Picks at the wire: Week 3

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The impossible is happening here.

An overestimation of the ACC.

Stunningly, it’s true, despite truly knowing better.

Of the five games involving conference teams picked incorrectly here in the first two weeks, four were nonconference games the ACC lost. The other was the Georgia Tech-Boston College tussle.

I won’t be bit that way this week. The preseason picks already included losses by Duke (to Navy), Maryland (to California) and Virginia (to Connecticut). So like Ralph Friedgen, I’ll hold off on massive changes until at least next week.

So onward to this week’s seven-game slate (all games on Saturday unless otherwise indicated).

* North Carolina at Rutgers (Thursday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN): Tar Heels 28-17. The biggest toss-up of the week. Certainly, this is the sort of setting that could herald a breakout season for Butch Davis. Look for Brandon Tate to follow up his insane opening-week performance against McNeese State with more standout work on special teams.

* N.C. State at Clemson (Noon, Chs. 20, 54): Tigers 41-7. Just a hunch that Clemson still has a few obliterations left in it. And beating William & Mary isn’t enough to sell me on the Wolfpack, even is quarterback Russell Wilson has recovered from his concussion.

* California at Maryland (Noon, ESPN): Golden Bears 27-21. I am oddly convinced Maryland will not lay an egg on Saturday. It’s just tough to forget how well the Terps have played in the recent past after bad losses. But Cal is pretty good, and I’m not convinced enough to predict a victory.

* Navy at Duke (Noon, ESPNU): Midshipmen 31-27. Quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada is back for the Mids, and chances are their offense will be a little bit slicker as a result. Still, this will be closer than would have been guessed at the start of August.

* Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech (3:30 p.m., Chs. 7, 2): Hokies 24-21. It was always dumb to pick against Paul Johnson in the long-term. But in the short-term, too? Virginia Tech still should be good enough to escape with a victory, but it would take much for the Yellow Jackets to spring an upset and get an early edge in the Coastal Division.

* Chattanooga at Florida State (3:45 p.m., ESPNU): Seminoles 56-3. Ah, Chattanooga. Please note the word “poor” was not used. The Mocs visit Tallahassee two weeks after a coffer-lining trip to Oklahoma. There’s no way they’re poor. Unfortunate? Probably. About to be drilled? Definitely. But not poor.

* Virginia at Connecticut (7:30 p.m., ESPNU): Huskies 31-7. Introducing Donald Brown, who is averaging 180 yards rushing (second in the country) through two weeks. If he was in the NCAA’s team rankings, he’d be tied for 41st nationally. This is just an extended way of saying Brown is really good, and it would be no surprise if he somehow outgained Virginia all by himself. The Cavaliers, by the way, will start Marc Verica at quarterback against UConn with Peter Lalich and his legal issues left back in Lord Groh’s Realm for the trip.

Last week’s record: 7-3 (0-1 conference games)
Season record: 16-5 (0-1 conference games)
Preseason picks record: 16-5 (0-1 conference games)
Picks changed from the preseason this week: After careful consideration and great temptation, none.

Patrick Stevens

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