After a nearly perfect week (Ohio State failed to go to Miami and collect a victory), it’s time to move along to the final Saturday in September.
But before that, there’s a Thursday night game to consider as well.
As usual, all games Saturday afternoon unless otherwise indicated …
* N.C. State at Cincinnati (Thursday, 8, ESPN): Bearcats 38-24. N.C. State has two victories over I-AA teams and a lackluster performance in a loss at Wake Forest. Cincinnati’s two victories —- Austin Peay and Akron by a combined 131-24 —- aren’t the cornerstones of a great resume, but the Bearcats will undoubtedly move the ball against the depleted Wolfpack. There’s enough talent at the skill positions on offense for Cincinnati to create some headaches for their visitors.
* North Carolina at Georgia Tech (Noon, ESPN): Yellow Jackets 31-21. Georgia Tech, as good as it looked so far, will not average 12.1 yards a rush again. Well, it certainly won’t do so against a capable North Carolina defense. Even if the Yellow Jackets didn’t face the stiffest competition the last three weeks, their offensive improvement is not a mirage. Don’t discount the possibility of Georgia Tech getting to 7-0 before a significant Coastal Division trip to Miami next month.
* Temple at Maryland (12:30, ACC Network): Terrapins 30-17. Maryland was gashed on the short passes last week against West Virginia. That shouldn’t be a major issue against the Owls, a run-centric sort who have thrown for 200 yards just five times in their last 26 games. Danny O’Brien will rebound from a three-interception game nicely to move Maryland back over .500 and keep the Terps undefeated in seven meetings with Temple.
* Massachusetts at Boston College (1, ESPN3.com): Eagles 31-14. Boston College will avert the possibility of a winless season, though anything beyond this weekend is far from guaranteed for the 0-3 Eagles.
* Southern Mississippi at Virginia (3:30, CSN): Cavaliers 28-24. This is maybe the trickiest game to predict in the ACC this week (yes, trickier than Florida State-Clemson). The Cavaliers can leave September with a 3-1 mark and reasonably decent bowl hopes if they can handle the talented Golden Eagles. If Virginia can establish the run, it should be able to escape a harrowing home contest.
* Virginia Tech at Marshall (3:30, CBS Sports Network): Hokies 31-7. The Hokies rank in the top eight nationally in rushing defense (fourth), pass efficiency defense (fourth), total defense (eighth) and scoring defense (eighth). The Thundering Herd, meanwhile, is ranked below 90th (of 120 teams) in passing offense (91st), rushing offense (94th), total offense (105th) and scoring offense (107th). On at least one side of the ball, this has the look of a complete mismatch.
* Florida State at Clemson (3:30, ABC): Seminoles 35-17. It’s the middle of a typical Clemsonliness cycle. The Tigers have a bunch of believers after handling Auburn with an impressive offensive display last week. Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel was hurt against Oklahoma, and his status is a week-long storyline. So advantage Clemson, right? Think again. The Seminoles’ defense impressively held a loaded Oklahoma team to 310 yards. They’ll rule the day in Death Valley.
* Tulane at Duke (3:30, ESPN3.com): Blue Devils 28-16. Duke should get back to .500, but at 0-for-6 on the season in field goal attempts, the Blue Devils probably should hope it doesn’t come down to a last second kick.
* Kansas State at Miami (3:30, ESPNU): Hurricanes 31-14. It’s quite the un-Bill Snyder-like game (from a scheduling standpoint, anyway) for K-State, which has edged Eastern Kentucky and blanked Kent State in its first two games. The Wildcats are averaging 122 passing yards a game, a small sample size that nonetheless doesn’t bode well against a Miami defense coming off a stifling performance against Ohio State (35 passing yards allowed).
Week 3 record: 10-1 (2-0 conference, 1-0 Navy)
ACC record: 24-6 (3-1 conference)
Navy record: 3-0
Preseason Week 4 picks changed: N.C. State-Cincinnati
Preseason ACC record: 23-7 (2-2 conference)
—- Patrick Stevens