ACC preview: battle in the sunshine state

ACC preview: battle in the sunshine state
October 31, 2013, 1:30 pm
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Virginia Tech @ Boston College, Sat. 12:00 p.m.
Wake Forest @ Syracuse, Sat. 12:30 p.m. on CSN
North Carolina @ NC State, Sat. 12:30 p.m.
Clemson @ Virginia, Sat. 3:30 p.m.
Pitt @ Georgia Tech, Sat. 7:00 p.m.
Miami @ Florida State, Sat. 8:00 p.m.

Matchup of the week: Miami @ Florida State, Sat. 8:00 p.m.

These two traditional rivals will meet this weekend in one of the most highly anticipated matchups on the ACC calendar. What makes this game so intriguing? Apart from the storied history of each program and the legendary games played between the two teams in the past, both teams are undefeated meaning this game carries national title implications.

Florida State rocketed into the national spotlight with their dismantling of Clemson two weeks ago. After putting up 35 points in the first quarter against NC State last week, it is safe to say this is not a mirage; the Seminoles are for real.

The same cannot be said about Miami. Though they too are undefeated, they have flown under the radar for most of the season. After both North Carolina and Wake Forest took the Hurricanes down to the wire, there are some serious questions about how good this team really is.

But anyone who counts them out is making a huge mistake. If this rivalry has taught us anything, it is that anything can happen.

Stephen Morris and Duke Johnson are big-time playmakers for the Hurricanes who, despite their struggles in recent weeks, can boast a win over SEC opponent Florida.

Though the smart money may be on ‘Famous’ Jameis Winston and the Seminoles, crazy things have been known to happen in this rivalry.

Player to watch: Aaron Donald, DL, senior, Pitt

Preparing a defense to play against a team like Georgia Tech is a difficult task because one week is a very short window to learn how to defend the triple option. That should not be a problem for Pitt this week who are coming off a game against Navy, who also runs the option.

Though the Panthers lost to Navy last week, the silver-lining is that the defense essentially had an extra week to prepare for Paul Johnson's Yellow Jackets.

That is very good news for Aaron Donald.

Donald has been a force all season long. He is second in the nation in tackles for loss per game (1.9) and fifth in sacks per game (1.1). The option attack is dangerous because of the numerous places the offense can run the ball on any given play. With Donald providing consistent pressure on the line, it limits where the option attack can go. While the option frequently takes the play outside, quick penetration is a defenite key to stopping it as it forces the quarterback into a quick decision with where to put the ball.

Given an extra week to prepare, Donald will be ready for this matchup and if the Panthers can slow down the Georgia Tech offense, he will be a major reason why.

Upset alert: Pitt @ Georgia Tech, Sat. 7:00 p.m.

For the same reason Donald will have a big game against the Yellow Jackets, Pitt is in a good position to pull off the upset. Yes, they lost to Navy, but in doing so they held the Midshipmen to only 220 rushing yards.

The Yellow Jackets are in the midst of a two-game winning streak, but those wins came against lowly Syracuse and Virginia.  Against the Cavaliers, Georgia Tech actually turned the ball over five times. Against most football teams, they are not winning that game.

Prior to their winning streak, the Yellow Jackets lost three straight. So while it may appear that Georgia Tech has turned things around, that may be a premature assumption based on the two patsies they played in the last two weeks. This is not as daunting a task for the Panthers as it initially appeared.

On CSN: Wake Forest @ Syracuse, Sat. 12:30 p.m. on CSN

Perhaps no team needed a bye week as badly as Syracuse after getting walloped by Georgia Tech 56-0. Hopefully the Orange have regrouped because they will be hosting a very hot Wake Forest team.

The Demon Deacons have won two of their last three games with the loss being a three point nail-bitter to undefeated Miami. Wake Forest has seeming found its stride and will head to Syracuse with a lot of confidence.

You can catch this game on CSN. Coverage starts at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.