The ACC has more conference games going than any other league in Week 4 of the college football season. The conference has interesting matchups on both sides of the divisional split, and it starts with ESPN’s Thursday night showcase.
Clemson at N.C. State (Thur, 7:30, ESPN): A year ago it was Florida State who was upended by the Wolfpack. It’s a new era under a new coach now in Raleigh, with Dave Doeren at the helm and a lot of young players in the starting lineup. N.C. State got wins in its first two games over Louisiana Tech and Richmond and now takes aim at the Tigers.
The Pack have played well enough, and Clemson’s recent history in games they should win (a negative history) combine to give this game among Atlantic Division rivals at least a dash of interest. But the Tigers have had twenty days since their big win over Georgia to get ready (only a game against South Carolina State since then) and only Wake Forest is ahead of them next week. What possible reason would there be for Clemson to be unprepared.
Clemson is a 14 ½ point favorite, and even that number looks light, if Tajh Boyd can get the offense cranking and build his Heisman resume. I look for the Tigers to keep rolling.
North Carolina-Georgia Tech (Sat, Noon, ESPN): Miami is the favorite on the Coastal Division side of the conference, but the Tar Heels and Yellow Jackets join Virginia Tech on the list of legitimate challengers. Georgia Tech has a league win under their belt, over Duke last week, and while UNC starts conference play on Saturday.
I’m surprised at how little respect the Tar Heels are getting, as a 6 ½ point underdog. The size of the number tells us this is more than simply homefield, which only accounts for half of that. North Carolina got good offensive production from Bryn Renner in the passing game, beating Middle Tennessee, and the Heels didn’t let South Carolina blow them out in a road opener.
The game will be a battle for tempo, with Georgia Tech looking to control things with the triple option and Renner hoping to create a downfield game that would favor the Heels.
I lean Georgia Tech’s way because they’re at home, but I’d gladly grab UNC and the points if I were in Las Vegas.
The Clemson-N.C. State and UNC-Georgia Tech games set the tone for both the conference, and the TV viewing agenda for the country, kicking off both Thursday and then the early time slot on Saturday as they do.
TWO MORE WORTH CHECKING
There a couple other noteworthy games. Pitt meets up with Duke, and with both teams likely to hover right on the bubble of bowl-eligible, this game could end up deciding a bid. The Panthers looked good in beating New Mexico, 49-27 last week.
Duke already lost their starting quarterback, Anthony Boone, with an injury, but it might work out for the best—Brandon Connette has played well since getting the chance. I was deeply disappointed in Pitt’s defense when they looked so bad against Florida State on Labor Day night, but was willing to make that game more about FSU and Jameis Winston. I won’t be so forgiving if the Panthers have problems with Connette, and if they do have problems they’ll lose the game because the Pitt offense can’t keep up with anyone. The Panthers are giving 4 ½ in spite of going on the road, which strikes me as a little excessive.
And even though West Virginia-Maryland isn’t a conference game, it feels like it should be, and more important, it is a test for Maryland. The Terps are a team looking better than advertised, at 3-0. The wins over Florida International, Old Dominion and UConn, are nothing special, but perhaps Randy Edsall has something going in College Park. They’re a five-point favorite and we’ll find out more on Saturday.