division for the second year in a row.
NC State @ #12 Florida State
Doak Campbell Stadium — Tallahassee, FL — 12:00pm (ABC)
Spread: Florida State -12
Big test for the Wolfpack as they head to Tallahassee to face the once prohibitive favorites to win the Atlantic Division this year. The calculus for FSU changed a bit when starting quarterback Deondre Francois went down Week One in the brutal loss to Alabama. We’ll get our first look at true freshman James Blackman this week. He’s got the physical tools — 6’5” and a big arm. How will he hold up in his first start?
Another question is how will the Noles look after a two-week layoff? On the other side of the coin, they’ve had two weeks to prepare for State. A big key for the Pack will be the defense. This is a good defensive line. They need to get after Blackman and force him to make bad decisions in order to stay in this game.
Kent State @ #19 Louisville
Papa John’s Stadium — Louisville, KY — 12:00pm (ACC Network)
Spread: Louisville -43.5
The spread tells you everything you need to know. Lamar Jackson is not a good matchup for MAC teams. Sorry, Flashes.
Pittsburgh @ Georgia Tech
Bobby Dodd Stadium — Atlanta, GA — 12:20pm (ACC Network)
Spread: Georgia Tech -8
Important Coastal matchup here in terms of positioning. GT’s loss to Tennessee was a pretty epic collapse, but it had no bearing on its conference aspirations. This is still a dangerous team that I consider a darkhorse division title contender. You can’t contend for the division and lose to Pitt at home, though.
While Pitt’s pass defense truly couldn’t be any worse, they’ve been decent against the run (40th nationally). Playing against an option team, they could keep this within the spread if they can find a way to score and not give up huge pass plays when Paul Johnson occasionally tries to air it out.
Old Dominion @ #13 Virginia Tech
Lane Stadium — Blacksburg, VA — 2:00pm (ACC Network)
Spread: Virginia Tech -28.5
Virginia Tech should coast in this one. UNC rolled up 56 on ODU at home. Josh Jackson and Co. are cruising right now. The real test is next week when Clemson comes to town.
Boston College @ #2 Clemson
Clemson Memorial Stadium — Clemson, SC — 3:30pm (ESPN2)
Spread: Clemson -34
Yep, you read that right. Clemson is a 34-point favorite against an Atlantic Division rival. I’m sure BC coach and gutless wonder Steve Addazio is already waving the white flag in his head and is busy drafting a list of excuses to use in his postgame press conference.
I have to disagree with my good friend Mike and his comments in this week’s podcast. BC is not improved. While the offense has looked slightly more competent this year, the defense has slid substantially, especially against the run. The Eagles gave up 500+ yards on the ground to Notre Dame last week, including more than 200 to QB Brandon Wimbush. Expect Tigers QB Kelly Bryant to have a field day. The Clemson defensive front should eat the BC o-line for lunch, too.
Duke @ North Carolina
Kenan Stadium — Chapel Hill, NC — 3:30pm (ESPNU)
Spread: Duke -2.5
The undefeated Blue Devils head down the street to face UNC for the Victory Bell. This is the first road test of the year for Duke. While they’ve been playing at a higher level than UNC, it’s tough to win in your arch-rival’s building. Is Daniel Jones and the Duke offense really 20th-best in the country, or are those numbers inflated by the competition they’ve faced?
While the series was lopsided in Carolina’s favor from 1990-2011, Duke has managed to win three out of the last five. I expect another close contest like last year’s 28-27 Devil win.
Toledo @ #14 Miami
Hard Rock Stadium — Miami Gardens, FL — 3:30pm (ACC Network)
Spread: Miami -13.5
Miami returns to action after a two-week layoff due to Hurricane Irma. Toledo isn’t a complete cupcake out of the MAC — they’re 3-0 and ranked 10th in the country in total offense. If the Hurricanes come sleepwalking into this game, it could easily turn into a shootout. That said, this is still Toledo and they’re still playing Miami. The Canes superior talent should be enough to ground the Rockets.
Wake Forest @ Appalachian State
Kidd Brewer Stadium — Boone, NC — 3:30pm (ESPN3)
Spread: Wake Forest -4.5
I’ve done a lot to jinx Wake in this game. If things go south in Boone, I will apologize to all of the Deac fans out there. I do like the improvements Dave Clawson’s squad has made, especially on offense. But this is one of those classic trap games where Wake has nothing to gain and everything to lose. This will be App’s Super Bowl. And they’ve transitioned nicely into FBS, posting back-to-back double digit wins the last two years that include two bowl victories.
As one of my good friends who’s a Wake grad so eloquently put it, the Deacons have to avoid “shitting their pants.” This will probably be a close, hard-fought game. Wake has to forget style points and just find a way to survive and move on. And never schedule a road game at App again.
Syracuse @ #25 LSU
Tiger Stadium — Baton Rouge, LA — 7:00pm (ESPN2)
Spread: LSU -22.5
Syracuse righted the ship somewhat last week by beating Central Michigan at home. I thought that would be a closer game. The Orange’s reward? A trip to Death Valley to face a pissed-off LSU squad that was embarrassed by Mississippi State on national TV. This one should get ugly. If Ed Orgeron somehow finds a way to lose this game, LSU might as well shitcan him on the spot.
*Cover Photo Credit: NC State Athletics