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October 18, 2006

ACC: Week 8 Breakdown

Joyner's ACC picks
Rivals.com national writer Andrew Joyner's predictions for Week 8 in the ACC.
Thursday's games:
Virginia 17, North Carolina 14
Saturday's games:
Maryland 21, N.C. State 20
Miami 31, Duke 14
Florida State 21, Boston College 17
Virginia Tech 27, Southern Miss 14
Clemson 28, Georgia Tech 21

Last week: 6-1 Season: 43-13

Best matchup: Georgia Tech and Clemson will meet in what arguably is the most meaningful ACC contest to date. The game matches the conferences two highest-ranked teams and divisional leaders. Particularly intriguing will be the matchups within the contest such as Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson against the Clemson defense. The Tigers' high-powered rushing attack should get tested by defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta and the resilient Georgia Tech defense.

Worst matchup: Virginia-North Carolina gets the nod here because of the positioning of the game. It's on Thursday night, in front of a national television audience. These are two struggling teams whose coaches are feeling significant pressure right now. Virginia coach Al Groh is probably a little safer than his counterpart, John Bunting, but that will not keep national pundits and quipsters from claiming that the loser of this game won't be back at his school next season.

The pressure is on: It would be great to mention teams and players in this category, but in the ACC it seems that coaches are more apt to be feeling the pressure this season. Groh and Bunting will face each other in Charlottesville, Va., but even their situations somewhat pale to the scrutiny attached to Miami's Larry Coker. After the brawl against FIU last Saturday, there is a school of thought Coker doesn't have control of his program. Add that sentiment to the "he can't win big games" criticism, and that equals trouble for Coker. The coach has suffered through lopsided losses to LSU and Louisville and two consecutive setbacks to Florida State. However, nothing punctuated his troubles in Coral Gables more than the brutal melee last Saturday.

Upset alert: Southern Miss already has one victory over an ACC school this season (N.C. State). Could it add another this week in Blacksburg against Virginia Tech? Probably not, but it's the closest possible thing to fit this category.

BCS implications/Most to gain or most to lose: If Clemson and Georgia Tech win their respective divisions, than this week's contest has few BCS implications because they will play again in Jacksonville, Fla., for the ACC title. With that said, the game still means more to Clemson since it has clear pursuers in the Atlantic Division (Wake Forest and Boston College). Georgia Tech has arguably a bigger cushion at this point in the Coastal Division.

Who's hot: Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson has caught at least one pass in 30 consecutive games. Clemson tailback James Davis leads the nation with 14 rushing touchdowns. Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams has had a QB sack in five consecutive games and leads the ACC in sacks (7.5). Boston College wide receiver Tony Gonzalez has six TD receptions over his last seven games. Wake Forest kicker Sam Swank tied an ACC record with three field goals of 50 yards or longer against the Wolfpack. Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner has completed 68 percent of his passes for 912 yards and four TDs. He is second in the ACC in passing efficiency (148.5). Virginia wide receiver Kevin Ogletree has caught three or more passes in each of his last six games. He is second in the ACC in receiving yardage (54.6) and third in receptions (4.4). Miami's Javarris James leads all ACC freshmen in rushing (66.2 yards per game) and is averaging 6.3 yards per carry. Virginia has posted a league-best 23 sacks.

Who's not: Virginia is 109th in the nation in total offense. Duke ranks last in 12 of the major team statistics kept by the ACC. Additionally, the Blue Devils are 116th or worse nationally in three of the four major offensive categories kept by the NCAA. Virginia Tech is 11th in the ACC and 101st nationally in rushing offense. Brandon Ore has rushed for just 130 yards combined the last two games after compiling 529 yards on the ground through the first four games of the season. North Carolina's defense is 115th nationally in scoring defense (35.67 points per game), 113th in rushing defense (207.83 yards per game) and 100th in total defense (392.0 yards per game).

Must see TV: The Georgia Tech-Clemson game is the one not to miss this weekend. Of course, you still might want to keep at least one eye on the Boston College-Florida State contest.

Newcomer/Backup that could have an impact: True freshman linebacker Dekoda Watson could start for Florida State this week in place of an injured Geno Hayes. Watson has impressed in his current role as backup to Hayes.

Key stat: Over the last four games, Clemson has rushed for 1,268 yards (317.0) as compared to 229 yards (57.3) by its opponents.

Take the line: At the moment, it's hard to say anything positive about Miami. However, you still probably have to take the Hurricanes as a 17-point favorite against Duke. Record: 5-2

They said it: "We're not worried about the uniforms. We're worried about the guys in the uniforms." Boston College coach Tom O'Brien when asked about the all-black uniforms Florida State will wear in Saturday's game.

Injury update: For North Carolina, Larry Edwards is out for the season with a fractured collarbone. Hakeem Nicks is probable with a sprained ankle. N.C. State quarterback Daniel Evans (concussion) is probable, while teammate DeMario Pressley is questionable. For Florida State, Geno Hayes is questionable with a sprained MCL and LCL; Tony Carter is expected to return after missing the last two weeks with a sprained knee. Also questionable for the Seminoles are Letroy Guion (shoulder), Brandon Warren (hamstring), Toddrick Verdell (hamstring). Miami linebacker Jon Beason has a slightly torn ACL and is out this week against Duke.

Worth noting: Wake Forest is ranked by the AP for the first time since Sept. 8, 2003. Florida State wide receiver Greg Carr has 15 touchdowns in only 44 career receptions. He is averaging 20.1 yards per catch in his career. Florida State leads all ACC schools with 16 true freshmen having seen action thus far.

Walk-on kicker who never played before that impressed: Boston College's Steve Aponavicius, who had never played in a football game before (college, high school, junior high or Pop Warner) was a perfect two-for-two on field goals in Thursday's 22-3 win over 17th-ranked Virginia Tech. In addition, Aponavicius made both of his extra-point attempts.

Week 8 conference previews: Big East | Big Ten | Big 12 | Pac-10 | SEC



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