Week 6 ACC Previews & Predictions

    Wake Forest (2-3) at Florida State (4-0) Oct. 4, 3:30, ESPN3 Here’s The Deal: FSU—Florida Survival University. For the third time in the first four games,

    October 2, 2014

    Wake Forest (2-3) at Florida State (4-0) Oct. 4, 3:30, ESPN3 

    Here’s The Deal: FSU—Florida Survival University. For the third time in the first four games, the Seminoles survived a tight game that was unexpectedly close in the second half. No, they’re not the same team that won the 2013 national championship, but it does deserve credit for rallying from an early 17-point deficit to defeat NC State in Raleigh, 56-41. Might a visit from rebuilding Wake Forest finally afford the ‘Noles a chance to kick up their feet after halftime? The Demon Deacons are battling hard each week for rookie head coach Dave Clawson, but it’ll be a while before the effort bears tangible results. 
    Why Wake Forest Might Win: The defense is plucky, and helping keeping the Deacons in games it might otherwise be routed. Coordinator Mike Elko is doing an outstanding job, much the way he did for Clawson at Bowling Green. Wake Forest is only giving up 20 points a game, and the pass defense is headlined by talented veterans. Florida State’s persona so far this season is to play to the level of the competition. 
    Why Florida State Might Win: The talent gap will be obvious, but especially when the ‘Noles are on defense. The Deacons have a long way to go on offense, as evidenced by their one-yard per carry rushing average and measly 18 points per game. Rookie QB John Wolford will undergo a baptism by fire trying to complete passes on a secondary headlined by P.J. Williams, Ronald Darby and Jalen Ramsey. 
    Who To Watch Out For: Wake Forest is getting maximum effort from its defenders, especially NT Tylor Harris, LB Brandon Chubb, DT Josh Banks and LB Marquel Lee. It’ll be interesting seeing how the self-made group fares against QB Jameis Winston and a Florida State offense that finally took flight over the final three quarters in Raleigh last Saturday. 
    What’s Going To Happen: You get the feeling that Wake Forest is going to be a nuisance for the balance of the season. And it’s going to beat someone it shouldn’t. But not this week in Tallahassee. The Deacons lack the offensive execution and playmakers to run with a Florida State that’ll use this opportunity to try and earn a few much-needed style points. 
    Prediction: Florida State 45 … Wake Forest 10 
    Line: Florida State -39 o/u: 54.5 
    Must Watch Factor: 5: Gone Girl – 1: Mulaney … 2 

    NC State (4-1) at Clemson (2-2) Oct. 4, 3:30, ESPNU 

    Here’s The Deal: NC State gave the ACC’s best team, Florida State, all it could handle last weekend. Now, the Pack tries its hand at the league’s other powerhouse, Clemson. Even in losing to the defending champs in Raleigh, 56-41, State made a statement that it’s no longer going to be one of the league’s pushovers. The Tigers had a memorable Week 5 as well. Last Saturday will go down as the beginning of the Deshaun Watson era in Death Valley. The ballyhooed rookie quarterback set a school record with six touchdown passes in a 50-35 rout of North Carolina. 
    Why NC State Might Win: With Jacoby Brissett running second-year head coach Dave Doeren’s system, opponents better be prepared to outscore the Wolfpack in 2014. State is on wicked roll, scoring at least 41 points in each of the last four games. Brissett is emerging into a special all-around playmaker, and he’s making those around him better. The running game is a useful accessory for a change, and six different receivers, led by Bo Hines, have at least 10 catches. 
    Why Clemson Might Win: With Watson at the controls, the Tigers showed last Saturday that they can give a workout to the scoreboard as well. Plus, the quarterback and his young receivers, Artavis Scott, Mike Williams and Germone Hopper, will improve as they spend more time together. The difference on Saturday will be the Clemson D, which is far more advanced than the Pack. Brent Venables’ group hasn’t been unbeatable, but Vic Beasley, Grady Jarrett and Stephone Anthony can create mismatches with the NC State blockers. 
    Who To Watch Out For: Watson is a special talent, who can carry the team in certain situations, but it sure would help if the Tigers outfitted him with a running game. Clemson is averaging 3.1 yards per carry, and neither C.J. Davidson nor D.J. Howard has been given a chance to get out of the blocks. NC State is vulnerable on defense. But even more so if Clemson is balanced, and Watson isn’t constantly battling back from second-and-long. 
    What’s Going To Happen: Watson vs. Brissett is a delicious quarterback duel few could have envisioned just a month ago. The pair represent the future at the position through 2015. Brissett, though, has the tougher assignment this weekend, facing a Clemson front seven that’ll be in his face plenty. Watson, at home and against a suspect and demoralized NC State D, will continue his evolution with a second straight win as the starter. 
    Prediction: Clemson 40 … NC State 27 
    Line: Clemson -14.5 o/u: 67.5 
    Must Watch Factor: 5: Gone Girl – 1: Mulaney … 3 

    Louisville (4-1) at Syracuse (2-2) Oct. 3, 7:00, ESPN 

    Here’s The Deal: It’s been an odd start to the season for Louisville. The offense was supposed to cook in Bobby Petrino’s first year, while the D regrouped. Instead, it’s the defense that’s helped carry the Cardinals, especially since QB Will Gardner was injured. Louisville scored just 20 points last week, yet held off Wake Forest at home. After a fast start, Syracuse has dropped two straight to Maryland and Notre Dame. And with Florida State up next, this is practically a must-win for the Orange. 
    Why Louisville Might Win: The Cardinals are giving up just 14 points per game. And at less than two yards per carry allowed, they’re capable of neutralizing Syracuse’s offensive strength between the tackles. Coordinator Todd Grantham has Louisville playing very well, from Lorenzo Mauldin off the edge and LB Keith Kelsey in the middle to ball-hawking SS Gerod Holliman, who leads the nation with six interceptions. 
    Why Syracuse Might Win: Louisville is having problems scoring and protecting the pocket. The latter is a particular problem facing the blitz-happy Orange … in a deafening Carrier Dome. Syracuse has 13 sacks through four games, led by linebackers Cameron Lynch and Marqez Hodge. Gardner remains day-to-day, which means he’ll either be gimpy or true freshman Reggie Bonnafon will get his second start. 
    Who To Watch Out For: Success for Syracuse hinges on the running of Prince-Tyson Gulley and Adonis Ameen-Moore and Terrel Hunt, because Hunt’s passing has regressed this season. The quarterback has thrown just one touchdown pass, and his receivers won’t frighten the Louisville defensive backs. 
    What’s Going To Happen: In a game that’ll be nip-and-tuck and low-scoring throughout, Louisville will get to 5-1 on the strength of its defense. The offense will sputter, especially since the quarterbacks are question marks. But Syracuse needs to clean up its execution, particularly on offense, before breaking through against a quality opponent. 
    Prediction: Louisville 24 … Syracuse 19 
    Line: Louisville -2.5 o/u: 48.5 
    Must Watch Factor: 5: Gone Girl – 1: Mulaney … 2.5 

    Virginia Tech (3-2) at North Carolina (2-2) Oct. 4, 12:30, ACC Network 

    Here’s The Deal: Yeah, it’s still early, but it might be now or never for Virginia Tech and North Carolina to show that they belong in the Coastal Division hunt. Neither program has appeared worthy over the past few weeks. The Tar Heels have been the ACC’s biggest disappointment so far, dropping the last two to East Carolina and Clemson by a combined score of 120-76. The Hokies also lost to the Pirates, as well as Georgia Tech, squandering the goodwill it amassed against Ohio State in Week 2. 
    Why Virginia Tech Might Win: Throughout all the twists and turns this season, the Hokies are still playing terrific defense, which is not the case in Chapel Hill. They’ve allowed 20 points a game, while holding opponents to the lowest completion percentage in the country. Carolina, meanwhile, is a wreck in the secondary, which should provide the impetus for Tech QB Michael Brewer to rebuild his confidence, with help from WR Isaiah Ford and TE Bucky Hodges. 
    Why North Carolina Might Win: The Heels’ problems do not apply to the offense, which has been carrying its weight. Carolina is averaging 40 points per game, and it has a terrific blend of athletes, like QB Marquise Williams and receivers Ryan Switzer, Mack Hollins and Quinshad Davis. As an added bonus, two of Virginia Tech’s best defenders, DT Luther Maddy and CB Brandon Facyson, are laid up with injuries. 
    Who To Watch Out For: It’s all right in front of Brewer, who couldn’t hand-pick a better opponent to face this week. Carolina is a slump-buster for opposing quarterbacks, its defensive backs often completely out of place. But Brewer has to capitalize, sans one of his support members, RB Shai McKenzie, who’s out for the year with a torn ACL. 
    What’s Going To Happen: Virginia Tech boasts the best unit in this one, a defense still capable of making timely stops and dictating the tempo of a game. Brewer won’t be prolific in Chapel Hill. But he will be efficient for a change, limiting his mistakes to help keep Carolina reeling. Marshawn Williams, no longer sharing carries, will help the cause with his second straight 100-yard game. 
    Prediction: Virginia Tech 30 … North Carolina 27 
    Line: Virginia Tech -1.5 o/u: 64.5 
    Must Watch Factor: 5: Gone Girl – 1: Mulaney … 2.5 

    Miami (3-2) at Georgia Tech (4-0) Oct. 4, 7:30, ESPN2 

    Here’s The Deal: In the topsy-turvy world of the ACC Coastal, Miami at Georgia Tech represents the first really important toward a divisional title. The Yellow Jackets exit their first bye week unbeaten and emboldened by an upset of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg two weeks ago. They can take another big step forward by holding serve on the Flats this week. The ‘Canes are enjoying momentum as well, courtesy of last Saturday’s pivotal win over defending Coastal champ Duke. Miami is working with less margin for error, having already lost to Louisville in the opener. 
    Why Miami Might Win: Week 5 marked a giant step forward in Al Golden’s quest for Miami to become a complete team. The offense already had pop, with RB Duke Johnson and a slew of speedy receivers aiding the ongoing development of rookie QB Brad Kaaya. But the maligned defense pitched in for a change, holding the Blue Devils well below their season scoring average. And Golden and defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio have historically had success slowing the triple-option. 
    Why Georgia Tech Might Win: The Yellow Jackets are doing a lot well right now, including an opportunistic D. And they’re well-rested, a stark contrast to the banged-up ‘Canes, who’ll be without right tackles Taylor Gadbois and KC McDermott. While not prolific yet, the Tech offense is getting it done behind QB Justin Thomas. The ground game is typically productive, the team has been dynamite on third downs and Thomas-to-WR DeAndre Smelter can take the top off a defense. 
    Who To Watch Out For: Stopping Thomas and B-back Zach Laskey mandates having disciplined and fundamentally sound linebackers and safeties. Miami has them, especially at the second level. The Yellow Jackets’ biggest concern will be getting a helmet, even two, on Denzel Perryman and Thurston Armbrister. Perryman is one of the game’s best run defenders, while Armbrister has been a huge surprise so far in 2014. 
    What’s Going To Happen: These two teams are evenly matched, and Miami has won five straight in the series. But the Hurricanes are at a disadvantage this week. They’re going on the road to face a rested team a week after an emotional win over Duke. Miami is—gradually—headed in the right direction, but this week they take a step back with a hard-fought loss to Georgia Tech in the waning moments. 
    Prediction: Georgia Tech 34 … Miami 30 
    Line: Miami -1.5 o/u: 56.5 
    Must Watch Factor: 5: Gone Girl – 1: Mulaney … 3 

    Pittsburgh (3-2) at Virginia (3-2) Oct. 4, 7:30, RSN 

    Here’s The Deal: It’s pivot time for Pitt and Virginia, a pair of 3-2 squads with visions of capturing the wide-open Coastal Division. While both schools have experienced high points and dips during the first half of 2014, they realize that opportunities exist in October and November. By being over. 500 at this stage, the Cavs have exceeded expectations by navigating a slate dotted with three ranked teams. The Panthers need to stop the bleeding that resulted from back-to-back losses to Iowa and Akron. Last week’s collapse to the Zips was arguably the low-point of Paul Chryst’s tenure. 
    Why Pittsburgh Might Win: James Conner is still one of the nation’s best backs. And the defense continues to be part of the solution instead of the problem. Conner is second nationally with 790 yards on the ground, a bruiser who can wear down defenses. The no-name Panther D is giving up just three yards a carry, and has more picks than touchdowns allowed. 
    Why Virginia Might Win: Akron provided the blueprint for slowing Conner—stack the box, because QB Chad Voytik struggles to connect downfield. And the Cavaliers are much tougher than the Zips, allowing just 2.5 yards per carry this season. UVa has the size and range, especially at linebacker with Max Valles Henry Coley and Daquan Romero, to hem in Conner, and force Voytik way out of his comfort zone. 
    Who To Watch Out For: Something interesting is happening in Charlottesville; the offense is emerging. The Cavaliers produced more than 500 yards versus BYU and Kent State, spouting out pop and balance. If QB Matt Johns can avoid mistakes, and the line controls the interior of the Panther front, Virginia is liable to stay toasty on offense. 
    What’s Going To Happen: This is a huge game for Virginia, especially head coach Mike London. A win could provide a turning point that leads to a much-needed postseason berth. The Cavs are the better team right now, and their defense is going to shut down the one-note Panthers. The Pitt D will keep things close, but UVa will not lose this chance to remain in the Coastal hunt. 
    Prediction: Virginia 27 … Pittsburgh 17 
    Line: Virginia -6.5 o/u: 47 
    Must Watch Factor: 5: Gone Girl – 1: Mulaney … 2 

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