The biggest week of the ACC season is upon us. A national title contender will face its last big challenge in Death Valley. The Coastal division race could be decided in Chapel Hill. A showdown in Pittsburgh could have serious implications for the College Football Playoff. And, closer to our hearts, a resilient Virginia team could fan the flames of its postseason hopes in South Florida.
Without further ado, here's how I see this weekend's games shaping up.
The Virginia Pick
Virginia is on the road against Miami. The line has been turned off in the Streaking The Lawn Yahoo! Pick ‘Em league.
Mike London has owned Miami, somehow going 4-1 against the Canes in his 5 years at Virginia. Miami will have some momentum after its lateral-infused win over Duke. But the Canes are facing quarterback uncertainty. Starter Brad Kaaya still hasn’t been cleared after his concussion two weeks ago. Backup Malik Rosier suffered an undisclosed injury in the Duke win, but should be ready to go.
This one will come down to turnovers. If Virginia can hold onto the ball, it will have a chance to win. The Hoos have run the ball well the last three weeks and the Canes have struggled stopping the run all year. Unfortunately, I look for a couple of crucial mistakes to doom the Cavaliers once again. I’m taking Miami at home.
The Big One
#1 Clemson is a 12-point favorite at home against #16 Florida State
(I’m using the College Football Playoff Rankings here)
How will the Tigers deal with the pressure of being the top-ranked team in the country? The last time these two teams squared off in Death Valley, Florida State embarrassed Clemson en route to a national title. Can Dabo Swinney’s team return the favor? The Tigers will have to play better on defense than it did against NC State.
Dalvin Cook should play for the Noles, but its unclear who FSU will start at quarterback. I look for Florida State to keep it close, but for Clemson to pull away in the second half. The Tigers will cover at home.
The Coastal Clash
North Carolina is an 8-point favorite against Duke
Color me thoroughly unimpressed with the Blue Devils. After walloping weaker opponents to start the year, Duke has looked suspect that great in ACC play. They struggled to beat Boston College and Virginia Tech, and they lost a game they shouldn’t have against Miami. North Carolina is coming off its biggest win of the season. Duke will keep it close enough to cover, but the Heels will get the win.
The Heinz Field Showdown
#5 Notre Dame is an 8-point favorite on the road against Pittsburgh
Notre Dame still has a legit case to be in the College Football Playoff. That could change Saturday night against the Panthers. Pat Narduzzi’s squad looked solid all season before dropping last Thursday’s home game against North Carolina. Notre Dame has struggled in its three road games. The Irish could pull out another close one against Pitt, but I’m taking the Panthers to cover at home.
The Remaining Games
NC State is a 4-point favorite on the road against Boston College
Louisville is a 14-point favorite at home against Syracuse
I’m taking the Wolfpack and the Orange to cover here. The Pack looked dangerous last week against Clemson, while Boston College showed signs of regression against Virginia Tech. The Eagles haven’t scored 20 points against an FBS opponent all season. It won’t be pretty, but I think NC State will win rather comfortably.
Meanwhile, I’m a sucker for Syracuse. I picked them to cover last week against FSU and lost, but I’m picking them to cover again this week against Louisville. I don’t think Louisville is good enough to be laying 14 points, even if they're at home. The Cuse will keep it close enough to cover on the road.
No Matter Who You Pick
We hope you'll participate in our ACC Pick 'Em contest on Yahoo! Sports. Head over to Yahoo! to check out full standings and submit your entry. UVA Geek still leads the standings. His 52-22 record now has him three games clear of the field. It's not too late to sign up! Go to Yahoo! and enter in the group ID 7558, with the password "tohomerandback". Good luck!
(As always, these picks are for entertainment purposes only. I'm 37th in the Streaking The Lawn pick 'em pool and 20-39 against the spread. Please don't bet money based on the "wisdom" you've just read. I'm agnostic to whether you bet money generally.)