Picks at the wire: Week 4

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Go with the gut.

That’s the lesson from last week’s predictions. Switching from Florida State to Brigham Young didn’t help. Ignoring the power of Jacory Harris against a less-imposing-than-before Georgia Tech defense didn’t help.

And ignoring the visual evidence from Maryland’s first two games didn’t help, though when you pick a team to win 31-30 and it loses on a last-second field goal, well, at least it was in the right neighborhood for the kind of game it would be.

Eight more games this week, and for the first time this season, they’ll all be played on Saturday. Let’s get to the picks.

* North Carolina at Georgia Tech (Noon, Raycom): Yellow Jackets 24-20. The Tar Heels remain a tricky team. Beating Connecticut and East Carolina was nice, but that’s not a pair of victories that would convince anyone they are a top-20 team. At the same time, they’ll probably reach their bye at 6-0 (and impossible to ignore) if they can win in Atlanta. North Carolina pummeled Georgia Tech last year, but had the benefit of a bye week to work with. The Heels will play OK – just not well enough to win their conference opener.

* South Florida at Florida State (Noon, ESPNU): Seminoles 31-13. No Matt Grothe means lots of problems for the Bulls. As for Florida State, is it the bunch that mauled Brigham Young or the crew that barely escaped Jacksonville State at home? How close this game is will say more about the Seminoles’ steadiness than any sort of adjective from the Big Bag of Sportswriters’ Cliches that could be ascribed to the Bulls.

* Wake Forest at Boston College (2): Eagles 14-13. It’s a significant week for both teams. The Demon Deacons can get halfway to bowl eligibility with winnable home games against N.C. State and Maryland looming. The Eagles just need to show some semblance of an offense against a respectable team, or things could go south in a hurry, especially with Florida State and Virginia Tech on the horizon. Here’s guessing disaster is staved off at BC – in thoroughly ugly fashion.

* Miami at Virginia Tech (3:30, ABC/ESPN regional): Hokies 24-23. It’s too early to say this is for the Coastal Division title. Way too early. But if Miami leaves Blacksburg with a 3-0 league record and wins over two of the other three Coastal contenders, it will be extremely difficult to dislodge the Hurricanes from the top spot. A packed Lane Stadium will be tougher on the great Jacory Harris, as will a tenacious Hokie defense. Bank on yet another superb early-season ACC game – or at least a great finish.

* Pittsburgh at N.C. State (3:30, ESPNU): Panthers 28-17. On the one hand, the Wolfpack has done nothing against a legitimate team this season. On the other, Dave Wannstedt is coaching their opponent this week. But Pittsburgh’s resounding trip into Buffalo a few weeks back was impressive – enough so to stick with the Panthers in this trip to Carter-Finley.

* Rutgers at Maryland (3:30): Terrapins 27-23. Finally, Maryland gets to face a conventional offense – and one that could be without its true freshman starting quarterback, too. The first three weeks have demonstrated the Terps aren’t going to wind up in the nine-win ballpark this season. But it’s difficult to believe they will remain as bad as they’ve looked so far. Maryland needs a breakout game, but would happily settle for a solid victory over the mystery team from Piscataway.

* Texas Christian at Clemson (3:30): Tigers 15-13. You could argue the Tigers’ most valuable player to date is Richard Jackson, who kicked six field goals in last week’s slopfest against Boston College. Here’s calling for just five this week as Clemson holds on in a defensive struggle in Death Valley against a superb Horned Frogs outfit.

* North Carolina Central at Duke (7): Blue Devils 42-10. Duke will not lose to two teams from the former Division I-AA in a season. It’ll be curious to see what the Blue Devils get from true freshman tailback Desmond Scott, who appears set to make his debut in this intracity matchup.

Last week’s record: 7-3 (1-1 conference games)
Season record: 24-7 (3-1 conference)
Preseason picks record: 25-6 (3-1 conference)
Preseason picks changed for this week: None

Patrick Stevens

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