Picks at the wire: Week 13

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Some things went right in last week’s picks (a special thank you is warranted for N.C. State).

And other things did not (like Florida State brawling and Virginia Tech reverting to form at Miami).

Fortunately, a 3-2 record reflects some level of competence at this stage of the season.

Here’s six games to consider for the weekend, which happens to be the last full day of league games since Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest all finish with nonconference tussles.

So here is a pick-six for the week, with all games on Saturday unless otherwise noted:

* Miami at Georgia Tech (Thursday, 7:30, ESPN): Yellow Jackets 24-17. The law of averages says a team can only win so many close games in a row. Even Virginia eventually learned that last season.

Yes, the Hurricanes have won five straight games, and their turnaround is a credit to coach Randy Shannon and a good sign for a conference that needs Miami to resume its ways as a feared national power. But the Canes have also gotten a little fortunate, which is all right.

Four of Miami’s five victories are by a touchdown or less. The Hurricanes scored more than 20 points in regulation only once in that stretch.

It sort of reminds me of 2006 Maryland – and that team was dealt a giant thud on the road in the season’s penultimate week. Look for the Yellow Jackets (coming off a bye week) to do something similar.

* Clemson at Virginia (Noon, Raycom split): Cavaliers 21-20. Virginia solves the ACC’s biggest headache – finding a ninth bowl-eligible team – and officially dooms Clemson to a holiday season without a bowl.

Really, it’s a toss-up. But the guess here is Virginia will have figured out some way to slow down C.J. Spiller with the benefit of an extra week to prepare. Then again, Clemson routed Duke last week, so maybe the Tigers had an extra week to prepare as well.

* N.C. State at North Carolina (Noon, Raycom split): Tar Heels 30-17. That’s two straight weeks that N.C. State has made life very difficult for an in-state opponent, and the Wolfpack can improve to 4-0 against teams in North Carolina with a victory in Chapel Hill.

Carolina has its own issues coming off a loss at Maryland, but it flat-out clobbered three of the last four teams to venture into Kenan Stadium. State’s faint bowl hopes will dissipate this weekend, but don’t be surprised if the Wolfpack still beats Miami in the season finale.

* Boston College at Wake Forest (3:30, ABC regional): Demon Deacons 20-17. Two things to keep in mind about this game. Wake Forest’s defense is still pretty good, and Boston College is winning because its defense and special teams set up a so-so offense quite nicely. Even if the Deacons aren’t playing all that great, they still have the goods to upend a comparable team at home – especially with Sam Swank expected to be back in the fold.

* Duke at Virginia Tech (5:30, ESPNU): Hokies 27-3. It’s a safe assumption that Duke QB Thaddeus Lewis (ankle) won’t be fully healthy for this one. And since Lewis is pretty good, that’s going to have quite a negative effect on the Blue Devils.

Virginia Tech, meanwhile, is dealing with its share of internal bickering. But one of the oldest axioms of ACC football is about to go on display again – Nothing cures an ailing team like a visit from the Duke Blue Devils.

* Florida State at Maryland (7:45, ESPN): Terps 24-23. This is the second straight year I’ve reached Maryland’s home finale, only to look down at my list of preseason picks with incredulity and ask “Did I really pick the Terps to win this game before the year started?”

Indeed I did, and the Terps have a better chance on paper in this one than last year against Boston College.

One oddball stat to contrast the Terps’ run against ranked teams: Maryland is 1-3 in its last three games as a ranked opponent, wedging a 2006 defeat of Miami between losses to Georgia Tech (2004), Boston College (2006) and Virginia Tech (2008).

That said, the pick here is Maryland, though any sort of result – from dismantling the Seminoles to getting drilled – remains a possibility.

Last week’s record: 3-2 (3-2 conference games)
Season record: 56-26 (22-16 conference)
Preseason picks record: 52-30 (21-17 conference)
Preseason picks changed for this week: Clemson-Virginia

Patrick Stevens

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