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Picks at the wire: Week 9

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With Maryland on the bye and a busy day ahead, let’s not waste too much time with this.

Last week brought a six-game split. Nothing great, nothing awful. Improvement should be possible on this week’s seven-game slate.

Onward (all games Saturday unless otherwise noted) …

* North Carolina at Virginia Tech (Thursday, 7:30, ESPN): Hokies 31-10. A Thursday night game in Blacksburg featuring a visitor with virtually no offense? “Enter Sandman” is truly appropriate – for the fans watching at home with no rooting interest. For the many good prime-time games the ACC has had this year (Miami-Florida State, Georgia Tech-Clemson, Georgia Tech-Florida State), this one could be a huge dud.

* N.C. State at Florida State (Noon, Raycom): Seminoles 53-51 (3OT). Are you ready for some offense? Or, more to the point, no defense? For those playing ACC fantasy football, it’s a good week to own Russell Wilson or Christian Ponder.

* Coastal Carolina at Clemson (1:30): Tigers 34-10. You know about not counting your chickens before they hatch? Well, how about roosters, considering the mascot of this in-state Division I-AA visitor? It’s not quite beating South Carolina (that’ll happen in another month), but Clemson will inch closer to bowl eligibility.

* Miami at Wake Forest (3:30, ABC/ESPN2 regional): Hurricanes 27-13. Sadly for the Demon Deacons, Maryland will not be paying another visit to Winston-Salem. Instead, Wake will have to ignite its suddenly slumbering offense against a cranky Miami outfit coming off an overtime loss to Clemson. Don’t like the Deacs’ chances here.

* Duke at Virginia (3:30): Cavaliers 23-21. Does Duke have the goods to win this game? Absolutely. It’s just that it’s a week early for Virginia’s annual season-ending swoon to occur. After seeing the Blue Devils in person last week, here’s the honest assessment: Great quarterback, smart receivers, great coaching, but overall still limited talent as David Cutcliffe is still early in the building process. Against the Cavaliers, who typically play strong defense, some of those strengths will be minimized and the talent gap will matter. A late field goal wins it, but a Duke win would not be a surprise.

* Central Michigan at Boston College (3:30, ESPNU): Eagles 28-27. A really, really fascinating nonconference game this late in the season. The Eagles are 5-0 at home, 0-3 on the road, but were their own worst enemy at Notre Dame last week. The Chippewas are actually a comparable opponent, having defeated Michigan State (just like Notre Dame!) and lost to Arizona (well, the Irish lost to a somewhat better Pac-10 team – Southern Cal – so just roll with it). Go ahead and laugh, but this could be the best game involving an ACC team this week.

* Georgia Tech at Vanderbilt (7:30, CSS): Yellow Jackets 31-6. The Commodores went to a bowl game for the first time since 1982 last year despite a sputtering offense. This year, Vanderbilt has topped the 13-point plateau twice – and is 2-6 for its efforts. Assuming Georgia Tech doesn’t lay an egg, this won’t be too tough an evening for the Yellow Jackets.

Last week’s record: 3-3 (2-2 conference games)
Season record: 43-21 (14-10 conference)
Preseason picks record: 41-23 (13-11 conference)
Preseason picks changed for this week: None

Patrick Stevens

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