This is how this little execise is supposed to work – after struggling early to get a read on teams, it’s supposed to be easier to figure them out in the closing stretch.
After a 10-1 record forecasting the ACC the last two weeks, it seems that has happened. Last year’s regular-season record was 64-32. It’ll take a colossal collapse this week to not improve on that.
Having said that, here’s the eight games on the schedule for the final week of the regular season:
* Wake Forest at Duke (Noon, Raycom): Demon Deacons 31-28. If there’s an unluckier team in the country outside of Storrs, Conn., (UConn still qualifies even after last week’s win at Notre Dame) than Wake Forest, it would be a surprise. Some coaches say they could have won 10 games. Jim Grobe, if he was so inclined, could do so with a straight face. The Demon Deacons have lost five games by a combined 13 points, so they’re not bad. And they’re coming off a bye. And it’s Riley Skinner’s last game. The breaks will go Wake’s way for once, and it’ll cost Duke a .500 season.
* North Carolina at N.C. State (Noon, ESPN2): Tar Heels 23-17. Thought long and hard about the Wolfpack. Really. Even though it’s been a rough year in Raleigh, Tom O’Brien has owned Carolina the last two years. Trouble is, even North Carolina is going to be able to score against N.C. State. North Carolina continues its late surge and its remarkable impression of Virginia Tech (No. 5 defense, No. 113 offense) to close out an improbable 9-3 season.
* Clemson at South Carolina (Noon, ESPN): Tigers 24-14. How sad is it to see a standard SEC team (middling offense, superb defense) coached by Steve Spurrier? It’s not new, but it just doesn’t feel right. Oh, and Clemson’s winning streak reaches seven. How, exactly, did the Tigers lose at Maryland?
* Florida State at Florida (3:30, CBS): Gators 54-24. You might have heard that this is Tim Tebow’s final home games. In related news, Jerome Bettis is from Detroit. In any case, anyone who got to witness Florida State’s “defense” first-hand last week could only come away with the conclusion the Gators might need an extra digit for the scoreboard at Florida Field. Tebow and Co. are going to at least flirt with half a hundred.
* Virginia Tech at Virginia (3:30, ABC/ESPN regional): Hokies 20-16. Lo, what is that noise echoing across the central Virginian plain, pray tell? Why, it’s the sound of the disgruntled masses assembling for a last look at Lord Groh of Hooville. Because Hokies fans will be invading Scott Stadium in large numbers, this will indeed be a pitchforks-and-torches optional affair. And because Virginia, to its credit, has always played hard (if not well) for Groh, this is going to be a good game and possibly a Cavaliers victory. Still, this is going to have the feel of a wake in Charlottesville.
* Miami at South Florida (3:30, ABC/ESPN regional): Hurricanes 27-21. Two solid teams that are tough to fully trust and are probably not bound for the sort of postseason destinations they initially dreamed of doth not a great rivalry week matchup make. Miami should win, but South Florida would happily take a sweep of the Hurricanes and Miami. Since Florida did so in 1985, the only schools to beat both powers in the same year are Maryland (2006), Virginia Tech (2007), Georgia Tech and Florida (2008) and Clemson (2009).
* Boston College at Maryland (3:30, ESPNU): Eagles 21-13. BC isn’t a great road team and Maryland, well, it isn’t a great team anywhere. But the Eagles are technically sound and the Terrapins aren’t quitters, so there’s a chance this turns out to be a decent game. Either way, it will be witnessed by a lot of empty bleachers and plenty of empty suites in College Park.
* Georgia at Georgia Tech (8, ESPN/ESPN2): Yellow Jackets 35-17. Let’s set the table here. Between Navy and Georgia Tech, Paul Johnson’s teams are 13-4 in regular-season games when there’s more than 10 days to prepare (excluding openers). Gotta like his chances coming off a bye against a Georgia outfit enduring one of its roughest seasons in some time, especially in Atlanta.
Last week’s record: 5-0 (5-0 conference games)
Season record: 62-26 (29-15 conference)
Preseason picks record: 58-30 (26-18 conference)
Preseason picks changed for this week: Boston College-Maryland, North Carolina-N.C. State, Georgia-Georgia Tech