So, it’s judgment week (or something like that) for the ACC.
Four ranked teams roll into conference stadiums this week. Only one of the ACC teams involved is ranked.
So if it’s a whitewash, then it says … well, it might say Florida State isn’t national title-worthy just yet. But beyond that? It might not be damning for any single team if the games are close.
For the conference? Yeah, it would reinforce what’s been said for several years —- certainly moreso than bowl performance. Judging games that hold meaning and are played on ACC fields is a far better measure of evaluation than looking at postseason games that might or might not matter to the team involved.
That said, don’t cut bait on Clemson, Maryland or Miami (or even Florida State) if they lose this weekend. Well, at least if they don’t lose big.
Onto the picks (all games Saturday) …
* Auburn at Clemson (Noon, ABC): Clemson 31-20. It all comes back to Clemsonliness, really. The ACC’s Tigers zig when they’re supposed to zag. So what if Clemson struggled to get by Troy and Wofford? Big deal. That just means the Tigers will pull off an impressive victory and end the defending national champs’ 17-game winning streak. What happens in the weeks to come, though, is anyone’s guess.
* West Virginia at Maryland (Noon, ESPNU): Mountaineers 35-34. Pure toss-up game. It’s tough to tell what to make of the Terrapins after only one game; there just isn’t enough of an on-field record to examine just yet. Expect Maryland to move the ball, though maybe not quite as efficiently as against Miami (seven red zone trips in eight possessions is awfully tough to replicate). Likewise, the Mountaineers have played two games without offering an impression likely to stick. Expect a good one in College Park, regardless of who wins.
* Duke at Boston College (12:30, ACC Network): Blue Devils 17-10. Clearly, this pick has much more to do with the Eagles than Duke. Neither team has impressed, with Duke losing twice at home. But between injuries, attrition and the sudden leave of absence for offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers to go along with an 0-2 start, Boston College has the look of a team in disarray. Two weeks into the season, the Eagles’ postseason hopes are dim thanks to a back-loaded schedule. If Duke can snatch a win in New England, Boston College fans will be ready to quickly move along to hoping Jerry York and Co. can lift their spirits during the winter.
* Kansas at Georgia Tech (12:30, CSN): Yellow Jackets 45-20. It won’t be two straight losses to the Jayhawks for Georgia Tech. In retrospect, Kansas’ win in Lawrence early last season was one of the year’s truly puzzling results. The Jayhawks were, to be blunt, dreadful in nearly every way imaginable and Georgia Tech didn’t fall apart until late in the season. Kansas already has two wins this year, so good for Turner Gill for making some progress. But given Tevin Washington‘s efficiency to date, look for the Yellow Jackets to coast.
* Virginia at North Carolina (3:30, ESPNU): Tar Heels 24-17. It’s so tempting to go with the Cavaliers here, especially considering Carl Torbush was the coach the last time North Carolina won its ACC opener. That streak should end Saturday, but not without a bit of a struggle against an improved Virginia outfit (see: its first six quarters) that still can be exploited (see: much of the second half against Indiana before recovering) by nearly anyone. The stat to watch: North Carolina’s ability to cut down on turnovers after nearly handing last week’s game to Rutgers.
* Arkansas State at Virginia Tech (4, CSN): Hokies 35-10. Arkansas State dismantled Memphis last week. In a related note, Memphis is horrid. Virginia Tech, meanwhile, is coming off a defensive masterpiece against East Carolina. The offense sputtered frequently, but look for the Hokies’ rushing game to fare well enough to put this out of reach by early in the third quarter, if not sooner.
* South Alabama at N.C. State (6, ESPN3.com): Wolfpack 38-7. South Alabama is in its third season, having played a motley assortment of prep schools, junior colleges and D-III programs in 2009 and then a Division I-AA schedule last year. Tack on a couple wins this year, and the Jaguars are 19-0. Odds are against them running their winning streak to 20, no matter how flustered N.C. State is at this point. This should be a chance for the Wolfpack defense to get well; it needs to with Cincinnati coming up next on a short week.
* Navy at South Carolina (6, ESPN2): Gamecocks 38-27. South Carolina might be the most talented team Navy has faced since some of the Lou Holtz teams at Notre Dame in the 1990s. That’s not an exaggeration (somebody simulate 2009 Ohio State vs. 2011 South Carolina, please), especially considering where the Irish have been for more than a decade. The potential for a blowout exists, but don’t look past the Gamecocks’ defensive woes the last two weeks. Navy should be able to score to some extent. Stopping South Carolina’s loaded offense is the far greater conundrum on paper.
* Gardner-Webb at Wake Forest (6:30, ESPN3.com): Demon Deacons 42-3. Not even the combined powers of Gardner and Webb (that’s a joke, folks, so no need to point out the inaccuracy) will slow down Tanner Price and the Demon Deacons in the Dash this weekend.
* Ohio State at Miami (7:30, ESPN): Buckeyes 24-21. Jacory Harris is back under center for the Hurricanes, and he’ll face an Ohio State bunch that intercepted him four times in last year’s meeting at the Horseshoe. Come for the NCAA violations jokes, stay for what should be a solid game in south Florida.
* Oklahoma at Florida State (8, ABC): Sooners 28-24. Are the Seminoles ready for prime time? Will Jimbo Fisher have a chance to become the latest second-year coach to claim a national title in his first season? After two tuneups, Florida State will be able to finally answer that question when the biggest nonconference game on the ACC calendar in a long while is complete. Here’s thinking Oklahoma has enough to get it done against a Florida State team bound to get better as the year progresses.
Week 2 record: 8-2 (0-1 conference)
ACC record: 16-5 (1-1 conference)
Navy record: 2-0
Preseason Week 3 picks changed: Duke-Boston College
Preseason ACC record: 14-5 (1-1 conference)
—- Patrick Stevens