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Picks at the wire: Week 5

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Last week proved tricky, with an even split of the eight games involving ACC schools. Florida State’s loss surprised a lot of people, and playing with fire (predicting a Dave Wannstedt victory on the road) caught up with me.

But there was a 3-0 record in conference games, which are theoretically more difficult to figure out.

Anyway, here are this week’s seven games, with all of them to be played Saturday:

* Virginia at North Carolina (Noon, Raycom): Tar Heels 20-14. Call me crazy, but there’s a pretty good chance Lord Groh cobbled up something crafty during the bye week to give the Cavaliers a chance to right the ship. Expect Virginia to look respectable, but North Carolina (while not great) is still better than it demonstrated in last week’s loss to Georgia Tech.

* Clemson at Maryland (Noon, ESPNU): Tigers 23-7. Clemson’s defensive ends and secondary are truly impressive, and precisely the opposite of what a turnover-prone team like the Terrapins would want to encounter at this time. The road team has won four straight and five of seven in the series, and the Tigers have a good chance to extend that streak some more if they can convert a few red zone opportunities.

* Virginia Tech at Duke (Noon): Hokies 34-14. See, playing an ESPN360 game at noon isn’t so bad. Please take notes, Wake Forest. Aside from that, the Hokies looked like their usual selves last week against Miami. The Hokies’ average victory margin this series since joining the ACC is 29 points – and that’s after last year’s 14-3 squeaker.

* Florida State at Boston College (3:30, ABC/ESPN regional): Seminoles 28-10. Another series where the road team has won four straight, all since the Eagles joined the ACC in 2005. Florida State fluctuates wildly from week to week, but after a clunker against South Florida is due for a bounceback performance. Boston College, despite its overtime survival against Wake Forest, still has offensive issues not easily solved. They’ll resurface this week against a rankable team.

* N.C. State at Wake Forest (3:30, ESPNU): Wolfpack 27-17. N.C. State loves its in-state games under Tom O’Brien, going 7-1 over his first 2-plus seasons in those contests. The one blemish? A loss at Wake Forest two years ago. N.C. State’s comeback victory against Pittsburgh was encouraging, while the Deacons’ victories have come against Stanford (flew across the country) and Elon. Here’s thinking Russell Wilson enjoys another fine day.

* Georgia Tech at Mississippi State (7:30, CSS): Yellow Jackets 28-14. The Bulldogs are better under Dan Mullen, as last week’s near-upset of Louisiana State attests. Georgia Tech, though, appeared to right themselves after a few shaky games early in the season. It could be close for a while, but Paul Johnson should leave Starkville with his team at 4-1.

* Oklahoma at Miami (8, ABC regional): Hurricanes 28-24. Even if Sooners quarterback Sam Bradford plays, he won’t have favorite target Jermaine Gresham to work with. Yes, Miami encountered some problems last week, but the Virginia Tech defense and the lousy weather had something to do with it. Most Miami fans would have been ecstatic with a 2-2 start, so at 2-1 there isn’t much for the ‘Canes to lose in this one.

Last week’s record: 4-4 (3-0 conference games)
Season record: 28-11 (6-1 conference)
Preseason picks record: 29-10 (6-1 conference)
Preseason picks changed for this week:N.C. State-Wake Forest, Oklahoma-Miami

Patrick Stevens

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